It takes a strong woman to be a wife. I think anyway. Especially to be the wife of a particular type of man. I started thinking about this when I went to see 300 with the GH and his brother earlier this year. I remember thinking the role of the queen wasn't all that believable because it wasn't likely that a woman in ancient Greece would have that kind of freedom. I saw in it a scriptwriter's attempt to broaden the movie's appeal, to assuage the politically correct police and to elevate the film above it's video game testosterone filled bloodbath status. That's why I found it amusing when my husband's cousin went to see it, after we said it was good, and came back ranting about how offended she was by it. What I saw as an attempt to write a woman's role into a man's film she saw as degrading and sexist. The problem is, history, and the role of women through out history is largely offensive to the modern day woman, and I don't think a scriptwriter should mess with it that much. One line from the movie stuck with me however, and I think it was very well acted, was when she says to Leonidis, "Come home with your shield, or on it." It didn't look like it was easy for her to say.
Historian's tell us that this was a standard way for a woman to send her husband off to battle in Sparta. To tell your husband to die or win, to never surrender was part of the culture. I don't imagine Spartan women were all that different from us in essence, I imagine that they were a bit stronger though. I know if I was sending my husband off to a dangerous situation, however necessary I deemed it, I would hover, I would pine, I would say things like, "Be careful, don't die, come back to us safely, we need you." I think I would be a hindrance, I think I would make it hard for him to concentrate on what he had to do.
This idea caught hold a little further when I watched The Unit. Another fictional portrayal of military life, but what caught me was the women in the show, the women who went through things like near attacks and rapes and swindles and bore it all quietly because they didn't want to distract their husbands, because those distractions might make the difference between whether their husband came home again or not.
I know some military wives. Where I live, they are my neighbors, my friends. I know women who gave birth to their first baby while their husband was deployed. I know women who have
been single parents for more than a year, subsisting on letters and phone calls and taking care of everything by themselves. They are very strong women. They have to be. I watch their husband's worry and fuss in the month's before they are deployed, making sure that everything is the way it should be at home so that their families are taken care of while their gone, and I see these women standing up and taking charge of their lives and futures and making plans for the long term, and possible tragedy.
In my never ending quest to understand what is feminine strength, I watch these women and I think that they might be on to something. After all, it's hard to run a household, keep things going seamlessly, or not so seamlessly, often earn an income, and teach nurture discipline and raise children. It takes a lot of work to serve, to anticipate needs, to be kind to those closest to us. It requires organization, administration and multi-tasking abilities to keep house. Especially the the more tasks that are done from scratch; sewing, bread making, knitting, homeschooling, etc. It requires creativity, ingenuity, and discriminatory ability to make life comfortable and even pleasant on a budget. This requires strength and grace, intelligence and discipline, and a cheery demeanor goes a long way to making it all more pleasant.
What I wonder is how these arts ever came to be denigrated by woman in general, and even despised. This is hard work people, this requires strength and character, and that's whether you stay at home or work and come home, making a home is a difficult business that must be learned and practiced in order to succeed. (Something they don't tell girls or boys at school.)
I know women of strength and character who can keep this all going with a smile. They don't
complain, they don't whine, they don't lean on their husbands for strength and assistance with things that, however unfair it feels, end up being their job. They are independent, they are able to make major and minor decisions, they are equals in their partnerships. What I've realized recently is that this is a distinctly feminine way of being strong. As in those movies I watched, this strength and independence frees the men in our lives to be men, to do the work they have to do, and even some of the play that they enjoy and they think is silly. Just like they think spas are silly, or any of our other girlie get-togethers. In a way I think if we want the men in our lives to treat us with respect it's a good idea to be someone that we would respect as well. When we are weak and whiny it's a drag on our husbands, our relationships in general, and our children. It keeps all of us from reaching our full potential.
I have huge respect for those military wives I know who every day live with the possibility of being alone, or are alone, and rise to the challenge. I don't think there is any reason why I or any one else couldn't rise to the same challenge, couldn't find the strength to live the way they do, and stop complaining about the fact that I have it pretty good.
This living gratefully thing is difficult for me. But I've been inspired. I hope it inspires you too.