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I am a womanist!


Diana Prescod

I am a womanist!

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If we, women, are as fully independent and resourceful as we claim, if we are in control of our lives and as far removed from our grandmothers as we purport, then we must take our hands out of men’s pockets. 
It is disingenuous to use men’s money to finance our fabricated emancipation. We cannot depend on men’s money to supplement our often inflated and unrealistic lifestyles. I am a womanist, the black version of a feminist, who loves men. These two pronouncements are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, I find them ideal for the 21st century woman and bequeath them to my daughter. 
A self-actualized, independent woman cannot see men simultaneously as the enemy and an ATM machine. If we’re married, our husband’s existence can’t just be for the moniker and the attendant respectability it gives. Their primary function can’t be their portion of a mortgage or a car payment. We can’t cling to their arm only when we want an escort to a gala event or  “show off” to our single friends. 
If we’re single women with children, men can’t be exclusively payers of child support. If we’re young and attractive, they’re not a menagerie of sugar daddies: good for a hairdo; a pedicure; groceries or utility bills; a couple hundred bucks of walking around money or – if we’ve “hit pay dirt” – a car.
I am not “picking up for men”. 
I am calling out the majority of Barbadian women, who seem to be on this path of conspicuous consumption at any cost, and think a man’s primary function is to aid in this orgy of consuming.
I am a woman who believes in nation-building, in family as the bedrock of society.  There is a prescient African proverb that states, “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.” In essence, what happens in the home is mirrored in the society.
Most women in this society war with themselves and with the family. Their perspectives and behaviour contradict the values needed to produce well rounded individuals. They emulate a lifestyle that is alien to our collective psyche – hence the chaos. We are a people of extended families and our brother’s keeper.  We are the descendants of ancestors who loved people, not the cardboard cut-outs of a foreign culture that now predominate: loving things and using people.
Getting ahead, even if it is in the supermarket line, in a line of traffic or at the office, seems to be our only focus.  It might seem unfair to rest societal problems on the shoulders of women, but from primordial times, we, especially black women, have carried an untenable load. The woman has always been the first teacher. She has literally and metaphorically constructed footpaths and laid ground for her children and man, often when there was no way.  
I would never advocate reverting to times when women were kept barefoot and pregnant. I would never call for returning women to the home and erasing all the gains they’ve made in the workplace.
I am totally averse to the subjugation of women in any form. I eschew the wearing of burkas, genital mutilation,  trafficking of young girls, denial of contraception, education or a divorce. Women are entitled to the same rights as men just by being human. I am calling for women to begin a candid dialogue with themselves. I want women to look honestly at the stance they’ve taken in their homes and in their interactions with men.
Of late, I have encountered men from all social strata who have the same complaint. They live with women who have drawn the proverbial line in the sand: they’re no one’s servant, and they’re not that dastardly drudge – a housewife. They’re not washing or ironing for their husbands. If they cook a meal on Sunday, then that’s it for the week. If they do capitulate and leave something for him in the microwave, it’s some uninspiring and unpalatable mush. 
One aspect of a relationship is to consciously contribute to the well-being of each other. Marriage should take an individual outside of him- or herself.   Whatever is necessary to enhance the other’s life or to bring ease should be done.  I am aware that there are some women who delight in disdaining anything positive that is proffered and are comfortable in their miasma of misery. There are also men who must suit up for battle each time they come home.  
There is the talk on the street that other ethnic groups are stealing local men because of their ability to indulge in aberrant sexual practices that local women shun. There might be a mite of truth in this contention, but maybe these women know that the essence of a relationship is not the exchange of money between a man and woman. One can question the women’s sincerity, but even in their duplicitous intentions, they are doing more for the men. Maybe they understand that giving is more important
than taking.
Men are not handicapped beings who can’t cook or wash or maintain themselves. I know men who do all these things and rear their children on their own. Yet, it seems somewhat unconscionable and spiteful that some women have reduced their husbands to bachelors within their marriage.  
As independent as we are, are we still harkening back to our mothers’ mantra, “Find a man to give you something”? What are we teaching our daughters? Are we continuing the tradition of selling ourselves to the highest bidder? Is financial expediency at the heart of our intimate relationships?
Sex must be the currency of exchange. Even within our marriages, we are more concerned with what we get out of the union than what we can build together as partners.
Why should men have to give us their money? What makes us entitled to even a cent of a man’s money? Somewhere during my teenage years, I made a covenant with myself that I would never take a man’s money. I realized that once I took a man’s money, I would be selling control of myself. I am almost 50 years old and I still live by that creed.
As long as I can work and provide for myself, I do not need a man’s money. It has given me immense freedom. I own myself. I can drive my own car, travel at will and set my own agenda because I do not spend anyone’s money. I am not a maverick; I know several women who do the same. Yet I am troubled by the women who profess to be independent and take men’s money.
 

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