What associations do you have when you hear the word ‘woman’?
What is the first phrase that leaps into your mind?
My overriding impressions as a child were of the term ‘woman’ being used in a derogatory sense. For example ‘That stupid woman!’ By contrast, the term ‘lady’ was used in a complimentary fashion. The phrase, ‘She’s a nice lady’ is burned into my memory banks. If someone was speaking affectionately it was always ‘girl’, even if the woman was full-grown. Even now I find myself automatically defaulting to these linguistic norms. Without even going into how the female of species such as dogs are used as an insult (bitch), we can see that a prejudice has carried over from previous generations, and it simply does not line up with our present value of gender universally.
Think about it. ‘Woman’ is the most thorough single-word description used by those who identify as female. Yet, in our vocabulary it so often is relegated to a ‘lesser’ status of female. Leaving men out of the equation, we are using the term against each other on a daily basis. This is rather a sad, self-defeating state of affairs.
Now consider the term ‘lady’. One half of ‘ladies and gentlemen’ it represents a perfect package of social expectation invented long, long ago when those pedestalled ‘ladies’ weren’t even allowed to vote. It is an ideal invented by society to keep women within safe boundaries. ‘Gentlemen’ also were confined within their own term, and only now are they being given the voice of sensitivity that was stripped from them all those years ago. My partner talks about gender itself being an out-dated categorisation and I see what he means. We are not male or female, but a subtle shading of these two polarities and everything in between. Even calling them polarities could come into question. Like the compass, there are more directions to be further explored, such as gender neutral. That is for another blog!
If you identify as female in any way, I think Lisa Stansfield said it best when she sang, “I may not be a lady, but I’m all woman”. There is such a power of presence in that sentence – a power of presence that we, as women don’t always seem to harness. It is time that we started treating ourselves as the sacred vessels we were intended to be.
Did you know that in ancient Greece, men were so afraid of the power of a woman’s face that women were obliged to wear veils? This, as far as I know is the first recorded incidence of women being obliged to cover their face. Men were literally terrified that a woman could bewitch him if her face were uncovered! How powerful is that? This was when men understood exactly what level of energy a woman carried simply by being herself. It reminds me of the story of Medusa, whose gaze would turn anyone to stone with a single look. Many of us, especially mothers, have a ‘look’!
In my time as a Hijabi, (a Muslim woman who covers her hair, neck and sometimes her face), I observed several things. Women cover in this context as a way of keeping their beauty (power) to themselves so that men (who are apparently too weak to resist) cannot be caused to sin the sin of lust. It is also protective for the woman in that context, as the woman is considered more respectable if she covers herself. Hijabis have faced much prejudice in Europe. I, for one, do respect and appreciate the ownership that many of these women, especially in the West, take of their own covering. It’s not for me however. As someone who didn’t cover her face, I had the husbands of fully covered women practically craning their necks to see my face. Of course, a Muslim man may take more than one wife. A Muslim wife will always be aware of that. The tension and restriction this can create was palpable to me.
The only thing this experience proved to me was that a woman’s power is present whether she is covered or uncovered. It cannot be taken away from her, and across the years we have adapted to work out what we must do to protect it. Sadly, in many cases, the covering has been by many years of suppression and malfunctional and externalised gender definitions.
A woman is a crucible of power. Historically we were the seers, the shamans and the medicine women. We oiled our communities with love, nurture and determination. We had the fierce protectiveness of a lioness and we could fight if we needed to, usually to protect our children and our communities. All of that fierce presence still exists in us. We hold the Universe and its elements within us. We carry the wisdom of generation upon generation in our veins. This is our divine right – to be Womb-man, a reflection of Mother Earth who can carry creation within her, physically, energetically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are not something less-than, we are something more-than and many men I know will attest to this.
We are divine, and our energy rises up to meet the masculine sword to sword. Not to fight and damage but to create a dance that weaves balance and perfection of all-that-is. We simply need to find our focus again, and start from a point of power instead of a point of doubt. Through us the Divine Feminine can flow in all its glorious variety. All we have to do is trust and allow it to happen. Be the channel of peace and power.
Let’s do it sisters.
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