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NO LAUGHING MATTER: Dear woman . . .

Mac Fingall

NO LAUGHING MATTER: Dear woman . . .

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When you were my mother, I watched you work tirelessly for 14 hours a day. It was not considered a real job so you did not get real pay but you did real work.
I quietly observed the sacrifice and admired your plethora of talents and skills and secretly wished you could show them to the outside world.
Then I would go to high school and only two of you were working there – teaching. You appeared to be organized, though not making any serious impact on me for I had been previously influenced about your place in this world.
I would thereafter attend university and you were also teaching there and again seriously outnumbered, but you were professional and impressive. And I wondered about you. Did you change?
As my classmates, you grew in numbers – big numbers. You spoke with confidence, a confidence I had never seen or imagined. I pondered. What brought about this change? Are you the same woman? Since I was in a different country, I was not sure how to assess you.
But then I returned to teach your children, and one day I had to call you to tell you that your boyfriend was sexually abusing your daughter. And what did you tell me? You said: “Mr Fingall, I know, but if I mek a noise he gine left and I en got no particular skill to get no work and I en got no education, so wha I gine do? And furthermore, I got other children to feed.”
It was the first time in my teaching life that I did not know what to do. This was definitely not the same woman who was my classmate. That day I vowed to teach every girl I met about the importance of being independent so that they would never be subjected to such a dilemma.
As time journeyed, I observed that the female staff had grown and had just about equalled the men in numbers. I was pleased with your advancement for I had always wished that you could be more than just a 14-hour-a-day working housewife.
So you were moving on – a career woman. I realized that you were advancing yourself rapidly; building your own homes; owning cars; raising children by yourself, breathing independence. I felt proud and admired you, but most of all I felt like I would never hear you say again those numbing words: “I know but if I mek a noise . . . .”
So then I would smile, an almost invisible smile, and cry a little bit with a strange kind of happiness. Your courage was encouraging. Your potential was more than my imagination. It had weaved its way into a visible reality.
Then one day I went to the university’s graduation, and you represented 75 per cent of the graduands. Mathematically, the men were virtually invisible. I experienced mixed emotions, being happy for you but wonderingly disappointed at the sparsity of men. But there was no panic. No worry. Just curious concern.
Later I saw a picture of new lawyers and I noticed that you outnumbered the men three to one. I thought that to be just “interesting” because I figured that there had been so many male lawyers that you were merely catching up.
Recently, I saw the newly installed doctors on television and I recognized that you out-doctored them about four to one. That bothered me somewhat because suddenly I realized that not only were you advancing, but it appeared that men were falling behind.
Behold! I attended a primary school’s graduation ceremony and the teachers were 15 (mostly young) women, and five men.
What is happening to the men? Where are they? What are they doing? The absence of intellectual compatibility will likely result in a problematic relationship.
It appears to me that some women seem to be gloating over the fact that they are now in such powerful positions. So I wondered what area there is where men still dominate.
Aha! There is one! I visited Dodds prison recently and there were 998 men to 40 women. A sad victory!
Does that make you feel good? It should not. These men who have fallen way behind are still physically stronger, more daring, still willing to break into your homes and still prone to violence – especially if marginalized. Ever imagine if you ill-treat them or scorn them, how they might react?
Dear woman, I am hereby soliciting your help in re-establishing self-esteem and hope in these young men in this country, for it is to the benefit of us all, man and woman, if it is done and expeditiously so. After all, you are their mothers.
• Mac Fingall is an entertainer and retired secondary school teacher.