by Craig Chalquist
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As a man who has tried to learn from feminist thought as well as from the personal wisdom of feminist friends, I have often felt put off by innumerable clichés. The chauvinist oppressors. The hierarchies of power. The warlike male psyche. The premodern golden age of priestesses and goddesses. The man who "only wants one thing." The husband who "helps" around the house. Who keeps his thumb on the checking account. Who wants her out of school and back at home. Who, in short, is not a man, but a boy pretending to be a man —and on whose thoughtless head angry women have heaped the sum of all the pent-up rage and betrayal and disillusionment felt by their whole gender from Eve down.
That a pretty hefty chunk of the men I see in men’s groups and couples therapy ARE such boys and therefore legitimate targets for such rage does not alter the real nature of blaming one’s disempowerment and general stuckness on another human being: whining. So much recent feminist literature —or what passes for it— echoes with such whining, the perpetual lamentation of the chronic victim, and I am sick of hearing it.
Hence one importance of writings that ennoble women instead of degrading them into helpless martyrs in a male-dominated world. The gift of Lara Owen’s standpoint is its beautification and symbolization of precisely the feminine cycle most commonly seen by immature men and the women influenced by them as a horror too frightening for plain discussion: menstruation.
In many cultures and eras, the primeval psyche reacted to blood as a wondrous metaphor of potency, vitality, life-force, élan vital, liquid grace, flowing fire, fluid spirit. Blood rituals permitted a tangible communion with life’s innermost forces, a personal or tribal incorporation of spiritual nourishment. But when we Westerners severed the spirit-psyche from the body, a tendency already evident in Plato’s time and widened by the famed patriarchal thoughtset, worsened by authoritarian forms of Christianity, and confirmed by Descartes, Hobbes, and the ensuing scientific materialism, for which nothing was real which couldn’t be measured, we lost our capacity for the kind of self-grounding body reverence bound up with the capacity for thinking by intuition and myth.
Lara Owen contributes to today’s growing trend toward regrounding and remythologizing by transforming a bodily process considered taboo into a potentially self-affirming rhythmic reality. Bleeding is stripped of its ugly connotations —many of which derive from a combination of leftover woman-bashing, Pascalian body hatred and ready associations to blood as something to be spilled —and ritualized, spiritualized. It is a way to reconnect with the earth and spend time with oneself. It also reminds one, on a level so deep as to be cellular, of one’s abiding membership in the timeless community of women...and of participation in the archetype of Woman as Self, the generative transpersonal core of the psychic-somatic relation known today as authentic personal identity.
In this communion, an ancient feminine parallel perhaps to "Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood," men —whose awe of the mystical powers of femininity and motherhood so easily turns to fearful overcompensation through counter-creations like manpower, hardware and hierarchy —may learn to stand by as respectful and sensitive partners. But the interior mystery of the sacred cycle of birth and blood is given to each woman alone.
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