An independent woman in a modern world

Date: January 1, 1970
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Life is full of ironies. The world is full examples of how far human beings have progressed. We live in a world with a black American president, cloning of animals (and possibly soon enough of human beings), instant messaging, video calling and people visiting outer space.

Yet in other respects, it seems we are still living in the Stone Age. Especially when it comes to gender equality, and even more so, how many men feel intimidated by “independent,” – or as I’d like to call them “self-defined” – women.
In many of what I will call “passionate” discussions with my male counterparts on the supposed roles of women, the conversation sometimes seems to denigrate to a “mine is better (or more important) than yours” game. Well, who am I to back down from a challenge?
It always gives me great pleasure to point out that gone is the era where men served as protectors of the home, hunters and gatherers. Nowadays, if I want some steak with my meal, there is good old Pick n’ Pay just a stone’s throw away.
And, if I need to be protected? Well, for a small monthly fee my security company has been so kind to install an alarm system in my home, and better, send a patrol car around my block all night. Nevertheless, just to be on the safe side I have taken a few self-defence lessons.
What about children they ask. Firstly, I resent the idea that just because I am a woman, I automatically aspire to be a mother. In my case, I do, but this is not true to all women. Secondly, we now have sperm banks and there are many children in need of families and homes, so that’s also taken care of, should a woman want a child without the husband.
Another question, assuming that a man and woman make a baby together, then why should our child take another name, and not mine? (After all, women do a lot more work in the whole pregnancy and birthing process) Why should your family name be the one to live on and mine be the one to die away?
Then of course, so many will condescendingly ask “And how are you going to get all these things without a man”? It’s called a J.O.B. And I have one.
Things always get heated when up comes the issue of culture, and next bible (and other religious texts) quoting. Most of which the quoters themselves have never read, except the parts that serve their purposes. People are always so quick to forget that men were mostly responsible for creating cultures that elevate themselves, and that religion for centuries has been a patriarchal institution.
As Dan Brown pointed out in his popular novel, the Da Vinci Code, it is not as if the bible was faxed directly from heaven. Men wrote it and edited it. Saying so risks angering a lot people, but the question up for consideration is not God, but how people interpret religion.
I can handle resistance from men but I do find it confusing when these ideas meet resistance from other women. Now I am an urban girl, born and bred, and most of my peers are fellow urban girls, who have had the best chances and exposure in life.
Yet, I still find myself time and time again sitting through conversations over a cocktail or three where these same women’s ultimate goal is not only to find someone to marry them, but someone rich to marry them so they can have the “good life.”
Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with marriage. It’s just not my cup of rooibos personally, but kudos to those of you who believe in it. My problem lies with the idea of educated and seemingly independent women believing that they need a man in their life to provide for them and ensure them a “good life.”
The need for a partner on a spiritual and emotional level is very normal. We do after all exist in a world where everything exists in pairs, male and female; day and night, yin and yang, good and evil, god and the sacred feminine. It only makes sense that we all need someone to share life with, but why believe that we need someone to define our existence and give our lives meaning?
I find myself thinking of the words of one of the world’s greatest minds of all time, Kahlil Gibran, as he wrote in The Prophet
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart
His message of cooperation and independence is clear. It’s too bad most people are fonder of stories of heroes and white horses, or limos depending on the period, and passionate scenes of the hero saving the day, leaving the woman happy and taken care of.
Where are the stories of the knight in distress and the damsel charging in on her white steed, in her shining armor, coming to save the day? I must say, this is more of a reality to me and to many people in our communities and homes.
Respect begets respect. I am never going to view myself as the “fairer sex,” or the “weaker sex,” and as a result make myself subservient by virtue of being born a woman. I can hear it now, the groans accusing me of being against men, but I am not that at all. I respect all people as fellow human beings, but only if they do likewise.
Doreen Gaura is an intern with the Gender & Media Diversity Centre. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service which offers fresh news on every day news.

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