I have always admired eccentric old ladies who say and do whatever they want, and I finally see how they come to the point where all of their fucks have been given. I’ve been in a pattern of being less interesting by wasting time not fully being myself—placating and worrying how I come across to others—rather than embracing my inner eccentric. What those crazy old broads understand it’s that it’s not up to them how other people choose to see them one way or another. Every one of us stars in only one narrative: our own.
We spend our lives telling ourselves stories whether we realize it or not. We want to believe in our own importance, that what happens in this blink of time on a dust particle in space is meaningful. But in our quest to create meaning we fill in the doubts with whatever narrative suits us at the time. We do this on an individual level and a broader, cultural one as well.
For me, my last fuck was given when I realized that a story I’d been telling myself for over a decade was based in absolute fallacy, stemming from the assumptions of the patriarchy. Discovering that sent me into a nihilistic paradox, wherein I felt the absurd weight of nothing meaning anything and “truth” being fiction in and of itself. After some seriously grim pondering I decided to embrace the duality of existing without truth. I write fiction anyway. If I’m writing the story of me, then why suffer through a bunch of expositional narrative about stuff I’m not interested in?
The narrative of patriarchy (post-agrarianism) is that women don’t deserve equal power to men. In ways big and small this superiority complex holds us all back. Humanity cannot be its best if (slightly more than) half the population’s strengths are not fully utilized or cultivated.
But the thing about a story is that it’s based in verisimilitude—truthiness—not truth. I’m tired of filling in the holes of this patriarchal plot with caricatures of what femininity is. I am a whole woman. I am intelligent, capable, interesting, flawed, compassionate and complicated. I am human. And yes, men and women are different. Our brains evolved with a bias toward different neural pathways based on what our ancestors did.
“Psychologists report that when women cogitate, they gather details somewhat differently than men. Women integrate more details faster and arrange these bits of data into more complex patterns. As they make decisions, women tend to weigh more variables, consider more options, and see a wider array of possible solutions to a problem. Women tend to generalize, to synthesize, to take a broader, more holistic, more contextual perspective of any issue. … Men are more likely to focus their attention on one thing at a time. They tend to compartmentalize relevant material, discard what they regard as extraneous data, and analyze information in a more linear, causal path.” (Helen Fisher “Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership”)
Our hunter-gatherer predecessors divvied up the power differently than their agrarian counterparts. “Anthropologists generally agree that power (the ability to influence or persuade, as opposed to authority, formal institutionalized command) regularly resides with those who control valued goods or services and have the right to distribute this wealth outside the home.” (Helen Fisher “Anatomy of Love”)
In hunter-gatherer societies women enjoyed autonomy. They were responsible for the majority of what was on the table each night. They traveled. Traded. Parented. Took lovers. Held fiscal and social power.
Men, on the other hand had the more dangerous and glorified role, which while only accounting for a minority of the family’s food and goods to trade, accrued more power and prestige in both a ceremonial and social status. The one who made the kill enjoyed the most power.
“Men and women also evolved to see power differently. Men tend to cast themselves within hierarchies and view power as rank and status; women, on the other hand, form cliques and regard power as an egalitarian network of supportive connections.” (Helen Fisher “Enlightened Power”)
Which brings me to the plow. Fuck the plow. A machine that transitioned our ancestors from hunter-gatherers to farmers by making it manageable for a family to stay in one place year-round. It may have increased efficiency, but by favoring the physical strength of men it was bye-bye to women’s autonomy and ability to cultivate power outside of the home.
In agricultural societies where people used the plow (traditional Japanese, Chinese, Hindu and pre-industrial European) adultery wasn’t applied to men, it was only used to refer to a female vice. Only when a man had sex with another man’s wife was he considered an adulterer.
“The sexual double standard for adultery arose in farming cultures in tandem with the belief that the male was the bearer of the family “seed.” It was his duty to reproduce and pass on his lineage. But only in India were men supposed to be faithful to their brides.” (Helen Fisher “Anatomy of Love”)
Since farming couples needed one another for survival and were unable to divide assets and relocate, it made divorce impractical, particularly for women. The patriarchal structure ensured women became dependent on men and their power was relegated to the domestic sphere. If a man decided he didn’t want his wife, she had more to lose than him. The power was heavily weighted in his corner. She had reason to please him.
But that narrative no longer suits. No one has an inherent advantage in the current era. There are a lot of problems to solve. A lot of social wounds that need healing. A lot of innovations to make. A lot of violence that needs to end. And, while women may still be making less money than men, no woman needs a man to ensure her survival. The only exceptions are cultural.
So, like my eccentric role models, I’ve decided that it doesn’t suit my personal narrative to assuage someone else’s fear of losing power that quite frankly, I’m not hungry for. I’m done pretending that some misogynistic guy’s sexist joke is funny so that he doesn’t call me a bitch. I’m done giving the don’t-kill-me smile to men threatening my space in a way they never would if I had a penis. I’m done using passive voice so as not to come across as abrasive. I’m done humoring people whose egos require everyone around them believe in their superiority. I’m done trying to play a part I didn’t write in someone else’s story.
Instead, I’m doing whatever the fuck I want to do. I’m not asking permission. I’m not looking for validation. Anyone is welcome to take it or leave it. Whichever they choose is about them, anyway. I’m only the center of my own lying mind’s stories.And if I am in charge of writing and believing in my own story, I’m going to be damn sure it’s one I enjoy.