Luckily, I’ve got an easy way of breaking it down. On the one hand, you’ve got shallow freedom. Shallow in the sense that what you see is what you get. This can be a fun kind of freedom – the sort that lets you do or have things that you want. One illustration of this kind of freedom is the sudden influx of young ladies in tutus haunt- ing the night scene in Georgetown. You want to wear a tutu even though the closest you’ve ever been to a ballet is watching Black Swan? Go ahead with your stylish self! On the other hand, you’ve got meaningful freedom. Meaningful in the sense that it just keeps on giving. This sort is prob- ably not as much fun (there are less tutus) but infinitely more powerful as it lets you do or have things that are in your best interests. An illustration of this kind of freedom is the increasing number of girls attending schools across the country. You want a better chance at having secure re- lationships, a job and understand of yourself? Get an education.
I think that both kinds are important to the individual, though I must admit that I am wary of the first, the shallow freedom. You see, it is very tempting to look at a young lady in her black and pink tutu and conclude that she is “liberated” (because why else would a person be dressed that way?). Indeed, it is not uncommon for your average males to take in such phenomena and more (dutty dancing, alcohol consumption) as signs of freedom. Just this week a young man told me that women have too much freedom and didn’t need any more rights! Suppose he decides he has to take women down a peg or two because they’re “too” free? Worse yet, suppose leaders in society decide that there is no longer a gender issue to work on because women are running amok in tutus and dyed hair and telling everyone they run the world?
I am in no way blaming oppression on the pink haired, tutu-clad masses (or Beyonce). I am merely pointing out the danger in focusing exclusively on shallow freedom. The world is not run on good times alone. I was once told that it makes “business sense” to not hire a woman because she might one day become pregnant and need time off. Yes, it is possible that I might not land a job because I have and may one day make use of my uterus. Uterus trumps red hair, it seems. Hiring discrimination – this is where you see how free I am as a woman, Mr Young Man. Also, you can check out my access to political power. Shallow freedom says: I want, I get! Meaningful freedom says: I am the master of my own destiny.
Want to know how you can take control of your life? Well, it starts with some honest self-reflection and critical social thought. Ask yourself: Do you have a vision of what you want your life to be? Are you living this life now? How/why not? What are the barriers to your goals? Whose help and what resources do you need to live the life of your choosing? What cause or organisation do you have to join to help create a society that nurtures you and the people you care about?
Originally published in the Guyana Times, October 2011