A brief story about two young women, young women we will name Ophelia.
The first Ophelia lived in a small, isolated community. Though she has gifted hands, she was never allowed to think much about becoming something other than what she was raised to be in her community, a young bride and mother. Until the day the police came, when new men in uniform told her that the men she’d listened to her whole life were abusing her and the other women and girls in the only home she’s ever known. She has no more choice now, it appears, than she did then ... a man sitting behind a bench, and men in lab coats swabbing inside her cheeks for her DNA, will let her know what her future is to be.
As always, men will decide.
The second Ophelia lives just to the north, in a big city. She had her first child while still a teen, and two more followed shortly thereafter. She and her children have limited options. She’s has a mind for numbers, but her strict parents and her indifferent teachers never told her that she could become so many things with that gift, perhaps an engineer or scientist or computer programmer. She was raised to believe that motherhood for a girl like her would be a blessing. She would have someone who loved her unconditionally. Later this year, when she finds herself pregnant again, the men in her state want to force her to have an obstetric ultrasound before she can have the abortion that she feels she needs to have, a new demand on top of all of the other delays and obstacles that those “righteous” men have placed in her way. She can’t make such decisions for herself, silly woman, any more than she could have benefitted from more encouragement when she was in school.
As always, the men know best.
It is not for either Ophelia to question any of this. They have a role, after all, a role that has been determined for them by men based upon what those men read in a book written by other, deader men. The Ophelias are supporting characters, plot points in men’s grand stories, pawns to be pushed and sacrificed for a higher good, to serve the King/Prophet/God/Senator/Minister, even to their deaths.
Neither Ophelia could make choices for herself, develop her natural talents, become her own story. They are, after all, only women.
I wish my story was fiction, but it’s all too real, not just in Texas, not just in Oklahoma, but in far too many villages, towns, cities, states ... COUNTRIES. Yes, even in this country, which likes to proclaim itself a land of freedom and equality and opportunity. The Ophelias of the world are left to sink or swim, to serve the demands and rules and madness of the men around them.