Fukkit: A Mama’s Freedom Refrain

Fukkit: A Mama’s Freedom Refrain

In 2018, we commissioned 51 authors from 25 countries to write essays exploring ideas about freedom for The Freedom Papers, a publication produced in partnership with Gutter Magazine. Read on for Hawa Jande Golakai's essay, and visit guttermag.co.uk to purchase a copy of The Freedom Papers.

{Imagine you inhabit a world of horror unforetold.
It is a world of mess and noise and constant interruptions – a baby shrieks here, a toilet flushes there, a cook shouts instructions, street boys blare music, water bearers bicker around a well. At the epicentre of this din is no place for any writer or creator, but imagine one anyway, plonking away at a keyboard. Imagine the din growing louder and merging into one long siren. Keep the siren in your head as you read}.

Let’s cut the shit. Freedom is a man’s word.

I read an intriguing series of articles a while ago about writers’ habits: their typical day, hours spent at the work wheel, how much relative peace they enjoyed at home. It was illuminating at the start but I gave up on it for my peace of mind. Some writers were single and/or childfree and the disparities were more character-specific than anything. But when it came to the partnered and married writers, especially those with children… wow. WOW. The disparity between how much of a writing father’s day was spent actually pumping out words compared to how much of a writing mother’s was devoted to say, pumping breastmilk or preparing children for school… Astounding. You’re trained from girlhood to watch for it and step in, but it was so vulgar seeing it laid out like that. The Mental Load. Cute, right? My highly scientific term for it is bullshit. If I had to list every chore I perform daily –

[shoveling lighting blowing coal to make fire/toting buckets of water/washing sweeping ironing]

– where was I? Yes, right, a bitter betty I’d be, and woe betide she who shuns her innate likeability. Since I’ve never been abundant in this resource to begin with, I’d happily trade the remainder for some shit I can actually use.

Take my own situation in broad brushstrokes. I had the ‘choice’ to colour within the lines and sup from the sweaty male hand extended to me. Instead I flipped my middle finger up at the deal and I, wanton woman with her ‘bastard’ son in tow, exited the stage. Africa is no place for bold statements from the lips of ungracious women. Liberia certainly is not, for all its equality rhetoric. You learn the hard way that the state only sees you as a warm body with a vote when it’s strategic, and the rest of the time subsumes your rights into the universal set of maleness. The laws reflect this. You can have autonomy of body, but enforceable consequences may never come into play if that body gets violated. You have the freedom to reproduce, but not to do with the contents of your uterus as you please. You are not the primary parent within a marriage, and death by bureaucracy is the punishment for procreating outside of one. Prepare to be needlessly harassed at every border point to ‘produce the child’s father’. Therefore-

[oh crap, pupu explosion/wipes wipes where are the fucking w- ..…aha!/ugggh so much pupu/ARRRGGHHH DON’T CRAWL IN IT GADDAMMIT/impromptu bathtime/no no nooooo don’t stand in the tub/stop…..wriggling so I can put…..diaper……]

Hang on… have to get soap bubbles and baby powder flecks out of my mouth. So - pthh pthh pthhhh! - there… so that’s why the mental load concept is so precious. It doesn’t begin to account for physical toil, before it even tackles mental drag. My motherhood is an embarrassment of Third World cliches: a non-baby proofed house, sweaty public transport to clinic appointments, glitchy electricity. Inconvenient, but it could be far worse.

Don’t think I give women a full pass on taking responsibility. No. Women, we adorn our demons. There’s a reverential conceit in how we gripe and parade them. Abuse is a competitive sport in some circles. In others, why hold the system’s feet to the flames when the pity after-party is more fun. And everyone with a vagina takes a hit, not only us nobodies. I witness the demise of a famous woman’s happiness the same way I wait for the pretty girl to die in a horror movie. You don’t want it to happen, but you know it’s coming. Consider –

[don’t climb all over mommy’s face/no, stop....I can’t see..../okay, let’s put you on my back and rock you to sleep]

Sigh.

Look: TIME IS FREEDOM. ENERGY IS FREEDOM. Anything you can invest, distil and pour back into your life to create other tangibles, anything that pits out into a cesspool if it’s snatched away or grudgingly shared, that’s freedom. If you disagree, let’s reverse engineer my logic through a relatable scenario. Let’s make ‘freedom’ a form of contraception, say a male pill. One they actually took. Maybe women forced them to, a little bit. Then we made them come work for us. Either in jobs where they made less, or on Spa Island, where they had to capably service us in every way (laundry included). If this sounds a little Handmaid’s Tale-ish, remember there’s more wine and female orgasms in this telling. Everybody wins. But I digress. Because you can spot the flaw immediately, can’t you. If society deemed a male pill vital, we’d have it by now. That burden would be shared.

But we don’t share, in this version of the story where freedom could look like me.

{Now, stop the siren. Put it away, it never existed. Breathe. Delicately flick an airbrush over this entire scenario over and over, until it too disappears. Drink cognac as you do it… the good stuff, endlessly aged in dark, serious-looking barrels. Touch no wine to your lips - vino is for sissies and whiners.

Don’t you feel free?

If not, go back to the beginning and repeat as necessary.}

 

Copyright © 2018, Hawa Jande Golakai. All rights reserved.

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund through Creative Scotland.

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