Friday, September 28, 2012

The Perfect Woman

There once was a bar in Columbus with a sign like this; maybe it's still there.  It hasn't been long ago that I drove past it and wondered why no feminists have ever defaced it.  After all, it means to depict the perfect woman in the context of thinking that women talk too much. 

I don't think that's just a cute joke.  I don't think it's merely about talk, but about a woman's place, a kind of systematic demeaning of women that is fundamental in patriarchal cultures, that is, pretty much all human societies.  Without going into the complex historical reasons for this, I will note that in the animal kingdom, sheer size and strength win.  And we are animals.  But we are also human beings and can do better than that. 

In patriarchy, women are silenced.  Are supposed to quietly serve men.  Are not supposed to have opinions. Can women think?  Should we?  What are we entitled to think about?  Should we have opinions?  Make waves, get equal pay?  Patriarchy knows the answers.

What is the opposite of the silent perfect woman serving a man?  Perhaps it is a gentle, loving man who is in no way aggressive.  What would he look like?  Not a castrati, I don't even want to think about depicting that.  I have never seen a pub sign like the above that would show a man mutilated in such a way as to make him a woman's ideal, and don't want to.  So how would I depict him?

Maybe he would look like this.....

Jesus as the good shepherd.  Maternal, long lovely hair, wearing a dress.  Okay, gown.
Or maybe the perfect man looks like this.....
The Dalai Lama. I could not quickly find a full-length portrait of him, but as you know, he too wears a dress.  Alright, gown.

As for a depiction of a perfect woman, I like the ideal of Kuan Yin, Kanzeon, Green Tara in various branches of Buddhism - the buddha of compassion. We ourselves have a statue of Jizo in our little Zen garden, who I believe is sometimes male, sometimes female, a quiet little patron saint of travelers and lost children.  Here she is, in fall color.  She wears a robe and carries a staff with little rings that jingle quietly as she walks, to let animals know she is coming and means no harm.
This is a personal issue for me, this thing about strict gender definition.  I wish I'd been taught that it was okay for a girl to be smart, to think.  I had to fight my way through a thicket of thorns on that, and to my surprise, sometimes I still do.

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