Wednesday, 12 October 2016

You ‘Allow’ Your Wife What?

Hello, men. I figured it was about time I wrote to the gang. This is not to all of you, because there's a whole bunch of Radcliffes and Ruffalos out there who'll know exactly what I mean. But for those of who flagrantly fling about the aforementioned 'A' word, I feel like we need to chat.

This has been plaguing me since this one, fine Thursday that I was at lunch with some colleagues, and when that most ‘buzzworthy’ phrase from the millennial dictionary of trending shit (it is, in fact, the hot, hot 'feminism' I refer to) was brought up, the men at the table find themselves having to reluctantly contribute.

“Oh, but you should know that I let my wife wear whatever she wants,” quips a man well above a decade older than me, his voice dripping with pride for himself. “I allow her to go out late, wear short skirts—there's nothing I don’t allow her to do.”

The table is abuzz with murmurs. Everyone is terribly impressed. 'What a feminist man', they are thinking. 'How good of him, to let her do things her way What a lucky gal'. And I find it a slightly redundant exercise to try and make a point that’s clamped it’s hairy claws tight over my heart.

Because, um, who the flying fuck are you to ‘allow’ her anything?

It’s a hard point to raise to a table that’s all over itself for its progressiveness already. To them, they have taken a giant leap towards a liberal utopia, and it feels unfair to inform them of how skewed their views really are.

Men, not at this table, though—I feel like we can speak freely. The idea that it is your right, as a man, to ‘allow’ or ‘disallow’ a woman from making her own decisions essentially ties in to the belief system that the buck does indeed, stop with you. As the male figure, the figure of 'authority', you have chosen to afford the woman/women in your life certain freedoms.

But the truly fucked-up part of all this is that you look at these distributions of partial autonomy as some major benevolence on your part. “Look at me! I’m so terribly enlightened, I let my wife out of the house in a pinafore! I didn’t scream at all that she wasn’t wearing a salwar kameez. I didn’t beat her, or call her names, or cut off her allowance. Aren’t I fabulous? #McDreamy.”

The trouble, see, is that our notions of freedom are still so deep-fried in patriarchy that it becomes a natural phenomenon to work from it as a starting base. It seems the natural ‘prerogative’ of the man to either choose to give a woman—or withhold from her—her rights.

That’s the thing, though. You have nothing to do with those rights.

It’s comes clad in the couture of progress, sure—it has the fine-ass threads of gender-equality free trade all over it. You feel like you deserve a Costco-sized bag full of kudos for saying it’s okay for your ‘gal’ to gallivant till 2 a.m. or have a hemline that flirts with fate.

Not to sound militant about it, or anything—but hi. You actually don’t own her. Your marriage certificate doesn't double as a proof-of-purchase. She is not your pre-teen child, or your handheld device that you get to decide what she can and can’t do.

“Oh, no, but that not what we meant…” you might think to yourself, branding me a touch hysterical. I’ll clarify—I’m not trying to be callous or over-analytical. I’m simply exposing the dark patch of patriarchy that's been cauterised onto our minds, and how it’s impacted how we view the world. In your head, it may be a woman’s prerogative, but it exists in a ‘man’s world’. The minute you remove yourself from the equation altogether, though—ding, ding, ding!

It’s as simple as just realising that the freedom was never yours to give. You may be her husband or her lover, but she is your partner, not your property. She should be wearing her clothes and drinking her drinks because she’s okay with it, not you. That all-pervading skin of ownership that makes you believe you are making a decision to afford her her God-given freedom is precisely what you need to shed. The minute you realise that you can’t 'decide' if your wife can do XYZ, only support it, is when we can claim, for our cause, a small (albeit vital) victory.

So the next time you’re at lunch with people talking about how your wife chooses to dress, drink, drive or do whatever—drop the ‘A’ word. Makes you a little less of an ‘A’ word yourself. Thanks for listening, and, you know, for 'allowing' me to speak. 

No comments:

Post a Comment