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My volcano spews out some cinders

marybellefrey's picture

I repeat that I am not a feminist.  Doris Lessing wrote that the young adolescent girl is the freest person on earth: she can dream any dream, whereas a boy knows he is going to have to make a living.  Even in the backward area in which I grew up 60 years ago there were a few women who held responsible positions, so I could dream of being one of the few if I chose to.  As early as I can remember I judged women's lives to be more interesting than men's.  I don't know why I should think a female teacher's life more interesting than a male teacher's, but I certainly did strongly believe that.  Other than working class men and teachers I knew lawyers, doctors, business men, and musicians ( mostly through the large church in which we were active ) and they all seemed to me rather boring --- and bored!  The women were mostly live wires --- even the apparently meek housewives had a spark that no man had.  As I looked carefully at every adult who moved though my world, searching for a way to live that would express some of the immense life that I could feel in myself struggling for expression, there was never any doubt that women had the best deal, whether dealt by Nature in the form of native ability and character, or by society in the forms allowed, or by the people themselves in their flexibility.  That was still true at Bryn Mawr, where I came to know adults who lived very different sorts of lives than those I had previously observed.  So I can't get excited about patriarchy ( for example ):  however unpleasant it may be, it does better by women than by men.  Misogynous the society may be, still women come off better than men.  Family, ditto.  Religion, ditto.  Professions, ditto.  I have loved some men, admired some, envied some.  But I have never seen a man I would trade places with even on my lowest day.  Men simply haven't the capacity to solve the life problems I have chosen for myself.  Their ways of life wouldn't work for me.  I can appreciate that other women judge differently and find something of value in the male world that they want.  It seems to me that they are offering to sell their royal inheritance for a "mess of potage".  The male world is very two-dimensional, whereas the female world is wide and deep, as Cixous so ably communicated.


Bryn Mawr specializes in 'powerhouse' women.  Any gathering of alumnae fairly crackles with energy.  It would appear that this quality is discouraged in girl children, as I have noted that most of us keep our power under wraps.  As a group we are neither aggresive nor pushy.  If you will notice, most aggressive women are seeking power;  they do not come from a position of power as Mawrters do.

I wonder if a lot of the discontent expressed in this course doesn't come from our lack of experience in expressing this personal power which we undoubtedly feel at some level.  I am 71, but I have a lot of living yet to do, and one of the items on my life agenda is to express this power openly, not aggressively or harshly, but more in the nature of the wind, a natural power that does not inspire resistance (though it may make you grab your hat).  All my life people have come to me for advice, which I am reluctant to give because I can't know where another's life is headed.  Many problems result from my refusal to give the advice or from my reluctant acquiescence.  Discussing these problems with a long-time acquaintance he said that I "have authority".  I did not at all recognize myself, but he insisted.  On reviewing my life I had to admit that when  needed, I easily and naturally exercise "authority" --- and like the wind it finds no resistance!  Further I can see that many problems arise from my refusing to exercise an authority (power) that others see clearly.  So I wonder (again) if for Bryn Mawr women at least the problem is not at all one of strength/force/logic, but of how to overcome our early socialization so that we express our natural power.  All my life experience tells me that if I am doing my thing, I don't worry about who likes it or allows it or tries to silence it, I just do my thing. 

I would really welcome some discussion on this topic because I need to learn to express my natural power; a project close to my heart will never be born unless I do.  I think perhaps you women who have fewer years of keeping your 'powerhouse' power under wraps could help me.  In spite of all I can SAY on the subject I DO what I've always done --- just last week someone came to me for advice and I wormed out rather than exercising my 'authority' --- I even know what I should have said --- he would have had to grab his hat, but I think he would also have laughed!  

That's a long way from logic, but just as my list of racial grievances was forgotten when I arrived at the root of my discontent, logic or not-logic now seems unimportant.

I do hope to hear from some of you 'powerhouse' women.