Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Superwoman v Feminism

The following is all generally speaking, people are endlessly varied and the individual will often prove the generalization very wrong.  Also, it tends to apply most to the relationships between men and women and not to same sex relationships.  Since I have never been in a same sex relationship, I cannot really offer an opinion as to how this applies to them, or if it applies at all.

In early civilizations, matriarchy was the way of life, women were revered as life givers, the ones who carried the next generation, the carriers of the legacies of the men.  There is no greater way for man's name to burn bright through the ages than in his descendants.  As such, women were considered powerful for providing this link to immortality.  Goddess figures are found all over the earth, showing early man's reverence for womanhood.

Women and men tended to work side by side in early tribes.  Men, with their greater physical strength went out to hunt the animals in teams that utilized that strength.  Women stayed closer to the hearth, tending the young and elders of the tribe.  They gathered the herbs and plants for medicines and food to go along with that meat.  Any nutritionist will tell you that while meat is extremely important as a source of protein, people generally need to live primarily off of plant based foods.  Women also were and always have been the maintainers of social structure.  The women and the elders helped keep up with the children, taught them the ways of the tribe, taught them their work as productive members of the tribe.  If the women didn't keep up with the children, their would be no need for the men to hunt and bring home provisions.  There would be no tribe, nor a future.  There would be no innovation, because without a future, there is little need for improving anything.

In later cultures, women held places as important as men.  They were warriors and priestesses and monarchs, just as men were.  Even so, men and women still tend to hold different roles, generally speaking, because just as generally speaking, men and women tend to think differently and have different strengths and weaknesses.  It wasn't until more recent cultures that women were seen as 'the weaker sex'.   And that lasted far too long, and continues to last in some minds, unfortunately.

That seems to be what hard core feminism rebels against.  But is one extreme really better than the other?  Most major religions teach moderation in everything, from eating to arguing.  Can eschewing the rightful power of men in favor of the power of women be any better than saying women are the weaker sex?  Do we have to have one sex under the heel of the other?  Are women who enjoy the strengths of men any less for it? 

It would seem that women who are comfortable enough in their own strengths to allow a man to behave in a mannered fashion have the right thinking.  There is nothing weak about allowing a man to open a door for you, in fact does a woman not hold a position of power to expect a man to treat her with that sort of respect?  Are we not saying, I deserve reverence in your treatment of me?  Is it a demeaning thing to know your value as a woman and hold others to the standards of value you place on yourself?  How does expecting a man to follow his historically natural role as a provider make a woman weaker than a man?  How does that say that a woman cannot provide for herself?  It doesn't.  The modern strength of a feminist woman isn't the hardcore, bra burning, men are lesser than women stance, it is much simpler.  It is a stance that says as a woman I have as much choice to live however I like, as a man does.  Social standards be damned, it is all about my choices, the only limitations on me are those I set for myself.  I think everyone should have that choice.  Men and women alike.  Of course the right to live as I please only extends as far as it isn't harmful to the next persons' similar rights.

So in this belief, it is also right and the strength of womanhood to be a stay at home mother if a woman chooses.  If she wants to devote her life to home and hearth and the happiness of her husband and children, if that is what her desires and strengths stem from, then that is her Superwoman power.  If a woman will only date men who treat her with respect and manners, who court her in what modern society often deems as old fashioned, then that is powerful for her.  If a woman wants to pursue a career and climb the ladder of success in her chosen field, then that is what she should do.  That choice is her superpower.  If she wants to pursue a career and raise a family and has to demand that her husband participate as much as she does in the running of the household, then she should.  And in turn, he absolutely should share equally in the burdens of the household.  Every woman has the right to choose what makes her as powerful as the next person.  This is the heart and soul of feminism.  The power of choosing your life's path and how you will walk it.

In being raised in the American South, I believe men should treat me with respect.  I expect the door to be opened for me, I expect a man to pull out a chair for me, to hold my coat as I put it on or take it off.  I want him to feel the role of protector and provider.  There are few instances anymore where I would need protecting in any way I could not do myself, but I believe men need that as an affirmation of their masculinity.  And if demanding that sort of behavior makes me powerful and his fulfilling those demands makes him feel powerful, then isn't this a win win situation?  Aren't we both feeling the strengths of our roles?  Let's face it, men and women are different creatures, with different strength and weaknesses.  The best partnerships make  use of each others' strengths and weaknesses.  It only weakens a partnership to denigrate one member into a role of weakness.  I don't buy into women are more than men or men are more than women.  We are two halves of a whole and should work in tandem to make the whole strong and stable.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Alpha Post. I am the Princess, promise in hand.

He played me a song that said 
I want to be a princess with armies in my hand
but I misheard the lyric as a promise
I find I like that better.
I want to be a Princess with a promise in my hand.
armies destroy but a promise unnamed
is limitless
and beautiful, full and rich
Creation waiting to happen, 
that stillness before the first breath.

And Now! Now! Now!
I breathe!  I live!  I run!
No more armies to destroy!
Only the promise now, the Promise!
Passion grows, like desert flowers after a flood
Destruction preceding life abundant.
I will run and never fear panting
My laughter will infect others, a plague of joy
an infestation of passion!

I will love with abandon, 
vulnerable to sharp points of Fear and Ego
yours, of course, since I renounce the curse of fear.
Let me shout it louder, let that ring out clear
like Vespers' bells, singing their bright message.
I renounce that curse, no more armies,
only the promise, the promise I claim!

I am a Princess with a promise in my hand
my fingers loose, cradling
not grasping, not strangling
My promise breathes and pulses with life
giving, giving, giving.

No more wistful fantasies in half light
No more longing while hiding
No more biting my tongue or biding my time.

I shed the darkness, I shed the weight
I chase life with my promise
with flesh that doesn't falter

with a heart that courses strong
The me that was is gone
I am me, I am now, I am.

I am the Princess with a Promise in my hand.
Look, look, look, can you see it clearly?
Are your eyes open?  Is your heart?

Will you feel?  Will you savor it all?
Feel and see and live with me, 
Your Princess with the promise in my hand
open, new, powerful
passionate to share it entirely

I am the Princess with the promise
I am the ruler with it in my hand
open for you to understand.

A sense of community

Recently, I returned from several weeks in Germany.  The trip was very  enjoyable, traveling is something I love.  I love seeing the world through the eyes of another culture.  I like seeing the good things people have done to live better, richer lives.  We, as Americans often think we are ahead of the curve, that we have the patent on the best ways of living.

Now don't mistake me here, I am a patriotic American.  I am the original Southern Belle, I love North Carolina, it will ALWAYS be home, even if I am living anywhere else.  I think America is the greatest country in the world, I am grateful for all the freedoms this country affords me.

However, I don't think everything about America is perfect, and I definitely think there are many things we need to improve on.

Some of the problems that face us in society can be sorted by adopting a new way of daily life, or perhaps I should say retreating to a way of life that really isn't so distant.  I think that we need, especially in the smaller more sprawling towns, to redevelop our sense of community.  

Already this is happening some, in my 'neighborhood',  we have, within walking distance, several grocery stores, doctors' offices, coffee houses and restaurants.  Downtown, with its local artisan shops, boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues is only a little bit of a longer walk away.  The SALT Block ( Science, Art, Literature center) is within walking distance as well. 

The problem is that people aren't walking to them, they are climbing in their shiny new hybrid vehicles and driving to them.  We talk so much lately about reducing our carbon footprints and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, yet we are still driving to places we should be walking. 

Oh I can hear you now, I don't have the time to walk!  Driving is faster! I can fit all my kids/friends/stuff in the car!  First of all, faster doesn't mean better.  We should all be taking time in the day to recenter ourselves.  No, I am not spouting some new age holistic philosophy.  I simply mean that most of us just go, go, go.  We don't take time out to just breathe, to gather our thoughts, or let them go for awhile.  We need to free ourselves from that endless to do list sometimes.  Daily.  So...take the thirty minutes to walk to the market instead of driving.  Or the coffee shop, or the restaurant.  Wherever it is you need to go in your neighborhood...walk, don't drive.  Breathe the air, let it wash through you and refresh you, think about nothing, or about something that makes you happy.  Or talk to your kids or friends that you have gotten into walking with you.

Another ill that would be helped by walking your local errands, is health issues.  If you start walking to the grocery store instead of driving, you won't buy as much, because suddenly you have to carry it all home with you without the aid of the backseat or trunk.  You suddenly become much more selective about what you buy.  Do you really want the two liter soda if you have to lug it home in your reusable market bag?  And you are walking daily, you notice changes in your body, things that were...ahem...well rounded, have smoothed out, you don't really need that gallon of ice cream, especially since it will probably melt a bit on the way home, then you just have a mess on your hands.  Also, because you are buying less at a trip, you are going to walk to the market more often, daily or every other day, thus helping your health and mental state.  I noticed that Europeans tend to buy bread daily, not the nearly predigested white bread so many Americans eat, but hearty brown breads, full of seeds and whole grains.  Full of actual flavor, with crusts you actually have to chew.  This is another excellent reason for walking to the market, or hopefully the local bakery daily.  Life is far to short to eat bad bread.  If you don't have a bakery in your neighborhood and your grocery store only sells the regular bread on the shelves, then ask for better bread, bread baked fresh daily, with whole grains and good quality ingredients.

It may seem that my ranting about bread doesn't really suit the rest of this, but let me explain my thinking.  I am not just talking about walking places, but about changing the way we think about our daily lives.  We are so quick to rush through everything.  We sacrifice quality of life for trying to stuff in as much as possible every day.  People see the prints of the Norman Rockwell covers for the Saturday Evening Posts and say things like, 'oh the good old days,' and they sigh wistfully.  The things that actually appeal to people in those pictures are the simple pleasures found in daily life with family and friends.  The sort of things that we should fill our lives with now.  Slower, more mindful activities and thinking.   Food features prominently in many of those pictures, good food.  You can tell its good because of the look of anticipation on the faces of the people around the table.  Food doesn't have to be elaborate to be good.  When you walk to the market and carefully select the food that you will carry home under your own steam, and serve to your family suddenly becomes better quality.  Most of us won't produce our own food, beyond a summer garden, so walking to the market and carefully choosing is as close as we get to being producers of the provisions of the table.  How much better is the food when we have added to, even in that small way, its place on our table.  Life, when you live it by wringing every bit of joy from it as possible, is so much better when you find ways to actively participate in it every day.

When you start to make these changes, this walking to local places on a daily basis, you start to meet your neighbors.  You start to see your community differently, you start to become more invested in it.  You want those local shops to succeed, you want to encourage your local artisans, because each of their successes means a success for the community.  In the bigger picture, the nation at large, Free trade has given so much of our goods production to China and other countries with cheap labor.  It is destroying our national economy.  All of us know someone who is out of a job because the companies have sent the manufacturing overseas.  Local artisans, local businesspeople are creating quality products and when we support them, the money is staying local and therefore good for our community and in the long run, good for us.  Actively supporting our community this way makes it 'ours'.  We will care about thing that we are so invested in, and when we care about our community, our quality of life automatically grows.

When more of us are walking around our communities, going to the market, or a local shop, or heading out to meet friends at a coffee house, I believe that our communities become safer.  We know more of our neighbors, they know us.  We look out for each other, we look out for our children.  With more responsible like minded, every day people out on the sidewalks, there is less room, less opportunity for the criminal element among us.  Our kids should grow up walking around our communities.  They should be able to cross the streets and walk to an from school without fear of dangerous people lurking around.  They should learn to be civic minded, to want to grow their community too.  How many of us complain now that these kids today have no manners or take everything for granted, they have no appreciated from where the things they are given come from.  If we walk to the local market, to the local artisan shops and take our kids with us, we are reinforcing the idea of the physical being part of our daily lives, that regular exercise is important, that exercise doesn't have to be just an intensive session at the gym.  We are teaching them to get to know our neighbors.  We are teaching them the importance of buying and selling locally, of supporting the growth of our community, of learning where things come from.  We teach them to meet the people behind the craftmanship or services.   To put faces to those that produce the materials of our lives.  This will develop a sense of personal accountability both in our children and in ourselves as the people of the community who are producing everything.  We teach them quality is more important that quantity and that sometimes when you pay cheaply for something it is because that something is cheap.

Most importantly, creating a sense of community develops each one of us into something better.  Investing ourselves fully into daily life can only increase the quality of that life.  Living fully locally can only broaden your horizons.  So leave your hybrid in the driveway, grab your kids/friends/dog and walk out into your community and discover the richness of life waiting for us all.