What is the best thing about being a woman?
You don’t necessarily need to be a woman to answer this. You may even be a man. And, considering women are one half of humanity, I’m sure you must have spent some time thinking about this. And you know what? Even women may not have necessarily thought so much about being a woman as some men do, despite it being their default mode. But, this post is not about something as vague and subjective as being a woman. It is about the best thing about being a woman. And no, despite your wonderful contribution to our community Miss Shania Twain, the best thing about being a woman is not “the prerogative to have a little fun.” Not all the time, anyway, and not only a little.
I actually never gave this a thought in all the previous instances when I listened and enjoyed Ms. Twain’s classic nineties tune. It was only after discovering the wonderful blog Steve and Jon’s Best Things that I started itching to contribute something to their Best of posts. Something that would be both me and them in essence. I only got so far as me, and only with the above title ( minus the Of at the beginning ) but, in all these months, I couldn’t furnish thoughts about it to make it more suitable for them. Why is it so frustrating to find out something so basic to me, and so basic to humanity? But, it finally is here, and because of its controversial nature, I decided it should not venture outside home. It is:
The best thing about being a woman is having a lifetime of pain.
I don’t want to come across as an angry, unsexed, man-hating feminist by saying this. Neither do I want to regress to public attitude by a few centuries. I am neither, I want to advocate neither, and I am sure neither are true. It is so difficult to find out the best thing about being a woman because every good thing is marred by what society, both men and women, makes of it. I research women in music. The biggest name in my field, musicologist Simon Frith, has this to say about women musicians:
…all this female activity, whatever its fun and style and art as a collective occupation, is done, in the end, individually, for the boy’s sake. It is the male gaze that gives the girl’s beauty work its meaning.
Of course, I am writing this blog for some boy’s sake. Of course, I sing along to a record while doing dishes for that same boy’s sake. Now, I’d like to know who this boy is, because it certainly isn’t, and will never be, any man in my life. And, to read something like this, from a person with much education and influence in this field, it is unfortunate that the starting point for the appreciation of a woman musician’s work should begin with the perception that it is all done in order to appease some man’s gaze, without which it will not have any meaning. When that woman, and every woman, knows that what they do is not predominantly for anybody, but something that is done for the same reason that everyone does it: because they can.
Attitudes such as these are inherent. Whether they are learnt or inherited is still much subject for study. But, they are so widespread, so naturalized, that it is wearisome to even point out the unfairness of each situation. And pointing out does not necessarily lead to doing something about it. And doing something about it is often interpreted as being violent and vengeful about it.
So, what do you do when this is unlikely to ever go away? You accept it. Which doesn’t mean you allow it. Or agree with it. But, remember that being a woman means a lifetime of pain, of daily injustices, of prolonged struggles to be accepted for what you are and not what you are born with. And then, going ahead and not letting it be a problem to you. A problem for you, but not to you. I want to be a writer. I am a woman from an ex-British colony that is still trying to find some unified, positive cultural identity everyday, by reconciling its past with its rapidly changing present, in a world that is increasingly globalized in its own culture. Thus, just by being born and living here everyday, I have enough creative fodder to become a writer, maybe even an established one.
But, here’s what I will not ask. Here is what I will not entreat. Here is what I will do without taking anybody’s permission. I will not write or do anything keeping my gender in view. If I write comedy, I will not feel obligated to talk about my period, unless I actually have something interesting to say about it. If I write about female experiences, I will not allow myself to be considered some angry, political misandrist. If I venture into doing something, I don’t know, male like music, I will not allow myself to be considered as aspirational towards male sexual approval. I know that there will be a lifetime of pain simply for being born a woman, as it has been so far, but that I can accept it and go ahead and do what I want to do, not by being a woman, but by being a human.