I’ve been brought up in quite a feminist way. Since I was little, my mom told me to not ever become a slave of a future husband; not to let anything be taken for granted; not to waste my life doing laundry, cleaning and cooking for family members who don’t appreciate it.
Well, I guess I learned my lesson well. I’m single, no kids and I’m a slob. I don’t iron, I have holes in my clothes (not to mention the paint spatters) and I’m eternally grateful to my washing machine that does my laundry for me. I clean when lifeless objects start moving around the house by themselves; and cobwebs don’t bother me in the least. It’s not that I hate doing domestic chores. Actually, I quite love cooking and cleaning. Just not everyday.
The one thing I never quite understood in the lesson my mom tried to teach me is that as a woman I should never feel any less than a man. Simply because I never did. And that’s why I never quite got the whole feminist ideology, because I feel it somehow implies that women are lesser than men, a thought I don’t share at all. Quite the contrary, I must say.
But that was then, growing up in Holland where, as a woman, I never felt to be at a disadvantage.
In Honduras, though, it’s a whole different story. I don’t feel discriminated on a personal level, because I have such an outsider position anyway, being a foreigner and an artist too (and “crazy”, for that matter). But you must be blind not to notice the fact that women are at a serious disadvantage in this country. Machismo reigns while it’s women’s tremendous effort that keeps the motor of society running. However, they barely receive acknowledgement for that fact.
For over twelve years I’ve worked with kids here in Copán and over the years I’ve always had a group of boys that come by, just to hang around, help a little, have some fun. Much the same way I used to hang around interesting adults when I was a kid. But I hardly ever had (or have) any girls hanging around. And the reality is, they can’t. From a very early age (six or seven), girls are in charge of their younger siblings. From the age of ten and on, girls would stop coming to my art workshops because they had to help at home. Running errands, doing laundry or cooking, while their brothers are free to play and do whatever they want. It’s true that girls mature earlier than boys, but the responsibilities thrown onto girls from an early age on, are way bigger than the ones for boys. And then, when their brothers slowly grow into adolescence, girls get interested in boys. Of course they are warned about the dangers of “running around with boys”, but hardly with any decent sexual education. Instead, they are threatened not come home pregnant (but without proper knowledge about how to avoid that). Then there’s that whole myth girls devoutly believe in that when you’ll bear a man’s child, he’ll take care of you for the rest of your life. Gee. Just look around and you should know that THAT is the biggest misunderstanding EVER! However, girls don’t seem to learn. They drop out of school, spend their little money on sexy clothes, and by the time they’re in their twenties, they’re already multiple moms and very often single. I don’t know if anybody ever investigated the statistics, but Honduras seems to be overpopulated with single women, while I yet have to meet a single MAN! Even if a marriage doesn’t work out (usually the man leaves the woman for another), it’s the women who become single while the men, obviously, don’t. Even the women that have a man on the side (or an ex-husband) are single women, while you can hardly consider a man single when the sleeps with the one woman, has his laundry done by another, while having dinner served by a third. And the women keep bearing their children, because, you know, if…
No. It doesn’t work that way. But as long as moms keep educating their daughters the same way they were brought up, I see little chance for change. Not that I think women are to blame here, it’s a responsibility of the whole society. But yes, I do absolutely believe that feminism is an important movement with much work ahead here in Honduras. So while I’m living here, I’m thinking of becoming a feminist after all. Just for the sake of all those terrific, hardworking, suffering women who need to stop thinking of themselves as lesser than men. Women, you’re NOT!