There was a really interesting piece in the Guardian today by the novelist Barbara Kingsolver, on the effect that her father’s very low expectations of her had – she describes her psyche as being ‘maimed’. As she is a hugely successful writer, with fourteen novels in print, you could hardly say that her father held her back. But he did cause her terrible pain.
She was 11, and had asked him if a woman could ever be president of the United States. He said no, with vague references to mental instability and menstruation as the factors which made it utterly impossible. He was a respected doctor.
She realised then that he found her, as a girl about to become a woman, lacking in obscure ways, debarred from true effectiveness. A second class citizen. As her mother, an intelligent and incapable woman, was palpably unhappy as a housewife, this didn’t give the novelist many options. Yet, being resilient, resourceful, intelligent, she found her path. Read her book, the Poisonwood Bible, if you want to see a fine example of a dish served cold.
We are all lucky that we are not living in this world any more. We are living, instead, in a world where a highly qualified, competent woman, who has kept a cool head under torrents of abuse, is poised to lose the presidency to a self-confessed groper, a bankrupt, a liar and a bully. So much has changed – yet so much remains the same. It’s hard to have great expectations for tomorrow. But things can change. If you have a vote, use it.