Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘female’

Bell Hooks and Love

searchCommunion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks (Harper Collins Publishers, 2002)

Excerpt from Chapter One – Aging to Love, Loving to Age.

Women are often more interested in being loved than in the act of loving. All too often the female search for love is epitomized by this desire, not by a desire to know how to love. Until we are able to acknowledge that women fail at loving because we are no more schooled in the art of loving than are our male counterparts, we will not find love. If the female obsession with love in patriarchal culture were linked from birth on to the practice of love, then women would be experts in the art of loving. And as a consequence, since women do most of the parenting in our nation, children would be more loving. If women excelled in the art of loving, these skills would be imparted to male and female children alike.

As long as our culture devalues love, women will remain no more able to love than our male counterparts are. In patriarchal culture, giving care continues to be seen as primarily a female task. The feminist movement did not change this perception. And while women more than men are often great caregivers, this does not translate into knowing how to be loving. Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. Socialized in the art of caring, it is easier for women who desire to love to learn the necessary skills to practice love. And yet women have not chosen to give themselves whole-heartedly over to the art of loving. As long as being loved is seen as a gesture of weakness, one that dis-empowers, women will remain afraid to love fully, deeply, completely. Women will continue to fail at love, because this failure places females on an equal footing with males who turn away from love. Women who fail at loving need not be disappointed that the men in their lives – fathers, siblings, friends, or lovers – do not give love. Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo. By failing to love, women make it clear that it is more vital to their existence to have the approval and support of men than it is to love.

The Bodies Pleasure

dialogues3aExcerpts from The Penis Dialogues: Handle With Care.

“I was struck by this book’s humor, probing curiosity and genuine compassion.” – Eve Ensler (Author, Actor & Playwright of The Vagina Monologues and V-Day.

“Did you come?” “Yes, did you?”

Male and female genitals come from the same fetal tissue. Despite the anatomical differences between male and female, it turns out that orgasms in men and women are physiologically and psychologically very similar. Studies have been done in which experts could not reliably determine gender when reading descriptions of orgasms with all anatomical references removed.

Researchers have also discovered that multi-orgasmic men (repeated orgasm without ejaculation) have the same arousal charts in the laboratory as multi-orgasmic women.

The next time you think a woman doesn’t understand what you’re saying, thinking or feeling (because she’s a woman), think again!

Lovemaking Olympics

Recent research legitimizes sex as a healthy form of exercise on a par with running, walking or swimming. Some specialists in cardiovascular disease have found that having sex three to five times a week can cut the risk of a stroke or major heart attack in half!

A study of 2,400 men in the town of Caerphilly, Wales, discovered that those who had three or more orgasms a week had half the number of strokes or heart attacks as those who didn’t. The study lasted for ten years.

It turns out that even mild or moderate forms of physical activity, including sex, can help protect the heart and decrease the chance of illness.

The male of the chicken.

In Latin penis (pes) means tail. The dictionary defines it as, “The male organ of sexual intercourse: in mammals it is also the organ through which urine is ejected.”

The dictionary describes the word cock as: the male of the chicken; the male of other birds; the crowing of a rooster; a weather vane in the shape of a rooster; a leader or chief, especially one with some boldness or arrogance; a faucet or valve for regulating the flow of a liquid or gas; a tilting or turning upward; a jaunty, erect position; to set; to be ready for release; a small, cone-shaped pile.

I don’t believe I’ve ever thought of my cock as a “cone-shaped pile” or an “arrogant leader or chief.” Nor have I thought of an erection as “jaunty,” but I guess I’ll have to reconsider. After all, these facts are in the dictionary as plain as day and who am I to question Webster’s?

Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?

A team of researchers from the University of Southern California has determined that “men and women are remarkably similar in their mating preferences.” They found that college-age men and women prefer a long-term exclusive sexual relationship. Both sexes want a conscientious and compatible partner.

A cross-cultural questionnaire found that, contrary to popular misconceptions, over 890 percent of older women, and over 70 percent of older men, feel that sexual activity is important for health and well-being. Another survey found that 80 percent of married men over the age of 70 and 75 percent that were un-married, remained sexually active.

It turns out that grandparents and college students want the same thing – love, commitment and sex. People of all ages enjoy one another’s bodies and the pleasures, attachments and feelings that come with them.

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Writing the Female Sex

Doris Lessing: Writing the Female Sex
by Victoria Brownworth
Lambda Literary
19 November 2013

The New York Times wrote a sharp, seething, unpleasant four-page screed of an obituary about her that was both shocking and Doris-Lessingunsurprising. The piece reminded me of how much Lessing was loathed by many because her ideas were so strong, her vision so demanding, the inability to pigeonhole her maddening and misogyny still so rampant. Those of us who loved her work were often taken to task for it–much as the Nobel Committee itself was for choosing her in 2007. (The gay literary critic, Harold Bloom, said of her winning, “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable–fourth-rate science fiction.”)

The work of women, and how women live, is still diminished and demeaned, most especially if those women don’t play nice, which Lessing, famously curmudgeonly, did not.

Yet nearly three generations of women and women writers have been taught by Lessing and her brilliant, groundbreaking work since her first novel was published in 1950 and they–we–learned about ourselves and who we could be through her work. Because Lessing lived nearly a century, because her work seems always to have been with us–she’d been writing since before many of us were born or even before our parents were–because she went through a wide range of styles and published more than 50 books of note, it was easy to forget how defining and definitive her work was even now, memorializing her.

Lessing schooled most of the lesbian writers of my age as well as those of the generation before. Lessing taught us to love women’s sexuality in a way no one else has before or since, not even someone like Eve Ensler, who has put our vaginas so vividly on display. Lessing put women’s sexuality and female independence in the forefront of all her work. She wrote about women in ways no one had done prior to novels like her masterpiece, the 1962 novels-within-a- novel, The Golden Notebook.

Virginia Woolf had begun the task of flinging wide the door to a room of one’s own, but it was Lessing who walked through that door and dropped, cross-legged on the floor, pad and pen before her, and then wrote about things women were told never to even talk about, let alone write down. She was sexual, political, emotional, contemplative.

She was strikingly, amazingly new. She was the avante-garde of post-modernist feminism.

Where women writers of a previous era had kept female sexuality under their skirts and at bay, like Austen, the Brontes, the Georges Eliot and Sand, Lessing opened it up for us. She opened our legs and minds to self-examination and female agency

It’s difficult to imagine some writers existing without the path forged by Lessing. Did she not give birth to literary lesbian writers like Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Walters? Can intimations of her style not be read in the novels of Sarah Schulman or Elena Dykewomon? Years ago my late friend Tee Corinne, the writer, artist and photographer, and I talked about Lessing and her impact on Tee’s generation of lesbians. It was Tee’s contention that Lessing had bridged a chasm between the more outré lesbian writers of the Paris literary set in the 1920s and the later, fully fledged lesbian writers of second-wave feminism.

Second-wave feminism and the radical lesbian feminism that went hand-in-glove with it were in full foment when I was in college. So when my Women’s Studies classes presented me with Lessing (who was, I realize now, the same age as my grandmother), writing about sex in a way I had never even heard of, it was stunning.

Lessing, more than any writer I had read to that time, including those lesbian writers of that Paris set, taught me I could be not just a sexual creature, but that I could write about sex, too. Lessing clarified that I could write about femaleness and lesbian sexuality not as something to be hidden or suborned, but as something to revel in, explicate and illumine. Lessing’s Anna Wulf, the hera of The Golden Notebook, was an icon for women, a template for lesbians like myself trying to place our writing in the context of female-centered sexuality.

It seems like nothing now, but The Golden Notebook pre-dated second-wave feminism. As I think about her now, and all she wrote and told us about women and who they were and what they thought, I can’t help wondering: What made Lessing think she could write these things? What made her think she could write this:

“Her source of self respect was that she had not–as she put it–given up and crawled into safety somewhere. Into a safe marriage.”

Because marriage was what women were taught. No matter whatever else they did, marriage was the endgame, the stated goal for women. Which left lesbians out of every equation at that time. A woman who walked away from that–who was she? Were there more like her? Could we be among them?

This is the point then, about writers who break ground and do what hasn’t been done before. The Golden Notebook was written more than 50 years ago, but it’s still in print and has been all along. I took it down from the shelf to flip through it–it’s all marked up from my college years, notes in the margins, exclamation points after an outlined passage.

I want to know what I was thinking when I first read that book, when I first heard this exchange:

“Free women,” said Anna, wryly. She added, with an anger new to Molly, so that she earned another quick scrutinizing glance from her friend: “They still define us in terms of relationships with men, even the best of them.”

Even NYT obituary writers 50 years hence, apparently.

And there was this shocking passage:

“I stood looking down out of the window. The street seemed miles down. Suddenly I felt as if I’d flung myself out of the window. I could see myself lying on the pavement. Then I seemed to be standing by the body on the pavement. I was two people. Blood and brains were scattered everywhere. I knelt down and began licking up the blood and brains”

The NYT obit sniffs a little at Lessing’s writing and quotes NYT reviewers who hated her work. It also dwells on her failings–yet it’s difficult to imagine an obituary of a male writer snarking in similar ways. Where is the commentary about the breadth of her work?

Rather, the comments about Lessing go directly to her femaleness; a half century after The Golden Notebook she is still not free of the restrictions placed on women writers that do not pertain to men. “She left her children!” is the most damning statement about Lessing, as if she dropped them on a street corner in the dead of night in a blizzard and ran away, leaving them to freeze to death in Dickensian fashion, when what Lessing actually did was divorce her first husband and leave their children with him because she had felt her own mother was cold to her and her brother because she resented her children and Lessing didn’t want to do that to hers. She noted that people really should have understood that of course there is pain involved in leaving one’s children.

Nevertheless, while leaving one’s children with one’s spouse is something male writers do all the time, it was the great scandal of Lessing’s life and has been noted in every article ever written about her as somehow more defining than the volume of her work.

But Lessing was a writer of note as well as merit. She catalogued an era–the cusp between World War II and the dawn of second-wave feminism–and defined the place of women in that period of time. She later crafted her own world when she turned to science fiction, which was, when she began her Canopus in Argos novels, becoming a new ground for women writers, in particular feminists and lesbians. But repeatedly and compellingly she came back to women and their lives, women and sex, women and politics, women refusing to be obedient, women breaking silence–as she did.

Lessing won a slew of awards before she was awarded the Nobel and even after. She wrote everything there was to write–poems, essays, short stories, novels, memoirs, even a libretto. She was immensely gifted, notoriously independent and never shied away from the political.

Her first book, The Grass Is Singing, published when she was 32, was a treatise on racism and colonialism, taking place in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where Lessing grew up.

In 1985, in The Good Terrorist, Lessing gives us Alice, who is in love with Jasper, who is gay. He leaves her periodically to have sex with men, then returns because he needs her, although he can’t stand to have her touch him. The two are Communists (as was Lessing for many years) and by the end of the novel, have become terrorists–Lessing addressing the issue of terrorism long before it was trendy and explicating why people kill for political ideology.

In one of her last novels, Love, Again, she returns to the subject of female passion (including lesbianism) as an older woman, 65-year-old Sarah Durham, tries to discern what place love, sex and passion have in her life and the lives of the women around her.

Lessing always broke with tradition. She left school at 14 and was self-taught. She left her family of origin as well as the husband she married at 19 and the two children she had with him. She rejected the tradition that said women belong to men and to children and to housekeeping. She lured other women with her declarative and ruminative prose that told women they could choose. Really, they could choose, as her protagonists Anna Wulf and Martha Quest do. Women could walk away from what was expected and do what was unexpected.

That’s what Lessing did. What was unexpected. She showed us how to be feminist even if she wasn’t sure she was feminist. She showed us how to be lesbian, even though she was heterosexual. She showed us how to be one’s self, regardless of what others think.

Read rest of article and others at Lambda Literary.

In Order To Survive

Shiva’s Spectacular Gender Divide – Part 6 of 6
by Mira Prabhu. 22 July 2013
From Metaphysical & Mundane Musings of a Maverick Female Scribe

My own emotional reactions to perceived suffering—mine and others—were always so intense that I was often paralyzed into depression. By the time I was a teenager, I already knew that in order to survive, I would have to make peace with the patriarchy.

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Random investigations into the nature of reality proved to me that the foul concept of brawn over brain had distorted the collective psyche; everywhere—among rich and poor, educated and illiterate—I saw perverted masculinity. Instead of cherishing their womenfolk, men seemed to want to triumph over them. And by doing so, they smashed feminine self-esteem to smithereens. It was as if their own sisters, wives and daughters were arch rivals to be diminished and trounced. As a result, sexual union was often reduced to the usurpation of the female body, and marriage, in many cases, to no more than a legal form of rape.

To read entire article and series, go to Mira’s blog.

Equal Work Equal Pay

Gabriel —

I’m not sure if you were alive when President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act 50 years ago today.

I was a recent Trinity College graduate (here’s a picture of me with President Kennedy from just a couple years before to prove it):

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President Kennedy called the Equal Pay Act “a first step” to ending the widespread practice of paying women less than men for the same amount of work. And that’s exactly what it was: a first step.

50 years later, we’re still fighting this fight, and women STILL make 23 cents less on the dollar. House Democrats have proposed a solution — the Paycheck Fairness Act — but Republicans voted to block this legislation from even coming to a vote. That’s unacceptable.

Automatically sign your name to tell House Republicans to support equal pay for equal work.

Our daughters and granddaughters should know that they’ll enter the workforce as equals to their male counterparts. But it’s going to take a real effort to get this done.

Add your name to our petition right now and say you support equal pay:

http://dccc.org/Equal-Pay

Thanks,

Nancy

Strong Sense of Self

Excerpt from Transfigurations by Jana Marcus.

You must have a very strong sense of self to transition. (Tiffany, 42)

If I were able to transition when I was in my teens, like youth can today, I would have been socialized as other young girls are. But would I have been forced to buy into stereotypical behavior, attributes, and social norms that most young women are raised with? Would I be a cookie-cutter conformist with a very narrow idea of what a girl is and what kind of woman she should be? Would I have been raised to be a good girl, find a white knight, and raise a family?

It would have been beneficial to my physical appearance to be on estrogen before so many male features became permanent. It’s much harder to transition later in life, and I have had to rid myself of male baggage and socialization. But when that process was done I had a semi-blank slate to create my own idea of what a woman can be, instead of what society thinks she should be. By constructing the woman I am today, I was able to become my own creation, with healthier ideas and qualities I wanted to embody, such as intelligence, humor, individuality, strength, grace and class, as well as my own sense of style and unique place in the world.

I’m proud to be trans; it’s who I am. The outcome of my struggles is what makes me special, not whether I’ve had surgery to create a vagina. Millions of women have a vagina and it doesn’t make them special. What makes a person special is who they are inside, what they do with their lives, and how they make a difference in the world. That’s the kind of woman I am – always aiming to make a difference.

A Woman +

Excerpt from Transfigurations by Jana Marcus.

I am more than just a woman.
By Danielle (30)
See accompanying photo.

I used to be very scared of being transgendered. I didn’t want to fit into that community, and I lived my life as a woman. Only those very close to me knew otherwise. When Gwen Araujo was murdered I realized that I could no longer pretend to be what I was not. Gwen’s death could have been mine. I was in her situation so many times – deceiving people that I was a natural woman. I was really just deceiving myself. This was difficult for me to come to terms with, but I realized that I’m not a biological woman and I never will be. There is more than just male and female – gender is fluid. I realized that the world was messed up, not me, so I decided to turn my anger into a passion for change. Now I’m dedicated to providing services which were not available when I was young.

There’s an emotional and spiritual evolutionary process that we all must go through to accept ourselves for who we really are. I am a transgendered woman and that’s how I identify. For many years I refused to accept having been male. Now I recognize that I am of two spirits, and I’m trying to get in touch with the man inside of me. This is part of embracing my transgenderism as a whole. I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not. I’m just trying to be who I am, and to love myself.

Danielle

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