Revealing Females

It all started as a not-to-be-taken seriously post about a prominent piece of female anatomy, but it triggered very serious blog conversations all over the place about sexism, feminism, femininity etc. etc. I was glad to see those conversations happen and I personally hope the thread continues as a way of clarifying how various of us women feel about ourselves as biological women. This is something we ought to be examining and sharing, and this is something men should be interested in hearing and responding to. It helps the genders to understand each other better.
This post on the issue by Andrea James is not the first of hers that made me sit up and take notice of the fact that this young woman has wisdom way beyond her years. Months ago, Andrea and I did a little cooperative playful conjuring as a way of giving a fellow blogger some moral support. I named her my Apprentice Crone, recognizing a shared interest in perceiving the ordinary magic inherent in our creative lives.
So, when Dorothea Salo referred in-not-terribly-positive tones to my Cronedom in one of her recent and excellent posts about her own experiences as a female-as-perceived-by-others, I felt prompted to defend my self-proclaimed title.
Just as many younger women are struggling to be recognized and respected for all that they are as women and not for how closely their physical appearance adheres to the Victoria Secrets stereotype, I

11 thoughts on “Revealing Females

  1. I think that my part of the thread has been about choosing one’s identity (with a great many bitter tirades about identities I don’t want). No identity is inherently negative, as long as it is *chosen*. It becomes a cage when it is *imposed*.
    I have no quarrel with the self-named crones. I do quarrel with shoving all older women into cronedom whether that’s where they want to be or not. I *especially* quarrel (and we may end up in a bit of a contretemps here) with the notion of archetype-as-universal, that any individual who does not fit a given archetype is somehow wrong, or worse, invisible.
    Now, you won’t find many people who phrase it that way… but you *will* find people who blithely toss off maiden-mother-crone as if it were a — no, *the* — key to all femininity.
    None of the Three is me. Sorry. Not maiden, not mother, not crone. (And “crone” is often defined as “ex-mother” or “empty nester,” so by that definition I will never *be* crone.) When maiden-mother-crone becomes a universal shortcut for “woman,” it becomes as much a cage as “sexy.”
    Again, the issue is not any given identity. The issue is the *imposition* of identity, and the exclusion of chosen identities that don’t fit predefined patterns.

  2. Elaine, thank you for linking to these fascinating posts (I have a lot on my plate at the moment and not a lot of time for surfing around without some pointers). I hope you don’t mind if I use your comment area for these thoughts. Dorothea, I hear you, and I give you a standing ovation for your courage! I think I can be, at times, naive on these issues – or at least I used to be. I wrote somewhere about this before, but I can’t find the link right now: I remember a shocking experience, years ago, in a small arts administration program that was staffed with (mostly) graduate students, and the majority were women in their mid-late twenties. I was not a student at the time, but the office manager. A question came up, I’m not sure if it was fueled by one of the student’s classes or by a silly magazine quiz. If you could choose being smarter, or more (physically) attractive, which would you pick? All answered “prettier,” and the reason was that they felt they were intelligent enough, if not too intelligent, already!
    Just now I remembered another incident in that same office. We ordered Chinese food for lunch, and the man who delivered it seemed speechless, as he stood before my desk, and I stood across from him, waiting to pay. I didn’t have a clue until he spluttered, staring: “Your skirt is so short!” I have always liked clothes that were a bit unusual, and this was even more true in those days. Yes, my sweater dress was rather short, but I never perceived as too short or revealing, before that moment…and that was the last time I wore it.

  3. Choice. Yes. That’s at the core, isn’t it? To choose how you want to look, be, act…. and then have that choice treated with respect. Personally, I think it’s too bad that both Dorothea and Gina chose not to wear something because it illicited unwanted comments from males. While I probably would do the same thing, I also believe that we should strive to reach a point where we allow ourselves to wear whatever we want to wear, and if guys comment, look ’em in the eye, smile, and tell ’em “eat your heart out!” Maybe, someday.
    And archetypes, metaphors — they work for me, but that doesn’t mean they have to work for everyone. And maiden-mother-crone ain’t all there is either. What about warrior, what about queen? And my quest in life these days is to change the perception of what a Crone is. Not old mother, not old hag, but ageless wise one, warrior elevated to sage. A new game for a new age. (One I’m still learning to play.)

  4. On the maiden/mother/crone angle, are you familiar with Terry Pratchett’s ‘witches’ books? Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad and cameos in other Diskworld books?
    As he writes comic novels set in fantasy world, many people overlook his commentary ont he human condition.
    Suasn, grand-daughter of Death, is another character in this mould.

  5. Well, I’m not really familiar with Terry Pratchett’s stuff, but obviously he’s very familiar with feminist mythology. I’m not a gamer. When my son, theonetruebix, packed up his Mac and his comics etc. and left home, I kinda fell out of the fantasy loop.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Elaine, but I’m afraid my post did more harm than good, and now I’m a pontificator. (Does that mean I get a tall, pointy pope-hat? If so, it might be worth it.) Come to think of it, it was a bit pompous for me to jump in like that, why I don’t get into more blogversations. I get the bossiness from both sides of the family. But I’m glad you found some wisdom buried in there.

  7. Pontificator, n. One who acts as a pontifex.
    Pontifex, n. A builder of bridges [Lat. pontem facere]
    My wife is 59, a official crone (she had her ceremony four years ago) who is busily mothering a daughter, 15. Me, I’m 44 and probably can’t tell the difference between a mid-life crisis and an insulin reaction.
    On one side the card says:
        PEOPLE ARE NOT THE SAME
    On the other side, it says:
        PEOPLE ARE ALL THE SAME

  8. I have actually read the Pratchett Discworld novels, and have noticed his commenting on the world and all its wonderful structures and stereotypes. His Maiden, Mother…and the other one…as he puts it, are interesting, and aren’t truly about the ages of a woman…and I suppose it is more of an Archetype…but I tend to agree with him.
    I found the site/conversation while looking for information about the Maiden/Mother/Crone and its basis in mythology. I found most the comments here very interesting, and I think I agree with the Crone being a warrior elevated to Sage. To me it sounds right. Women who are mothers…will always be mothers, whether their nests are empty or not. Its not about having children, its more the nature of the woman. The same goes for maiden…some women are just young of soul. They can be eighty with thirty grandkids and they are still maidens.
    I guess it is all in how you precieve the world…and what the words Maiden/Mother/Crone mean to you. I think that lumping all women of into nicely defined boxes is impossible. We all are unique and what works for one isn’t going to work necessarly for another. Why bother even trying to do that…its a waste of time. Isn’t it better just to rejoice in our differences, and share our similarities with out trying to label ourselves or others?
    Of course maybe I missed the point of the discussion, confusion is my natural habitat…so if I did…I’m sorry.

  9. I respect your beliefs, but feel that I must say that a Crone’s definition is not an old hag! I can see where society has chosen to see things this way, but in the olden days and to many people now, a Crone was a position of respect, wisdom and strength. Given this definition, I question that anyone would complain or not be proud to be a Crone. One more thing, no one can define you except you.

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