Just Like You!
My Journey Into Reclaiming Womanhood
Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another. ∞ H.L. Mencken
I was about 8 years old when I realized the extent of my mother’s actual powerlessness in our family. My father controlled the money. She wanted to leave. I suspect she also saw that leaving would have meant giving up the funds she needed to guarantee our security and to keep seeding the dreams she held for all of her children. I can’t say for sure what went through my mother’s mind, but I watched her bury her desire beneath the promptings of reality.
She put her suitcase back in the closet and went to bed.
From that moment on, I wanted nothing to do with this womanhood business.
My distaste for all things associated with womanhood only increased when the girls in my class savaged me for having the temerity to kiss a boy the summer before 5th grade. "Kiss" is kind of a glorified description of what amounted to an awkward peck on the lips. Nonetheless, the word got out and I became the class slut.
The label and its implications had a much greater impact than I could have understood at the time. It was akin to expulsion from the community of girls. This and other similar moments left me twisting alone in the winds of puberty and vulnerable to sexual exploitation. I found it really easy to secure the company of men and boys. In contrast to my “sisters,” they were always quite welcoming. I assuaged my loneliness with whatever they were offering no matter how damaging to my soul or my self esteem.
But something else was going on too.
Men and boys had all the power and I knew it.
I was more acutely aware of this than maybe other girls were because I had been savaged pretty brutally by men by the time I was 16.
The only power position I could identify was to be found in emulating men.
I chose a career path founded on masculine values: domination, power, intellectual prowess, hierarchical relating, and achievement through brutal, hard work.
Where men and sexuality were concerned, I took refuge in the predator position. I hunted rather than permitting myself to be hunted.
I did my dead level best to divorce myself from the feminine in a comical effort to become one of the boys...right up until I started to buckle under the weight of trying to live a life that ran contrary to my needs as a woman. That is when I discovered Inanna (a Goddess in the Sumerian pantheon). In her likeness I made my first descent into the Underworld of my unconscious. I began to face my wounds in earnest and I began to heal.
Despite years of working with the feminine face of God in an effort to recoup my feminine soul, to this day I still have not found a comfortable home within the sisterhood everyone keeps talking about. I have asked myself over and over again why so many women just don’t seem to embrace me.
I found my answer in one tiny phrase:
I am not.
Those three words are the most powerfully divisive words I have ever come across. They justify all kinds of savagery the world over. They turn everything into a game of me versus you and us versus them.
I discovered something crucial as I dug a little deeper into my own consciousness concerning women. Those three insidious words were peaking out from behind just about every corner of my mind.
I am not like the women in the Congo or India or the ghettos of the United States, or even the place I now call home, the mountains of Southern Mexico. I am not like these women who are so often savaged by sexual violence in cultures where rape is hardly even treated as a crime. I am not like the women who are drugged and raped by their dates on college campuses. I am not like the women who stay day after day, beating after beating. I am not a victim. I am not weak, dependent, in need of a man. I am not like other women. I am not like you. I am not. I am not. I AM NOT.
An ultimate kind of truth lurked beneath all of this. Despite years of effort in recovering my own connection the the feminine, I continued to hate women. I remained a misogynist, untouched by the true sorrow of women denied opportunities, freedom, ownership of their own bodies, honor, power, and most of all, love and acceptance.
Was this misogyny conscious?
No it was not. It was a survival strategy. I needed to reject women in order to feel powerful and safe and to protect myself from further violation at the hands of men. I was wearing camouflage. I also needed to reject women to protect myself from the pain of feeling shut out of the community of women. I simply closed my heart in the face of tremendous wounds. I am not even sorry I did it. I might not have made it this far otherwise.
Only now am I ready for a truly radical shift!
I am like the women of the Congo and India and the ghettos of the United States and the mountains of Southern Mexico. Their experiences and mine are but a matter of degrees and we are one. I bear the energetic stripes of their suffering whether I like it or not, and they bear the stripes of mine! I too have been a victim, raped, beaten, harassed…I too have been “weak” and dependent on men (for proof of my worth if not economic subsistence). I have stayed for beating after beating.
I am like my mother.
I am like my sisters.
I am like other women.
I am exactly like you.
I am. I am. I AM!
This is the truth that exists on the other side of the dualities I have created in order to escape from the pain of my circumstance – having been born into the body of a woman. This is the end of my denial. It is also a radical act of self sacrifice made in the service of real liberation. I am tearing down the defenses in my mind and heart that have allowed me to feel safe and to hide from my pain. I am opening to the full reality of what it means to be a woman in this world, to be denied opportunities, freedom, ownership of my body, honor, power, and most of all love and acceptance – all because I am a woman.
But this is not my resting place. It is a way through. It is the road I must take to ultimate feminine power and transformation. Until I can consciously choose to walk this path in the fullness of my womanhood the journey will remain incomplete. I will gain the intellectual knowledge of transformation, but the mystic initiation into the feminine mysteries will never come.
Up until now, I have endeavored to heal the scars of rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and general womanly blight by bringing my grief and my emotional wounds into the light and holding them compassionately. I have endeavored to overcome my past and my position as a woman in this world.
I am being called to a new place.
I am being called to gnosis, to the deep, intrinsic knowledge of my value as a woman.
I am leaving behind my old patterns of assimilating knowledge about who and what I am as a woman in favor of embodying the feminine essence.
I am being asked to take responsibility for my self image, my self worth, and as odd as it may sound, for my experience of this world as a woman. Up until now, my self image and experience of my life have been externally defined by what was done to me and by the attitudes of the world towards women.
Now I am choosing to take on full responsibility for the knowledge of my true identity – the unshakeable knowledge that I am feminine wisdom incarnate. I hold the space and full potential of the universe in my womb. My soul is possessed by the wisdom of the ages.
Today I open my heart. To my mothers and my sisters, actual and metaphorical, I say:
Come! Join me in the celebration of our True Colors. We are bright and beautiful. We are unblemished no matter the fingerprints we have had to wipe away and the anguish we have borne and may still bear. These fingerprints and their accompanying sorrows cannot change our intrinsic value. They are meaningless. It’s time we came together and moved beyond declaring our worth to actually living it.
True Colors (By Cyndi Lauper)
You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
Show me a smile then,
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there...