I’ve been thinking a lot about the complex roles women play in one another’s lives recently. Blogging has catapulted me into an intricate web of relationships with other bloggers, Facebookers, and Tweeters out there, most of them women. They are gradually turning into an indispensable part of my daily life and I look forward to our interactions. The mommy-blog-o-sphere is the ultimate location for validating your place in the world, for finding a commonality of experience. Mommy bloggers will tell you “You are not alone” and that? Is an incredibly valuable thing to know.
But for all the assurances that I am not alone in my experience, it’s sometimes evident that I am alone in my chair and my friends are manifesting as words on Tweetdeck. It’s comfortable and fun to remain in the anonymous shell of the internet and not have to reveal myself entirely to others but it’s also kind of unsatisfying. That’s why I’ve taken myself in hand and tried to overcome my innate fear of being rejected and venture into the places where mom-bloggers meet in real life so that I can shake the hands of women who have inspired, comforted, and entertained me.
One recent event I went to was MomzShare, an amazing periodic gathering of DC area blogger, founded by Lara of Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom and Jenn of Hip As I Wanna Be. They, along with one of my blog idols Jessica of A Parent In Silver Spring hosted the second MomzShare event recently. In addition to being a great party, it was a fundraiser for an American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event in honor of WhyMommy at Toddler Planet. Charity, bloggers, and booze! What more could I ask for? How about a life coach? That’s right. Lauree from Simply Leap life-coaching was there to give us a presentation about finding our passions. She asked us to close our eyes and think about what we wanted, maybe out of our lives, maybe out of that evening, and to distill it down to one word. The word that came to me was “fellowship”.
Fellowship. Yes. I want fellowship. I wrote recently about being lonely in my new neighborhood where I don’t know other moms yet. I want fellowship there. And I am seeking fellowship from other bloggers, both in the physical world and the virtual world, because I know that I need other women, other mothers, to give my life extra texture and extra substance. I need the assurance I get from friendships with women who understand implicitly things that no husband, no matter how great, will really get. Women friends understand about cramps and diets and complicated interpersonal interactions at work and the overwhelming love for children differently than men do and there is no price I can put on the value of my female relationships. My mother, sister, friends, and fellow bloggers are my foundation of support. I need all of you. I like to think we need each other.
So, you can imagine how shaken I was after reading Nujood: Age10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui. This is the story of a 10 year-old Yemeni girl given in marriage by her father to a 30 year-old man. He took her from her family to his remote village where he beat and raped her daily until she convinced him to take her back to visit her family from whom she snuck away and went to the courthouse and asked a judge for a divorce.
She did this alone.
This illiterate girl, handed from one man to another without her consent, married at an age when American girls are riding bikes and playing Barbies, found her way clear to seek a divorce in a society where women remain silent. Her story is extraordinary.
I was livid thinking of her mother, sitting silent, while her daughter was essentially sold off as a child bride. I was furious at the mother and sisters of her “husband” for encouraging the beatings and telling Nujood that her life was now as it should be as a wife. I was sickened by the failure of women in Nujood’s life to care for her, to protect her, to be her fellows.
Thankfully, two women did break through and aid Nujood. One was her father’s second wife who put the idea of divorce in her head. The second was a female lawyer who took Nujood under her wing, helped her obtain her divorce and tried to arrange for her future afterwards. After a lifetime of neglect, abuse, and oppression, there were finally women who stood up for this girl child when she needed them but only because she was brave enough to ask. How many other girls have been to scared to ask for help and how many other women have stayed silent rather than fight for them?
I don’t have any good answers for how to solve the problem of the oppression of women and girls the world over. I wish I did. A magic wand would sure come in handy sometimes. What I do know is that I should never be guilty of not speaking up in support of a woman or girl who needs it. I should not stay silent when I could possibly reach out to a woman who is hurting. Maybe this blog can be my outstretched hand, my invitation to others to feel less alone. And I need to walk out my front door and seek out others in the physical world, too. Because we, as women, need one another.
We need fellowship.
Disclosure: I read Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced as part of the SV Moms Group and DC Metro Moms book club. I receivied a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher as part of of my participation.