"I once recall a woman telling me that there are too many conflicting roles in her life for her ever to feel comfortable as 'one person'. She was referring to the woman she was expected to be, the woman she wanted to be and the woman she was!
I often feel that women have a harder time in life living the roles that they adopt and those ascribed to them by their male counterparts. As the bearer of children, they carry an enormous responsibility for both the advancement or decline of civilisation. As the mothers of future generations, since the moment of creation, they have borne too heavy a responsibility in society and the home for the overall functioning and happiness of that nucleus.
In an ideal world, girls would be provided with every available opportunity to grow naturally from childhood into the responsibilities of adult, worker, lover, wife, mother and yet, far too often before their minds and bodies are ready for it, they miss out large sections of their youth and have to abandon their playthings and childhood dreams to more adult chores of life. Even before they have barely reached the stage of puberty, they experience male pressures to be a certain shape and weight and find themselves being sexualised into 'baby dolls' and 'bunny girls' for no other reason than to gratify male urges and sensual pleasures. To resist such pressure is often to stand out as being labelled 'odd' to the other girls as opposed to the more accurate description as being 'different'.
Next comes boyfriends, babies and marriage; quite often in that order and infrequently as the result of any planned execution. In times of economic depression, there is often no job to work at, no place to live that can be called home and very little nourishing food to eat. With a child/children sometimes younger than three or four to daily care for, the only jobs that are readily obtainable and will put bread on the table is the part-time occupation that the woman can obtain on minimum wages, working the most inconvenient of hours when she feels guilty about not being home with her children.
Not surprisingly, years of accumulated stress that accompanies such a life exacts the inevitable price of advanced ageing, robbing woman of her previous good looks and attractive mannerisms. Such change often prompts the husband to turn his eyes elsewhere. He tells himself that 'because she has let herself go' she cannot be bothered about their marriage and their relationship; so, he too 'lets her go' and invariably runs off with the younger woman with no 'stretch marks' from multiple childbirths who still exhibits the capacity to dream of a happy life and future with her man.
In this grossly, unfair society of ours, which is still predominantly male run, I have met too many females who have never experienced the privilege to master one role in their life before they have had another thrust upon them, and I know too many women who still have too much of the little girl inside them because they were rushed out of childhood before their time. I see far too many mothers whose overbearing level of responsibility prevents them ever discovering the individual they were meant to be, and I have known too many wives and partners who would have been happier to have mothered one or two children instead of the four or five they gave birth to and the immature husband/partner/partners they found themselves saddled with.
With such confusion of roles and the 'guilt' that women are encouraged to experience when they are physically unable to carry out all these responsibilities competently, is it hardly surprising that finding one's 'individuality' for a heavily pressurised, overworked and overmanaged woman in today's world is harder than grabbing a hole in the centre of a doughnut?
Over twenty-five years of working with groups of unassertive and angry people who were lacking in self-confidence and too fearful to engage socially with strangers, or finding themselves unable to trust and love oneself or others, I have witnessed changed group members move mountains. Through numerous twenty-four-week courses of assertion training, trust and confidence building programmes I have operated, I saw the transformation of hundreds of group member's lives; the vast majority of them repressed or subjugated females. It was wonderful to see one woman help another woman through their struggles to succeed. I discovered, that just as the black oppressed in years gone by were the ones to help the black advancement in a predominantly white-controlled world, then so is a woman better able to help another woman in a man-made world than any man ever could. It was beautiful to see the most amazing of things happen when women help other women to stand up for themselves.
Many female group members often had to end their relationships/marriages when they discovered that their intransigent male partners were unprepared to change with them. Whenever faced with this situation in the group, my response was invariable to tell the woman that if they wanted to stop being treated like a doormat, then they must get up off the floor!
Having been born in 1942, and brought up in a large Irish family, my mining father, like most men of his day valued the somewhat macho image of men to be admired and emulated by most growing boys. Dad's hero was the film star, John Wayne; the roughest, toughest, no-nonsense cowboy who always beat all odds, and every cowboy blocking his way to win over his woman's heart. One of dad's often mimicked comments to mum was from the mouth of the film star he looked up to. One of his oft-repeated comments to mum was, 'A man's got to do what a man's got to do!' Whenever dad taunted my mother with this put-down one-liner from one of his favourite John Wayne films, mum would wryly smile and mutter, 'And I've got to do what you either can't or won't, Bud!' (Mum's pet nickname for my father was Bud, which she borrowed from the comic Bud Abbott of the American comic duo of the time, Abbott and Costello).
'Great is the man who never ignores the woman he cares about, but beautiful in mind and heart is he who never ignores the feelings and ambition of any woman! Below is my dear mother-in-law, Elizabeth who died in May 2017. Both Mum Elizabeth and my own dear mum lived entirely different lives and experienced widely different circumstances, but each was, in essence, strong women who left their mark on the children they reared and the paths they trod, despite having been married to dominant husbands. May they both rest in peace.' William Forde: August 30th, 2018.