I've been reading Circle of Stones, suggested by Aerolin. She's been telling me about this book (and many others) for a long time now, and I always think I'm going to get round to reading them someday but I never really quite managed it. After our most recent conversation, wherein she inspired me to reconnect with the Feminine and work on that broken piece of me, this book showed up in my mail from the library. I started reading it and couldn't put it down. I am nearly finished with the book, and I keep having to struggle against my own desire not to give in to the feminine qualities that Judith Duerk describes as necessary pieces of being a woman.
The author recounts a dream she had in which she was expressing that woman should be allowed to cry; she says:
"Someday, when the first woman president of the United States holds the sides of the podium and says 'My fellow Americans ...' as she is inaugurated, it will be important that she can be there, weeping, as she speaks, and that her tears and the intensity with which she is in touch with her feeling values can flow out to and nourish the society and influence all women."
I am reminded of an interview I heard on NPR recently; a woman was telling the political correspondent about a question she had asked Hillary Clinton - I forget the question, and Hillary's response - and the response Hillary gave was delivered in a somewhat choked voice and she was showing visible signs of tearing up. The woman described how powerful it was to witness such strength of emotion from a presidential candidate and how much she was encouraged by this show of emotion.
I couldn't help but feel completely opposite feelings from the woman who was being interviewed. I don't wish to deny any woman her power, nor do I wish to have mine denied; but I don't see the act of showing emotionality in every circumstance as a benefit, as a strength. I don't see losing control of one's emotions as a source of power. I realize this is a manifestation of my own preconceived notions, but the truth is that I am not at all comforted by a woman who cannot speak without crying. I think part of my struggle with feminine qualities and aspects is that I don't think that it is always appropriate nor important to demonstrate those emotions, either for a man or a woman. I feel there is a time for reserve, for quiet dignity, and for distance from emotionality. I don't disagree with the author that expressing deep emotion is a powerful and good thing, but I am struggling with the idea that a woman's tears have value and importance in every situation. And I am really struggling with the concept of separating emotionality from weakness.
When I was growing up I saw examples of strength in femininity, but also the extreme weakness in feminine qualities. My mother is an exceptionally strong woman but she based so many of her important decisions on emotional responses without thinking her way through situations from an intellectual standpoint. She wasn't a stupid woman, nor did she necessarily make bad decisions; but often when pressed for her reasoning her responses were overly-emotional and defied rational logic. She has many preconceived notions about the behaviour of others and what she believes it means that is based on her emotional responses alone. As I grew up and watched this process in her, I found I developed extreme contempt for that method of decision-making. Not the actual decisions themselves necessarily, but the way she came to some of her conclusions seemed to me to be so illogical and irrational. As an adult I can recognize that she's just different from me but still valuable in her ways and methods; I put the contempt away and love her for her uniqueness, but I still tend to shudder away from her method of forming opinions based so strongly on emotions.
So today I'm working on stripping out my own preconceived notions about feminine emotions and leaving behind that which is not valuable or useful.