My father loved me so much that he had me on a pedestal. If I was uncomfortable with this, I was a bad daughter because who would not want to be loved so much that you were raised by virtue of that love above the ordinariness of humanity? There was no man good enough for me. I was something to be protected “for my own good” even if it made me inaccessible to men. He never thought that respect is to give space and freedom to people. He never considered that I was capable of taking care of myself, but that he had to protect me against everyone.
He loved me very much. I was forbidden to go traveling alone. I escaped one weekend at 19 with a boyfriend. When I came back, he made me feel like I had lost worth as a human and treated me distantly for a few days. It hurt to be accused silently of a crime which only he saw.
I was my father’s happiness. At 21, at the Alliance Française I was offered a one week trip to Paris, all expenses paid for being such a good French student. My father told me that if I was of legal age to decide to go, I was also old enough to look for another place to live when I returned. Years later, when I was married and pregnant, he pointed to a neighbor girl of ours who was holding hands with her boyfriend and told me that it was a shame, that as soon as they had a boyfriend, they lowered their value.
My father adored me. As his daughter, his adoration did not comfort me, it irked me. It felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders, a millstone around my neck. The responsibility was a heavy load. If I dared live my life by my rules, I would not have any support.
I am sure my father loved me and did his best by me. Still, he simultaneously taught me that I was valuable and that I was incapable of taking care of myself. He drilled into me the absolute need to mistrust men, that there was no one who would love me more than him. He instilled in me the belief that my worth ultimately depended on my honour, which meant on my sexuality, or more precisely the lack thereof if I was not married. I went from being a child, too young to even think of being independent, to being married and therefore adult but still not quite competent enough to know what was good for me.
With this tirade what I mean to say is that he probably had good intentions, but these intentions carry an attached burden that is very heavy: that of being pristine and perfect to be taken into account, to be worthy of being saved. We are not monuments or works of art, we are people and should not need to compare ourselves to an immaculate masterpiece in order to be respected. How easy it is to respect each other and yet people complicate it, condition it, limit it.
Women should not have to uphold any idealistic level of morality to deserve being treated with respect or protected because they are incapable of taking care of themselves. Women are not better than men. We are not more fragile as a gender. In fact, most women I know are anything but frail and weak.
If we don’t understand that the worth of a person and their value have nothing to do with their lifestyle or how righteous they are-or appear to be- , I’m afraid we still have a long way to go before we achieve any semblance of justice for all. If we hold women to different standards of humanity, creating and enforcing other rules and categories for them, we cannot truly say we are a just and civilised society.
In 1995, the UN Development Program issued a statement in a worldwide report that said that no society treats its women as well as its men. This should make us reflect and promote a change, for if half of a society is not being considered quite up to scratch and is furthermore burdened with the responsibility of being worthy of being saved and respected, there is something not quite logical about it.
A society is as strong as its justice and its compassion are great. Without justice and compassion, a society will ultimately crumble under the weight of its fickleness and perish under the force of its apathy towards truth and fairness.