Friday, October 3, 2008
don't wink at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay- I apologize, before I even begin, for the length of this blog. I actually do my best blogging over the sink in the morning while my husband is shaving and I have a captive audience. Poor man.
Now... I well know that what you see depends on where you stand. Can I just name that reality and say that none of us see without seeing from a vantage point. (I have actually considered having a 'secret' blog I only reveal to a few close friends to say what I really see from my vantage point.) In this I am acknowledging my blog is about me, mostly, and secondarily what is on the political stage right now.
I am a woman who has lived in a man's world all my life. My early formation was within a strongly hierarchical family supported by religious conviction and practice that confirmed male leadership. Boys got possibilities. Girls got married. Men had power. Women had men. As a young girl in the middle of a large family devoted to religious views that could not be questioned, I had no power or voice, on any level.
By the time I was thirteen I learned the power of sex. (A quick study on most anything, still.)
By the time I was fifteen I was pregnant. Okay, didn't use the power well. Knew it. Still know it. I had to grow up and learn that although a woman can gain advantage with little girl sexuality or sexy mature woman allure, these are not the ways I want to get my power.
All my life I have been surrounded by influential persons who believe and teach that women have an ordained role in the human story, and I have experienced the repercussions: women in these circles often do not have legitimate voice, do not have their own power. This is not a philosophical debate for me. It is the soil I stand on, the air I breath, the beatings I have taken. (Let me say here, that my Steve is NOT hierarchical and is a champion of my voice and my power. Bless him. Nor, do I believe, is this an accurate or necessary outgrowth of the Christian faith.)
So, a story - A few years ago while in a doctoral program I was in residence for one year with 20 men. I was the only woman. We lived in community and spent most days together learning or traveling. I was constantly aware of the pitfalls of my woman-ness in that setting. Without compromising too much, I worked to be a person in the group - to give and take and not pull the sex is power card.
Then a certain one of the wives of my colleagues would come in. Whether consciously or unconsciously I don't know, she would bounce into our class space for a visit exuding little girl sexuality and flagrant sexual vulnerability. My classmates would melt. The entire dynamics of the room would change as the men changed their posture, their voice levels, their conversation and their focus. Male profs would begin addressing her almost exclusively even as she sat as a guest at the back of the room. It agitated me beyond the telling. I could not go there, and greatly resented the impact she could have by simply being the vulnerable, girlish, sweetheart of the class. Can I say too, this response is not connected to being comfortable with my woman-ness. Exactly the opposite I would say.
Even now, at some point every week I have to choose whether to go to this kind of power or not. I think I am a pretty good reader of what a man might like as far as ego strokes, soothing, or a woman in his presence to make him feel strong and wanted. And every week I choose away from it. I want to be a person who thinks, connects, respects others for who they are, and contributes thoughtfully to any given moment.
And let me say - this isn't about whether or not I am cute. Or the man is handsome. Or young. A woman, using the sexual power card, whether the little soft girl or the fascinating woman, can hook the notice of a man and shift power.
So last night we watched the Palin/Biden debate. Honestly, I give Sarah Palin credit for her guts. She stood up and handled herself without acting nervous or illiterate. But I have to say, the little girl/sexy woman, wide eyed, conspiratorially winking and almost giggling just made me want to cry. It was demeaning and did not build my confidence in her by any means.
Sarah Palin speaks of things she has learned in "the last five weeks." If a man had said, "I've only been at this for five weeks" the rejoinder would be, "And that, sir, is the problem." Palin speaks of issues like she read them in a book. Or learned them last week. Biden speaks as if he has been there. Which he has.
When a woman plays the little girl sex card it is impossible to be people together. All kinds of interpersonal/ male-female/ power-gender-undercurrents are at play. To do so in a vice-presidential debate is unconscionable. And some people love it. Eat it up.
I am not a hockey mom, or a soccer mom. I was a good devoted mom. I did drive my kids to hockey games. I did sit in a stadium seat with my feet frozen to the floor watching my son try his splendor out. I drove my daughter to gymnastics classes. I have shared a six pack of beer with friends. But I am not Josephine six pack. I am a woman who is a contributing person who wants to be invited to the table to participate in life as a welcome thinker and worker.
To say oh come on kids... don't look at all our trouble in the past, let's just go play on the merry go round and be friends, wink wink. Oh I want to cry. I need more than that from a leader of our country.
This morning I wondered what Condoleeza Rice felt like watching that. She is a woman who enjoys womanly things - love to see how she chooses to dress and present herself. But she doesn't cross the line and use the sex power card. She is a powerful person, and a woman, but her woman-ness isn't used to trip up those who relate to her.
Now - I have seen, even here at the Seminary, that women who want to be thoughtful can slowly lose touch with their femininity ... and I am sad about it. Men are not going to become more womanly to even the playing field, so women become more manly. There must be a way we can be true to a personal articulation of gender without resorting to demeaning personas. That is what I think, anyway.