Thursday, August 05, 2004

Personal note

I suppose I should write something about myself to put this blog in context - explain where it and I are coming from. I'm 48 years old, which means that I was born at the tail end of the baby boom and missed the Woodstock era by a trice (I actually went to Janis Joplin's last concert in a prim summer frock, sitting next to my father, who wore a business suit, surrounded by flower children screaming for the lights to be turned off so they could smoke pot. Janis refused to perform until their demands were met.) However, I imbibed enough of the values of the 60s to reject the materialism of the "me-generation" and the Yuppie outbreak that followed.

My parents and my nationality are British, but I was born in Canada, raised in Puerto Rico, went to high school in New York, and then went on to live in England (where I studied Anglo-Saxon archaeology for 2 years at UCL), Spain (where I vegetated as an unmarried hausfrau) and Los Angeles (where I earned a BA in English Lit and an MA in Latin American Studies from UCLA). For the last 17 going on 18 years I've been living in Bahia, in the northeastern part of Brazil. I am white and my two daughters (one adopted) are African-Brazilian. My ex-husband was, for me, the embodiment of two cultural treasures I prize in Bahia - capoeira and Candomblé. Ironically, after we married, he tried to get me to stop participating in both (we met at a capoeira school, and by the time I was seven months pregnant, and had to stop training, I had reached a reasonably advanced level). Basically he wanted me to be the "3 Ks" ("kinder kirche kuche") type of wife advocated by Hitler. Our marriage lasted 5 years - it endured that long because I wanted my daughter to have a father in the house, but finally I decided that living with unhappy quarrelling parents was worse for her than having a single Mum.

Over the years, I have become increasingly incensed at the treatment of women in general, and intelligent, educated women in particular. It almost seems like there's a genocidal push to ensure that intelligent women don't have children and therefore don't pass on their intelligent genes (I don't know how that works actually, because neither Einstein's parents nor his offspring were geniuses as far as I know). Perhaps the trick for survival is for an intelligent woman to act dumb until she at least manages to get pregnant. (I'm being ironic here.) In The Mill on the Floss, a man marries a stupid wife because he believes women shouldn't be as clever as men, and then finds that her stupid genes went to his son and his own intelligence was passed on to his daughter. Genetics...always a crap shoot.

As I've mentioned, sexism is rampant in Brazil, but I see it everywhere. Women are expected to fit into a range of stereotypes and be driven by hormones. Women even speak of their own gender in the third person (I always feel that I should be writing "we" and "our"). The older I get, the more I learn, the wiser I am (unless it's wishful thinking), the more men talk down and patronise me. Where's the logic in that?

I have a theory about all this. Young boys tend to be intimidated by girls, who are usually taller and learn faster, according to surveys I've read. Then, suddenly, the boys become men who - for the most part - are bigger and stronger than their female counterparts. Mens' intra-gender values are generally based on penis size and physical strength first, and intellectual development second (although now nerds are more highly valued because they tend to become the richest people on earth, like Bill Gates). Since most women can only compete with men on the second, less-valued level - intelligence - all that remains is to dumb women down and, hey presto, men are the dominant sex.

With apologies to people of African descent who may be offended by the "n-word," Yoko Ono and John Lennon were right, "Woman is the Nigger of the World". Read the lyrics and weep.

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