Friday, March 9, 2018

Emotional Burkas

9th March 2018

The blog I wrote right after the Golden Globes ("Women In Black," January 12th) called out women celebrating freedom and then playing the male fantasy game in their attire. Frances McDormand gave a rousing speech for women at the Oscars this last weekend in her strange (knitted?) dress, but all this argument brings women like me, who push pens for a living, still trying to formulate what an evolved woman would actually look like; what a society led by a women-council might look like. Late in my Veil Of Time trilogy, I deal with just this question, but for now that trilogy is moving at glacial speed along the publishing highway....
I acknowledge with gratitude those pioneer women who back in the nineteen sixties started to shift the woman paradigm. We stand on the shoulders of giants, as the saying goes. It was a great first step, with many more steps on the horizon to go. But I think we have come far enough along it to ask this question: to what extent is the entire game rigged by the way the rules were set in the first place?
One of those rules draws a distinction between what I once overheard a fellow karate mate, a handsome muscular fellow, define as "woman versus babe."  Women are having a hard time getting out from under the "babe" paradigm.
The TV series Friends has had, and continues to have, enormous social impact, but some of its lessons have not aged well, especially around this issue: one of the most endearing men on the show, the funny one, gets cajoled into marrying a young woman who far outmatches him in terms of physical attractiveness, and yet he still keeps up, and is enabled in, his lifelong fascination with the "babes" of pornography.
Part of the conditioning through all the centuries since religions run by male hierarchies have given woman "their place" is to make her gauge her worth in terms of her appeal to men. If you have spent any time in the Middle East, that fact hits you right in the face (your attractive face, of course.) It is a profoundly offensive sight, the burka-covered woman. Everything in me cries out for the female person hidden within, the smacking down that has had to take place for woman to accept this.

But we in the West have our own cultural burkas, and they are equally hard to see out of. Here are no  religious police enforcing them, but the best police force is one that has moved from the outside and chatters away now on the inside.
As I worked on my last book in that trilogy, I realised that what I was up against was something akin to Stolkholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which captives take on the identity and values of their captives. I think the first step towards a new paradigm of woman is to identify the actual structures that were put in place to keep woman in a role that benefitted men. These structures go much deeper than we imagine. We are way past realising that women actually do possess sexuality (thanks, DH Lawrence), but not way past seeing this in terms of adolescent male fantasy.

The first wave of feminism in the 1960's raised the spectre of women being equal to men. But this wave has yet to get us past seeing ourselves as versions of men. Our mantra is still, "We are equal and can do exactly what you do." We have to question very deeply here: I'm not even sure if the "Women in the Workplace" step isn't still playing the male-game, since this notion of "the work place" is written around the rules of hierarchy, a thing men favour much more than women if given half a chance.
Women and sexuality has always been at the crux of the matter because much power lies there (thank you Freud, but we knew this of old, and so did the religious hierarchy, which is why it has always sought to undermine it.) But women taking themselves back here does not mean staying in this arena of  perpetual emotional adolescence. We can do so much better than mimicking men in closets with their pornography.
What we have to move towards is a female sexuality that comes from a much more intuitive and integrated place, one that encompasses the whole spectrum of feeling, fertility and nurturing. What we lost at the behest of the Abrahamic religions and what we have to get back in our sights, is the power and evolution of the whole woman.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge the many evolved men in our midst and wait for them to become the majority.

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