“I’m Number 1”

It has been only males in my life who have advised me: “You are Number 1. You put yourself first. Everyone else second.” Repeatedly. At least three different males on more than three different occasions.

And it got me thinking: none of my female friends have ever advised this. Never. And I spend time with females of a wide range of ages and walks of life.

When I mentioned this sobering realization to a male with whom I am close, his response (only part jokingly) was: “Those women will probably make great wives.”

I told him he was horrible.

“Successful marriages are predicated upon compromise and selflessness. There is no room for individualism or ambition,” he said. At least not for both individuals in the coupleship, my thought. “That’s why marriages don’t work anymore. Thus, your women friend advice predisposes them to be excellent wives. My assessment may be valid.”

And the validity behind his statements is what is disturbing: that it does not cross women’s mind to put themselves first, and pass this wisdom along to friends and mentees and down the generations; that, coupled with the point of “quality” of wife. Wifely quality defined by sacrificial submission and letting men have their way to help relationships “work” is probably why women are socialized in this culture and society to never consider being “Number 1”. This is structural violence against women being played out in norms and socialization. And perpetuated by women.

And the worst part? I enact this Number Two role myself.

I consider myself a strong female. But my not naturally seeing myself as Number 1 reflects that I’m not as strong as I believed myself to be. Furthermore, I know that in situations where there is a physical differential and therefore inherent authority between myself and a male with whom I do not know if I can fully trust, I am very careful not to rock the boat, whereas if I was a male and felt I had equal (physical) footing, that I could be direct and firm without fear of true consequence. It just may not be safe as a female to do that. And for self-preservation and safety, I perpetuate these societal gender norms, this structural violence against women. I am a victim as much as I am a perpetrator against myself.

That is disturbing.