We Need to Teach Women That They Belong to Themselves

There are women all over the world who don’t know that they are their own. They have been taught that their worth is connected to other people, especially men. Every time they make a choice that does not serve them well, or are oppressed by religion or government, the idea that they are not for themselves is given more life. Society force feeds the “nurture narrative” (the idea that women are innate nurturers) without explaining the importance of taking care of themselves. Imagine living your whole live servicing other people and leaving yourself with nothing time and time again. You wind up infuriated and feeling like everyone has run off with your stuff – namely your time and energy.

Have you ever taken the time to get to know yourself? Your likes and dislikes? Your stances and ideas? But how well do you know your partner’s preferences? Or your mom’s favorite food? If you know and care more about the people around you than you care about yourself, something is very, very wrong. It’s not your fault though. The world we live drills the fact that we are not ours. Our bodies are for making other people lick their chops and writhe during orgasms, while our reproductive rights are usurped. And that’s the least of it.

In a piece about self care as a wife/daughter-in-law in India, Nupur Rastogi wrote about how little time and respect the people around her regarding self love. She concluded the post by saying, “[n]ow I know why women are so unaware of the self; it’s not because they don’t want to take care of themselves[,] but because no one lets them do it. I had a job, I had to cook for four members, I was supposed to clean the house daily, I was expected to be in good shape so that my husband kept loving me; I had to have good arrangements at night to keep my husband entertained and yes, it was mandatory to keep everyone’s expectations fulfilled to be considered a good bahu (daughter-in-law who is living with her husband’s family).”. It is unfair that she was all but forced to leave herself in the lurch so that the people she lived with could live happily.

“Me, myself and I, that’s all I got, in the end, that’s what I found out.” xx

There is also a dastardly, real list that better outlines what an Indian wife must be like if she wants to be considered above all of the other women competing for a future partner. A few of the points are: she must be light skinned (which is not only solely for the benefit of her husband, but obviously extremely colorist), she has to be a perfect maid, she needs to stay at home (especially if they have children), and serve as entertainment for the family. These conditions are harsh and make little space for the woman to fulfill her passions. She is to be the center, without actually being a center.

“In 2019, I’m doing myself a service and further learning myself.”

Although I am a Black woman, I can also attest to the fact that there is the compulsion to make others happy. The first set of people I tried to please without ceasing was my family. I love them dearly and will always love them, but I am learning the difference between caring about them and pleasing them. Sometimes, the behaviors that will make certain members happy, like dressing a certain way, taking birth control, or raising my daughter the way they would like, do not speak to me. Bending over backwards to fulfill their desires leaves the most bitter taste in my mouth. I know that patriarchal tendencies and misogyny inform some of their ideas, and I also know that some of their thoughts won’t be cast out by me, at least not today. All I can do is keep going my own way, making it known that I intend to fully enjoy my life.

In 2019, I’m doing myself a service and further learning myself. It is true that I have a partner, a daughter, and a family, but that doesn’t mean that I have to ignore who feel I am called to be. It is my duty to make sure I’m happy. Sure, the powers that be are a complete mess and patriarchal religions carefully describe what I should think and act like. It is what it is. Regardless, I’m going to keep exploring the things I love and providing for myself. I will always choose myself, no matter what – because I am my own.