Literature and Women
Much has been written about women and women’s issues throughout the ages; by women themselves and about women by men − women’s mastery and mystery, their beauty and perceived lack of it and the overblown significance thereof, the ties that bind them to good men, the lies that bind them to bad men, their tight-knit bonds with other women, the wondrous bliss and fulfillment of being a new mother, and that all encompassing power and elegance that all women throughout the world possess.
Significant works of literature by women like Germaine Greer, who authored a ground-breaking and controversial book called The Female Eunuch in 1970, echo still within the hearts, minds, and sexuality of many women over fifty. This one work was so compelling and controversial that the women of the time were confronted with an ‘in your face’ force that propelled them beyond any place they otherwise would have more comfortably inhabited. Some of them embraced the message and passed the passion down to their daughters. Anti-feminist critics accused Greer of being a bitter man-hater. Some feminists accused her of catering to men and castigating women for the sexual disabilities of society.
Many women did indeed rise to the challenge of that rallying cry way back then to break free, to empower themselves! It was called ‘women’s lib’ in those days. But, here we are on the cusp of 2006 and women have a considerable journey ahead. Still women must persist and strive for that peaceful place where their accomplishments are recognized; ultimately their needs are met…where their souls, spirit, and value as human beings are defined by themselves and no one else.
Today, with the women’s liberation movement almost entirely demobilized, women’s lives are actually getting harder. Social services are de-funded, wages and working conditions are eroded, and women once again are working round the clock, on the job and at home. Ironically, Greer’s most recent book, The Whole Woman, documents this new turn and angrily refutes the claim of some feminists that women have achieved their liberation. She states: “Fake equality is leading women into double jeopardy. The rhetoric of equality is being used in the name of political correctness to mask the hammering that women are taking. When The Female Eunuch was written our daughters were not cutting or starving themselves. On every side speechless women endure endless hardship, grief and pain, in a world system that creates billions of losers for every handful of winners. It’s time to get angry again.” Books such as this, whether you agree with their message or not, will keep track and gauge our progress.
Not surprisingly, given the gravity and depth of our human relationships, and in celebration of that sparkling but scary dance that men and women either wickedly or heartfelt, engage in every day of our lives…literature has quite naturally been men and women’s most poignant outlet to express love, joy, desire, dreams, and disappointments.
Women writers have given us bibles, roadmaps to navigate the passages of time, to turn roadblocks and detours into new roads, told us how to avoid crashing. But, men too, often with great sensitivity and understanding of their subject, write perfectly eloquent treatise ode to women. Thus many poets and authors have played a key role in advancing the society of women; others have, sometimes unwittingly, aided our regression. Others still, have elevated women to goddess and queen who rules all, their mellifluous poems and stories an unabashed celebration of WOMAN. Awestruck by our woman-ness they have created for our hungry hearts and minds, women characters who like birds on the wing, are fluid, magical, flash-dancing bolts of warm liquid lightening…whose very existence makes man’s world go ’round.
Literature is the mirror that reflects our society. It is unforgiving and completely accurate. Poetry, prose, non-fiction, and fiction provide an in-depth exploration of women and their journey, how they fit into the complex tapestry of time…how far they have come and where they yet need to travel. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, life partners − women whose rich contributions to their loved ones, their contributions to the world at large, is indicative of a magnificent power they possess even beyond their own imaginings. Literature consolidates real life with hopes and dreams.
Thousands of women throughout the world overcome adversity every day, rise above their circumstances to create beauty, share their boundless love, and lead the way for others. Literature records it all. The essence of women resonates through the poetry and stories of women themselves and those who love and appreciate them providing ample proof that courage, strength, perseverance, and vision can and do change laws, scare the hell out of the powers that be, give children successful role models, and ultimately make for a better world.
Read the books, welcome poetry into your soul, write your own story! Because sometimes, putting it in writing can be the only voice we have that can really be heard.