In many cultures, including our own, to bear only female children is considered a curse, bad luck, somehow incomplete in the schema of the “perfect” family. Women do not “carry the family name;” traditionally they take on the surname of their husbands. Statistics reveal that women are still institutionally not only regarded as, but treated as the weaker sex (check the consistent nagging disparities in salary rates). Many women grow up socialized by these realities; because men do too, it’s clear why we have this recent push for same sex schools or the media blitz by Girls, Inc. promoting girls’ self confidence.
My parents have five girls. No boys.
The D Posse kicking Multiple Scelerosis to the curb last week:
(Seated: Debra on Dianne’s lap; standing: Me, Doreen, Denise)
Growing up, my father was adamant–okay downright angry–when his friends and onlookers would say in awesome wonder, “Five girls?! Man-n-n-n you got trouble” that he didn’t have anything like that. My mom tried unsuccessfully to train him that we were imperfect creatures, not “prima donnas.”
I went to a women’s college and the issues some of my peers came with had never been mine. Where I think I recognized the unequal way women were treated in society, I was actually fairly naive in my assessment of how that inequality affected me. I wasn’t raised to recognize myself as anything other than capable, intelligent, attractive. Thanks to my parents. That naivete has since made me a little stubborn about some things that shall remain unlisted, but anyway…I can’t say my parents planned it this way; at least they say they didn’t.
I like the women in the poem because they remind me of us–well, the girls would tell me not the big-boned part–in that they are strong, capable, proud.
The Women in My Family
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
The women in my family were supposed
to be men. Heavy body men, brawny
arms and legs, thick muscular chests and the heart,
smaller than a speck of dirt.
They come ready with muscled arms and legs,
big feet, big hands, big bones,
a temper that’s hot enough to start World War Three.
We pride our scattered strings
of beards under left chins
as if we had anything to do with creating ourselves.
The women outnumber the men
in my father’s family, leaving our fathers roaming
wild nights in search of baby-spitting concubines
to save the family name.
It is an abomination when there are no boy children.
At the birth of each one of us girls, a father sat prostrate
in the earth, in sackcloth and ash,
It is abomination when there are no men
in the family, when mothers can’t bring forth
boy children in my clan.