I nearly expired from shock recently, when a casual friend – and fellow writer – suggested that my husband must feel cheated by me ‘using all my imagination in my book instead of elsewhere’. When pressed, he revealed he was talking about the bedroom.
As this was someone I admired, I tried to reason with him, drawing him out to expose the flaw in his thinking. I lead him down the footpath of obliviousness so that he could drink from the watering hole of enlightenment. We talked about writing, bills, working around children and so on. My intention was to reveal how similar to his, my own concerns were. Eventually in exasperation, I snapped:
“I am not just a vagina.”
“Interesting idea being a vagina,” came the reply. “That would have been great fun.”
ARRRGGGGGH. My friend is smart, but he just wasn’t getting it. I’d been reduced to a sum of my parts and ‘writer’ was not one of them. I was creative, yes, but what a waste! (Have pity, Chikodili, think about the positions you could be inventing!)
The truth is, a lot of men on our continent don’t get it either. Even the more liberal fellows can slip up. They spout statements that show a beastly Hyde of misogyny and privilege lurking underneath the Jekyll of refinement. And I understand it, I do, even if I wish I didn’t. Putting oneself in another person’s shoes is bloody hard work, especially when one has not had practice. Centuries of being the apex predator and suddenly one has to rewire one’s brain. The process must be disconcerting.
In course of my life, I’ve met many men who don’t read books written by women, who cannot see themselves reflected in female protagonists, who find their minds wandering when presented with the absence of a phallic central figure. Women have been othered beyond comprehension for these men so our experiences seem alien.
We, on the other hand, having been socialised over the years into second class status are at an advantage. As a child I feasted on works by R.L Stevenson, Dickens and Rider Haggard. I was Jim Hawkins and Oliver Twist and Allan Quatermain. Not once did I stop to consider that their protagonists were everything I was not; white and male. Their travails were mine as were their triumphs.
So, for the benefit of those at the back, here is a short list of some things that occupy my thoughts:
- My kid
- Bills, bills, bills
- Success in writing
- Money and success
- Sex, Topped with more sex. Sprinkled with sex. Eaten with a sex spoon.
However, to hold any one of these things to be the entirety of my being, would be a mistake. Having a vagina is fantastic. But being one would not, contrary to opinion, ‘be fun’. I’m a writer and wife, a child and a mother.
But above all, human. Just like you.