Monday, September 24, 2012

The feminine wound

I read this book recently:


And it was life changing. Written from the perspective of a female Christian author from the South about her journey out of Christian-dom and into a worship of what she calls "The Feminine Divine", it was an inspiring and honest read. She writes about her many year long journey and the various phases she experienced. While I don't know if I can relate to her on every front, there was a portion called "The Feminine Wound" that describes what I'm going through currently so well.

The Feminine Wound is the realization of all the awful things that have happened and continue to happen to females.

I should back up some so you (and I) can see the evolution of my journey a little more clearly.

I have always been "feminist". I was raised to believe (or at least I was told by my parents) that I could do anything I wanted, I could be anyone I wanted and that I had the same rights and inherent value as any man did. That's what I was told. However, it was not what I experienced.

I have some pretty complicated feelings about what I was told versus what I actually experienced and they will no doubt take up many a blog post to come, so for today I will just provide several examples which seem to highlight the situation best and how I came to be where I am now.

I constantly bucked against gender roles growing up, in a very outspoken way.

yet, I was raised in a place and a culture where what you do as a woman is get married young and start having babies. But I was told I didn't have to do that exactly that way, that I could and should get an education (only because someday my husband/bread winner might die or divorce me). I was also raised to believe in the "purity myth", essentially that I should not cross a certain arbitrary line of sexual behavior or I would somehow become "soiled" or "unclean". So imagine my surprise when as a 14-15 year old, I wanted to do sexual things, I wanted to explore my body and I wanted to know what it was all about and I was constantly being shamed for that, told that that made me masculine (cause only men have those uncontrollable desires and it was my job to keep them on the straight and narrow!!!). My mom did a good job of helping with this one, she explained that wanting to be sexual was not only normal, but really good, she just wanted to be sure I was being careful with my body and emotions and waiting for the right time (in her world view, marriage). But my mom was not the only voice in my world, and so that got trumped and I ended up with years of shaming and emotional trauma from this.

It was not until I was raped in 2010, at 20 years old, that I was forced to question my perceived "feminism".

And what I am finding about myself is this: I was a feminist that had bought into a bunch of patriarchal/societal bullshit.

Fast forward to today-if you want the in between, you can read my backlog and I will be doing my best to fill in holes coming up here-I am married to an incredible and completely feminist man and three months into our marriage I am in the midst of the scariest, albeit most important intellectual journey so far in my life.

Things really picked up 2 months ago when I found myself with a library card and a lot of free time on my hands (new place+spouse in med school=lots of time to read). So now, I have discovered the feminine wound. I have discovered Betty Friedan and Mary Wollstonecraft and Naomi Wolf. I have discovered the way that I was told all the right things as a little girl but was raised in a world where everything was wrong.  I have discovered that I am not insane os less feminine for my beliefs and my desires and views. I have discovered that feminism is not something that only mattered in terms of the vote.

I have discovered the feminine wound. I have discovered and uncovered all the subtle ways that I have been undermined, and made to believe I was less throughout my whole life. And they are subtle, which makes the whole topic that much more convoluted and dangerous.

This interview verbalizes what I'm feeling quite well-go watch it.

So I am in mourning over the feminine wound. I am mourning for myself and all other women (and men).

It's strange, but posting this is scarier than when I wrote about being raped, because this post is me mourning that fact that I live in a world where I can get raped and some people can twist that into somehow being my fault. A wise woman once told me it was dangerous to talk about feminism publicly and I really believe that; when I post about feminism on FB I get really visceral, emotional, sometimes dismissive and sometimes hateful responses and I understand that. It's a touchy subject.

This whole thing has sooo much baggage and it's like I've begun to unpack it. And what I'm finding in those bags is really sad. And so I am feeling really sad. And I am allowing myself to feel really sad. Because I know that in order to process things and move past them in a productive and healthy way, you have to confront them in a really brave way. I honestly don't know if I'll ever not be mourning the feminine wound, but one thing is for sure: there's no going back to ignorance from here and that at least has me feeling hopeful.


6 comments:

  1. there are lots of things i could say here, but i just want you to know that lots of different kinds of feminists are out there. also, i don't think feminism and the church are at odds one bit. while writing my thesis i really came to love the definition of feminism that scholar hilde hein provides. she says, “the term "feminism" does not pertain to women as the objects of love or hatred, or even of social (in)justice, but fixes upon the perspective that women bring to experience as subjects.”

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  2. i guess what i'm saying (sorry for the novella) is: keep on processing your experience as a woman and sharing it. i believe this is so, so important. but be wary of some intellectual pitfalls that sometimes accompany subjects like feminism.

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  3. "also, i don't think feminism and the church are at odds one bit." ....spoken like someone who really doesn't like to *think* too hard, lest she fall into one of those dreaded intellectual pitfalls! Sigh.

    Keeping doing what you're doing: thinking a lot, reading a lot, internalizing everything, and sharing your experience. Paige is at least right about that. It is SO important.

    Love you.

    & don't be afraid of the pitfalls. I'd rather fall into a few pits than have my head always in the clouds.

    -Lauren

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  4. yep. you nailed it, lauren. i don't like to think one bit.

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