Small worlds, small minds

I was just speaking to one of my collegues today. She is having in-law trouble.

It appears the sister-in-law is jealous of my collegue having a life outside of the home and is therefore behaving with the sense of proportion of a five-year-old, and the mother-in-law is forever needling her about not looking after the baby properly.

I would like to add that my collegue is working with an award winning, evidence-based advice service for pregnancy and parenthood. Nothing could have prevented her from picking up the odd useful piece of information here and there, even if she was as thick as two planks. Which she isn’t. She is very astute.

Notice the sad predominance of the female gender here. I have long been of the conviction that we cannot lay all blame on men for the existing oppression of women in the world – we do far too good a job of it ourselves. Both in terms of being intolerant, unsupportive, judgemental and backhanded towards other women, and in terms of holding ourselves back. If women woke up one morning cured of all that nonsense, it would not be possible for men to oppress us. That is only possible with our cooperation and lack of solidarity.

This is doubly sad as I know from my own experience how women can move mountains and have huge amounts of fun, even while riding out very tricky storms indeed, when they work together.

I would go so far as to divide womanhood into those who can, and those who can’t work and play together. No prize for guessing which ones I like hanging out with.

Part of the problem with those who can’t is that they (according to my not so humble, yet no doubt limited analysis) have drawn the boundaries of their worlds too narrow. Investing all the passion and energy of one woman into too small a sphere – usually a domestic one, but I have also seen it in people who have a small base of power (like middle management) and not the widest of horizons – is going to result in stunted growth and high internal pressure. Laws of physics.

Just like in shoes that are too small, toes will curl and nails will grow inwards. Ingrown toenail syndrome in women seems to manifest in far too keen an interest in how other people lead their lives and a loss of the ability to live and let live.

In the worst case scenario it is combined with a kind of infantile victim mentality, where they are so unaware of their own power that they forever feel hard done by and completely justified in their vexation, as well as unaware of their power to cause other people hurt and damage.

This is the stuff of nightmares. And once you enter motherhood, you can find yourself in default scenarios where you are face to face with it – like you have suddenly entered a dark sisterhood, where you belong against your will, and are at their (lack of) mercy.

It is of course possible to keep away from it, and it is far easier second time around when you have learned to recognise a harpy in disguise – and are less vulnerable to its crowing, as you have incorporated being a mother into your self-image (hopefully in a way that is in accord with your own personality). But it can be especially hard the first time around – few are aware of the spite that can be directed at you if you don’t play by the stunted, twisted rulebook of the harpies.

There is one very good reason for encouraging creative women with broad horizons, a good sense of self, a robust sense of humor, low expectations on themselves as domestic goddesses, a devil-may-care attitude and the ability to see themselves and other women as dynamic partners in crime to have children:

Don’t leave it to the Perfect Mothers; the narrow-minded, fearful, jealous and self-limiting women who cannot (will not) play fair, who see women outside of their own little box and secretly envy them for not being stunted, while bitching about them standing too tall.

All you women who play, create and work joyously: breed, if you haven’t already. It is a big job and not the easiest one, but we cannot leave it to the stunted ones. It is worth the occasional shit storm to stand tall.


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