The things we don’t remember
Written by Maja Milanovic
Inherited dissociative memory
I remember Rosa Luxemburg and her friends who proposed at a congress in Copenhagen that International Women’s Day should be celebrated on March 8th. I can hear the rhythm of their shoes hitting the cobble streets as they marched with carnations in their hair, the hundreds of them.
I remember reading that the founders of the American suffrage movement gathered around a cup of tea to discuss and plan the fight for women’s rights to vote.
I remember reading a study that claims the reason they gathered in tearooms was because it was less intimidating for the town’s men.
I remember also reading that in 19th century Ireland, the upper class thought that peasant women gathering around tea was a dangerous act; if they had time to waste, they were surely not doing housework but plotting and scheming. How threatening!
I don’t remember seeing any ladies on the pictures that were not white while reading all these stories about the fight for equality.
I remember hearing the story of 18th century upper class Chinese Women sipping on their hot drink infused by tea leaves that were picked by young Chinese virginal hands.
I don’t remember the name of the patriarch who actually propagated virginal slavery and turned it into a “thing.”
My Body Remembers
I remember that my father gave me a single carnation each March 8th to acknowledge me for a moment or the woman I was yet to become.
I remember when my grandmother, while she was pregnant with my father, slapped a Nazi soldier in the working camps because he touched her inappropriately. I remember the firing squad that she had to face.
I remember my other grandmother’s bloody feet as she fought the Nazis in WWII together with her male compatriots.
I don’t remember anybody hailing them as heroes when they became housewives after the war because their husbands didn’t want them to work.
I remember when I moved to the United States in 1989, the International Women’s Day was nowhere to be found and to my chagrin carnations stopped coming my way.
I remember realizing that new wars on women were waged.
I remember working women were set up against non-working women; stay at home moms against working moms; one color against the other; self-made women against coupled…
I don’t remember what invisible fire squad made us behave this way.
I remember realizing that women circles were lost. Women were no longer helping each other in their fights to be as equal as men.
I remember how I was twice told in my working life that I wasn’t aggressive enough: one time by a woman and another by a man.
I don’t remember why did I need to be aggressive, who was the enemy.
I remember losing my ambition when asked if I had a family or a boyfriend while being interviewed for a job or just talking to someone who I thought was a mentor.
I don’t remember how did I have such a strong intuition to always walk away despite knowing that I won’t be helped.
I remember my Trinidadian friend sharing how in Trinidad after a woman has given birth, a circle of ladies forms to take care of the baby while the new mother recovers for weeks wrapped in ointments, leaves, and other healing medicine.
I don’t remember why I thought I had to do it all by myself even though so many days I would fall asleep over my baby while breastfeeding. The fear of dropping the baby, the fear of never returning to myself and being forgotten after becoming a mom was and still is intimidating.
I remember thinking how scary it is to be a woman.
I don’t remember is it because of capitalism, consumerism, or what I now understand to be the patriarchy.
I remember that everyday I struggled with not being the exact shape of women portrayed in the media.
I remember standing in an empty film studio surrounded by 4-5 men, 30 years my senior, who thought it was appropriate to talk about my body parts; the man that I thought was my mentor and friend was worried, he said “Come on don’t say those things, you are going to get me in trouble.”
I don’t remember why was I the one feeling so ashamed.
I remember however the ocean of tears, the anger, the self-hate.
I remember last year, when corona trickled our way, 300 000 American women lost their jobs, one in every three women in Sweden were still beaten in their homes.
I remember becoming a teacher, a hairdresser, cook. a mother, a wife, a 24-hour support hotline.
I don’t remember being paid for any of that.
I remember a few months into corona, a clear voice came my way: surround yourself with women energy!
I remember joining Instagram and finding women authors since we were all isolating.
I remember reading books by Jen Pastiloff, Lidia Yuknavitch, Glennon Doyle, Lucy Pearce, Lana Bastasic, posts by Sara Jenks and Dr. Shefali …
I remember my fingers and toes wiggling again, my intellect being aroused.
I remember learning that I can buy myself flowers: when I bragged about this to my mother, the wise crone woman, responded *I always buy my own flowers, who else would get me flowers.*
I don’t remember that she taught me to take such good care of myself.
I remember now that whether the outside world labels me as a working girl, girl on film, writer, teacher, student, wife, housewife, stay at home mother, 5 kg more or 5 kg less, despite the world deeming me more or less worthy, all these parts make me who I am, a Whole Woman.
I don’t remember how did I forget that the world would/could not exist without women.
“More and more women are realising that only collective strength and action will allow us to be free to fight for the kind of society that meets basic human needs.” – Roxanne Dunbar, American Historian
Happy International Women’s Day!
This is a part of my story. I would like to invite you to remember and share with us and tag your girlfriends. Should the world continue the same way? It’s time for us to open some new tearooms.
Maja’s Tea Recommendations
To use as medicine for women’s bodies Min Systers Tehus’ Tea of the Month Lemon Balm with Rose Buds
To form a Women’s Circle, make sure to never stay without tea by purchasing Min Systers Tehus’ Subscription by the Season