I'm weeping hard as I'm writing this. As in, sobbing uncontrollably like I've been stung by a scorpion on my naked ass, and I was. I just finished writing yet another draft of another book (Draft 3 of TUBE), and book by book, writing mine and reading those of others, I strip down layers of shit that were smeared on me since I was born, to keep me in the dark, keep me docile, cooperative, dumb, keep me from asking questions and getting smart.
Because I was born a woman.
I'm weeping for two reasons. One is because I'm 40 fucking years old and it took me this long to even begin to see the damage my family did to me, and then society supported it by making me think it was all my fault. Two is because there are so many women out there who are still blind to this, who don't see it at all and keep pulling the weight of the world on their bleeding aching shoulders.
Because I was born a woman, I was the second sort from the moment I got out of my mother's womb. I was abused. I was underfed. I was neglected. I was dismissed. I was told I was wrong, no matter how hard I tried to please. But worst of all, I was denied my brain.
The women in my family groomed me for a successful marriage, or if that failed, for a career as a professional beauty—a model, an actress, a dancer, or at least a gymnastics star if I failed the other choices and if I failed to fetch a money-loaded husband (preferably a foreigner) with my beauty. It was my burden and my curse, as it was my mother's before me, and her mother's before her, and her mother's before her. The women in my family are beautiful, and they suffered for it plenty. And because of it. The men in my family were nonexistent, and the only man who was there periodically was my father who is a woman hater, his hate stemming from having to endure his controlling stifling overpowering mother who only let go of her control when she died. He groomed me to believe that I was nothing and that I had no hopes to achieve anything and that all I had in my brain was whoring my body and therefore it needed to be rooted out, and the rooting-out was archived via discipline that went too far and became abuse.
In both cases I was judged by my appearance and not by my brain. In fact, I was told I don't have one, nor do I need one. All I needed was to be beautiful, and some man would make my life. That is still the standard upbringing of many women in the world to this day, in this meritocratic patriarchy that values men for who they are (individuals) and values women for how they look (brainless dolls, which you will see plenty of in TUBE). The horror of this is, you get both ends of the stick.
If you're pretty, everything you achieve is attributed to your attractiveness. In fact, someone once told me on Twitter that people buy my books because I'm pretty. I didn't even understand back then how hurting that remark was. I do now.
If you're ugly, everything you achieve is dismissed from the spotlight because you deserve none. No one wants to look at you. No one wants to acknowledge you as an individual. Oh horror! If we did, our entire societal structure of suppressing women would crumble.
And so we toil, the unseen, the quietly suffering and the never complaining half of the world that is overworked and underpaid and exhausted with this never-ending race for the unattainable beauty that would allow us women some recognition, meanwhile being too tired to educate ourselves and being kept away from education with the help of exhaustion. Being kept away from books. Being kept away from our brains.
I've been kept away from mine for 36 years (and most of this keeping-away I did myself). How many years have you been kept away? I'm 40, and only for the last 4 years have I began unraveling the chains that have been put on me and that I have successfully continued carrying around all this time, doing what I was told to do, making babies, getting married, making sure I looked pretty, striving for perfection that meant nothing to me and everything to the world that judged me based on my appearance and not on my brain.
Guess what happened when I tried to shake it off. Guess what happened when I woke up and raised my head and voiced my puzzlement out loud. My family ditched me. My marriage fell apart. I was let go from my job. I was waking up and making waves, and those waves were destructing everything I have so far achieved, and so I turned this bewilderment with my predicament on myself and decided to take my life. I'm glad I didn't. And I'm glad I almost did. It was in that moment of wanting to end myself that I suddenly realized that it wasn't my fault.
And my fear was gone.
How many women are still afraid and keep treading to mill of marriage-house-car-babies and never letting themselves do what they really want want with their lives, and then wake up and are too old to even start? Too many to count. My near-suicide liberated me. And yet I'm still afraid too. I'm even afraid to type all this. But I will. I will keep stripping it and fighting it until I'm dead, and YOU will pick up after me and keep fighting. Promise me that.
You're an individual. You're a brain and a heart and a voice. Gender comes second. Fight for the world to see you as an individual, not as a pretty or ugly woman and judge you accordingly. Make art. Make fucking so much art that you overwhelm everyone around you. Do it for yourself, to feel good. Write like crazy. Read like crazy. Absorb all that other women did before you and know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
We've been raised to see other women as competition in a beauty contest so that the links we could build in our women community could be broken by men and so we could be easily defeated, one by one. DON'T LET IT HAPPEN. Fight, fight, fight. Don't waste another minute on what society and family thinks you should do. Do what YOU want to do. For yourself. Be a selfish bitch. Hold my fucking hand. Let's be selfish bitches together. The more we hold hands, the harder it will be to destroy us.
I'm slowly learning to embrace my beauty, and writing this book, TUBE, is a step toward it. The whole ballerina thing, you'll see what I mean. I used to hate it. In my lifetime I probably won't be able to divorce it from my public image, the white pretty exotic (as in, ex-Soviet) girl hailed from Russia and writing in English, some kind of a miracle to gawk at in a circus. But I will work my ass off to pave way for others. That is why the protagonist of my next novel, Janna, is black. And a killer. And not just any killer, but a serial killer and a psychopath. That is why I will write the most outrageous books I can, to rip through this stigma of being a woman, like we're born with a defect that is forever destined to cripple our lives.
Please join me. Please write about your life and your pain, flood the world with your books, get so good no one can ignore you, and then we will be heard, and then we will bring about a real change, and we will claim our brains back.
That is the ultimate horror that will make patriarchy shit its pants—a girl with a book. Let's do it.