Sunday, November 17, 2013

France Day 5: Notre Dame a.k.a.Our Lady

Virtually all cultures celebrate the feminine in religious and secular ways. For the pious or the spiritual (distinctly different gestalts), icons mirror each other despite cultural differences: the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the 21 Taras, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mandarava, Kwan Yin, Kali, Radha and others.
Female saints depicted in a church stained glass window
In the secular world, the female goddess morphs into a sex symbol for men to dream about -- the most beautiful ones possessed by power brokers in the Lucky Few Club. Women movers and shakers in politics and business usually twist themselves into more manlike postures and clothing to fit in, thus diminishing their femininity in order to bust through the glass ceiling.

Sadly, despite an abstract exaltation of women, both divine mothers and divinely regular women are stopped at the door of the boy's club when it comes to true parity. Never mind that the Catholic church is replete with women saints; the hierarchy refuses to allow women the rank of priesthood. Never mind that women in the western world are protected by laws guaranteeing equal rights but in reality get paid less than men for the same work.

And let's not even begin to contemplate the fate of women in the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, India and so forth. Whenever I complain to a certain friend about anything in my life, she always retorts, "Just thank god you weren't born a woman in Somalia."

Until this very day, I had felt indignation at the sight of oppressed nationalities, tribes, or cultures. But a light bulb just went on: why press for the rights of a certain group of people if they mistreat and repress their own women? Why not spend my energy working to help strengthen women, who make up more than half the population worldwide. If you want to be a Swedish woman you are going to do OK, but if not, there is a mountain of work to accomplish in other parts of the world -- not only to change the mindset of men but to liberate women from their own self-limiting beliefs.

Males and females form the essential dynamic in all cultures, the basis upon which the family is built. Until women truly represent the other half of the equation with a big equal sign in the middle, the world will continue its lopsided journey into oblivion. And that's not the course we really want to take, is it?

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