This is a man’s world!
James was wailing passionately. My dad, like most men with soul, is a James Brown fan. And he was putting me on to some of his classics this day during one of our many road trips. Immediately, my junior feminist radar kicked in. This is a man’s world?! Then as if James knew I didn’t hear him the first time, he hollered it again.
This is a man’s world!
That was it! I bolted up in the backseat as I said, politely, yet with authority, “I don’t think I like this song.”
My dad smiled, a knowing and prideful smile and said, “Keep listening baby.”
And that’s when James brought it home.
“But it wouldn’t be nothing, without a woman or a girl.”
I know that’s right James! I nodded in acceptance and understanding as I sat back and settled into the groove.
From an early age, though society was hellbent on telling me otherwise, I always knew it was a great honor to be a girl and later a woman. While boys and men were constantly boasting about their physical strength and superior intelligence; I always had an inkling and then an assurance, that it was all a farce. That really, at the end of the day, men weren’t all that much better than women. In fact, they weren’t better at all.
Men may have been able to lift things and complete other physical tasks; but a woman’s strength was emotional, psychological and in many instances practical.
My sophomore year of college, a bill came back from my University saying that I owed some thousands of dollars. I showed the letter to my parents but they couldn’t help me. They didn’t have it. I’ll never forget the difference in the way my father handled the situation and the way my mother handled it. My dad, whether out of embarrassment or frustration, kind of shut down and pretended like it wasn’t happening. While my mom was the one who talked to me about how I should go about collecting financial aid from other places. That’s when I learned that what they say about men and their need to problem solve is true. My dad couldn’t provide the solution to my problem; and instead of directing me to someone or something that could, it was better for his pride to pretend like it wasn’t happening. That was the day my mother told me that while both of them would always be there to support me and do what they could; at the end of the day, there were certain things I just had to make happen for myself. There are certain things men cannot do for you, even if that man is your father.
All of our lives as girls and eventually women, we’re told to be seen and not heard. Keep your mouth shut. You talk too much. There’s always someone who wants to silence you, whether that person is in the world or in your own family, men and women alike. At around 10 years old, annoyed with me and my sister’s constant giggles, my grandfather told us, rather sternly, “Be quiet, you know you all laugh too much!” For a minute I thought to be embarrassed, ashamed or offended; but then I remembered my grandmother telling me that laughing was both good exercise and good medicine, so instead I just laughed at the ridiculousness of his comment and kept it moving. My sister followed suit. There’s no such thing as laughing too much.
And there’s no such thing as crying too much either. I’ll never understand why men, and subsequently women, get so freaked out by tears and the act of crying. Remember how Hillary’s tears made front page news in 2008? Instead of recognizing her tears as a sign of passion for her country, many took it to mean she was incapable of running it. Tears are not a sign of weakness. They’re physical evidence of a strength of feeling, conviction or passion.