Let’s Talk–between a man and a woman

Last week, when the smoke in the mountains of northern California cleared sufficiently, I sat outside in the backyard with a male friend. I mentioned that I had recently watched the film, The Princess Bride. One of the antagonists was boasting that he had a brain that could outwit Socrates and Aristotle. My friend wondered how it would be to engage in a conversation with Socrates and Aristotle. If they were there with us today, in my backyard in conversation, what would that be like? I said “First of all, being a woman, I wouldn’t be included in the conversation.” It isn’t big news that in Greek society, women had a place; it was in the home and their occupation was within that domain. To this friend’s credit, he said that I’d be included in the conversation if he had anything to say about it!
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Let’s back up to 2009. For several years, I’d been considering the possibility of conversations with a man. I didn’t have a particular man in mind. One day, at the local health food store, a man who actually had done some yard maintenance for me, stood behind me in the checkout line. I turned to him, his name is Daniel, and I nearly blurted out “Would you be interested in having some poetic conversations with me about the way that men and women relate?” Without hesitation he replied, “Christine, I’m your man.” For twelve weeks, we met once a week for an hour. Many more questions arose.  I recorded our conversations, made a cd for both of us so that in between meetings, we could review what was said and witness how we listened, how we spoke, and any other observations.

Premise for conversations:  Having survived a highly abusive childhood within a dysfunctional patriarchal family paradigm, I married young.  I stayed in this abusive relationship for nearly thirty years.  I was a battered wife.  Out in the dating world, I encountered some very immature men.  I had questions about men; about how men and women relate, about expectations in a relationship, about why men think that they have permission to behave in an abusive way towards women, to dominate them.  These are questions that every woman should be asking, if not for herself and her daughters, then for her nieces, her sisters, for the women across the earth that are disrespected by men in a patriarchal culture that disfavors women.

Highlights of Conversation One: 

As pointed out by great thinkers and authors, it is unlikely that Mars and Venus, through all of their grand efforts over time, are ever going to achieve a perfect unity.  In the film, Jerry Maguire, the male character played by Tom Cruise, gives his “I need you” speech.  One phrase that has been repeated over the years is his line “You complete me.”  It’s weird because I seem to remember her saying the line.  Regardless, I do remember cringing when he said it and thinking “DON’T FALL FOR IT.”  Had I become a cynical middle-aged woman who had seen too much of things gone wrong?

When, in our first conversation, Daniel said that he was an incurable romantic and that line, that thought that someone else completes him, enraptured him.  As a woman who had been beaten down by immature men, I was all for my own sovereignty.  Screw that.  I complete myself!  And, if a man brings something to the equation that doesn’t smack of co-dependency, then I might let him get a foot in the door.  Otherwise, no thank you.  My sovereignty had been hard won. 

Back to the thought that on this earth plane, according to some spiritual teachers and philosophers, men and women can never truly unite.  Isn’t that good?  When, I wonder, are we each going to find the value in what the other brings to the table and appreciate what we can create together.  Why create an opposition when there can be a cooperative? Women do not need to try to define themselves using masculine terminology.  Women don’t have to aspire to excel in left brain logic…leave that to the men.  Bring in our right brain wisdom to balance the logic.  Bring in the intuitive. Bring in the imaginative, the mythic.
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Ten years after these conversations, I asked myself what prompted me to want to engage this dialogue with a man (and a man I hardly knew)!  Where did I find the courage to initiate these conversations after the history I’d had with abusive men?  Where did my silenced voice emerge from and why then?  And, discovering that in his earlier life, this man had been verbally abusive to women and had no conscience about his behavior, made this all the more daring on my part.  As he began to “wake up” and do his own inner work, he became more approachable.
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In these times, the women of Afghanistan are facing the degradation and removal of their rights as human beings. Their rights to safely walk the streets, their rights to education, their rights to be represented at the bargaining tables and more. Where does this hatred of women stem from? Complex, right? Yet, there it is insinuated throughout known history and across cultures.

What can you trace in your family system that reeks of misogyny? When do we outgrow this crap!?

Is She a Victim?

(from a journal dated 04.26.2018)

Mother
comes with a built-in judgment
a plan for struggle
to fall and fail
Her platform, built by men
an ‘ideal’ that doesn’t allow her
to be whole.

While Mother has the most amazing qualities,
potential
–she is placed in a hotbed of
masculine insecurity and his misuse of power,
his idea that power means to overpower–
to oppress, suppress and make her subject to…
his unhealed places.

Her qualities, natural instincts of care, nurture
compassion
and feminine power
are contorted to fit into his world,
to meet his needs.


Mother is stolen from herself
and her children.
She is lost, she is sad.

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Today…03.11.2021
I have written about woman, wife, mother for most of my life. I am or have been all of these. Some humans would like to believe that we’ve evolved so much that there is no longer oppression and abuse of women. We hear world news rendering this belief as false. Yet, we hold onto the idea that it’s not happening here. Sadly, it is present today in our own country, our own community and our own families. Domestic Violence is real. It is mostly the abuse of women and children.

The woman victim often denies that she is a battered wife. There is a complex of qualities that create a circumstance for domestic violence. For the woman being abused, it can involve low self-esteem, trauma, shame, confusion, the desire to be loved and cared for, fear and more. There can be an economic component as to why a woman stays in an abusive relationship. There are always hidden reasons and causes, below the level of her awareness–often, she grew up in a household where this was modeled. The male abuser has likely been a victim himself–of trauma and having grown up in such a household. He has not learned to value a woman nor has he learned how to manage his own triggers, anger, past trauma.

When I moved to the mountains, twenty-plus years ago, I determined to write about the battered wife…her battle for sovereignty. When she recognizes that she has stayed too long in an abusive and demeaning relationship, how does she finally leave? My mother never left. She stayed true to the model of battered wife to the end. She stood by her husband despite the ongoing abuse. In the care home, I witnessed how my father finally had only to give my mother an icy stare for her to comply with his demands. The patterns were so well-established and neither of them knew how to extricate themselves from such a merciless cycle.

This is one of many tough topics. One that many people in my circles avoid. I understand why. It’s an ugly topic, isn’t it? It has ancestral roots. How does one change something that is so embedded? And, of course, how does the prevailing and entrenched attitude towards women as inferior to men begin to change? How does a woman change that diminished model within herself?

Sometimes, when a woman has experienced domestic violence over a long period of time, it is hard for her to talk about it. If she has left the situation, there is a part of her that wants to shrink away from it and ‘have a happy life now.’ However, the effects are lingering and the body has set up patterns of re-traumatization with the intention of protection. Reading about something along the lines of domestic violence, a woman can get triggered back into an event in her life. Fight, flight and freeze strategies are engaged. Conducting a normal life is unrealistic given this response to triggers.

This topic of Domestic Violence is up for me now as currently some of my family members are living through this nightmare. For one of them, it has been carried to the extreme and she is in the hospital fighting for her life. When and how does this change? First by shining a light of recognition on it. Bringing awareness to that which we would rather avoid. The world has been under the spell of man’s dominion over woman and nature long enough. We’re missing everything until we are inclusive of the wisdom that is innate when we embrace our interdependence on one another and the wholeness of life.