I have been a feminist long before I was aware of the word. It also is personal, but I will share it here, since of late, my blog has transformed into a political machine towards empowering women. It is the same when I teach literature to my college students — I want to make change, but I have a small voice and I belong to a small world — for now. One day I hope to make my voice heard worldwide, woman-wide, and change the way society, politics, and governments devalue women.
I became aware of women’s trivialized and diminished roles in society at the age of four — the same time I became conscious of my mother and who she was. I watched her beat my father with the want of a demonic fury — she punched and scratched and kicked his masculinity to a muted existence. Her power was overwhelming to me, and my brothers and I feared her with the same intensity with which we reviled her. After my father left us all for good and my brothers were taken away and placed in an orphanage, I watched with curiosity as she gave this physical control and power away to a gypsy pimp who turned my stay-at-home mom into a prostitute. Of course, she was never your typical version of the stay-at-home mom — she was violent, abusive, negligent, and she filled the walls of our tiny Greek home with the strange and ugly noises of her sex-making with men other than our father. Prostitution was not a far reach for her — a woman who had spent her childhood as an indentured servant to wealthy men who raped her since she was four years old. But I didn’t know this about her until long after my adoption.
I watched my mother prostitute herself for money, for the protection of an equally violent man who still haunts my dreams and incites rage in me. I watched the violent thrashing of bodies, of hairy fists pounding against her face and breasts, and of money exchange before I even learned to read or write. She was the first woman I came to know — the first mother to neglect my needs — the first woman who modeled womanhood and motherhood for me. Her life, her violence, her pain and madness, her dual life as oppressive and oppressed shadow me and highlight my interest in women’s rights. Since my adoption at the age of eight, it was her face, her life I used as a means of driving me towards the opposite direction. I educated myself towards a Doctorate so that I would never feel it necessary to prostitute my body and have my kids taken away from me if I couldn’t provide for them. I stayed a virgin until I was in my mid-twenties and had met the man I would marry because I didn’t want to be like her. And I studied literature in ravenous search for women who embodied strength and power that was purer than hers. I ran from my intimate knowledge of her and straight into the arms of empowered female writers like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Adrienne Rich. They were my mothers, sisters, and the guardians of my girlhood.
I have not seen my mother in years, since the day I re-met her in the hovel she shared with the same pimp that debased my childhood — an abandoned lot she called her home, full of emaciated dogs, abandoned cars, and debris. But I think about her every day — a warning of who I could have become had I not educated myself, trained myself to reach higher, control my impulses, pick my paths in life, and secure my footing, under no one else’s control or will. It is her face I think of when I teach my students about self-possession, education, literacy, and empowerment — both men and women. It is her precarious life that guides my pen when writing about misogyny, rape, violence against women, sexism, stereotypes and oppression. It is her lack of mothering that drives me to mother my children with single-minded sensitivity and awareness. I am sharply and deeply in tune with every feeling, every emotion, every sad look and frown that surfaces upon my children’s faces, and I address them in ways that my mother never addressed them in me. She is the mother and woman, debased and unempowered, that governs my writing, my activism, my drive to change the way women are treated, objectified, sexualized, and denigrated simply because they are women. Had I not known her — had she not maneuvered my childhood upon the rocky and unstable storms of her dysfunctions — I would not be here, consumed with fire and passion in pursuit of female liberation from the restraints placed upon them by society and its unjust laws, people who devalue women by resorting to sexism and stereotypes, and patriarchal norms that insist women do not belong in public spaces still dominated by men such as politics, business, and war.
Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.