Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Empowered Woman is a Fabulous Thing and Only Wicked Men Will Fear Her

Personal empowerment. This is the holy grail for the woman in the island patriarchy. I believe that for many of us the first step on this journey is the hard realization that personal power was lost in the first place. We island women have been so well conditioned to think happy thoughts, count our blessings, be grateful we don't live in Iraq. We're bombarded these days with admonitions to think positively, to count our blessings, be grateful, to suffer in silence. When the house is on fire we are more likely to think positively about the fire, (at least it is a pretty fire) rather than getting up, putting it out, and saving the house. We are raised and taught and trained well to mistake enslavement for equality, to confuse real strength with collusion in our own oppression. Too many of us are raised on stories about the way Jesus took his beatings and execution willingly, the inference being of course that we too are expected to forbear. We are taught that suffering is the only way to please the god. Why should we complain about being secondary to any old man no matter our gifts or special talents, by the law of the land and of the god, now there's been such a grand crucifixion? We are taught to try and match that suffering anyhow, we learn how to catch hell and call it a good time. Far too many of us know too that the consequences of any attempts to change one's life to better achieve some personal fulfillment can bring the house down. It is hard to start a womanish revolution in this kind of psychic landscape. It is near impossible in a Caribbean town where women are handmaids to the patriarchy because it is better than dying, better than the endangerment we might bring upon ourselves if we speak out for a sister who has lost her voice, if we speak out for ourselves. We have learned to see personal empowerment, ie, the right to sovereignty over our thoughts, our bodies, our lives and our stories, as a vain, selfish, sinful pursuit. It is not. It is the act of living the life of a free woman. So many of us have lost our womanish memories of real empowerment, we are the daughters of the daughters of the daughters whose memories were lost, and while we work on in our oblivion of amnesia and religious acceptance, usually in isolation from one another, the patriarchy is upheld for another day. When we can name the oppression that binds us, then we know how to get free. It is not ingratitude that causes the conscious island woman to protest or resist the lies, prisons and gods of the patriarchy, it is that she has been transformed by her own hand into someone with the power to re-invent and re-create her self and her life into something more than the beautiful sufferer. An empowered woman is a fabulous thing and only wicked men will fear her.

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