There is an old saying, «Behind every great man there is a great woman.» I will neither argue to destroy it nor try to prove it right. I'd like to look at something else first - at how women use this idea and why.
We all come from different walks of life and our experiences shape us differently, so there are many reactions to the meaning behind one saying. For some women it is a fact of life - something obvious and normal, one of those "that's how life naturally works" things. They don't have to think about it much, they don't use it to make themselves feel more important or feel insulted by it... it's just there and that's that.
For some others it's something more. It has to do with the feeling of one's destiny and one's place in life. It has to do with self-realization - not a fake one, not for the show, but the one that makes a particular person truly fulfilled and happy. "Yes, I am in the right place, I am fulfilling my destiny. I live an abundant life, whatever happens in it. I am happy and joyful, I can overcome difficulties."
For yet another woman this saying will carry a fulfillment of social and cultural acceptance: "Finally they have noticed and mentioned the importance of a woman's role, even if she is a mere shadow behind the man who is in the spotlight. Yes, she's been a shadow for the most of her life, but her presence was critical to the man's achievements and success!"
Some of us will take the saying as a great insult: "Why the hell is the woman BEHIND the man AGAIN? Why is she always in the dark? You have shown once more that we are unable to be anything but a crutch and a support mechanism for the "real human" who just happens to have a penis!"
There are many other reactions, variations, and perceptions. But no matter how many there are, just for the time being I offer you to step out of these layers of social and psychological games. Doing that will help us see that in a true human relationship of a Man and a Woman beyond all our mind games and cultural pressures it's absolutely unimportant WHO is more often on the spotlight and who is in the shade.
Life is not about that. Not at all.
Great thirst for social fame and acceptance, just the same as fanatical avoidance and fear of social attention or disgust for it are two polarities that signal that something is out of balance.
Who is first? Who is out there? Who is getting it all and who stays behind the veils? Extreme cases of dealing with our social roles and the way we show ourselves to the big world are everywhere.
If you are always trying to outrun your man or be equal to him in EVERYTHING, if you are CONSTANTLY trying to be on the pedestal, visible in the big bad world, on the front-lines where everyone will definitely see you and praise you for what a great, strong, and overachieving woman you are - it might be the time to think about your reasons and motives.
Seriously... I don't mean to say that women are worse than men in any way. But the truth is, we are different in many ways. The first one has to do a lot with how our bodies work, with our hormones. It doesn't mean that we are less deserving or less capable as human beings. It's just that the matter of equality has nothing to do with trying to "be like a man" to be equal to him in any way. Women have their own paths, just as deserving, important, and great.
There is also another polarity where a woman is way too timid, too scared, too passive in everything in life. Not in a great and natural feminine way, but in a way that makes one wonder if she's been abused and drawn into this existence by threats, intimidation, humiliation. If this is the case, it's also time to sit and think hard as well.
If you just want to live a full life and not hide from the world, but your man is too paranoid about your worth (or lack of worth) while hiding you behind your house walls, your "wife" role, your given duties, refusing you freedom to socialize, to do anything, to reveal your talents, and ignores your human right to choose who you want to be - it's time not to just sit and think, it's time to get on your feet and RUN as fast as you can and moreover, to make sure you can protect yourself, physically.
As for the saying that started this post and the idea of the woman "behind" the man... Yesterday I heard an amazing story that made some things click) I don't know how true the story is, but I will give it as a great example.
I think most of you, even those who are distanced from any type of faith or religion, have heard about the great Prophet Muhammad, the central figure of Islam. Now, my question to you - have you heard anything about his wives? )) I bet you haven't. No wonder. You haven't heard about his wives, plural, which makes it even worse for those of us who happen to NOT understand polygamy and the whole idea of sharing your loved one with others.
Many of you, even non-religious and apolitical ones, are also aware of what is happening to women now in some Muslim countries and cultures (although I have to add for the fairness sake that it doesn't happen just there). Again, I have to say "some" Muslim countries, because the situation is not the same just everywhere. But for many non-Muslim folks who grew up in the western world and haven't been exposed to the realities of different cultures of those regions, stereotypical perception of many women in Islam in our day and age is probably far from what can be described with words such as "self-realization, personal choice, freedom, happiness."
In our times where we are constantly shown news and pictures of women being beaten up, stoned, mutilated, or killed for things such as stepping out of the house unaccompanied or putting their pics on Instagram (even with the face covered!) it's hard to imagine that many years ago those unknown wives of Muhammad looked and lived totally differently!
I didn't know this, it was a revelation to me. I bet you many Muslim folks who live specifically in those regions where women have no rights at all don't talk much about this either because talking about it wouldn't be advantageous to the whole system.
Back to the Muhammad story... As I said, things were different back then. For example, one of the wives of the Prophet was a very successful business-lady) Her caravans were the largest and the richest of all, she was better at her stuff than many male traders. Her success in the world of exporting goods came to her BEFORE she met Muhammad, and it wasn't him who chose her to become his wife - she herself was the initiator of their relationship and marriage!
Another woman of the Prophet also didn't look anything like today's quiet housewife whose life is limited by the kitchen, procreation, and dirty diapers, and whose life is visible only to the man who basically owns her. What did this second wife do, then? She was a warrior! In the times of Muhammad, rather dangerous times, this woman he chose to be his wife would go to real battles along with other male warriors on camels!
Following this story, here is my question.
Why do many men of today, be they Muslim or atheist, Christian or Satanist, Caucasian or Asian, rich or poor, or whatever, are SO damn SCARED of strong, active women? I'm sure that Prophet Muhammad wasn't scared of his very successful, free, and strong wives.
I think I have an idea why. "Behind every great man there is a great woman." In order to help a man on his way to greatness, the woman herself has to be VERY STRONG. There is no way around it - a woman with a weak body, weak spirit, weak mind would be a burden, a child who needs constant care, rather than an ally.
And when there is a strong woman, a man has no choice but become EVEN STRONGER in order to bear that woman and his own life-path.
If a man isn't strong enough but his woman is great and active, she will devour him, and then the couple will run into serious trouble. It will happen, but not because the woman is "bad" or "evil" like they say in most religious texts. It's not evil, it has to do with the nature of our bodies, psyche, and energy body configurations, that's all. Unfortunately, for a modern woman it became extremely difficult to go beyond the nature of her hormones, her natural tendency to absorb/consume, her inclination toward natural dark aspects of the world without the help of a strong man who dares to come in touch with all these uneasy aspects and processes of the female being, and consciously live through them together and direct them as a guiding figure and the leader of the two.
Who knows, maybe in our times some men are scared not of the women but of that life force which they can meet through women and with which they will have to deal and take great responsibility and grow stronger? And who knows... Maybe in our times women aren't as wise and pure as in the times of Muhammad and they don't know how to be strong and free, but also not pressure the man too much every time when he comes a bit closer to the one he chose as his ally with whom he can truly open up.
I won't dare going into "who screwed up first" and "who is guilty". I say it's always 50/50, and today's extreme chauvinism and feminism are simply two sides of the same medal. Of the medal that should have been thrown away a long time ago)
The key to strong, beautiful relationships, self-realization, happiness, and true closeness can't be in these polarities. To find that key, we must go beyond those perceptions, stereotypes, and models that supposedly make us "men" and "women", and rediscover what it means to be each. The key is always beyond our ideas of freedom and our longing for acceptance, our opinions about everything, other people's opinions, scientific "facts", philosophies, religions, feelings, and many open and hidden roles we all play, and even many of our physical and psychological needs led by our organism with its brain and the nervous system.
These aren't statements or truths. I just wrote down my scattered thoughts on the subject. Maybe they'll become food for thought to some of the readers. Thanks for stopping by)