This article first appeared on the Good Therapy website.
- seen and not heard;
- expected to help, serve (for instance cook, clean, iron) and please people around me, especially the men;
- fertile, and being expected to bear children.
- expected to look good, smell nice, and happy and positive at all times.
If I were to laugh or speak at all, I was asked to, please, not do so too loudly, in order to not inconvenience those around me. I was not expressly told, but I knew better than to oppose a man – not if I wanted him to love me. To oppose a man is to risk being hit, because as a woman, I am not just physically smaller in build, but also weaker in strength. And because men are stronger, have been taught all their lives to lead, protect, defend and take care of the weaker sex – the women; I just assumed that they knew better.
So I set out to look for a man I could depend on – who would lead, protect, defend and take care of me. I thought I needed a man to ‘exist’ and have a ‘voice’. My first husband failed me by breaking his promises, betraying my trust, and shattering my hopes and dreams of a safe haven till the end of time. I learned that men did not always have the answers. Nobody can have all the answers. I learned that men are not infallible – despite being bigger and stronger. I learned that men are not always smarter, more responsible, or savvier financially. I learned that I was pretty smart and capable of being successful in my own right.
I have a new husband now – one who sees me as his equal; who does not hesitate to call my bluff if I was being ill-mannered, bad-tempered, or unreasonable; who shares with me his hopes, fears, dreams, knowledge and food. He teases, jokes, and laughs with me on a daily basis. He sees me as the beautiful person I have always been inside and out. With him, I feel that I can just relax and be me; that I have the power to be all that I have always been meant to be, and not only that, that I finally have the wings to soar above the daily humdrum of life. This would not have happened if I had not made peace with ME.
I have resented being born a woman and all the societal and cultural expectations that comes with being a woman. I had, unwittingly, been living life in less than my full capacity because nobody, including myself, had ever expected much of me.
A profound change occurred when I fully embraced my identity as a woman – whether that identity is imagined, socially perceived, or actual.
I realised that these ‘shackles’ of being a woman were ones that I had chosen to stay in. Some of these ‘shackles’ were placed upon me, others were probably figments of what I thought was real, and the rest I had put myself into.
Rising above these shackles simply meant being aware of what is, being focused on what could be, and being resigned to some of what will always be, yet ultimately being conscious and deliberate in taking baby steps going towards what I really want.
We all have options– including doing nothing. I choose to be plunged onto life and live it fully in the ways I know how. I am a woman who has made peace with being a woman.
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.