Painful Awakenings

Thursday 22 April 2010


In that curious and exotic way that an "unteacher" appears only when the student is ready, the Magritte painting appeared and opened several revelations to me.  First, our lives as women are not always as self-created as we might assume.  And second, once we are caught in the pattern of creating ourselves from cultural blueprints, it becomes a primary way of receiving validation.  We become unknowingly bound up in a need to please the cultural father - the man holding the brush - and live up to his image of what a woman should be and do.  We're rewarded when we do;  life gets difficult when we don't.
~Sue Monk Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter

I'm really enjoying this book.  It's not particularly my own story - I am, after all, a post-Christian sort of a Jesusish person living in secular Australia, rather than down South Georgia America.  Two very different worlds.

But oh, the differences just reinforce the samenesses.  I cannot deny that my culture is not still a patriarchal one.  I hate saying those sorts of things because I have grown up in it;  it has infiltrated me.  It tells me to keep silent, that it is better to not say anything, to not rock the boat, that things have changed since the days when women all wore hats in public and were not allowed to continue to have jobs when they were married.  But I cannot deny that my own life, beginning in 1970s Australia has not been impacted by patriarchy because I feel it swilling around in the shadow, the repressed anger, the fearfulness, because I can see in my own soul, in its own awakening into experiencing spirituality in terms that are real for me, how embedded it all is.  How we women still take it on ourselves, as a given by the culture, this idea that we are somehow less than.

If you are a man, it will take some awakening of your own to understand how deeply embedded it is, how entirely you can miss it, how deeply this culture is saturated with the idea that women are less than men.  I'm not sure how well you can really understand it.  Especially considering that so many women do not really understand it, because they suppress it.  Because it is a terror.

I love men, I admire men, I am in love with one right this moment :)  But I can tell you this much:  this waking up to yourself, to struggle to hear what you are really saying to yourself, to learn what it is to really be a woman, to learn to stand in that stuff without fear of reprisal ... you have no idea how deep and how hard it all goes, how impacted women become, like a mass of teeth, simply by living in the culture we live in.  How much of a struggle it is sometimes to just simply keep your head above your own water, to know what you feel, what you think, what you want.  How much - still - it is a cultural going against the tide to stand and fully be a woman, in a society that is still so very, very male-dominated.

I guess change is always confronting.  How hard it is waking up.  How truly amazing it is watching the women around me doing so.

Life will not be less than, when women are truly equal with men.  Life will be richer, and greater, and men will be more than they are now, when women are no longer considered less than they really are.


  1. This is a wonderful story you're reading that I think has a universality to it. Interesting what you say about men coming to some understanding of the issues. Part of Monk Kidd's own journey was together with her own husband and exploring these.

    (Delighted you "in love with one" by the way!)

  2. this painting makes me feel very uncomfortable
    'the man holding the brush' gives me the creeps and of course he's wearing a suit!!!

    if i was the woman in that painting i'd wanna use the right arm to smack his palette up into the air and disarm him

    such a strong reaction
    obviously I'm still in recovery from the patriarchal organised church stuff

    susieq, glad you have a man to love
    i do too
    and it makes all the difference

  3. Tess - It most certainly does have a universality to it. It's quite striking. I was talking about this stuff last night with that man I'm in love with. We agreed that a partriarchal culture is debilitating for men also, not just for women. I'm finding it interesting reading this book and Monk Kidd's husband's reactions and transformation. Cool stuff.

    Kel - it is a rather uncomfortablefying painting, isn't it? I get surprised at my reactions to this stuff. It's like this circular coming back to the same issues again, in a different space, and feeling the ram of them again.

    I'm glad you have a man to love too, Kel :)

  4. I need to get my hands on that book!


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