Sunday, January 29, 2012

We Are Woman

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source. ~Lucretia Mott

I've been a feminist as long as I can remember.  Thanks to my mother, who encouraged her daughters to be independent, strong, and socially conscious of sexism, I have, despite my varied intensity on the subject over the course of my life, always had a deep and abiding passion for the social equality of women.  I had a brief crush on a boy when I was 12 years old who asked me in all seriousness, "You don't really believe in all that Women's Lib stuff you talk about, do you?"
"Of course I do!" I retorted, "Why would I say that stuff if I didn't believe it?"  All of a sudden, he didn't seem that attractive to me anymore.  Mom would blast Helen Reddy's song, "I Am Woman" on the stereo and we would sing loudly and pump our fists:

I am woman, watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my loving arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
!

Who else but a woman would use the analogy of an embryo?  I liked this verse most of all because it spoke of joining together with men to create a more equal society.  Because as long as I've been a feminist, I've also loved men.  Or maybe I am just fascinated with men as being so different from myself. Regardless, I believe in a society that simply accepts people from the inside out without regarding them as inferior based on physical characteristics. 

I have not lived consistently with my feminist convictions.  I married a man who was extraordinarily sexist and violently abusive towards women.  I am the man, I have the mustache, and so I tell you what to do! No joke, he actually said that.  He viewed us as "equally matched" in our fights, "You have your tongue, I have my fists.  We're equal."  However, in true feminist form, I sought the support and help of other women to leave him and his abuse, and along with my female lawyer soundly conquered him in court.

You can bend but never break me
'cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul


While I won't go so far to thank my abuser for it, my experiences with him certainly served to deepen my convictions about equality for women and particularly to work toward freedom from violence in our relationships with men.  I went on to work with domestic violence victims and survivors, hosting support groups in my home and creating and maintaining a website for victims.

Even when I was neck-deep in fundamentalist Christianity, I wasn't content with the more conservative interpretations of women's role in society.  I would counter those views with what I believed to be the authentic message of Christianity: mutuality.  I did the requisite Biblical research and made a sound case, but received the censure of my church's pastor who said I was unfit for service because I believed and espoused that women could and should serve as clergy.  In leaving the church, I was freed from the task of having to prove what I believed to be obvious: men and woman are different, yes, but functionally equal.  I wondered what men were afraid would happen if they admitted this.  I also wondered why they refused to take advantage of the vast resources of half the population.  Just as my pastor relegated me to organizing women's tea parties rather than Bible studies, many men seem content to ignore the treasure-trove of creative insight and intelligence in their counterparts. What does it benefit them to do this? 


In the long run, Women's Liberation will of course free men -- but in the short run it's going to COST men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily. ~Robin Morgan


It really chaps my ass that women have had to fight for what should be naturally acknowledged as true.  The Greeks were very much into dualistic philosophies and they acknowledged that both masculine and the feminine traits were to be found in everyone.  The problem was these characteristics were ascribed value judgments and those deemed "feminine" were seen as less appealing and needing suppression. But here's the problem with dualism: it neglects the whole.  The Sanskrit word Tantra transliterates as the weft and warp (duality) of the weave (nonduality), the directions of the threads that create cloth. If one of these dualistic pairs did not exist, neither would the cloth. Equality doesn't exclude the differences or polarities, it includes them, accepts them, and weaves them together to make a whole -- whole person, whole society.  Suppression or devaluing one side of the duality makes for a very unbalanced, weak "whole," or rather, something that is not whole. 

The Empress in Tarot is representative of the feminine part of the duality, while The Emperor represents the masculine.  Neither is greater, together they form a pair.  The Empress comes first in the deck, interestingly, but that doesn't mean better.  If it means anything, it means every man was born of woman.  While the feminist movement has enlightened many, we still have entrenched ideas about feminine things being inherently "lesser" than masculine. While women are commended (and simultaneously ridiculed) for exhibiting traditionally masculine characteristics, men are rarely applauded for exhibiting their feminine side unless they do so in a distinctly masculine manner.  A man who bakes cakes is a "Cake Boss" whereas a woman who bakes is, well...a woman. 
 
We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. ~Gloria Steinem

The Empress is the archetypal "mother" but not all can identify with that.  Instead of viewing her as a noun, try instead to view her as a verb.  In a commentary written by feminist Gloria Steinem, she explains:
"Think about it: As a noun, mother not only excludes half the human race, but is also limited by fertility and age and intention...
As a noun, mother may be good or bad, willing or unwilling, on welfare or rich, worshiped or blamed, dominating or nurturing, accidental or chosen.
Perhaps that’s why the noun mother is so easily taken over by profanity; or by war, as in “the Mother of All Bombs;” or by war-makers who honor Hero Mothers for birthing soldiers.
But when mother is a verb—as in to mother, to be mothered—then the best of human possibilities come into our imaginations.
To mother is to care about the welfare of another person as much as one’s own.
To mother depends on empathy and thoughtfulness, noticing and caring.
To mother is the only paradigm in which the strong and the weak are perfectly matched in mutual interest." ( Mother As A Verb by Gloria Steinem)
 Another funny thing about archetypes and dualities is that they aren't really meant to describe actual men and women, but only traits and characteristics, with no value judgment placed upon whether these characteristics and traits are better or worse.  They simply are. Men express "mothering" naturally and as easily, and many women really suck at it.  The mistake is made when we assume that feminine archetypes belong to women and masculine archetypes belong to men.  They don't, they are meant to be balanced within each of us and therefore balancing our societies.

Patriarchy is the result of too strong an emphasis on the masculine part of the duality, too much value given to that particular warp of the cloth.  While it has its benefits, such as strength, survival, profit-making, and logic, it is lopsided on its own.  Technology and business are examples of masculine archetypal structure and energy and while extremely beneficial, when they ignore the feminine elements they become destructive and ultimately self-destructive.  Only when feminine archetypal energy is integrated into these institutions will they thrive in balance with nature and with our own long-term survival. 



To me, feminism isn't about who's better or who screwed everything up.  It's not about forcing men to shoulder the blame for everything wrong with the world, even though, come on guys, you've made the lion's share of decisions for quite some time now, so take responsibility.  It's about awareness and what the hippies used to call "consciousness raising." What does it really take for people, both men and women, to realize we need balance?

19 comments:

André said...

Hey Ginny, it makes some time I don't answer your posts, but I'm still here, reading everything....and this one I'm compelled to answer :)

My mother taught me and my brother that feminism is just as prejudice as the other way around (nice, english have no word for "male-nism").
Well, I was too yang to understand any of that...today I understand what she wanted to mean, but I still think it's a limited approach to the subject.

As you perfectly pointed out, pointing to the differences and trying to make better/worse distinctions is...let's say....just stupid.
But saying that boys behave this way and girls behave this other way, is just as...limited.

Everything I studied on this past couple of years points to a much more interesting conclusion, that 99.99% of our so called nature is socially modeled.
Yes, there are biological differences, strong enough to create man and woman. But even the brain formation is completely dependent of experience.

There is no human nature, just human behavior :P

Sharyn Mallow Woerz said...

Carry on Sister.

Katrina Wynne said...

Ginny,

The moment I opened your post Pat Benatar started belting in my head…”We are strong…” Yes, I know that the actual words to the anthem “Love is a Battlefield” uses the word “young”, but she has a right to change her message, even if only in the music channel of my mind, HaHa.

Bless you and your journey with all its twists and turns. You are a strong and courageous woman. Thank you for speaking out, especially in such a thoughtful and compassionate way. Just speaking out itself is an act of courage and something frowned upon by “polite society” (read “status quo”).

We are so fortunate to have you in the Tarot Tribe. If you were too big for the Christian box you described, it is clearly their loss. In fact, every time we exclude someone’s voice and point of view, we lose as a whole. Isn’t that one of the main messages of the 99%? How can we be 100% if we marginalize and use our power to exclude?

Power, rank, and privilege are facts of life, and they appear in many disguises. I’ve written about the unconscious power that Tarot readers possess when conducting a reading. Any opportunity we can take to name our powers and choose to use them ethically and for the well-being of all, is a step closer to having a healthier world.

I really appreciate the analogies of the Tantric way and the cloth. “Woof”, the threads that cross the warp in the cloth, have a powerful sound when expressed out loud. I see visions of Arsenio Hall as he cranks his fist in a declaration of excitement and camaraderie, not violence. Warped is to distort from the truth, the pulling that bends the cloth too far in one direction. The ideal is balance and harmony.

That is also what Tarot tries to teach us, to move through the illusion of duality, utilizing this as a tool to bring us back to the conscious awareness of nonduality, or unity.

Thank you Sister,
Katrina

Ginny said...

Hi Andre, long time no see! :) I think your mother fell under the mistaken notion that many also make, that feminism is about female domination, like matriarchy being the polar opposite to patriarchy. And while there are a few feminists who believe matriarchy is preferable to patriarchy, they are not the majority. The "Second Wave" of feminism in the 70's was called the Women's Liberation Movement because women clearly were not, at the time, free to pursue the same goals as men. My mother always said if our goal is to be equal with men, we're aiming too low. What most feminists today envision is a society in which we meet in the middle. Women don't want to "be like men." We want to be women and be able to be free and enjoy all the same opportunities, rights, and respect. Most of those laws have been passed, but they are not always followed due to prejudice.

Yes, Katrina, I loved the Tantric cloth analogy. It's perfect. The dualities are necessary to the weave, but if we focus more on one direction or the other, the cloth becomes useless, full of holes, or it unravels.

André said...

Yes yes, I understand the difference...just remember I'm a man, from Brasil...I can't pretend to know on my skin what your talking about. I just try to participate and learn something on the process.
A different enough social background, we never had your 70's....my mother only knew the 80's aggressiveness I guess :P

Anyway, this would be a huge discussion and I don't want to hijack your post...but I do get the message.

Ginny said...

LOL, Andre :) There really is much misunderstanding about feminism. Part of that is because feminism itself is not monolithic, there is no single "feminism." It is based in a very consensus minded foundation, so we feminists are free to disagree, and we DO, often vehemently! Like any "-ism" it has its fundamentalists and extremists and factions. There is no one voice of feminism, just feminists speaking their minds. Believe me, it's not just because you're a man and/or from Brasil. There are plenty of women in the US that don't really understand, either.

Satu said...

It's sad that being a feminist has become highly unfashionable. I often hear (female) students use it as a pejorative term. They think feminists are ugly bearded old ladies who are just frustrated because they're not getting any...or something along those lines. And they don't realise they are where they are because there were feminists. If it wasn't for women's lib they'd be married and have three kids, not wasting time on higher education.

Ginny said...

Yes, Satu, that is another misconception, that we live in a "post-feminist" world, that there's no reason to continue to fight for women's rights. While we do have many more rights than before, we still struggle to gain true equality. Not to mention, Western women are not the only women in the world. All women worldwide need liberating.

Rob Swifty said...

I am a man. I am also a Christian in the most "fundamental" sense. However, I believe that women should not be prevented from serving as clergy. There are many women in the Bible,particularly after the time of Christ, which became high leaders in the church. So what your pastor said to you was not biblically grounded.

On the other hand, I believe that men and women are equal, but with varying roles. As a wife, the woman should attend to his husband's needs and become the builder of a home, not because she is "weaker", but because it's her role in the family. She can work, and she can do all things that people in modern society do, but I believe the man's role is as a primary decision maker. He is the leader of the household. Women who usurp that role from the man are destroying the very structure of God's plan for the family. Which is why most families in Northern America are broken. We are full of women who try to steal authority from the man. Just my thoughts.

Sincerely,
Rob
Telephone Psychic Readings

Ginny said...

Hey Rob. Take a look at how many times the Greek word "allelon" appears in the NT. It's about mutuality. There is no usurping when there is no "top down" leadership, not in Christ, not in true Christianity. Once that is understood, all this other struggle about who is over, under,or who does what is just...gone. Check out The Upside Down Kingdom, if you can find it in a used bookstore or on eBay.

Mr. Lucky said...

Greetings:

The uncomfortable truth is that all relationships are in balance. There cannot be an abuser without someone willing to play the role of the abused. Notice I did not say that all relationships are healthy, I only said they are in balance.

Ginny said...

Hey Mr. Lucky, in a metaphysical sense, that's true. If someone punches the air it's shadowboxing, if they punch a willing opponent, it's sport, but if they punch an unwilling victim, it's assault. If one is assaulted, I disagree that it's willing, but the dynamics to such are complicated and beyond the scope of this post.

Mr. Lucky said...

Hey Ginny:

Willing on some level, even if it is not obvious.

Some women go their entire lives and are never hit, and some go through life as a punching bag.

And you are right......it does get complicated.

Tarot By Arwen said...

Good post, Ginny. I come from an abusive relationship although mine was with a woman. Power over vs power shared. Key issue.

Hermgirl said...

Sisterhood is powerful!

Hermgirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonia said...

Hey Rob.
About men being the primary decision is okay as long as his wife also has an equal say in it

AverageJane said...

No offense intended, but your ex sounds like a total ass. I've never been in an abusive relationship, so I'm sure it's not as straightforward as we might think. But his comment about equality in a fight? My first thought was that I'd be hunting through the freaking cupboards looking for a big ass heavy skillet, and saying, "NOW we're even, [fornicator]. Come here and tell me again about your mustache." I'd want to tell him if he was going to hit me, he'd better knock me the hell out. Then pack his bags and run, because I'd be looking for him when I woke up.

That just strikes a deep nerve with me. I'm not your toy. I'm not your trophy. I'm not your stress-ball or punching bag. I feel sorry for you because you're disillusioned enough to think you actually OWN me. It must be awful to know at some deep level, for all your cockiness, that THIS was the best man you could be.

This should be such a non-issue! I was really surprised when I found out that not everyone believed that we were all equal. It seemed like a no-brainer.

Ginny said...

Hey Jane, no offense taken, he was and is a total ass. And I wasn't one to take his bullshit, so I ended up becoming embroiled in returning violence for violence at times. I was no match for him physically though, no matter how angry he made me. It was deeply disturbing to be with such a man and it went against everything I knew and everything I was. It took more than a few years to recover from that.

Some people can be enlightened about equality, but others not so much. Those, I just exile from my life.

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