In 1994, the British Union opened a library in my city. This was a godsend because finding books in English in the city of Kharkov, Ukraine was a constant problem. Things had gotten so bad that I had devoured a small library of naval novels and had nightmares populated with fo’c’sles, lanyards, and spinnakers.
The library of the British Union contained a very incongruous selection of books on a wide variety of subjects. I was making my way through them shelf by shelf without leaving anything out because I didn’t have the capacity to distinguish what was good and what was bad. I even pored over thick reference books reckoning that it wouldn’t do any harm to peruse them.
This is how I got to the section with the mysterious name of “Gender Studies.” At first, the books were incomprehensible. They seemed to reflect a reality that was very alien to mine. The main emphasis in them was on women who underachieved while men overachieved. I’d never seen such people, and the analysis of their lives didn’t seem very interesting.
Still, I gradually came to realize that the terminology these books was using could be applied to what I knew. The solution to all the mysteries about the strange behavior of men and women that I had been observing throughout my life was contained in the Gender Studies volumes.
In the books, women kept sacrificing their professional and financial realization for the sake of being in a family, irrespective of how crappy that family ended up being. They cried, yelled, had hysterical outbursts, beat their children, and constantly got depressed and moody. The women I knew found it easy to make money and have careers. Still, they kept sacrificing something equally crucial for the sake of being in a family, irrespective of how crappy that family ended up being. Their sacrifice was their sexuality, their emotional lives, the joy they could take in their female bodies.
There had to be a name for the phenomenon that seemed to compel women to self-mutilate for the sake of an empty concept. From the Psychology 101 course I was taking, I knew that a psychologically healthy individual was the one who was equally well-fulfilled in the public and in the private sphere. A career without a personal life is as unbalanced as a personal life with no career.
Why were all the women I knew bullied at a very early age into creating families they neither needed nor loved? Why were they spending their lives burning with passionate hatred for these families where they were hopelessly trapped and with an even greater hatred for those few women who did not bury their sexuality completely? Why did everything and everyone seem to conspire to stomp out every trace of female sexuality from the earliest childhood experiences of a little girl?
Was it really not possible for women to retain both the private and the public spheres of their lives without having the Family devour either one or the other?
[To be continued. . .]