I sat down last night to watch Chef’s Table, a series on Netflix that covers the private lives of professional chefs, and examines what influences their cooking and their art – why they cook, how they cook and where they cook. Stumbling across the wonderful Asma Khan’s episode, I sat entranced at the power and beauty of what happens when women help and support other women.
Asma didn’t have to cook – she has a PhD in Constitutional Law, Asma loved to cook. Her supper clubs led eventually to having her own restaurant, in which she employs a solely female staff, a staff whom she clearly loves dearly and feels responsible for. Her staff are mostly second daughters, were not professionally trained when they first started working for Asma in the Darjeeling Express, and all had other jobs to start with. One by one they could give up their other jobs, and work solely in the restaurant. She pulled other women up along with her dreams and carried them into success with her. It is an act of huge generosity of spirit, and a ferocious energy which she uses to feed and entertain, to comfort and to challenge.
In the darkness of recent days it does me good to remember of the wonderful things that can happen when women support and lift up other women. It did me good to watch Asma’s charity prepare a party to celebrate the birth of a second female child with cakes and fireworks and sweets. In this world that often fails to value us women, we are all second daughters. We are all unwanted. We are all in the way. We are all silenced instead of celebrated, downtrodden instead of elevated.
Our sporting achievements mocked by the fact that human’s with the benefit of male sexed bodies, who by the benefit of nature can out-run, out-jump and out-lift us, are taking all the medals that belong to us. Our spaces eroded by men who say that their psychological needs for our spaces outweigh our needs for a place that is free of male bodies. Our kindness is demanded to soothe male egos and wants, while our needs wilt under the weight of the demands upon us.
Watching Asma Khan detail her success and her altruism I started to feel stronger, my strength fed off the success of these other women, watching them thrive made me feel as if I could also grow despite that weeds of destruction pulling me down. I am not a second daughter: I am nobody’s daughter at all.
Japanese grandfather once said to me “women are weak but mothers are strong.” I chided him – and not so gently, yet recognize my own pool of strength comes from not being a daughter, but a mother. As I grow older I see young women and want to hold their hands, and haul them through life alongside me. I want to shout from the rooftops that you can survive this patriarchal world, with the handmaidens that betray us, the men that would usurp and mock us with their crass performance of femininity, you can survive despite the men who would hurt us and drag us down, or bury us entirely.
I need to be a little more like Asma. A little bolder. A little less meek, and a little more fierce. Perhaps if you see another woman today that looks like she needs a word of encouragement, a gesture of support, you could tell her you have her back, uplift her with words of strength, one woman to another, building bonds and not leaving a single one of us behind, because in uplifting each other there is something so special in what happens when women help other women. We grow, we are comforted, we thrive, we are supported. Some of us live who would have otherwise died. Our success is amplified by the network of sisters around us, and protected by the actions of other strong women.
Chef’s Table: Asma Khan. If you are a woman in need of a boost today, take a look at the wonder of what happens when women work together to help and support other women.