"The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only life and reality: the female human being." Rilke
Hannah Gage, UNC Class of 1975, tells some of her story for our Alumni magazine. I’m impressed by Hannah as a woman from a small town in the South working it as an entrepreneur. I love her take on the advantage of being a relative outsider on Boards.
“In some respects, because women have not made up the majority, they have not been part of the team, so they are less inclined to feel the pressure of groupthink,” she said. “Groupthink is when a bad idea grows legs. My experience on boards is that, very often it’s the women who step out and say what everybody else was thinking, but not saying.”
I heard Bill Mahar have jokingly make this argument on his show. He was joking about the abuse scandals in the Catholic church and on the Penn State football team, and said that the common link was that there were no women involved in the organizations! “Any institution where there’s no women around—like the Church, like football, like the Middle East, like fraternities—things go to shit,” he said.
I don’t know enough about the specific instances at Penn State to totally endorse that idea, and I don’t think I could generalize that the presence of a woman would always stop child abuse. I do think that many organizations, businesses, religions, social groups, etc. could benefit from the presence of both men and women. Men and women bring different principles, ideas, and skills to the table and having both is better to me.
Perhaps a Catholic church with a total imbalance of gender and power made some male priests feel like they would be able to get away with serious, serial child abuse (and many did, for a long time anyway). And maybe the Penn State male-dominated football program covered up Jerry Sandusky’s sex crimes as part of a male belief and behavior that men shouldn’t involve themselves in the business of others.
These women are wow. Phyllis Rodriguez’s son was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Aicha el-Wafi’s son Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted of helping to organize the 9/11 attacks and his whereabouts are unknown right now. The women met and have become friends. They have bonded over the loss of their sons. Phyllis says of Aicha, “her suffering is equal to mine.”
Friendships often include a shared past, a shared religion, a shared hometown, similar politics, similar culture, or similar norms. Phyllis and Aicha have a language barrier, a cultural barrier, different hometowns, and different stories. In the video you can see the disparate clothing styles, mannerisms, postures, and means of expression of the two. There are so many reasons these women should not be able to understand each other or to empathize with each other or to love each other, but they do! Watch it.
Joan Halifax has worked with the dying in Hospice centers, remote impoverished areas of the world, and with death row prisoners. She speaks here on compassion. Some of my favorite points that she makes:
1. The best compassion cannot be attached to outcome. Have compassion for a person or a problem because there is a rough spot, not to secure a certain result from giving compassion.
2. The enemies of compassion include fear, moral outrage, and pity. I’m so into this. Fear seems more obviously and generally agreed upon as being a hindrance, but moral outrage and pity seem to be too acceptable to many.
3. Compassion takes a strong back and a soft front. I think having a strong back can differentiate compassion from pity. A soft front can be the difference between moral outrage and compassion.
4. Women today need to partner with men in a powerful way. She didn’t elaborate on this as much as I would have liked, but this point is not made enough and it’s important for change and for feminism. Men are not the enemy of a strong and healthy woman. Women and men can do things together that cannot be so easily done separately.