What would you have to believe about woman to accept the ubiquitous prognosis of trauma, the indictment that she is too fragile to withstand the grazing of a hand, a harsh word, the male gaze?
What would you have to believe about woman to proclaim that she must be protected at all costs from the harsh realities of life? That she must be shielded from sexual energies and their proclamations—from catcalls and dick pics—lest she seize irreparably from mere exposure to the rituals of nature, such as the peacocking that occurs throughout the animal kingdom?
Would you have to believe that perhaps that she is not from this realm, but is instead angelic and demure? That she is without hungers, animal, human? And in the absence of these hungers would she not be bound to a certain starvation? To receive and ingest little, thereby reducing herself in size and shape? And might her lack, her weakness, not then be a product of her anemic desire rather than anything inherent? Is this what you desire for her? For yourself?
And as men face war and aggression and are asked to return with stoicism, might it be that considering the conservation of attention and resources that starvation demands, that we would be indifferent to their pain? Might we even blame them for their pain and their hunger because it proved inconvenient to us and our gnawing ache? An ache caused by an emptiness where there should be fullness. In that emptiness, where we cannot find a self, we can only blame other.
Is this how we want to define woman? Is this who you are in your essence: starved, skinny, and insensitive to others, yet radically sensitive to your own pain? Can we not see how pain organizes our attention around itself and steals away our capacity for empathy for others, lest their pain activate our own?
And, if the shape of our starvation took the form of deprivation, might we be repulsed or disgusted by, or most importantly inured to the hunger cries of another if those cries in desperation took the form of grabbing and stealing away anything it could to feed itself? Might we not grow a little smug and superior in our renunciation, then demand this of others, never admitting that it is a path of misery and anxiety, craving, and shame? And, again, is this who we desire to be? Policing the world with our rations rather than filling the world with our bounty?
And when that hunger erupts in unseemly ways (and it always does unless we have truly managed to kill ourselves from the neck down), would we not need to scramble for damage control? Calling our door slamming, outrage, and finger-pointing something high and noble like female empowerment? Is this what we desire to project as women who are realized?
We who from biology have the imperative to feed the world, and from this the compassion to do so. Do we want it to be that our own internal dryness plays out in the world theater as anger, aggression, and greed, and we point to the activity and the actor without looking to ourselves as having any cause? Do we want to believe that we are without agency, resources, and volition to bring the nourishment that will pacify the hatred?
What would you have to believe about yourself to think that withholding your innate gifts—your approval, your care, your capacity to tend to a weary world—is more effective than offering them? Would you have to believe that you hold little value? That you are unworthy? Would you have to believe that love is not a power? Do you want to live in a world, internally or externally, where this is true?
And what would you have to believe to conclude that all of it isn’t worth the risk, the cost, the time, the energy? Would you have to believe that the world is not worthy of your fidelity? That your fierce determination to ensure that what lies in your depths comes into light is meaningless? Would you not have to abandon who you are at your core?
If so, would you ask yourself why? Would you take on the mantle of the irreparably harmed, such that you are unable to act, speak, move from love? Would you place that label over your inaction and yes, suffer some, but feel justified? And your suffering when you examined it, would it be only suffering to suffer, or the suffering that will end suffering? Would you inquire what, if anything, would transform this suffering—perhaps into grace, or wisdom, or even true power?
Would you not have to surround yourself with others who then took up the vocation of suffering in order to find connection and then call this sisterhood? Is this what we want to be the bond between us? Our mutual malady? Would we want to task our precious efforts and picket signs with declaring our wounds? Would we not want to be defined as the earth shakers of profound resilience and strength, be characterized by our aspirations and our vision? Or would we rather be known by our frailties and our grievances?
When we neglect to channel the elemental creative force that lies within to forge a self-definition, do we not necessarily have to abandon our subject nature and become objects? Projection screens for the lowest common denominator of base human desire? Would we not have to abandon our full measure and become two-dimensional images on a page, in a bikini?
Is this how you see yourself? Does this capture you in your majesty?
Would being a woman then not be synonymous with conflict? Would it not feel like something was perpetually trying to break free and escape—something that we believe we need to hold down at all costs lest we betray our diagnosis? Would we never be able to advance to the level of woman—complex, intuitive, wild, gifted, and mysterious? Do you wish to secure your own domestication, your own captivity?
Would we then not feel that we were but a huge gaping hole where we should be? A hole into which we would stuff shopping, obsession, drink, too much sugar, self-help, higher consciousness, all to avoid the body we have abandoned?
Do you want to abandon yourself under any conditions?
I can tell you what we would not have to believe. Unfortunately it comes from a man, but is, I believe, the anthem of all women:
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you fail to bring forth will destroy you.