It started last Monday as I tried to develop a matrix of feminine vs. masculine characteristics in our culture. I ached to see cooperation, emotion and beingness celebrated and rewarded as much as competition, stoicism and productivity.
That night, when I complained to a friend that my brain hurt from thinking, researching and writing, she reminded me to “turn off the brain…go to your happy place…in your body! Inspiration always flows…trust.”
“I know. I know!” I said.
I recognized the wisdom in her words but didn’t act on them. Not even the next morning when another friend tempted me to join her at Shimmy Pop—a belly dance inspired aerobics class. I needed to write; it had been over a month since I’d posted anything. I promised myself I’d go for a walk when I finished.
Men 7 – Women 1
I grappled with ideas and words, but nothing flowed. I was irked about persistent double standards in our patriarchal culture. That we still encouraged men to explore their sexuality yet punished women. Think about it. It’s insidious. There are many complimentary words to describe promiscuous men: Casanova, Don Juan, gigolo, ladies’ man, playboy, Romeo, and stud. Can you think of any for women?
I came up with one: Courtesan.
I skimmed Facebook for a quick break; I discovered a blog post that fueled my double standards fire. As I read, I felt sucker punched:
I’m crying at a society that can blame an 11 year old girl for her own gang rape by 18 men – in this country. In 2011!
Hasn’t anything changed in twenty-eight years?
That’s how long it’s been since the gang rape that inspired the movie Accused—infamous for it’s “blame the victim” mentality.
My whole body cringed, turning inwards to withdraw from a rape culture that tolerates violence against women. And worse, blames the victim for the clothes she wears, friends she chooses and alcohol she drinks.
I didn’t want to endure it, not one second more. How do we stop this? What could I do besides sign a petition requesting the New York Times apologize and help foster change?
I spent the entire day reading, taking notes, and seeking to understand the incomprehensible.
It made my head spin. And tortured me to not see a way out. I needed a sliver of hope.
But I went to sleep unsatisfied and confused.
Doing without producing.
On Wednesday, except for brief lunch and dinner breaks I wrote, revised and filled in holes in my research. All day. Until 1 AM. Was I wasting my time? My writing covered too many topics, lacked focus and depth. It needed examples, reasons, and evidence.
I still had so many questions.
How do we rid our culture of the belief that women are inferior? How do we move away from patriarchy and misogyny? How do we celebrate the feminine? How do we transform sexual desire, a basic human need, from shameful to sacred?
My eyes ached. Not only was I not turning to my body, I ignored it. My hard contacts felt stuck to my eyes. I took them out. My eyes itched; I rubbed them for relief—a big no-no.
Beyond tired, I went to bed expecting to fall asleep instantly.
My exhausted body longed for sleep and sweet dreams. But my questioning mind persisted. What if you add more details to the part about Eve in the Genesis story and get that Jezebel article about Janet Jackson? I rolled onto my right side. I focused on my breathing. Deep inhale. Slow exhale. What is a woman’s responsibility with respect to her sexual power? I sighed as I flipped over onto my left side. What if you break it into parts, one on…?
My nagging brain wouldn’t shut up.
I gave up and headed to lie on my living room couch. I hoped listening to my ipod would calm me and distract my mind from its pursuit. I created a quick playlist. Yikes! 2:12 AM, I have S Factor in the morning.
I skipped the first song, Somersault by Zero 7 featuring Sia because it bored me. The next song was too slow. Skip. The one after that, too mellow. I felt like Goldilocks; none of my go-to songs were working, not even Sade. I must’ve been too wound up. Maybe I needed a touch of angst to match my irritation. I added songs. Finally, I managed to listen to Unsuffer Me by Lucinda Williams.
Then a soft, heavy pitter-patter began: Portishead’s Glory Box. I felt a glimmer of calm in my chest. Something about the sound and feel of the song eased my restless irritation.
I’d heard the song before, interpreting it as a woman falling in love. But this time it struck me as more universal from my feminist obsessed brain. Beth Gibbons, the lead singer, and I conversed.
…For I’ve been a temptress too long…
Me too. All women have. I’m tired of women’s inferiority, sexual double standards and the shame and blame associated with female sexual desire and power. Aren’t you?
Give me a reason to love you,
Give me a reason to be,
I just wanna be a woman.
Yeah, I ache for myself, for all women, to be valued and celebrated for our femininity and all that is feminine. We need it for ourselves and for our culture.
The earthy sensuality of the song swirled around my body. My butt pressed into the softness of the couch moving in tiny, barely there, circles.
From this time, unchained,
We’re all looking at a different picture,
Through this new frame of mind,
A thousand flowers could bloom,
Move over, and give us some room.
Poetic. Maybe there is hope to free women and end the blame and violence. The answer is a new perspective—movement away from dominance towards partnership culture. The path to blossoming through the rising feminine…
My feet rubbed the soft microfiber fabric of the couch.
…. So don’t you stop, being a man,
Just take a little look from our side when you can,
Sow a little tenderness,
No matter if you cry.
Yes, oh, yes. I value inherent maleness like strength, protectiveness and love of sports. I understand the male gaze; most women do. But we need men to understand, respect and value the female gaze too.
I lay motionless on the couch, resting my head on a pillow. The questions had stopped. As the song faded I hit stop, relaxed enough for bed.
I planned to dance to Glory Box in S Factor class the next morning.
I’d never seen the Glory Box video before, so I watched it after writing this article. Check it out. I think everyone is in drag, even one incarnation of Beth Gibbons. It seems consistent with my new universal interpretation of the song. I like the symbolism of her being trapped in a television at first. What do you think?