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Posts Tagged ‘feminine’

One of the things that frustrates me most in life is when I know what’s wrong, but don’t know what to do about it.  There is no instruction manual, there’s no hint, you can’t flip to the last page for the answers.  Some people like it call it common sense, but common sense is only previously acquired knowledge that is applied to situations which are similar to what you’ve already learned.  If you have never previously been taught how to deal with similar issues, then there is no such thing as applying ‘common sense’ to these things.

When our entire lives have been dominated by what the masculine image of feminine is, there is no basis for applying common sense to much of how to deal with these issues.  You can recognize them, you can understand the damaging effects, but you can still be just as lost as to how to *do* something about it.

Part of that is recognizing that our society is very damaged, but that we have other examples, other societies we can look to for guidance.  These other societies don’t even have to be perfect, they just have to do one thing – just one thing – that demonstrates a better way.  They don’t have to necessarily be countries, either.  They can be sub-cultures, organizations, they can be ancient societies that no longer exist, but if we have some record of them, some understanding, then we can start to build a fuller picture of what is possible.

I remember years and years ago hearing about a certain American Indian culture – I sadly have forgotten which nation it was – and the way they recognize a girl’s first menstruation.

The women would gather together and make things.  Just, whatever needed to be made.  Think of it like a quilting circle or something, it was a social thing they did together.  The young girls would be at this circle, and listen to the women talking to one another.  They were, from an early age, surrounded by the stories and points of view of their elder women.  The girls would learn to make the things the women made.  By the time she reached puberty, the girl would have made many things.

When she had her first menstruation, she would be taken into a tent with other women who would pass on more adult knowledge to her than she would have received with the other girls.  They would help prepare her for the changes she would experience, and the changes to come.  They would teach her things at this time that she would not have learned before.

At the end of this, she would leave the tent, and take the many things she had made – whether it was a doll or a pouch or a beaded band – and each item she would give to an elder woman, and she would tell that woman what trait or character she hoped to learn from her.

This is a very sketchy retelling of what I heard, but the gist of it is this: women mentored younger girls and women.  Women told their stories to younger girls and women.  Women embraced one another’s femininity.

Rather than associating menstruation with PMS, bitchiness, and queasiness over menstrual blood, or worse, associating any negative emotion by a woman with the assumption she must be menstruating, this natural female cycle was celebrated and given a beautiful ritual status.

We have been taught to demonize something that lies at the very heart of our femininity, to be shamed by it and afraid of it, to be silent about it.  Imagine the empowerment of our girls if we embraced and celebrated this cycle!  If we stopped shaming the very thing that we have that men don’t!

When we stop being ashamed of it ourselves, men will not be able to shame us with it, either.

Embracing this fundamental natural fact of the feminine can be a catalyst that guides us towards embracing every other natural aspect of ourselves, from our body hair to our diversity in body shapes, sizes and colors.  From our natural complexion to our beautiful wrinkles, to our hair without straighteners or dying out our marvelous gray.

Age used to mean wisdom and respect.  Now it’s something to be feared, fought, denied, and resisted at all costs.  Why?  Because the 18-34 yr old male demographic that is the golden audience for almost every kind of media produced.

How do we achieve this monumental task of reordering our perceptions about our own bodies?  Turn off the TV, put down the magazine, the insidious truth of advertising is that it only works if it can convince you that what you are isn’t good enough.  Otherwise, why would anyone buy a product to make themselves different?  If you were beautiful, you wouldn’t need their makeup and hair products and nail polish and diet pills and clothes and shoes and botox and teeth whitening strips and three-step skin conditioner and tanning salon.

So the last thing these companies want you to believe about yourself is that you’re beautiful!  That you’re okay the way you are.  Your disharmony with yourself is the foundation to their sales!

There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup.  There is something wrong with feeling that you have to wear makeup.  The weight loss industry in the US is a multi-billion dollar a year wake-up call that their fix isn’t working, it’s just keeping us unhappy, unhealthy, and most importantly, it keeps us pouring our dollars into their businesses.

What if we taught our girls that their self-worth wasn’t proportional to the numbers on the scale?  The kicker is, you don’t teach this in a lesson plan with pencils and text books and give a test at the end.  This is taught by modeling the behavior that your weight isn’t your measure of self-worth, by restricting the media’s access to your house which displays one vary narrow and often not even a real image of a woman’s body, by giving them the tools to understand their bodies, and the tools to stand up to those who try to define them by their bodies.

It can be scary to be the one who doesn’t follow the social flow of what is expected of us.  But what is expected of us is to conform to a male ideal of what female should be.  I put it to you: who made men the expert on what it is to be feminine!?  Men have been “telling” us for decades that they don’t understand women, so why do we let them dictate how we understand ourselves!?

We need to create a culture in which women teach women what it means to be a woman.  Where feminine is defined by females.  Where our bodies don’t need to be stretched and cropped, lightened and Photoshopped to be considered beautiful.

Imagine if we found just one thing about our femininity that we could embrace and pursue with all our hearts, the kind of revolution we could create for ourselves.

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Yes, I’m totally stealing the quantum physics term because… well, it fits.   Or maybe yarn theory would be a better term, since I spin yarn 😉

This isn’t anything new, in fact this is probably retold, rehashed, regurgitated from 10,000 years of existence, but isn’t that what blogs are for?

Take any random ball of knotted string, yarn, thread, rope,… and untangle.  At the end, assuming you succeed, it’s all one continuous string.

Sometimes it’s so hard to discuss one area of life without getting so caught up in every other connected area of life.  But should we even try?  Like that ball of string, there is no area of life that *isn’t* connected.  You can’t tug on this without altering that.  You can’t understand that without looking also at this.

I love watching documentaries.  Even the completely wild crazy Ancient Alien theory documentaries.  I love watching history documentaries and psychology documentaries and sociological documentaries.  And I know I’m not genius, I don’t have multiple PhDs in a wide range of areas… but it’s funny how watching these documentaries it sometimes seems like if they had only brought in experts in some other field of study, that they probably could have figured out whatever it was that had plagued their research a lot earlier and a lot more accurately.

That’s not to accuse them of not doing so.  I’m sure many researchers, scientists, and such often cross fields of expertise to form conclusions.  But it also seems that it isn’t as routine and expected as it should be.

We do this kind of segregation in our own lives far too often.  Sure, sometimes we connect the dots all too clearly (my frustrations at work affect my relationships at home, for example) but sometimes we can’t see the connection, or don’t want to see it…

work – finances -stress – weight – sleep –  gardening – pets – house keeping – allergies – diet – exercise – creativity – relationships – self esteem – work

It doesn’t matter how segregated we try to make these areas of life, they insist on all tying themselves together into a single string, knotted and confused, tugging one affecting the others… there is no such thing as one area of my life… it’s all the same string.

My relationship with my mother affects my house keeping, my housekeeping affects my self esteem, my self esteem affects my work, work gives me a paycheck which affects my finances, which affect my stress levels, which affect my diet and weight, and all of it affects my sleep, which creates a feedback to my diet and weight and stress, which affect my creativity, which affects my self esteem… every aspect of my life is inexorably bound up with every other aspect.

It makes it really hard to focus on certain areas because ultimately the roots have spread so far that I end up having to look at every area which becomes overwhelming.

I watched a documentary on the worship of feminine in the earliest records of Egypt, how the society was matriarchal at the very beginning.  And it got me wondering about how my own views of what it means to be a woman, what “feminine” is, because today we aren’t really surrounded by feminine, we’re surrounded with the masculine idea of feminine.

But then asking what feminine is makes me question if I can even arrive at an answer, precisely because we’re surrounded by the masculine and the masculine idea of feminine, and I can’t be sure that my own opinion hasn’t been so colored by that as to be unreliable for an answer.

Which makes me wonder if that’s why I’ve always had such a hard time writing women in my stories, because somewhere inside I don’t really know what it means to be one, and when I try to write it it comes out wrong because somewhere inside I know that much of what I think I know is wrong, but I don’t really know where to go from there.

I can’t even write “me” in my stories, because I find I really don’t understand myself, or I get lost between what I would do and what I wish I’d do.

And having a hard time writing women only makes me want to do it more, because I feel there’s this gaping hole that I need to explore, this dark chasm that I’ve been afraid to step foot in because the light doesn’t shine far enough to see where I’m going once I start.

That fear, if I’m really honest with myself, keeps me from doing a lot of things that I feel I need to do.  But it also makes me wonder if some of the things I *do* do to try to be feminine aren’t missing the mark, or even misleading myself.

So I have been trying to answer the question “what does it mean to be feminine” and in doing so I’m exploring what other cultures have defined as feminine, or how matriarchal societies worked and were structured.  Because in my culture, I’m told I should compete with other women for a man, I should dress in a certain way to be attractive, I should be a certain weight to be attractive, I should be a certain color to be attractive.   I live in a society that tells me what I *am* isn’t good enough: it sells me clothes and magazines and movies, diet pills and tanning beds, whitening creams and hair straighteners, fake nails and false pretenses.  It sells me “power suits” and teaches the 5 masculine traits to succeed in business.  Nothing about my culture tells me what I am is good.

I work in a male-dominated industry, in a male-dominated department, in a male-dominated industry, because I followed in the footsteps of my father.  Whom I adore without question.  But all of it builds up.

So the string so far is that the question of femininity affects my job, my creativity, my stress levels, my weight, my relationship with my mother, my house keeping… there isn’t any aspect of my life that isn’t touched by my sex and gender, how society views it, how I’ve been taught to view it…

That is my string theory.   Everything is connected.   And it can make it overwhelming to address anything because everything is involved, everything is affected.

But ya gotta start somewhere, right?  So perhaps where I’m going to start is recognizing that I can control certain things, and I can partially control certain things, and I can’t control certain things.

I can’t control what grocery stores and restaurants offer.  I can partially control where I shop and what I buy (finances being a factor, availability being a factor, seasonality being a factory).  But even after all that, I still can control what I eat.  What I eat isn’t just about ‘diet and weight loss’ as some people think.  It’s about physical health.  It’s about *mental* health!  It’s about finances (physical health may mean less doctor trips to pay for).  It’s about creativity (mental health – while often seen as detrimental – I think is critical to creative expression).  It’s about stress (how I eat affects how I feel affects how I deal with things affects my stress) and also affects my sleep.  And all that feeds back into what I eat, because food and stress are far too often linked, craving unhealthy foods or eating too much when stress is highest.

I can’t control what I have to do at work.  I can partially control how well I do it (time frame being a factor, resources being a factor, outside input being a factor).  But I can totally control my *attitude* toward work.  I really do have that choice.  I can either choose to be bitter and resentful, disagreeable and pessimistic, or I can choose to do my best with every job, even if I’m grossly underpaid, even if I think my bosses are insane.  I can bring a positive outlook to myself and my coworkers and help bring my department up instead of down.  That is within my control absolutely.  Which leads to lower stress, and better eating, and… see above.

And now… I can’t control how my society and my culture have chosen to define femininity and women.  I can partially control how much of that I consume.  But what I can control is my choice to seek out other definitions, other views, other ways of thinking.  Even if I can’t change one other thing, I can choose to find this knowledge, to better understand myself.  And who knows… maybe in doing so, every other area of my life will be altered – just a bit – for the better.

Stress at work, lead to the greater consumption of media to distract myself, lead to watching documentaries, lead to hearing about different ways “feminine” is and has been understood in different cultures, lead to a desire to learn… which leads to greater acceptance of myself, leads to reduced stress, leads to better health, leads to improved creative expression, and maybe, just maybe, that might lead to reaching someone else with a message that might help them, also.

We aren’t all different balls of yarn, after all.  We’re all connected.  Tug on me… who knows who else may be affected.

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