What’s Yours is Mine, What’s Mine is also Mine

“….if only you were narcissistic enough, if only you took proper care of your smells, your hair, your boobs, your eyelashes, your armpits, your crotch, your stars, your scars, and your choice of Scotch in bars – you would meet a beautiful, powerful, potent, and rich man who would satisfy every longing, fill every hole, make your heart skip a beat (or stand still), make you misty, and fly you to the moon (preferably on gossamer wings), where you would live totally satisfied forever.”
Erica Jong, writer and staunch feminist said that in 1942 regarding advertisements and horoscopes, or rather whorescopes according to her, of the time. We’d be quick to dismiss her cynicism claiming that we are a new generation with new thinking and that such Barbie-like images of perfection and perfect happiness are a thing of the past. But the cynic in me, who is also a realist to a great extent, begs to differ because even with everything the ‘modern woman’ has achieved, dreams of gossamer wings are still alive and while women have undoubtedly conquered male territories, they still use their gender as an excuse to avoid inconvenience.
First of all, let me not be a hypocrite. I am also one of those women who are on equal footing and in some instances above their male counterparts but many are the times I have found myself using my gender as an excuse to my advantage. It could be something as menial as changing a light bulb or something a tad bit advanced like repairing a patched tyre. The general attitude shown by most women in such situations is ‘I can drive a vehicle just like you but I’m a woman so that lets me off the hook from changing the tyre’. We wanted, we demanded treatment on par with men but now that we have achieved equality (at least in a relative sense) we use our femininity as a pretext.
Admittedly there are biological differences between men and women which make some tasks and situations more difficult for women but then again the vice versa applies to men as well. The strength with which a man lifts a heavy load could be greater than a woman’s but at the same time the delicacy with which a woman sews an intricate pattern is superior to that of a man.
In my opinion such biological differences are the only valid reasons for a woman to be excused because as it is we have made a joke out of our equal status by saying what is yours is mine but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to let go of the things that make me the so called weaker sex and therefore what is mine is also mine.
The instant reply (or most probably retort) to what I’m claiming would be that our society is such that at the root of the idea of what a woman’s role should be, there still remains that well groomed beautiful woman waiting to be swept off her feet. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that being a well groomed beautiful woman is a bad thing. Truth be told, with metrosexuals sprouting in every nook and corner, women have to contend to hold on to their title as the fairer sex. My point is, as natural as it is to have the opposite sex in mind when one beautifies herself, it should never be the only reason behind it. And it is up to women to take a stand and pave the way towards change by showing just that.
For an example Harvard University in a historic first appointed a female president almost four centuries after its inception. While it is laudable, it also springs the question as to why it took so long (noting that the first female student was appointed in 1945). To come closer to home, there is a marked dominance of female undergraduates in Sri Lankan universities but sadly the dominance is limited to numbers. Student activities and especially student politics still remain mostly as male only territories. Once again, it is fruitless for women to lugubriously await change.
To be fair by females things have definitely changed for the better with women looking for much more in life than a happily ever after. I don’t think there is any need for an explanation as to how women have conquered male territory. In fact a recently reported case of a female shark giving birth without having sex makes me wonder if a day will come when asexual reproduction by women will also be possible. Now that would take female domination to another level.
Getting back to the negative side of things, there still lingers the notion that a woman cannot survive by herself. Yes, in the present context these notions are absolutely justified but only because it is women who inflicted most of those on themselves. It is easier to blame men for making it almost impossible for a woman to travel alone in the night rather than blame herself for not fighting to change that situation so that is exactly what we do.
The reason why I think women need to take the initiative in bringing about change to such conventional attitudes is because it is they who face stigma and also because it is high time something was done to make sure the equality we have achieved is not just nominal. We live in a world with Idiot’s Guides ranging from kama sutra to baby sign language so empowering ourselves with what is necessary (more on the lines of self defence and self esteem) should be easy.
While writing this piece, a song I used to sing in nursery kept ringing in my ears. A show tune by Irvin Berlin from ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, it was a duet meant to be sung by a male and a female. And I think it is only fitting to end this article with a line from that song which sums up what we women should do if we are to make sure that ‘what’s mine is mine’ doesn’t mean we become the weaker sex and also if we are to tell men that ‘what’s yours is mine’.
“Anything you can do I can do better; I can do anything better than you.”

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