(For all the women in honor of International Women’s Day)
It was a beautiful March morning and I was touching base with Deegeen Dzila again.
“I’m glad you’re visiting,” she said. She sounded unusually alert.
I poured my coffee.
“Talk to me. What’s new?” she asked, commanding, but with the curiosity of a child.
“Well, it’s International Women’s month,” I gleamed with pride. Deegeen Dzila, an educated woman herself, had encouraged independent thinking of women from as far back as I could remember. She had raised the bar for many a young girl of her generation to stand for the right to be equally educated. Women had come a long way from our grandmothers’ and mothers’ worlds of holding tight to their chests the anger of submission and inequality. In my chest was great pride for the women who had achieved substantial gains in the field of law, business, medicine, behavioral sciences, politics, engineering, the corporate world and other areas of professionalism that were traditionally thought to be man’s domain. The Women’s Movements of early years and Feminists of the 70’s had paved the way to the plethora of choices that became ours as a direct consequence of our liberation, externally as well as internally.
“Women worked hard and with great personal sacrifice,” I said, “to give the modern woman the opportunities and powers that we now enjoy in….”
“It’s not about getting power,” interrupted Deegeen Dzila. “It’s about how best to effectively use the power that we have.” Silence suddenly dominated the room. It echoed as I set down my coffee cup. She took a deep breath before she continued. “When you come right down to it, our God given power born of millions of years of evolution to carry the maternal mission and nurturing grace of making a home and raising children is our most crucial dominion. It is a woman’s reality; a sacred mission.”
I felt crushed. Was Deegeen Dzila telling me that after all these years of individual and collective plights of women to prove that we could work as well as men and think as well as men was not to be celebrated as an achievement of our God given right? I understand that in the beginning of our plight, we devalued the feminine, denying ourselves our own unique characteristics so that we could be free to behave like men. Words like “maternal” and “nurturing” were considered feminine and therefore weak. We became tough as nails. If men could make business their bottom line, so could we. Our verve to be out in the world where important things were happening overpowered our traditional stay-at-home and somewhat “meaningless” existence. Housewives became homemakers who became domestic engineers. We became powerful externally as well as internally.
“You mean, our God given mission is to be at home raising children?” I asked somewhat defensive.
“No. Women need to be “out in the world” if that’s where they choose to be, but not at the expense of losing sight of our sacred mission to tend to the home and children. Maternal instincts and motherhood are not just for the privileged few. That mission is God given. It belongs to all women. They are the keepers of the balance of humanity, the conscience of nations, the flame and primal homemakers that light the hearth of homes. We are put in charge of raising the future generations. Can man be more powerful than that?” she asked.
At this point, I realized that Deegeen Dzila was not negating the work of my generation and the women of my college years who rose to protect equal rights. She was reminding me that the power of a woman’s ability to fiercely protect her young ones just, as every female advanced mammalian species does to survive, is nonpareil. Who better than a woman will fight for the welfare of a child, or any child? And if we used our powers gained “out in the world” collectively, we could insist that the children of the world no longer bear hunger; that the millions be given a basic education; that punishment for child trafficking be seriously enacted; that the brutalization of children be addressed; the list is endless. Yes, we are the homemakers of the world, the mothers of the children of the world, and the greatest power that lies within us is the ability to protect the primacy of our sacred mission and guard it with pride, making the welfare of our children our bottom line.
“Women are the powerful gender.” She insisted. “We just have to remember to awaken our womanhood.”