I opened my eyes slowly to ease my mind into whatever was coming. I looked around the room unable to contain my shock. There were four kids lying on the ground sleeping. The room was smaller than my den back home. “How could so many people live in such a small room?” I thought. The door to the room opened and a young girl walked in with a bucket of water on her head.
“Mom, you okay?” she asked. My lips couldn’t move, so I just nod.
“You going to be late for work.” The chocolate skin girl stated. She was a child, but her tone and attitude was of an aging woman.
“Where is your father?” I asked. All the kids on the floor sat up and looked at me strangely. The oldest girl eyes got watery as she placed the bucket of water down. I watched her carefully as I fought the urge to console her.
“Why are you doing this, mama? You know papa is dead.” She whispered tearfully. I got up and walked over to her without even thinking and wrapped my arms around her. Emotions I had never felt before made a knot in my stomach then crept to my throat. I tried hard as possible to push it back down, but I couldn’t. Then slowly one by one I felt the hands of the other children wrapped around my waist. It was too much, I had to get away. I quickly pulled away from them and walked to the other side of the room.
“Mama, why don’t you go to work. We can’t afford to lose this job. . I’ll get the kids off to school.”
I looked at her with admiration and nodded. She handed me the bucket of water to wash up. When I was done, I walked out the door. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I was relieved to be out of there.
“Lilly-Ann,” a voice called out to me as soon has I exited the door.
“You late today; come on, let’s hurry.” I sighed with relief because the last thing I wanted was to make this mother lose her job. God knows she needed it. I followed the woman as we walked about two or three miles. The entire walk she went on and on about middle class feminists.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with these whining upper class white women. (6) Can you believe that they are complaining about feeling unfulfilled because they can’t work? Black woman have been working forever. If they want a cause to fight for, why don’t they stop acting like we aren’t struggling with more issues. One, we black; two, we women; three, we poor; four, we have to work; five, we get pay less than everyone else. I could go on and on.”
“I know you could,” I though. I felt her pain and I wish I could do more to help, but right now I was in no position to do anything. It’s ironic that when I could have done something to help I refused, but now I want to help I can’t.
“If only I could go home.” We walked into this big factory that made tires. I followed her lead through out the day so I wouldn’t make any mistake. I have never worked this hard in my life. I don’t know how these women do this day in and day out.
At the end of the day I followed Marian to the front of the office to pick up our checks. When I opened it, I was shocked.
“Marian, is this a days pay?” I asked.
“What’s wrong with you Lilly-Ann? You know this is a weeks pay.” She answered.
“But this is $75.00. How am I supposed to feed the kids with this? I don’t have a husband, do they know that?” I bellowed.
“As if they care.” She snapped.
I stood in one spot unable to believe what I was seeing. The conversation a few feet from me caught my attention. I walked closer. The two men were talking about their pay checks. I wanted to see how bad they were also being robbed. I walked up about four steps until I was standing directly over the two men. I then looked down on to their pay checks. To my surprise their pay checks were three times larger. I turned to march into the office to confront the owner, but Marian caught my hand.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“This is not right,”
“I know, but they are men and we are women, so they get pay more.” (7)
“Even thought we do the same work?” I asked.
“Yes. Until a law passes making it illegal, then there is nothing we can do.” She stated.
“This is what I’ve been fighting against?” I walked out of the factory unable to believe that I was wrong; that the morals that I was brought up on were wrong. I shook my head over and over. “This is just a dream none of it is real.” I felt myself slip from her body and I was relieved.
“No! No! Please stop Henry!” Her voice echoed into my ears as I slipped into her body. I open my eyes quickly unlike the other times I jumped. The fear that embodied me as I settle into this new body was nothing short of terrifying. My heart raced as I felt her clothes ripped off her body. “No! No! This can’t be happening!”I thought. I took all the strength I could muster up and pushed him off of me. However he came back with full force. He took me by the hair right before he stomped the air from out body. Why am I so weak? Why it is my punches were not affecting him? After all, I’m still me. I should have the strength of a man still. I fought him with everything in me, but it was no use, I had inherited her strength, and it was no use towards this giant in front of me. He beat her until she became numb. Tears ran down my face as I felt his rough hands parting my legs. She wanted to die in that moment and so did I. I felt him pierce into her; ripping everything good out of her. Pain, panic, and terror flowed through her body. I felt her die right there. Hope and security left her body that night. I knew as of that day she would be a walking shell of who she was. That was the first time I had ever cried for me and someone else. It was the first time I have heard a woman cry rape. However, hearing and feeling are two different things.
“Next time you put your hand on me, I will kill you Sara.” He bellowed after he got up. “When I come back, I would like some dinner.” He continued.
“What the..? Is this man crazy?” I crawled to the phone even though my aching body wouldn’t let me stand. I quickly call the police, as soon as I put the phone down and looked around I noticed that his pictures were everywhere in the house. My eyes quickly settled on wedding photos of him and a female.
“Please god don’t let it be her” I thought. I slowly rise to my feet and walked towards, the nearest mirror. It took me a minute to look into it, but I did. It was the same face that was in the wedding pictures; it was bruised, but I was sure it was her. The rapist was her husband.
A loud knock on the front door startled me. I was reluctant to move until the person announced it was a cop. As soon as I opened the door I explained what her husband had done. However, the minute I told them that he was my husband; all interest was dropped.
“Madam, your husband can’t rape you, you are his wife.” (8) The police announce with a smile.
“You are joking, right?” I asked surprisingly.
“No, I am not, Madam. There is nothing I can do here, sorry” he replied as he walked away. The blood in my veins boiled. I was angry, not at the police, but myself. This topic had came up in one of my meetings a year ago. I discard it because, at the time, I thought it was a trivial matter. “How could husbands rape their wives?” I remember thinking. “These women are insane.” I sat on the floor unable to breathe. “What have I done? God please send me home.” I heard the door open as I slipped from her body.
I closed my eyes as I entered into the next person’s body. Fear crept into my stomach from not knowing where I was going next. However I heard a familiar voice whisper from below me.
“You just don’t understand, Edward, you just don’t understand.” I open my eyes to see my wife kneeling down on the floor picking up the dishes I had thrown on the ground. Tears welled up in my eyes. I fell to my knees and pulled her away from the broken dishes. As soon as I got her to her feet, I pulled her into my arms and held her closer than I had ever done before.
“Edward,” She whispered confusingly. I place a figure over her lips. “I do understand Mary, and I am sorry.” I whispered in her ears. “The bill will be passed.” She looked up at me with surprise in her eyes and smiled.
“Thank you, Edward.” She whispered as tears trickled down both of our faces.
The next day I walked into the office and voted for the woman’s equality bill. I guess the saying is true, you can never truly understand a person’s pain until you have walked a mile in their shoes. This experience has taught me a lot. More specifically, it led me to ask this one question.
Would there be women suffrage if man and woman traded places?
(6) In the nineteenth century, black women didn’t believe that their views were being addressed by white feminist groups. This created a separation between white feminists and black feminists. According to Sherri L. Barres “From the antislavery and women’s rights movements of the nineteenth century, continuing through the black and women’s rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, up to today’s contemporary black feminist activism, black American women have sought to have a voice in two centuries of liberation struggles that had silenced or ostracized them. Whether one chooses to use the term black feminism, African American feminism, womanism, or black American feminism, to articulate the complexity of black American women’s demand for social, economic and political equality, understood is the desire for a compatible and progressive vision of social justice based on the historical and ongoing struggles against the race and gender (at least) oppression black American women have experienced at home, at work, in their communities and, moreover, within the dominant culture as a whole.
(7) According to Aharon Zorea, “Women faced employment discrimination, unequal pay, unequal protection under the law … [As a consequence] the Equal Pay Act was passed, which required employer to pay the same rates to men and women for the same work. President Kennedy orders the Civil Service Department not to discriminate on the basis of sex. Most historians point to the combination of these events in 1936 as a turning point for feminism in America. However, some people still hold on to this horrific pass. According to Danna Walters, “Tommy Drum … was earning $41, 548 as a HR manager in 2005 when she was promoted to another position with a salary of $45,600. The man who replaces her as a HR manager, Thomas C. Crosier, was hired at a salary of $62,500. Tommy Drum had been working for the company since 1990.”
(8) According to Crisis Connection “Much of the scholarly attention that has been given to marital rape has emerged from the legal community. This has occurred because throughout the history of most societies, it has been acceptable for men to force their wives to have sex against their will.” Barshis stated, “The traditional definition of rape in the United States most commonly was, ‘sexual intercourse with a female not his wife without her consent” (qtd. in crisis connection). As Finkelhor and Yllo (1985) have argued, “this provides husbands with an exemption from prosecution for raping their wives [in other word they were given a license to rape]”. Crisis Connection further asserted that, “The foundation of this exemption can be traced back to statements made by Sir Matthew Hale, Chief Justice in 17th century England.” Hale wrote, “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband which she cannot retract” (quoted in crisis connection). According to Bidwell, White Finkelhor and Yllo, “This ruling established the notion that once married, a woman does not have the right to refuse sex with her husband.” (qtd. in Crisis Connection ). Crisis Connection further stated that, “This rationale remained largely unchallenged until the 1970’s when some members of the women’s movement argued for the elimination of the spousal exemption because it failed to provide equal protection from rape to all women.