“Ladies who play with fire must remember that smoke gets in their eyes.”
~ Mae West
For international women’s day I am going to tell you all a story that causes me some disquiet about celebrating this particular day.
When I was back in Ecuador as an adult I visited with a friend of my fathers and his family on a trip to their cattle ranch high up in the Andes mountains. The scenery was spectacular and glorious, there is nothing like being on those mountains for me, there was wind so loud I could hear it, it swooshed by so hard my cheeks were quickly windburned. Then I sat in the grass and there were these tiny pink berries buried in the grass, a slightly sweet taste that I hadn’t forgotten after a 20 year absence. I had loved these kinds experiences on my own family ranch when I was little, and I was so grateful to be able to experience them again.
I saw the wife, a woman – a woman of means, take off her shoe and hit the male ranch hand, a man with far less means than the family, a man they had hired to care for the ranch while they lived in the city. She hit him because he had not been able to do something by the time we arrived. She did this in front of his wife and kids, in front of her own family, in front of me, a guest. His family and their stoic faces as she beat him about the head and shoulders are still with me today. I was horrified. The husband, my fathers friend, was mortified that she did this in front of me, but did not speak up. I did not speak up.
Considering the caste system that is in place in that part of the world, I am not sure what my speaking up would have accomplished. However, I still feel shame; shame that I did not speak up and shame that it was a woman that was behaving so atrociously.
Here is why I am sharing this story though, because women, like men, can be awful. I want to illustrate how much work there is to do in creating a world I am not led to shame because of my gender through my own behaviour and the behaviour of my fellow women.
So, I ask you today, all of you, be beholden to how you treat others, regardless of gender, regardless of caste. We all carry kindness and gentleness within us, and let us all move together in that.