By Grace Hamilton, Staff Writer
There is a quiet violence in the way women’s passions and work are ignored, disregarded and erased. It is silent, and it is everywhere.
There is a quiet violence painted across the history of womankind. Behind the revolutions, massacres and witch hunts is a bloodless brutality that every woman faces.
Leo Tolstoy is regarded as the greatest Russian writer, and yet his wife Sophia published his works, managed his estate, raised their thirteen children and cooked two different meals every night because he was a vegetarian, all with no help and no regard for her emotions and needs.
It was Sophia who edited and copied his manuscripts. She wrote the manuscript for War and Peace six times, correcting his spelling and grammar and making suggestions for the plot to appeal more to a general audience.
And yet, after all of this, Tolstoy named a male friend as the executor of his estate before his death and allowed his works to become public domain, when Sophia had previously owned them for her publishing company.
She wrote in her diary:
“Today, he shouted at the top of his voice that his dearest wish was to leave his family. I shall carry the memory of that heartfelt, heart-rending cry to my grave. I pray for death. For without his love I can not survive.”
Abandoned. Discarded. Ignored.
F. Scott Fitzgerald stole letters and journals from his wife Zelda and refused to let her publish any of her own work because he used it in his own books and stories.
Silenced. Controlled. Smothered.
Women scientists conducted invaluable research on airplane design, ballistics calculations and vitamin preservation during World War I. Women worked in factories, drove trucks and repaired airplanes. They served on the front lines as nurses. They were wounded. Taken prisoner. Killed.
They are reduced to the women weeping at home, waiting for their brave soldiers to return.
Midwives were the mothers of medicine, with their knowledge of childbirth, herbal remedies and even medical procedures outside of delivery and childcare. They were called witches. They were drowned. They were burned at the stake.
Where are the women? Where are the artists? The musicians? The scientists and mathematicians and inventors?
Loyal wives. Loyal mothers. Loyal women.
Women are at the center of culture, history and revolution. They create life. They are the beginnings of the human race and sufferers of the sacred act of birth.
Women are the model of God.
Even on a small scale, passions and hobbies are set aside for the sake of the home, the husband and the children.
There is nothing wrong with choosing to be a wife or a mother. There is nothing wrong with keeping the home, the center of life and love.
But throughout history, women haven’t been allowed to choose. They’ve been forced.
I’m just so tired of scrubbing myself clean. I’m so tired of the mask I wear to please the men I know and the men I don’t know. It’s getting heavy. It’s always been heavy.
My ex-boyfriend loved watching obscure movies, and he wanted to study film. He judged me for watching reality shows. He thought they were stupid and vain.
My father hates that my mother watches HGTV. He thinks the people are annoying, and that the shows are pointless.
A boy in my sister’s engineering class cussed her out for “taking” his spot in the aerospace major.
When my sister told a man she liked to knit, he responded that it was “natural for her to have domestic hobbies.”
I’ve read stories of women controlled by their fathers. By their husbands and brothers.
It is everywhere and always and now.
We’re suffocated. We’re suffocating. We’re haunted and haunting. We’re eaten alive.
Only by naming the monster can we kill it. I know its name. Its name is patriarchy. Its name is manhood. Masculinity. Oppression.
Womanhood is not a sin. It is not a crime. It is not something to be erased or disregarded. The things we love and contribute and invent and create are important, because they come from us. Toxic ideas of manhood and masculinity, of femininity and domesticity, are the violence by which we suffer in silence.
I don’t want to suffer anymore. I want to create. I want to speak. I want to love. I want to live. I want every woman to do the same.
I know the monster’s name. Only when we kill it will we finally know what it is to be free.
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