Shame is a feminist issue. Brené Brown, the social worker academic who researches shame, has said in various written and video sources, that shame does seem to narrow down to certain gender categories. With men it seems to centre around being seen to be not in control. With women, the shame is about imperfections. And let’s face it, the multitude of mixed messages about womanhood and femininity are land mines we step on daily. It is exhausting trying to uphold perfection when the goal posts are constantly moving and competing on both sides at times!
As I prepare for guests to arrive I am walking the Slut Walk of House Beautiful & Hygiene Shame. Most of my friends accept that country living, two dogs, three cats and a husband whose mother preferred to read than clean house (bless her!) and therefore is blind to dustbunnies, is just how it is in our home. There are many more exciting, life enhancing things to do than wash the cobwebs from the kitchen cupboards.
But let the prospect of ‘company’ be on the horizon and I am crippled with shame over my the general level of slovenlyness. We are not rich enough to outsource cleaning. Also, some vestigial German hausfrau DNA is horrified at that prospect. I tell myself I should do better. The feminist in me tells myself not to care. Then I feel guilty for caring. Or ashamed, if I allow my mind to make it toxic, for both caring and being a House Slut.
Fortunately, these attacks pass and I just nibble away at the tasks, often a shelf and drawer at a time. And, let’s face it, if I am going to obey some rubric of femininity I will obviously opt to bake a cake, rather than sweep the floor daily. Because, you know, the byproduct is CAKE! I can enjoy it and also watch others enjoy eating it. There is a higher ratio of satisfaction even when you have a day of bad cake karma.
Women are hard on themselves. And, as Elena Ferrante pointed out in last Saturday’s Guardian, women can be hard on each other. “Not only is female power suffocated, but also, for the sake of peace and quiet, we suffocate ourselves.” Which may have been at the root of my wanting to photograph the interior of my newly resplendent, sparkling and hygienic fridge to have my friend Jo show her 91 year old mother. I quelled that impulse. But just note that I am still preening myself publicly.
So, after throwing in a load of laundry, I penned this as my weekly poem exercise.
Being a Bad Woman
Undoubtably, she will come to a bad end
Desperado housewife, bandit, the less loved
Desperation being the operative word
For the one with nerve
For the one who got her maths wrong
In so many ways over so many months and days
She is the one with the gimlet eye
Peering over her vodka stinger
Stink eye glare, the shoulder shrug devil may care
The one with the iron jaw
Who won’t take it on the chin
The one who relaxes the rictus grin
She is the one
Who can’t do the dance on stilts
She is the one
Who can’t paint on a face anymore
She is the one
Who is all “too much”
Once, she was the leggy little girl
Who saw nudity
And has since dispensed
And power dressing
She is hairy and fanged
The bitch on heat and permanent virgin
The handmaid, the house angel
She is Mary
She is Lilith
She is mitochondrial Eve
She is this everything and all
Or nothing. But now
She is done with being
Woman – Professional Version point
An infinity of naughts since
In this world, goodness has no just desserts
Copyright 2018 Bee Smith
Image by ArtsyBee found on Pixabay