As I was reading Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens”, I was struck by the question: just how many women throughout history have been denied reaching their full potential?
In the piece, Walker talks about how black women of the past were never allowed to reach their full potential. Instead, they were seen as next to nothing, unable to create things or be fantastic in any way. She says, “Black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly identifies one’s status in society, “the mule of the world,” because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else – everyone else – refused to carry.” (pg 405)
She brings up many powerful women, including Phillis Wheatley and her own mother, in order to bring home the point: all of these women could have been so much more if society hadn’t been forcing them down at every turn.
Walker asks, “How was the creativity of the black woman kept alive, year after year and century after century, when for most of the years black people have been in America, it was a punishable crime for a black person to read or write?” (pg 403)
Things aren’t that bad today, but we still have a ways to go. For instance, if a woman is working as a nurse or a stay at home mom or a secretary, no one says they aren’t reaching their full potential. But a man in the same job probably would be told that more than once. Why is that?