I was at a good friend’s wedding recently. It was post nuptials and post dinner and people were having a good time on the outdoor dance floor. Taking a breather, I retreated to an aerial perch in a treehouse built in a huge oak tree in the yard, about twenty feet above the foot stomping local country band.
Guests I didn’t know ebbed and flowed through the treehouse, commenting on the view and quickly leaving to get back to the celebration. But one woman hung around to talk.
“So, what do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a writer.”
At that she perked up. “What do you write about?”
“I just finished my second book called Missing Woman: My odyssey to find the feminine in a masculine world. It’s about how Western women have lost track of feminine values and so completely adopted the masculine paradigm from our male-dominated culture we don’t even know it.”
She looked simultaneously impressed and mildly disturbed. “Really? What made you write about that?”
What made me write about that? Just my whole life—most of which had been spent trying to prove I was as good as a guy, working in all sorts of male dominated fields like live TV sports production. It was a hard, high-stress business with gut-busting hours shlepping 60 pound cameras up to news booths in filthy stadiums in the rain and snow, all-night editing sessions and endless humiliating exposure to the de rigueur T&A (tits and ass) shots the camera guys, directors and other editors loved to shoot, oogle and use as “color shots” to segue into commercial breaks.
The cheerleaders and female fans eagerly complied—bending over to show their bottoms and popping open their blouses to show cleavage, shoving their boobs together with their hands—happy to be noticed by the cameras. Usually I was the sole woman on headset in the TV trucks, and the comments I heard were … well, you can imagine.
To survive I became tough and competitive—just one of the guys. As a result I was highly successful. But there was a price. You have to shut down to be tough – you have to shut down sensitivity and feelings. Shut down grace, receptivity and sweetness. It’s hard on the body, hard on the emotions and eventually hard on relationships. Did I care at the time? Hell no. I’d bought my culture’s value system and thought life was all about going balls out to have stuff, make money and be somebody.
My new friend listened to the story as the band twanged away below and our plastic wine glasses slowly emptied. I took a sip and smiled. “I thought being a successful woman meant the same thing as being a success as a woman. I was so programmed to adopt aggressive masculine values I didn’t know there was any other way to be. I was a fish in the water, you know? I didn’t have a clue the reason I was busting a gut trying to measure up was because subconsciously I thought I was a second class citizen—and that my culture had actually taught me from infancy that I was.”
Laughter and clapping followed the band’s last song in the set. My companion, who was probably in her early fifties, asked me questions and argued. Did I really think women were still discriminated against? Wasn’t that over long ago? Hadn’t we won equality and moved on?
I talked statistics—how in the 21st century women were still paid less than men for the same jobs in the US. How promotions come slower if at all. How the US was the only modern country in the world that had refused to legally mandate sexual equality. How globally women comprise 50% of the world’s population, perform two-thirds of the labor, receive 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of global resources. I talked about Muslim women routinely being operated on surgically without anesthesia, sexual mutilation of girls in Africa, girls sold into prostitution in first world countries, female infants thrown out on dung heaps in China.
And I talked about the rape of the world—our Great Mother held hostage to corporate interests … and how, in our cultural obsession with money and profit and getting ahead, both men and women were now letting greed take precedence over life itself.
It was not your usual wedding conversation.
Visibly shaken she asked me what I thought the solution was. And I told her, “Women need to wake up to the fact that we’ve been programmed into a very different value system than is normal for us. The feminine is about life—our values are life values: nurturing, love, family, community, connection, the well-being of all peoples, the well-being of the Earth, feelings and beauty and graciousness.
“We need to wake up and start operating from this place of life values inside us. We need to value ourselves and recognize ourselves and love ourselves. And we need to see the programs and thoughts we’ve bought into are polluted waters, no longer fit for anyone to swim in.”
She thanked me for sharing my perspective. Thanked me for writing my book. She said she hoped I got the word out to other women. She said she hoped we all woke up in time. Then she hugged me and climbed down the ladder to the party below.