The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is “What does a woman want? – Sigmund Freud’s remark to Marie Bonaparte
I grew up believing that all was possible for a girl or a woman. Certainly my father and uncles made it seem so. They spoke to me as equals to many things that girls are not supposed to be interested in… like the first principles of geometry or physics, the relativity of time and how to perfect a golf swing.
My father, who loved Greek literature, discussed the nature of melancholy, how to get a vibrato on a violin, and how sickness are just states of mind. I lived for over 17 years in a world of imagination and discovery, going steady not with the boy next door, but with men out of range. My romantic dreams and fantasies included Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Henry the VII and oh yes, John Barrymore and Prokofiev. I did not start transferring my affection to more attainable men until I was 19, at which point I threw away the books, along with self-restraint.
But at no time did I throw away my sense of fierce independence as a human thing and the desire to attain distinction in terms of mind and spirit and expression. This was not because it was right or natural for a woman, but because it was right and natural for the kind of human being that I happen to be!
Now we can count our blessings. We’ve handled existing biases when talents among women are fine as long as it is kept out of bounds. She is respected for her intellectual curiosity, her talent, her independence of spirit. No longer can she escape the relentless nudge of society for her true and valid functions.
Widening their horizons, women are taken out of the kitchen—blessed today with home computers, microwave ovens, and every possible device to use time well; no longer full-time servants to their husbands and children but serene in their sense of choice.
And now, speaking of choices. A majority of women have found their greatest fulfillment in the home as a wife and mother. Why grudge their happiness just because it isn’t yours?
Let us not grudge their happiness. However, it doesn’t take away the questions: whether in a more fluid society they may not make better doctors than mothers, better mathematicians than homemakers, better courtesan than wives. Perhaps on the same question equally, whether the young man trapped into domesticity and corporations in the early 20s, would not be happier as explores rather than fathers, poets than husbands and rakes than lawnmowers.
Society accepts a woman’s unique talent only on certain conditions, at most times to gain this acceptance by fulfilling her conditions.
No one objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor, if at the same time she manages to be a good wife and mother. This entrance charge for the approval of other men and women, I think, is exorbitant to the point of impossibility. George Eliot was not expected to be a raving beauty. Emily Dickinson was not scorned for being childless. Nobody urged Madame Marie Curie to dye her hair. Why must beauty be the hazard of a talented woman? If she is worried about what others think of her, by what standards of morality she is judged, she will not stand the gaff of independence long. If she gets married and has children, her life will be divided in three ways: between her children, husband and her work. What she gives to one, she must take from the other, in this, as in many other things, the creative woman has a tougher time than the talented man. Her time is sacred, even for all our vaunted modernity, yet, not enough people believe that her time is sacred.
It is extremely difficult to tear one’s self from every arm and say “Sorry Babes, I got to work.”
From one’s heart of hearts, it is much easier and more pleasant to drown in current delights than gird for future dreams.
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