From the comfort of my chair this past week, I have bemusedly watched the extraordinary ruckus evolving over one woman’s use of the c-word as a descriptor towards another woman. And while in my younger years, that was the worst word that anyone could use to describe a woman, I am pondering why it just doesn’t strike me as the worst, or even newsworthy anymore.
Add in the fact that the recipient of that particular arrow of truth deserved that and even worse, made me shake my head in disbelief that in a week full of horrifying news about 1500 missing children, reversals of women’s rights and vile racist twitter rants (shame on you, Roseanne), the fact that one woman called another woman a feckless cunt is what rang the outrage bell for so many.
There were times in my past that even having the word bitch thrown my way would have staggered me if flung carelessly from a male mouth in my direction. But I grew up and I grew older and I staggered and sometimes crawled through the struggles and losses that were written into my book of life, and I came to realize that words spilling from someone else’s lips, especially someone whose opinion I neither asked for nor could care less about, meant nothing.
Yes, words hurt, and history has shown that the female gender is incredibly adept, sly and manipulative about the ways in which we can tear each other apart and spit each other out. What we lack in physical strength, we have always compensated for in our emotional arrows and insults that we fire at own kind. We have always been oh so careful in our roles as nurturers to not tear the males down within our orbits – making excuses for them, protecting them- falling on our own fucking swords over and over again and then proudly showing them the blood of our self-martyring as symbols of our love and sacrifice for them.
I hold women to higher standards than men, and while I am aware that is wrong and feeds into the martyr syndrome I just described, it has been my own personal experience that women are just better at the loving emotional support that most of us need during the changing seasons of our lives. (minus our middle school ages).
I expect women to support and mentor and teach and raise each other up. To correct and school each other when we damn well need it, but to also be there with arms wide open and with intentional, focused love and forgiveness when we stumble and fall. Tearing each other down at the first sight of blood in a feeding frenzy just alienates us further, and increases the perception that we are indeed those derogatory words so often used to hurt and minimize us all.
I would give anything to gather up the 3 women who were discussed ad nauseam this past week. To invite them into my home and offer them tea or a shot of bourbon and then question what the hell got us all to this place where one was tearing other women down in racists tweets, another was posting a clueless picture of herself holding her child with pithy wording about how nice it is to have your child in your arms, during a week when almost 1500 misplaced children were reported . Ask the last one how frustrated and angry she had to have been to aim and fire that taboo word out on public television at the complicit one whose life is so entitled that she is blissfully ignorant and unaware of the walls that most of us have had to kick down in order to find our own places and spaces within this patriarchal society.
I would sit with them and try to understand what their individual experiences have been thus far that brought them to those penultimate moments in their lives this past week. Listen with non-judgmental empathy, and hopefully work toward a commonality of some sort that we could all embrace together. Dig through the layers, peel the onions, and cry the necessary tears. Laugh together, and listen and learn from each other how we get to these moments where we forget that most important learning passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter since time began.
In telling our own stories and sharing our pain with each other, we can only grow stronger. It will only be in the safety of our sacred goddess circle – in the telling and re-telling of these truths and in the sharing of our crone wisdom to our own daughters and other women’s daughters, that we will be able to open the doors to healing and understanding.
At the times that I have been most broken in my own life, it has been my tribe of women who have stepped off fearlessly and then down into the morass with me and held my hand.
It is women who have made the choice to suffer beside me in my pain. To unflinchingly absorb that which was simply too enormous for me to endure alone.
Joanne, who came hundreds of miles immediately to tend to my sons’ hearts and well-being following my accident, when no one was sure I would survive another day. Who has answered her phone too many times to count, only to listen to me cry long distance without saying a word. Who has listened with her whole heart to my jagged pain, and who has healed me in so many ways without ever saying a word. Who once asked me the question that jump-started my journey of discovery, ” When are you going to love yourself as hard as you love everyone else?” If I ever met my soul mate, it is Joanne. That is a truth I know on such a deep soul level, that nothing and no one could ever convince me otherwise.
She was absolutely sent to me by a divine entity and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would take a bullet for my “Dodo”.
Cindy, who taught me that softness can frequently get you far further than strength can, and who showed me by example that forgiveness is often the best way to heal your own broken heart. Who sat with me following the loss of my first child, in my own dark night of the soul, holding my limp, cold hand in hers. Who refused to let me slip away into madness, and who held onto me so tightly and lovingly for the rest of her short life, that I was able to endure her loss by reaching down deep to the lessons she taught me and sharing them with the child she left behind.
Marilyn & Evelyn, the sisters. My mother and my aunt. Who stood beside me as that impossibly small casket was taken out of the car and carried toward us all. First their hands intertwined. Then their arms around each other, a merging of strength for each other and for me. Both of them reaching for me after it was all over. Pulling me between them, and holding me up with them. Infusing me symbiotically with the knowledge of their combined years of suffering and of the fact that it is in the enduring and the surviving that we grow from girls into women. Pulling me along to walk with them, until my legs were strong enough that I could walk again on my own.
It is now the time for me to share these lessons with the younger women I know, and to pass on the wisdom of those that have walked and suffered and endured long before me. To share the love and strength that has been shared with me and to work to keep the circle intact long after I am gone.
All of us have been called bitches in our lives and some have even been called *cunts, but no matter what you call us, there is absolutely no way we will be silenced, or kept down, or defeated.
* even spell-check doesn’t approve of this one!