During my class in literary criticism, we were discussing Feminist criticism of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Feminist criticism is so hard to listen to, because it is so painfully true. I find that I cannot pay attention to what’s being said for very long, because my mind instantly leaps to examples in my own life that uphold the argument made by the feminist.
My girl Kisa and I started writing notes to one another about the situation:
The thing they never seem to understand, is that we know MORE than them–about the world, us, AND them!
Yes, but the WAY we know things doesn’t fit easily in the logical, “reasonable” man-thinking that has become the only acceptable voice of authority. Emotion, compassion, or intuition are excluded.
Word! It’s strange, though. Sometimes I think there’s a sort of (oppressed) power in our secret knowledge. Kind of like the whole of womankind is collectively thinking, ‘OK, we’ll let them think they in charge/know what’s up/understand our “feeble” minds,’ while we know what’s REALLY going on. We can’t come out and SAY it, which is why I say ‘oppressed,’ but still, there’s a strange sense of power in it.
I think women are more concerned about relationships than power. It’s like, we love these men, and they want the power, so we indulge them. It’s more important to us to have love than power. It’s not worth the relationship to destroy their illusion of grandeur. But it comes back on women; we need to own our own power and flex it in ways that will help.
I fear that this transcription might alienate male readers, but I still feel that the truth deserves to be told. Female ways of talking are often excluded from having the Right to be Right because they come from an unexpected place. A soft voice, a high-pitched voice is heard as less imperative than a forceful. deep MANLY voice.
Or words that are “emotional” are dismissed as irrational. I say, emotionality and rationality are not mutually exclusive.
I know that the world turns on what is already in place. As a teacher and as a Supervisor in the IT field, I have learned to Bark out forcefully what I need to be taken seriously. It’s like a tool in my toolbelt, I can use it when I need to.
Yet, I think it would be better if I did not have to. If women could wield authority based on the merit of what they have to say, the world would be that much better.
I personally resent having to become “masculine” to be taken seriously in this man’s world.
I know that I, and many of my women friends, have a way of seeing ideas holistically that leaves a lot of my male friends going “huh?”
And yet, we feel merciful towards these poor saps. We don’t want them to feel embarrassed. We’ll slow up and talk in little words so that they can respect themselves.
Okay, I might be overstating the case. But not every case.
I DO know that I, and other women, have purposely held back from attaining their full potential or expressing themselves fully because it would create a rift in their primary relationship. Like, “I could go to work, and be a blazing success. But what would my man do? What would my children do? I should make them a priority.”
Ambition is often quenched by a sense of duty. Thank god, things have changed. A woman’s duty has been redefined so that responsibility for children and the home is becoming shared between the man and the woman.
But the “work” of maintaining an intimate relationship is still often solely the responsibility of the woman, since men are so ill-equipped by the culture to assess the health a relationship.
But women know. We ought to share. But then, others would need to listen.