No Longer Spitting in the Face of God

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woman with a basket of mandarins

What is woman?

She is woman.
She is not an imitation of man.
She is not made from man.
She is unique unto herself.
She isn’t perfect, yet she is sacred.
She is the vessel from which life is born.
She isn’t superior to man, nor is she inferior.
She is the female human being.

::

To denigrate women is to spit in the face of God. ~ Desmond Tutu

We live in a culture that has, for centuries, maybe millennium, denigrated the Feminine…and as walking embodiments of the Feminine, women and girls are living, breathing targets of this fear and hatred of the Feminine – also known as misogyny.

Allan G. Johnson writes in The Gender Knot:

“Misogyny plays a complex role in patriarchy. It fuels men’s sense of superiority, justifies male aggression against women, and works to keep women on the defensive and in their place. Misogyny is especially powerful in encouraging women to hate their own femaleness, an example of internalized oppression. The more women internalize misogynist images and attitudes, the harder it is to challenge male privilege or patriarchy as a system. In fact, women won’t tend to see patriarchy as even problematic since the essence of self-hatred is to focus on the self as the sole cause of misery, including the self-hatred.”  (italics mine)

 

Allan Johnson also writes,

…patriarchy is not simply another way of saying “men.” Patriarchy is a kind of society, and a society is more than a collection of people. It also involves as one of its key aspects the oppression of women.”

 

Patriarchy is NOT men. It’s a system. It’s a system we are born into. It’s a system we all hold up, and continue to breath life into, when we don’t question the assumptions we hold about men, women, and power, and about how we are in the world with each other.

It’s a system we give power to when we don’t question how we value ourselves as women, and how we value womanhood.

It’s a system we help to keep in place when we ‘hate our own femaleness’.

It’s a system that continues to control how we view ourselves when we don’t question these internalized misogynist images.

 

This isn’t about men vs. women.

Not at all. We often think when one attempts to have a conversation about this subject matter that we are blaming men, but if you read further into Johnson’s book (which I hope you will!), you will see that attempts to subvert these discussions are ways to keep this kind of system alive and well.

And if we focus on the self-hate, we are doing exactly what Johnson mentions – not seeing the mechanism of patriarchy at work.

 

This post IS about…

…the images we, women and men, carry around within ourselves of the Feminine, women, and the value of women.

This post IS about…

…the places within us that are outside of the realm of patriarchy.

 

We are all, men and women, given images when we are young of what a woman is and what a man is. In a world (for the most part – some indigenous cultures do not do this) that has denigrated the Feminine for centuries, it would make sense that our images of the Feminine would be less than helpful at best, and downright misogynist at worst; and our images of men would be championed (although as we’ve explored coming to terms with equality for women over the past decades, there’s been a lot of mud slinging both ways.)

Of course, as I’ve been writing this over the past few days, the writing has been working on me. What initially began as a more cerebral exploration and post, soon became very personal and emotional for me. As I sat with, something I try to do when I am writing a post, these images that I hold of myself, these misogynistic images I’ve ingested over my lifetime, I began to truly grasp the depth of this programming by a system that is misogynistic to its core.

Some of the images I see in my own psyche about myself are deeply misogynistic. Of course they are. I’ve been swimming in this system my entire life. I’ve been ingesting these images from the time I began to be conscious of what was around me. We wonder why it is so hard for women to love themselves. We don’t have to look far. We just have to be willing to look inside, into the depths of what we’ve come to believe, and feel, about our womanhood, and about our female bodies.

And, men do not escape the pain of this culture. Not at all. The Feminine is within them. And, their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends are women. When they hold these misogynistic images within their psyches, they must deaden the pain of knowing that the women they love deeply are walking, breathing, embodiments of this Feminine that is so feared and so hated.

 

Instead, if we are willing…

What we can is come to know the images of what it is to be female that lay outside the realm of patriarchal conditioning. These images come to us as we honestly, and wholly, ask the question, “What is it to be female?”

We can question what we’ve believed to be true. We can look directly at the images we hold of ourselves as women, of other women, and of the Feminine itself.

Inquire into the images of the Feminine that YOU are carrying around within you. Look inside. What images are YOU holding of woman? What images do you believe to be true about you and your femaleness?

This is what matters, because when we hold images, and we all do, they are the images we offer to others about ourselves. They are the images we give to others, mostly unconsciously, that tell others about who we believe ourselves to be, how much worth we believe we have, and how the people in our lives should treat us.

The images of self and gender we hold that speak to self-hatred are not natural. They are not native to us.

Images of self-hatred are not native to us. Images of self-hatred are not native to that place within us that has never been under the control of patriarchal thought and conditioning. 

We are love.  And, we can be fierce love. When we begin to hold images of ourselves as women worthy of dignity, respect, and love, we begin to view ourselves differently. I’m not talking band-aid images – I’m talking a real and true transformation of the images we hold about ourselves, other women, and the Feminine. When we find these places of dignity, respect, and love within ourselves, we begin to know something new, something real, something sacredly creative.

Anne Baring writes,

“The recovery of the feminine principle is the key to the transformation of our world culture from decay and disintegration and progressive regression into uniformity, banality and brutality, into something longed for and extraordinary.

Woman’s own awakening to the realisation of her value is part of the recovery of the feminine principle. It is as if a momentous birth is taking place in the collective psyche of woman. This birth may be experienced as something that is deeply perplexing and difficult as well as something exciting and challenging. As woman gives birth to herself, to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man), the feminine principle will also emerge in the consciousness of humanity which for so long has suffered from its repression and rejection.

Woman, whose essential nature is to respond to suffering and need, is now responding to life’s own need and is experiencing herself as the vessel of transformation in which a new consciousness is being born.”

 

A woman is reborn as she gives birth “to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man).

We are reborn when we ask the question (with a longing to listen so we truly hear the answer), What is it to be female? We are reborn in the space from which we listen. This isn’t woman as imitation of man, or woman born from man’s rib. This is, as Rilke wrote, “the female human being.”

 

 As Woman

When I come to know myself as Woman,
as sacredly female outside of patriarchal control,
I am held in the lap of Love,
I am back in the garden of Earth,
I breathe in the fragrance of Life,
I eat of the fruit of Wisdom,
I am no longer a stranger in the holy land,
the only land in which I am truly alive,
the land of my own body,
the realm of my own Soul.

::

image from Flickr Commons: Woman with a basket of mandarins, 1920-1930,
Photographer: Unidentified, Location: Queensland, Australia; No known copyright restrictions

 

 

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Magic, Music and a Woman’s Heart

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The two weeks I spent in Ireland were magical. It’s a magical land.

Sunset at Strandhill
Sunset at Strandhill

This picture was taken on the beach of Strandhill, a small area near the city of Sligo, and very close to Queen Medb’s (Maeve) cairn (tomb) on the top of Knocknarea Mountain. Maeve was the warrior Queen of Connacht in Celtic mythology.

On Knocknarea, at the foot of Medb's Cairn
On Knocknarea, at the foot of Medb's Cairn

We climbed to the top of the mountain to see the cairn. The feeling at the top at the foot of this tomb is ancient, powerful and quite mystical.

One of the things I most enjoyed was hearing live traditional Irish music. My paternal grandfather, Thomas McDonnell Sr. was Irish-American. His two grandfathers came from Ireland in the mid-1860’s. One, Bryan McDonnell, embarked from Dublin and the other, Timothy Driscoll, from Cobh.

My grandfather and grandmother raised a musical family. I remember one time we visited them when I was very young. My father’s brothers and sister were there, too, and the whole family came together to sing and play a variety of instruments: guitar, ukelele, banjo, piano. I loved it. It’s one of my strongest and fondest memories of that side of my family.

So when I was in Ireland, I was particularly taken with the live traditional music in places like Dublin, Dingle, Cobh and Glendalouch. In Dingle, we just happened into a pub on a Sunday afternoon as this group of musicians were playing the kind of music I hoped I would hear in Ireland. Listening to this music brought back the wonderful memories of my father’s family, the ‘Irish side’.

The next day, we ducked into a Dingle music shop to find some good Irish music to take home with us. We found the most recent CD by Lumiere, a musical group consisting of two women, Pauline Scanlon and Eilis Kennedy. One song in particular, Fair and Tender Ladies, is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Lo and behold, that night Pauline Scanlon was performing in a Dingle pub. We were lucky to sit and listen to her ethereal voice just fifteen feet away from her.

When I returned home, I found this video of Pauline and Eilis singing Fair and Tender Ladies. Please stop, become still, drop into your heart and listen with your whole being.

I love hearing these two women harmonize and sing of women taking care of their hearts.

The inner realm of a woman’s heart is sacred and wise. I have come to know just how tender and vulnerable this woman’s heart is. I know the pain of trampling through this heart, allowing the dictates of the mind to override the heart’s needs.

During my time in Ireland, over and over again, my heart opened to the beauty, magic and music of this place. Something woke up in my cells. Something ancient. Something earthly. Something I’ve known, yet pushed away. Over time, this new awareness is deepening within. When the time is right, I’ll share what I can put into words, here with you.

And, you?

What might it take to sit down with your heart, to hear what it’s needing, to tenderly begin to inquire?

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Truth, the Body & the Sacred Feminine

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Truth is an interesting word. It has all sorts of baggage with it. My truth, their truth, his truth, her truth, THE TRUTH. We have been taught from a young age that there is a truth, but that it lies outside of ourselves. But in the most simple way, the Truth is just what it is. As Eckhart Tolle says in his book, A New Earth, “The Truth is inseparable from who you are. Yes, you are the Truth. If you look elsewhere, you will be deceived every time.”

We are accustomed to looking outside of ourselves for the Truth. The truth of how to be, who to be, how to act, what to do, etc. etc. I have heard from many, many women the question (or one in a similar vein), how can I bring my whole self, my sensuality, my loving side and my intelligence and wisdom to everything I do? To my home, my relationships, and (the place that causes the most distress) to work.

The Truth is that you are already the Truth. The Truth of your Being is what you are. This Truth is alive within your female body. Bringing all of you to all that you do is a matter of realizing what you are and seeing the ways in which your Voice of Judgment (VOJ or ego as some call it) keeps you from expressing the Truth of the wholeness of what you are.

“What is your truth? Ask your heart, your back, your bones, and your dreams. Listen to that truth with your whole body. Understand that this truth will destroy no one and that you’re too old to be sent to your room.” John Lee from Writing from the Body

As John Lee writes, listen to the Truth of what you are with your WHOLE BODY. Learning to be in the body, to feel the aliveness that moves within it frees up this Truth and its expression. Feeling all parts of the body helps to awaken this Truth within, helps to awaken a true authenticity that is You. Then, all actions flow from within.

The stretch for women is to feel the body without judgment. We have learned, in one way or another, to judge ourselves by the way we look. But allow the body to be what it is…a sensing device for the Truth of what you are.

So, as John Lee writes, ask your whole Being, “What is my Truth?” And when you ask, Listen. Then, live it, speak it, express it. Be it. This is creativity. This is the source of true leadership. This is how we will once again discover the Truth of the Feminine.

I have found a practice to be the best way to invite investigation of my Truth through my Body. My practice is dance, specifically Five Rhythms by Gabrielle Roth. The dance has taught me well how to love my body and how to be in it without feelings of self-loathing or denial of the depth of the sacredness of my Being. The dance has re-introduced me to the Sacred Feminine that is within me and within all of Life. The dance has taught me to trust myself, to trust Life and to trust womanhood and the humanity of woman.

What practice do you have to bring your Being back into wholeness?

The Sacred Feminine World, image by JoanLovesPaper on Flickr

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