BAREFOOT AND PREGNANT

By Suzanne Mills

My motherwasn’t the best of cooks. As fearful now of her spirit lash as I was of her earthly buff, with circumspection I reveal her culinary challenges to make apointed point: the kitchen was not her domain because she started working at 16, as soon as she completed Fifth Form. And she never stopped working until a week before her death at 85.

My father having abandoned his paternal duties before I could speak, she had little choice but to labour day and night to raise three children, though I can say without contradiction that had the padre in any miniscule manner fulfilled his responsibility to her and to us, she would still have been what archaically and redundantly was termed a “career woman.” My point is: I cannot remember amoment my mother wasn’t at work, except for a two-hour Sunday siesta during which I would assume the role of firewall, selected to answer the phone because I was, without conscience, curt and cutting with the constant callers.

“Hello, isMrs Mills there?”

“No.”

“Do youknow when she will be back?”

“No.”

“Can Ileave a message?”

“Yes.”

“Ask her tophone me please.”

“Fine.”

“Thanks.”

Click.

At greatrisk of ethereal castigation, I’ve opened the door for a glimpse into her private life in order to school the current PM who with no malice but with little comprehension of the complexity of the lives of the modern day woman openly yearns for the bucolic grandmother of his youth who peeled cassava and made farine. That woman no longer exists, not because as he is wont to imply women are indolent, taking short cuts just for so, but because women multi-task: they have jobs, raise children and manage the home. Time so insufficient to apportion it to their many obligations, they will use minutes-saving,self-rising flour, so they can tend to another occupation in the interim. I don’t recall if self-rising flour existed in my mother’s day, but I would havebeen cold hearted to begrudge her its ease.

“Put yourhand in the bowl!” the Prime Minister commanded in a moment of parapraxis at a Chamber of Commerce dinner earlier this year.

And the audience clapped! Were they no business women in attendance? Had I been present I would have walked out. None did; their validation demonstrating two things:how we fawn for contracts and how several men (and women) remainun-illuminated.

Now mind you, the PM didn’t say “women, put your hands in the bowl”, but aimed his antiquatedness at housewives. Where Keith Rowley finds housewives is a mystery:they are a dying breed. Few families can live on one salary and our so designated primus inter pares should not in 2016 conclude ad hominem that the man is the maximum money-maker, if he brings home the bacon at all.

Maybe I missed it, but I was hoping women’s groups would take issue with this directive. I believe in the broken windows version of feminism. Not even the slightest slight. And I was right, for Rowley’s antediluvian attitude caught him swimming against the current during the flood of outrage at ex Port of SpainMayor Raymond Tim Kee’s suggestion that the murdered Asami Nagakiya had as much as “looked for dat.”   

The PM is not alone in his fustiness. During the ensuing furore and debate, I realised that there is a whole generation of men out there that still does not get it.First, they are cultists of the myth of the stalking stranger when most women-naked or robed- are raped and abused by men they know, which is quite likely the circumstance of this tragedy. The wrong place at the wrong time is usually the home.

But let’s assume that some external danger lurks. Then isn’t it logical to conclude that women “get on” at Carnival because it’s the one time that they feel safe to free up? I will be the first to admit I am not fond of seeing women simulate sex, but only because I wonder whether they believe this is what men expect of them. I was once asked by a man if I liked to wine and he was incredulous andmocking when I said I didn’t. There must be equal rights for women who want to grind and for those who won’t. 

Some of the defenders of Tim Kee put forth the usual moral arguments: a woman’s womb is sacred, as are her genitals. It’s quite convenient machismo. When something is sacred it no longer belongs to you. A man’s phallus however is not sacrosanct and as such is his to wield unguardedly and irreverently. 

How tiring this classification of women into sinners and saints. Isn’t that the point of much religious dogma? The New Testament avows the dichotomy: there was a virgin Mary and a prostitute Mary. Existing academics agree that the gospels are not historical records, but moralistic texts, written a generation or more afterthe death of Jesus, confectioned for political gain and religious dominance.Thus, we can’t say for certain that Jesus was sired by an angel. Neither can it be affirmed that Mary Magdalene was wanton.

We can only proclaim one creed: women are women. We are neither exclusively sinner nor saint, with the latter on the path to salvation and the former doomed to strangulation.


February 29, 2016

 

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