Can you imagine nothing better, brother,
Than that which you have always had before?
Have you been so content with "wife and mother,"
You dare hope nothing more?
Have you forever prized her, praised her, sung her,
The happy queen of a most happy reign?
Never dishonored her, despised her, flung her
Derision and disdain?
Go ask the literature of all the ages!
Books that were written before women read!
Pagan and Christian, satirists and sages–
Read what the world has said.
There was no power on earth to bid you slacken
The generous hand that painted her disgrace!
There was no shame on earth too black to blacken
That much-praised woman-face.
Eve and Pandora!–always you begin it–
The ancients called her Sin and Shame and Death.
"There is no evil without woman in it,"
The modern proverb saith.
She has been yours in uttermost possession–
Your slave, your mother, your well-chosen bride–
And you have owned in million-fold confession,
You were not satisfied.
Peace then! Fear not the coming woman, brother.
Owning herself, she giveth all the more.
She shall be better woman, wife and mother,
Than man hath known before.
The above poem was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who lived in 1860-1935. Twentieth century critics considered her a feminist, coz during most of her life, she spent to write novels, short stories, poems, and books that always illustrated about women’s lives. She also traveled across America and Europe to give lectures about women’s movement. However, she herself didn’t call her as a feminist, but a humanist.
During Gilman’s era, most women who were involved in women’s movement struggled for one thing—to ask for the government to give women suffrage. They thought that what made women not equal with men was coz men got suffrage while women didn’t. Getting involved in general election, men were superior; i.e. to be president, ministers, House of Representatives, etc. Women didn’t. Therefore, to make women equal with men was by getting right to vote in general election.
Gilman saw the basic problem for the inequality between men and women was not that. Women’s financial dependence toward men made women inferior. It is understandable then if Gilman opined to make women equal to men, women must work, get their own income, so that they no longer depend on men.
I believe Gilman agreed with Marx theory that women became marginalized coz they didn’t have money.
However, for some inferior men who think that they deserve to be superior to women coz of money, they don’t like the idea of women become financially independent.
I remember some years ago, a male workmate of mine said to me that he wouldn’t like to let his wife-to-be work. “Women who work don’t respect their husbands. I want my wife-to-be to stay home, to serve me, to do the household chores, no need to think of money. I will provide all the money she needs.”
From one side, it seems that he is a very responsible man “who will provide all the money his wife needs.” However, it is also clearly seen that he is not confident—his wife will not respect him if she has her own money. Is money the only thing that will make someone respects other people? Don’t we have to always respect one another no matter someone has money or not?
Referring to Gilman’s poem I quoted above, Gilman illustrated it very well how some—maybe many—men don’t feel confident that women will become “better creatures” when they are financially independent. Men don’t need to feel burdened heavily to do all things (especially related to money, and other public affairs) by themselves coz women will help them do it. However, of course, men must decrease their feeling superior. It will make both men and women equal.
And let’s welcome a better world.
I absolutely agree with what Gadis Arivia said in one of her article that men must thank feminists. Feminists really want to make a better future for both men and women. FYI, Gadis Arivia is the founder of the first feminist journal in Indonesia with its motto “for awakening and equality”.
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