I am hearing a great deal in the news lately about the "war on women", the right-wing desire to set history back decades, and noticing with some surprise and associated annoyance that the overwhelming attitude of those who comment on this is one of egregious astonishment. Everyone seems to think there is some "new attitude" commensurate with the beginning of the election season, one which seems to astound those who wonder aloud, or in print, what has "suddenly" happened to women's rights, and why men are "suddenly" so lacking in anything resembling empathy or feelings of equality, why "suddenly" women are seen as a group to persecute and from whom rights must be wrested at any cost....It goes on and on. And it does disturb me, but I have long wondered at one facet of it. Why are not women themselves taking some degree of responsibility for the debacle? We, after all, are instrumental in forming the ideas of the men in our world. We're their mothers.
No, before you get all hot and bothered, I am not blaming the victim. I am trying to observe a difficult situation from a philosophical point of view. Why do we not look at root causes when we see societal ills, instead of trying to cure cancer with a band-aid? I have had thoughts of this kind for many years around this topic, and the essay which continues this blog entry was actually written for the first time in 2003 and needed far too little updating today. It disturbs me that so little has changed that my thoughts of nearly a decade ago are still essentially relevant. Let me clarify:
We wish, we Witches, to empower human beings to understand their true Being, the core of their personality which is of the Gods. We want men, and women, individually and collectively, to express and model both God and Goddess. We call these ideals the "male mysteries" and the "female mysteries". But in the context of our surrounding culture, where we source all that we wish to do in the realm of magic, we have already set ourselves up for failure. We don't exhibit in our world any understanding of how men and women develop the personalities with which they come to the study of the Craft. We take less care with the raw material of Witches, the human spirit, than we do with the raw materials of art, or architecture, or agriculture, or manufacturing. We don't pay any attention to how we are creating, in our families and in society at large, the individual spirit of each man and each woman of whom we will later wish to make a Witch. And therein, it seems to me, lies the true Mystery. Here are some, to my mind, disturbing examples of our inability to see the relationship of the product to the source.
Women for the most part are first to complain about our sons not having "good male role models" and we are quick in some contexts to criticise patriarchy and daddyism. But it rings false, it seems to me, to talk about powerful Male archetypes emerging from a culture that we females complain systematically disempowers women, when much of this "disempowerment" has been done over many decades with the full co-operation, and even at the suggestion, of the women themselves. Likewise, it is specious reasoning to complain that our fathers and husbands cannot accurately model male strength for our sons, when it is we who raise the little 'uns, and it was our mothers and grandmothers who raised the big 'uns.
We do not do enough, we women, to make it clear to the "male establishment" that we will not let our daughters be raped and exploited, and we actually participate in the same exploitation in tiny ways every day. We laugh at sexist jokes and we cater to Madison Avenue's ideal of female
pulchritude by buying the tightest girdles and skimpiest bikinis, bemoaning our weight and
refusing to eat anything that might make us "fat." We do such things as enter our tiny daughters in "beauty pageants" and we actually sponsor agendae that tell girls being "fat" is the worst thing they can be, and being "pretty" is the best thing. We raise our voices loudly to cheer violent contact sports, and the cartoons our sons and daughters are watching on tv are filled with egregious violence; far be it from us, however, to let our children actually see a woman breastfeeding in public or two men kissing. We rant at politics on talk shows, we cry out about how rotten is the "establishment"--but we simultaneously disempower ourselves by vowing that we won't vote because all politicians are corrupt. We support the obscene salaries paid to sports icons in this country every time we sit at a game or in front of the TV for the WWF, and we still have a vast financial dichotomy between salaries paid to men and to women in the marketplace. And most disturbing of all--some of the attitudes of insensitivity and male arrogance which prevent men from fully accessing the Male Mysteries are actually fed to them at their mothers' behest. What, you ask, am I talking about? Well--here ya go.
We tell our sons that "big boys don't cry"...and gods forbid that Johnny should ask Santa Claus for a dolly and actually get it. Especially if Johnny is older than five. We are all still too quick to cast Daddy in the stereotypical role of disciplinarian and general hard-ass, and we passively accept the fact that Daddy makes more money than Mommy even if they do the same job. We cast our children in role models practically from birth, not just pink for girls and blue for boys but trucks for boys and dolls for girls and the constant repetition, even in the home of sensible 21st century parents, of the word "sissy" if a male child shows gentleness or sensitivity, or gods forbid, signs that he might "grow up gay" or "not be manly". And, (oh, boy, am I gonna get it this time!) we are still, we women, all too quick to let other people raise our children so we can keep up with some hypothetical Joneses on the TV. There is scarcely such a thing any more as a stay-at-home mom...yes, yes, I know, "it's the economy, stupid." It does, now, probably take two incomes to live. But we are losing, in some arenas, more than we are gaining by not having both our male and female children raised by focused and fully conscious mothers--and fathers.
If we want there to be Male Mysteries evident in our culture, we women have to let it be known
from the moment that tiny infant boy comes home from the hospital with us that we will and do respect and honor the archetypes, but that we disdain and actively reject the stereotypes. We need to make places in our mundane everyday lives for gentle men, for nurturant men, for strong but not silent men, for little boys who can cry and not be ashamed, can hug another man without looking over their shoulders, can refuse to play football without fearing the curse of the ever-taunting "faggot!!" And a good number of us need to decide that it is important enough to change our lifestyles so we can stay at home and raise our own sons.
If we want the Female Mysteries to be evident in our culture, we need to stop sexifying our small daughters and making it seem from the time they are in kindergarten that how they dress and how they look is the most important thing about them, far more relevant to "getting a boyfriend" than is what they say and how they think. We need to respect our daughters' desires to be "unfeminine" and not demean them with the labels and attitudes that being unfeminine makes them less womanly. Strength is a Female Mystery. Ask any mother.
As long as we are willing, we women, to live in a world where bullying is confused with strength
and sensitivity is labeled "gay", as long as we are unwilling to raise our sons in the knowledge of
the full range of male responses, skills and emotions, as long as we inculcate our daughters from birth with the insidious lie that the most important thing they can do with themselves is make themselves attractive to men, we will not have either the Male Mysteries or the Female Mysteries in our society. And we won't deserve to.