The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
the women's room
The Guardian has focused many column centimetres on the story. She herself wrote a column in last week's New Statesman speaking of what this has done to her life: how she can barely eat or sleep, let alone answer the door. Nonetheless, I'm as amazed at how she has stood firm and strong, without crumpling, as I am devastated and horrified that this kind of thing can happen in our time.
Her crime? Eating her children? Eating someone else's children? No. What Caroline Criado-Perez, co-founder of http://thewomensroom.org.uk, did was request that, once the Bank of England had decided to remove Elizabeth Fry from its £5 banknote and replace her with Winston Churchill, they reinstate a woman to add to the mostly-male line-up (apparently the Clydesdale bank has two women on their notes, but otherwise it's all men). When her request was initially refused, she cited the Equality Act. The new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has agreed to replace Charles Darwin with Jane Austen (albeit with a bland quote).
Happily, Criado-Perez has the support of MP Stella Creasey and luminaries such as historian and feminist Mary Beard, who have themselves received a high number of threats and abusive tweets, and shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper. There's been a flood of signatories to the petition requesting Twitter to install a 'report abuse' button, which they've agreed to do. This may not seem much to offset against such rage and hate, but it's a small triumph.
Meantime, it's the 21st century, and patriarchal fundamentalism in the form of hatred and abuse of women continues unabated, as it has for at least the last four millenia, and probably longer. The Hebrew and Greek worlds undermined women and the feminine principle, and our own Western society is very much rooted still in this. (Frighteningly, it's this too that plays in to our destruction of the natural world, subliminally viewed in our collective depths as 'inferior', being 'merely' matter, and linked with the feminine/mother – 'mater' – as opposed to the more abstract world of spirit, or mind.)
Sophocles has Creon say in the Oedipus play: 'We'll have no woman's law here, while I live.' In the 6th century, at the Council of Macon, in France, the Church took a vote on whether women had souls; and it was returned in the affirmative – but only by one vote. St Augustine and St Paul, famously, were misogynists. Even Romeo and Juliet, that play over which we love to sigh, incorporates Mercutio's speeches telling Romeo to have his lustful way without worrying about the consequences to the woman. (To Shakespeare's credit, this is followed by a very different speech by Romeo that exalts the power of love.)
Jungian Robert Johnson, from whose book Femininity Lost and Regained I take the above info, says that it is not possible for love to flourish while exclusive masculine values are in power, and given that power is often exercised at the expense of love, love can only perish.
But what has been happening on Twitter exemplifies, amongst other things, a society in the death-throes of the patriarchal. What we're seeing is a backlash of fear and hatred at a sense of diminishing potency, in the face of women holding out for equal rights. It seems crucial that we don't respond in like terms. Hate will not bring anything other than more hate.
It's important that those of us who know how urgent it is that relatedness, community, fearlessness, the feeling nature and values founded in kindness and compassion are the only way forward stand firm on this.
Maybe, just maybe, we're seeing the beginning of a new era in which the masculine principle and the feminine will hold and work together, in men and women alike – though I doubt that any of us alive now will witness it.
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