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Last week’s smaller group sessions with the 7th graders in school raised a lot of questions around the extent of patriarchy. I was so glad these boys asked these questions because I believe they asked it for all other boys and men.
Two of the questions on focus for this blogpost are:
1. Why do girls like silent boys? AND 2. How do I impress a girl?
I gave them immediate situations that had transpired the day before when all of them were busy making noise while I stood waiting for them to lower their volume. Along with me were 30 very patient girls just waiting for them to stop. The girls were feeling unfair that because of the boys they lost 2 hours of their time with me. But I encouraged them to just observe and learn, as this would be a heavy lesson on time, respect and space for the boys.
When I retold the episode to the boys, I asked: How do you think the girl you’re trying to impress can hear you when your friend is busy making so much noise and you are being a part of it? You think she is impressed by that? Do you know how much it hurt when I slammed the chair to get all of you to shut up? Imagine your voices everyday that these girls have to scream over just to be heard. It not only hurts our throat and ear drums, but we can’t hear anything anyone is saying. Do you know how disgusted it makes a girl feel about you?
I then asked one of my latest volunteer’s to share what she shared with me about ‘taking interest’. She narrated:
We had a friend visit us for a while. And she would see that I would return home from work and get to cooking and cleaning, while my husband would return home from work and sit doing what he wants to do. She told him he was very lucky to have a wife like me as he could rest after work. This one comment made him think if I was lucky to have him. After that, he began helping me cook and clean and we take turns too.
She then told the boys to take interest in what the girl is doing or whatever that may be of her interest.
The next group of boys asked the same question the next day and I gave them situations in life that were in front of them, by asking them questions to which they themselves answered:
If a girl is not showing interest in you find out why. Is she busy? What is she busy doing? Cleaning and cooking mostly and taking care of everything her mother or father expects a girl to do? Do you have to do any of that? What are you doing when the girl is busy? Do you think girls love to cook and clean? Do you think there are other things apart from cooking and cleaning we want to do but we are not allowed to? How many of you help your sisters or mothers even in cleaning? Or is this something only girls are supposed to do?
If a girl is so busy in this, and she also has to worry about all the abuse, molestation, sexual teasing that goes on her daily life, and she has to worry about school work do you think she has time to pay attention to you?
I knew I hit the nail on the bud when I asked them this question. I explained the physical exhaustion we experience by just being us and living up to so many pressures, along with the monthly changes that go on and the social oppression around periods. The boys got it and next day there was a complete turnover in their behaviour and how they spoke to me.
This ‘taking interest’ or being interested and involved in anyone’s life is applicable to all relationships. I began seeing how the boys question brought an answer to the very question I was asking myself regarding the behaviour of many adults in my life.
What really churned my fire is my involvement at school and teaching kids about patriarchy and how it affects everyone. Boys and men at any age still feel they are entitled to everything, including another woman’s space and time. And in teaching girls skills that are required to deal with this enormous giant of patriarchy, I realized that even women in my life needed to know what they were encouraging and perpetuating by this entitlement when they keep their mouths shut because nobody wants to be the bad cop here. They don’t want to feel dominating or unwanted by the men in their lives. Some might even lose their friends.
I began putting my foot down at many levels. In my own home, outside of it and in my personal relationships with my family. However, it wasn’t yet effective because there is a nice air around how I say things. I tried using ‘nice’ language but people don’t get it. When a woman says something once, it is ignored because it isn’t important. When she repeats herself she is being nagging. And when she blows everything out she is being dramatic. So I went on to be direct and on the face, and this got me to a level of being controlling, or a bitch, or even better: ‘less desirable’. If a man was direct it wouldn’t be questioned.
What really was conveyed to me when I opened my home, my life and space to others, was how it was all being taken for granted because it came free. It isn’t something they had to work for. The kind of mess, uninvited visitors, and a range of things that transpired told me that no one really knew what respect even meant. It told me that they clearly were the least bothered about ‘taking interest’ in what makes this space a home as long as it served their purpose.
Ever since then I have reconsidered myself being nice to anyone. Not only in my own home but even in other spaces I used to visit where entitlement by the male was so easily accepted. When a woman puts her entitlement in the picture, it goes through a process of ‘approval’. The fact that I even need to write this says it.
I remember one of my masters (a man with a family) who taught me about space and even the necessity of cleaning. He didn’t want to build a family but his master suggested he does so so that he can truly experience the issues everyone faces in their daily struggle to better help them. Literally putting his feet in their shoes.
Cleaning had nothing to do with being a woman. It had nothing to do with having issues with dirt and dust or being disgusted by insects. It was a simple matter of knowing the reality of life.
That we are not living in the forest where cleaning and hygiene is not a part of our daily living. It is the fact that as humans we will live in bricks and mortar amongst other people. And that in such living structures it is important that we contribute our share of respect to the space shared, to the air being important to all living beings for breathing, to the light and sound levels that affect people’s rest and healing. If you don’t understand this he said, you will never know how to co-exist with anyone.
Renunciation is very easy actually. Learning to live in peace and not disturb another human’s peace is not. For a girl in this world, you will need a roof above your head because you have to work with others not against them and the world will always feel threatened by such women.
Care and treat your home like it is your own body. It is your body. Care and treat the home that will shelter you like it is your own body too, because it is someone else’s hard work and investment. Just because it is material wealth you cannot misuse it. Abusing it is vandalism, remember what you did in school and how you were made to fix what you broke? Inanimate objects share energy and atoms too. Someone else paid for that to be made by another person who then made arrangements to gather the tools and substances needed to put it together. And someone else had to take time off their family and home for all of that to happen. There are a lot of people’s energy involved to bring about the existence of this material. Respect them all. They too are artist and your teachers.
It is this level of care and love you will then embody in your body and home so naturally that others will feel all of it when you are just around them and when you make sexual love to some of them. No pain or body disturbances will occur when your sexual energy transfers but it will automatically heal you and your partner. There will be no such thing as mistakes when you get this practice right, because it is not only about practicing what the practice is but practicing it with life. It is about everything that makes this world what it is and the reality it is. It is knowing that as a woman the world is not built for you to find pleasure or to engage in it without having a price to pay. So you have to find your way around it and make it happen as I am still in the body of a man, and my purpose is to have a family. Create your way as a woman. It will be hard and necessary to be done. A lot of people will have a problem with it but you’ll do it at the time when all women are seeking it too. Men can come and go. Women can’t. Recognize what this universal suffocation means.
His words were indeed true.
Taking interest translates to a lot of things. It is about putting your practice into your surroundings and not having similar situations arise. This becomes the next learning of letting go in order to learn the next.