A Woman’s Burden

Women are sponges. Women are dynamic beings. Frankly, we're all dynamic beings. Most of us are, anyway. I believe complexity and the ability to love is what wedges us from the animals. Women, though, are exceptional. Equipped with caution and foreboding, they are usually in sync with any and everything around them. Vigilant of the late-night straggler coming out of a club or that mysterious drifter lurking around near the lamppost. Women obtain a certain liability that renders them to incredible and unfortunate expectations and unfairness. But not equal opportunities. Don't get me wrong, women are not victims. Simply they are the sex preyed upon physically and socially.

I recall a time that I was heeding a lecture in class. My professor, who happened to be a woman, shared something, rather a very personal story with us. Over the weekend, while at home, she took her dog for a walk. As she and the dog progressed through the park, she noticed tiny, little specks and splatters of blood. Alarmed, she picked up the dog and with her shirt blotched in red, it occurred to her the dog was on its period. Helpless, the poor woman stood dumbfounded in the middle of the sidewalk. Men driving in cars cruised by and heckled vile and reprehensible comments toward her. There was no amount of words to account for how humiliated and low she felt. It was then. Right then. I began to imagine that women, all women experience a horrible event like that or worse at least once or sometimes daily. The dreadful event my professor endured marked the tip of the iceberg. Being harassed by scum, fighting off advances, and trying to migrate through life is a genuine struggle for women.

With the oversexualization of women, rape culture is an evident worry. Turn on the television and by God, it doesn't really matter what channel you turn to, on nearly every station there's a woman being portrayed in a provocative manner. In almost every movie, a woman has to be this sex kitten oozing with lust and burning hot to remove her clothes. Some action movies the main character, if she's a woman, will be wearing some skimpy outfit when she's headed to go and kill the villain; instead of being garbed in jeans and a jacket. Better yet, watch a commercial and see if you can make it through without catching so many sexual innuendos being thrown around. Rape is disgustingly sick. However, it seems the marketing and advertising are indirectly nurturing young men's minds to think that women are their property to take advantage of. It's like they're saying, “Here is this woman. She's all ready for you. She's made just for you to enjoy and use for your pleasure.” No wonder on college campuses and even on army bases there's all these reports of men attacking and savagely raping women. Just like those alcohol commercials that encouraged young college men to drink to prove their manhood, somewhere along the lines, being rough and aggressive with women got sewn in there too. Other peers will tease and even encourage each other to be a “real man” and show a woman who's boss. The truth is ugly.

Attending community college, a sexual harassment and sexual assault phenomenon took place. While walking to her car in the parking lot, a young woman was slapped on the buttocks by a guy riding on his bike. Startlingly, a few days later, a young woman was digitally raped in a bathroom I had walked by many times on my way to class. By digitally, I mean the creep fingered the young lady. Following, more reports of young girls being hit on the butt continued for some time. Women cannot live in fear but must live their lives in a double lens: A dinner date with a guy can easily be a date rape. An invitation to a party or a slight glance elsewhere can result in waking up with clothes half-torn, body soaking wet, and questions unanswered. Rape is an unfortunate reality but a current reality. And women aren't begging to be treated this way, they are singled out and targeted by male predators. Whether a woman is a common housewife, mother, or supermodel, the bottom line is she deserves to maintain any form of sophistication without being subject to abuse. A man can go out and hang with the boys and nine times out of ten, will not return with a rape story. Why is that? Ignorant to assume that men aren't sexually assaulted as well. Anyone can be sexually assaulted. Primarily, men are seen as the physically stronger sex able to fend off attacks and women are seen as the weaker sex, more apt to violence and sexual assaults. Which is why women are encouraged to walk home with at least three other girlfriends. Ergo, the lifeline of the buddy system method.

Before the oversexualization, the objectification of women was the norm. And by objectification, I mean women were perceived as the property of their husbands. The stay at home props that cooked and cleaned and took care of the children. The same props that could not make a move without their husband's knowledge. Given spending money to go buy the groceries and handle the errands. Maybe, once in a blue moon go buy themselves something nice. Did you know what I learned in my women's history class? During the old days, if a woman went out and committed a crime, let's say stole a loaf of bread, her husband would be held responsible in court instead of her. Before going to jail, her husband would even be chastised for not keeping her in line better. Which meant that wives were basically some sort of a child to their husbands. Isn't that something? As if women were so docile and simple-minded that even when they committed a crime they weren't treated with the same equal punishment. Someone else had to be punished for them. Similarly, women are still seen in that way. Although women have excelled to corporate jobs, lawyers, etc. in some cases women are both oversexualized and objectified to be used for pleasure in the eyes of their employers. The idea that women are the property of men. That explains sexual harassment. In the workplace, it seems powerful men with money and a high status are convinced they have the right to control and demean women. An overbearing force able to degrade and demand sexual favors. With the hopes of eradicating powerful predators, more women must continue to vocalize their discontent. Otherwise the evil will continue such as a sickness or disease, worsening and becoming deadlier.

Being born with a penis, I have yet to feel the “penetrations” that women experience. Yes, I am a black male and that in itself has proven to be a crime from time to time. Police brutality and racial discrimination are an old but frequent burden of mine. Nevertheless, I've never had to choose. I've never had to choose whether I want to be a stay at home father or attend school. Although having children is not a priority in my life right now, the thought of putting my career on hold to start a family has not entered my mind. Mothers have to stick and stay around without question or they're the most terrible creature on the planet, but a man has a choice. It's optional for a father to leave his family, almost expected. Why is that? He has free range to drop his seed and leave sole responsibility on the mother and then never see her or the children again.

Ironically, with these expectations, women are not allowed to be the captain of their own ships. As a male, I have so many sexual freedoms that many women do not. Did you know the constitution has more regulations and laws concerning women's bodies, than they do men? Over 200 I believe.

Paradoxically, with all the responsibility they carry, health wise, women are not in control. Men are still in control of their bodies and conscious decisions. Think about this. No matter the changing dynamics in today's society regarding single dads, lesbian or gay parents, women appear to be the helm of the household. Most mothers are still the number one care-taker. If they have careers, they stress and worry about how to allot their time appropriately for their families. Single black mothers fret over finding the right male influences for their sons. Lord knows the wrong male influences can have detrimental effects in the black community. Rather, in all communities. Among all this curtailing of the scheduling and sometimes being the mother and the father, society is okay with that. Abortion remains a forbidden sin. I've heard stories of women who've locked themselves in a bathroom at a young age with a hanger or taken substances with the initiative to terminate a pregnancy. Or through the course of their early womanhood have had multiple abortions performed on themselves. Often times, these women were impregnated at the start of their early teens. Young and confused. Theoretically, they existed without a soul to turn to or ear to confide in. Sadie Sachs was a prime example (if you haven't heard about her, you really should).

With the recent discovery of her work in eugenics and sterilizing women of color, Margaret Sanger, the founder of planned parenthood, was a nuanced figure. Nevertheless, she understood the fundamental basics that a woman deserves to be in total reign of her reproductive rights. Men would relentlessly impregnate their wives and then leave for work and expect their wives to look after all the children. Never mind, the financial strain. More often than not, mothers were tied down with over 9 children. Sanger understood this story well. Her own mother died from giving birth too many times. A fate that could have been avoided if she were granted the right to regulate her family size, instead of relying upon her husband to never do so. Defying all odds, Margaret Sanger decided to give women that option. Sanger planted a health clinic in a less fortunate neighborhood where she began to pass out birth control, advice and other services to poor and immigrant women. Funneling a channel where women had the power to determine how many children they wanted, if they wanted children at all. Besides adhering to their husband's sexual needs and being emotionally ridden and depressed, women could now use sex for recreational purposes and not just to procreate. Essentially, planned parenthood was one of the first established clinics where women sought refuge and even liberation.

Understandably, each case is different. I find that the majority of women prefer not to have an abortion. The emotional impact is too much to bear. Rather the decision is based on a health ultimatum or an economic budget. Women who are in favor of abortions, or pro-choice do not want any government mandate infringing upon their irrevocable right. Some Americans who cherish the right to bear arms, no matter how flawed it may be to others, feel that it should not be revised because it's in the constitution. Simultaneously, pro-life believers are firm in although there are extraordinary instances where mass shootings occur and people get hurt, the second amendment is an American right. But then denounce abortion in the likes that it stunts the life of a fetus. Contradiction screams dominant. I figure if someone is against abortion because it takes a life, they should be in agreeance with gun-control. Thus, people also use guns to take lives. Especially, when so many guns, even guns handled in the military, are legally sold in abundance! Semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles, and automatic weapons deserve immediate review and reconsideration to be sold in the open market, or banned altogether. Using the devil's advocate, the gun-control argument I just made is up for debate but not decision. While I feel strongly about reducing the usage of guns, the second amendment should not be wiped away. In the same breath, a woman's choice should not be stripped away either. Ultimately, both actions exist as the rights of the American people.

The 1960s sexual revolution pillared not only on women's rights but their sexual liberation. Their right to have sex freely without the shame and judgment. Their right to be young, unmarried, single women doing what most men did for years. Contrasting against the tale of college girls burning bras in the middle of the street, the sexual revolution was pivotal in drawing attention to women's issues as a human being. Healthcare, reproductive rights, workplace discrimination, under waging and so much more. For the first-time women sprinted out of the kitchen in mass amount of numbers to express the tedious, monotonous, and unfulfilling life they've been under. Following a stringent routine day in and day out. Women made the public streets their platform to be heard. What's so great about the revolution of the 60s is you saw an array of women from all walks of life. Fresh, old, middle-aged. Some who would have not dared joined such a thing ten years earlier. Afraid of what their community and spouses might say about them. Yet, here they were walking gracefully, some smiling and laughing, others holding up signs in silence. Amidst the civil rights movement for African-Americans, there was even a surface of black women standing side by side with white women marching in solidarity. Asian and Latina women not too far behind, all shouting the message of freedom and true equality. Although it would take years to heal the wounds of racial disparity, the rebirth of feminism for all women proclaimed a stark rise.

A woman's burden is so powerful, a woman's burden is so strong: it was yet the same species of flower-lily's that had to wait on the sidelines while black men were first granted with the privilege to vote. Women tirelessly campaigned and had been fighting so hard to stand in a voting booth and what do you know? They were the last species considered for such a privilege. Once again, I am a black man, and I will or have already had my fair share of hardships through my ancestors. Ironically, my time for true freedom appeared in 1869, but would not take shape until 1965 when the voting rights act granted my people the opportunity to cast the ballot. Yet and still, for nearly 200 years' women produced the blood, sweat, and tears into the suffrage movement, desperately trying to adhere to women's God-given rights as human beings to participate in the political realm. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton can attest to that. It appears women worked hard only so that men can be progressed. After all, the U.S. government decided to give the vote to a black man, a black man, before they gave it to women. So, call me crazy, but it seems like pandering that the only award women, and especially black women, receive is to have Harriet Tubman on the back of the 20-dollar bill. I guess for history's sake, that black face being on the same bill with a slave-owner is remarkable.

The ERA movement constructed the present America we have today. Aside from highlighting inequality for adult women, this movement made sure that title 9 was a success. An act that ensured all young girls across the red, white, and blue states had the equal opportunity to play in sports that were once considered a boy's domain. Such a selfless act to allow young women to participate and set the example for them and future generations that women and young girls can reach the sky. The ERA movement lended a hand and certainly paved a path for all the famous sports and Olympian female icons. Too bad the movement could not persuade “the regressives” women are entitled to equal pay for equal work. Employers did not have a gripe when it was illegal for pregnant women to still work (the ERA had that abolished too), but they were up in arms, and some employers still are about women raising the question on their economic status. Let's not forget those “Lavender Menaces” who represented lesbian women at a time when, in some circles, lesbianism was worse than being black. Ah, the beautiful sight of witnessing lesbian women find their way into the mainstream attention and yearn for the desire to just be themselves. While abortion, racial, and sexual discrimination were at the forefront of politics and everyday life, gay people in general were part of some subculture you'd have to seek out. Luckily, through transforming the minds of individuals, the LGBTQ community is now part of the mainstream culture. Bottom line is the 60s, 70s, and 80s were a turning point for women, minorities, lesbian and gay people.

For women, those sensuous, loving, caring, resilient, and dynamic beings, the war wages on. Black people and women have a lot in common: oppression. Both of us had to fight long and hard for the vote. We also face discriminations in our own matter. What I've disturbingly learned is that despite all of the progression women have made, they are still being held back. We should not be having the conversation if a woman's wage, all women, (minority women have a lower pay-wage than white women), is the same as a man's. This right should become a set-in-stone reality, like 2+2=4. What happened to America's slogan of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when it comes to women's reproductive grants? Instead, women withstand a dehumanizing, unwarranted, slap or squeeze on the butt or forced kiss. The systemic oppression is a real monster and it's not leaving any time soon. We constantly hear countless stories of the monster in action. We also hear the extraordinary accomplishments women make as well, like the controversial Margaret Sanger. But that is not enough, more ground needs to get covered, things need to get done. Perhaps, I don't know, the government should remove itself from personal health choices. When a woman's decision for herself is in question, that's a tangible problem, don't you think?

Contributing Editor: Bernard Mabinton


Bernard Mabinton is a 22-year old African-American writer having completed two years in college and is in the process of finishing his education. He hopes to one day be a filmmaker.