When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

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Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

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Voluntary simplicity – the anchor and the albatross

Never say that a Priestess of Aphrodite isn’t busy, because I’ve been flat out!

My house is currently undergoing renovations, so naturally I thought it would be a great idea to have a big clear out of old stuff at the same time. It’s odd how renovations get you in the mood to clear out the clutter, isn’t it? It’s even odder how much clutter tends to build up over time – especially when you have kids.

But I’ve been really enjoying the sense of release that comes with selling stuff I just don’t use any more. A lot of old books are going, and a lot of old bone china, that for some reason I thought I just had to have when I was younger. Now I’m older, I look at it a bit the same way you might look at an albatross around your neck – it’s weighing me down, sapping my energy, and I just long to be free of the stuff.

So out it goes.

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The older I get, the less STUFF I seem to need. And the less attraction STUFF has for me.

When I was in my twenties, I really wanted to collect belongings, gather my identity. Now I’ve come to realise that my identity comes from being who I am – not from what I might happen to possess.

These days, I’m far more interested in going places and meeting people than in owning things. I understand the lure of voluntary simplicity. I want to scale my life down, remove the clutter, and relax.

Be free.

We humans are moss-gatherers. We like our security blankets of possessions – clothing, furniture, homes, tools. Stuff. It tells the world who we are, our status, our value.

However, I can’t help thinking that I don’t give a damn what value other people place on me. I’m a successful woman. I know my own value. I don’t need others to calculate it for me – and anyone who does calculate my value based on how much junk I happen to possess is a bit weak in the mind anyway.

So here I am, clearing the junk, getting rid of the flotsam and jetsam I’ve collected in my life, and I’m not missing any of it as it goes out the door to new owners.

All I can feel is the weight lifting off my shoulders.

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Swings and roundabouts at Mabon

Have you ever noticed how history is cyclical?

I was at a Pagan meeting this afternoon.

The Pagan scene in Dunedin, New Zealand, where I live, has been very, very quiet for a long time. It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all died off for various reasons to do with a conservative element and a few nasty elements in the community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

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Interestingly, I’ve also got a Munch (social gathering) tomorrow for the kinky community tomorrow. The kinky community in Dunedin has also been very. very quiet for a long time.

It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all keeled over for various reasons to do with a few nasty elements in the wider community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

At the Pagan meeting I went to, I heard how the University Women’s Officer used to do Womens Rituals. I just about died from shock when I heard that.

Imagine that! In conservative Dunedin! That all stopped of course, a few years ago. About the same time as everything else.

About that same time, the conservative city council of Dunedin began closing down student pubs, tightening up student behaviour they deemed inappropriate for various reasons, and generally restricting anything they considered to be not “suitable” for a staid and stodgy town.

To “clean it up”, was the excuse given, among a number of other excuses.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Pots boil over

The thing is, life goes in cycles. And as much as a conservative trend may try to close down stuff it doesn’t particularly like, pots will always boil over in the end.

You can’t bully whole communities into submission and expect things to last that way forever without dissent and uprising and change.

I think that’s what’s happening now. The wind is changing.

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Written in the wind…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sub-communities are struggling to their feet again at the same time, afetr being all but killed off.

I don’t believe that you can close down pubs and venues for fun and letting off steam for students, and just expect that they’ll stop needing those outlets for fun and relaxation. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life is swings and roundabouts. Life is change. You can’t keep the Old Gods down.

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Too conservative stifles our breath!

In Dunedin, there’s a really strong and powerful element, and it’s in charge, that would like to see Dunedin as nothing but a conservative, neat, polite, vanilla town full of suburbanites who wear suits and go to Church on Sundays and watch TV in the evenings and never, EVER would consider going to a Drumming-Trance-Pagan event or a play party.

Oh no, not ever.

That same element doesn’t approve of student pubs and student experimentation and kink and creativity and challenge and free thought, because those things are scary and uncontrolled and can’t be made a profit from easily.

But what it forgets is that we’re human. Not machines. We don’t come in little boxes, one size fits all. A fair number of us like to party. And drink. Some of us even like to do Pagan ritual, or kinky sex.

Or both.

The lid has been kept on the pot a little too long. All the while we’ve been here, quietly simmering away, but now we’re boiling over, and expanding out into the world again.

We're coming out of our closets again - but not quite like this! ;)
We’re coming out of our closets again – but not quite like this! 😉

Swings and roundabouts.

The more you restrict a subculture, the more it will grow and expand and thrive. Right under your nose. You just won’t see it happening until – bang! – suddenly it’s on your doorstep demanding rights.

Dunedin may seem a conservative town on the surface, but beneath that surface things are beginning to get really interesting.

I don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

And Happy Mabon! 🙂 May the Old Gods rise again!

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Madonnas and whores, and that awesome double standard

Are you a Madonna? Or a whore?

For a long time the whole Madonna-Whore Complex gave women two roles – we could be “pure” as wives, mothers and virgins. Or we were “dirty” as whores – women who enjoyed and appreciated sexual fulfilment.

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Madonnas and whores – the two categories for women.

Nothing in between. The thought that sex could be a normal healthy part of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) life was, and is still, problematic for people who see women as either madonnas or whores, as pure or impure.

Because sex is such a massive stepping stone in the madonna-whore world, such a huge item of goods to be traded and sold by a woman’s father on her wedding day to the prospective husband, it can never be seen as a normal healthy thing that humans simply do because its enjoyable and natural.

In the Madonna-Whore world, virginity is of incredible importance. Without her virginity, a woman is worthless. Soiled. Trash.

And a man who has had sex with many women? Well…

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Have you ever noticed how there are so many words for a woman who has had sex (or a woman who people think has had sex) but there are very few for men?

slut

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The outcome of “sluts versus studs”

So we get the politicalisation of contraception – because only a whore would need it. Once a woman is married, her role becomes simply that of “Mother” or “Prospective Mother” and contraception is an unmentionable. Although almost all couples use contraception in modern society, it’s an unmentionable topic. People pretend it doesn’t happen.

And we get the politicalisation of abortion. Only a whore would abort. A “nice” pure girl doesn’t get pregnant in the first place (because she’s “abstinant”). And if she does (whoops!), she’ll marry the father and have her Happily Ever After.

Except life doesn’t always work out that way. And atheists have a lower divorce rate than religious couples. Hmmm…something seems to be going a bit wrong.

This very narrow view of women – as pure or impure, madonna or whore – stems from patriarchal religions, is tied up with the old worldview of women as chattel and property, and is directly at odds with the direction society is headed in. Hence the clash between the patriarchal churches and society at large.

And the churches are losing. You can see this very clearly in the political landscape in the United States at the moment, the likely collapse and fragmentation of the Republican party – it has aligned itself with the old, white, extreme right religious sects of society, and is finding it simply doesn’t have the numbers. Those numbers are reducing at a very rapid rate, reflecting the way society is changing.

So what’s happening?

Sex is coming out of the closet. That’s what’s happening.

Women are starting to talk about sex, we’re starting to proclaim loudly that it is natural to enjoy sex – with however many partners of whatever gender we wish – and that whatever sex we happen to enjoy does not value or devalue us as individuals. It is simply something we, as human beings, do.

The changes we’re seeing in society, and the death of the madonna-whore complex, are part of women’s movement towards full equality as human beings. That’s all it is.

A group of people cannot be equal as long as they continue to be put into boxes for their behaviour and stereotyped. The “purity” concept needs to die – and the sooner the better. Purity is a concept that should be attached to clean water, or safe food. Not to women and girls. Not to people. We’re not a commodity. We’re human beings.

Aphrodite is a Goddess who represents the sexuality and power of women. She is strong, and fearless – and yes, she is sexual, and sensual, and beautiful. That is why she is intensely uncomfortable for people who have traces of the Madonna-Whore complex instilled in them. Because we’ve been taught that sexuality should be secretive, that is doesn’t give us strength and power. Yet it does.

This is why I think women need to embrace Aphrodite and what she represents. Make peace with our beauty, our sexuality, our sensuality. Be proud to say we enjoy sex. With whomever we choose. In whatever way we wish. Our bodies are our own to use as we desire.

That is why we do the Slut Walks, and why we support the womens shelters. That is why we do NOT bitch against other women, or criticise them for their sexual choices. That is why we support the right to choose, and the right to have safe, freely accessible contraception. Because all of these things are about the right to control our own bodies.

I’m no Madonna. I’m no whore. I’m a human being. And so is every other woman on this planet. It’s time to throw the boxes out the window. None of us is pure, or impure. There is no such thing as virginity – I’m tossing that out too.

We’re all just women. And we’re amazing.