On the Feminine Experience

About a month ago, I asserted that my current attempts to “make meaning” would necessitate a re-ordering of my interests, goals, and desires. I now believe that wasn’t quite correct. The further along I guide myself through this exercise in making something impactful and imprintable out of my life, the less I view the process as requiring a change in perspective, and the more I see it as a shedding of skin. As a means of getting to the crux of who I am. To finally know what kind of work—what kind of life—my talents are best suited for. To engage in a slow and seductive dance with that which truly sets my soul on fire.

Of course, I can’t be certain this is what I am supposed to feel, or even if I am “doing it right” by any formal standards, but I can say with a degree of certainty, that I think I am dangerously close to—or have, perhaps, even stumbled upon—what I’ve been looking for. And it wasn’t without the help of my readers, either. Your questions and observations have aided me a great deal in questioning my own assumptions and in viewing my own writings through a variety of different lenses. As I am sure they will continue to. For that, I thank you. It wasn’t until last night, though, as I was reading the interview, “Anaïs Nin Talks About Being a Woman,” that I came across a few sentences that struck me and incited a firestorm of mental activity: “…but I do remember Dr. Otto Rank, who analyzed me in Paris, saying that we didn’t really understand the psychology of women, that women had not yet articulated their experience…Men invented soul, philosophy, religion. Women have perceptions that are difficult to describe, at least in intellectual terms.”

pink mask and jewel

Yes. I had to ask myself if this still held true. After all, Rank died in 1939. The answer, I believe, is “yes.” At least, for some of us. Those who find in ourselves a resolute and untamable feminine core. That is, perhaps, the core I have been working toward giving a definitive voice to since I started this blog. (I mean, haven’t I already begun doing it?) Until now, within me, it’s been a voice that whispered. And after all of my other layers, my other selves, have been stripped away, it remains. Fixed and sure of itself.

I, perhaps, could have guessed this would happen. It’s not shocking to me that I might find a profound desire to articulate the aspects of my experience as a woman that I’ve never heard articulated before—at least not in any sort of meaningful way. Nin’s work might be the exception. What it means to “feel like a woman,” to “feel pretty,” to “feel sexy,” to experience any number of complex and eminently erotic states that are often discounted as frivolous, juvenile, or unenlightened. Even—and often especially—by other women.

I feel a compulsion to give voice to those experiences within myself. Because they matter. And, I am discovering that (though not without difficulty, at times) I seem to be inclined toward this kind of writing. I enjoy it very much. I anticipate my next post will be titled, “On Feeling Pretty” (barring the interjection of a sexy poem or two). And it will be a serious examination of a feeling that is rooted in the most lighthearted and playful of rituals.

17 thoughts on “On the Feminine Experience

  1. Men cannot make babies so we create civilization. I didn’t come up with that its almost a proverb in anthropology/psychology. Now, to tape this idea to this wonderful femme diorama. To be civil was to enjoy the privileges of equality in a society, at a given period. It would be almost treasonous to speak out loud like this about this topic of females being whole individuals in New England not even, 300 years ago. The church really stopped burning women just before 1700 but still burned until the civil war. TMI. Maybe. No, it adds context to why females have been supressed and not oppressed. Suppression because privileges are allowed but taken away at a whim. Like, birth control. But, you or I can still have sex with whoever. Fortunately, for now. I am not sure if everyone can be equal and just and fair to each other. Since, we have the huge ruts of actual oppression, women’s suppression, and war for resources. Men. If the world were ruled by women would it fair and just? I think we are too similar to say it would be better it is only our social psychology that creates these invisible walls between us. This is getting long but when you talk about something I’ve read about I don’t give you two cents you get the whole dollar. I wish I had more time to bother everyone that creates an impression upon me. We need more voices in the public sphere that can, well. Think.

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    1. I don’t think I’d want to live in a civilization ruled by women. And I’m not sure we’ll ever be just and fair to one another, but I do know that I wouldn’t want to live in a world without difference. When I look around, I don’t find a frame for the feminine experience that I find adequate. And very little encouragement to create a different framework. A great deal of the time, I think, it’s because, as Rank said, women themselves don’t know how to communicate the vastly intuitive/instinctual/erotic aspects of their experience—the more “poetic” side of life. To continually cross that bridge between feeling and intellect is very difficult, as artists probably know better than most. In fact, those posts prove to be a very heathy challenge for me. (That difficultly in communication, coupled with a lack of encouragement for embracing and expressing the positive aspects of female eroticism, I think, makes this fertile ground for anyone who would exploit historical female suppression to create a different narrative.) I’ve noticed within myself, though, that to articulate or attempt to articulate those feelings changes not only the way I view myself, but the way I see other women, and men. All, I think, for the better. A simple enough concept, maybe. But, as you say, the public sphere appears embarrassingly devoid of insight. I’d rather take my chances by looking inward to see if I can find what I’m looking for there. I almost yearn for a new era of public intellectuals…Btw, are you very familiar with Rank’s writings? I just ordered Art and Artist. Looking forward to starting it.

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      1. Ah, difference. My mother would work twelve hours a day and come home and make Native beadwork until she fell asleep. You would think that a craftsman could sustain themselves on their art. It is class difference that keeps art in its cage. Like Maya Angelou’s caged birds. Ridley called nightclubs mating arenas and there is some truth there. You do not find love as much practice sexual expression. Or, find a sex partner. I think your project of connecting women with their sexual self is harder for this culture. That knows desire, sells desire, but as soon as you act on it you’re so wrong. A dirty woman. Rank sounds interesting but what I’ve learned from different artforms is that Art is more of an afterthought to an idea. It sounds, like Rank is using some kind of forensics to say that all artists think the same. I wish it was that easy. I like those differences but I dislike that part of our culture that treats all art as the same. Taylor Swift is not Tchaikovsky and Family Guy is not Roots.

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      2. Consumerism coupled with an enduring puritanical streak in our culture…among other things. I get what you say about class difference and the suppression of art. It isn’t fair. With regard to relationships between men and women, though, I think we’d all be better off if we made an effort to understand and embrace the natural differences in ourselves and in one another. Idealistic, maybe. Rank intrigues me, though I don’t yet know enough about his thoughts on artistic personalities to discuss in depth. I remember learning a tiny bit about him in a personality class once, but I think the professor either didn’t know much about him or didn’t find his work important. Yeah, we seem to have lost, culturally speaking, our barometer for the appreciation of art. Indicative of a decline.


      3. I think you’ve come into an interesting subject that pushes against many social norms. You could do a thesis? Maybe get some grant money. That might hold you back though. They are kind of drab in academics. Especially against social norms. Free speech is not exactly free at the university. I was in the military and the culture is pretty brutal towards, everyone. I was removed and sent to prison for a while after defending two rape victims against their military attackers which led to court martial. I believe if we all had those other expressions that it would reduce sexual violence overall. I read in India that even teaching women to write simple sentences reduced the birth rate in those that live in poverty. Sure eroticism, may not change the world but it really doesn’t have to it’s an ability that women have to control their worlds. Not just another beauty product but to feel connected to what makes them beautiful.

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      4. You’ve tapped into one of my central issues with the prospect of furthering my education. (I’ve been seriously considering it.) To dedicate myself to topices like this (and get paid go do it) would make me very happy. It would be ideal, actually, except most academics I’ve encountered are incredibly drab and intellectually unadventurous. The second you bring up an idea that forces them to think outside of the weird little niche they’ve created for themselves, they can’t handle it. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me over the years…”You want to research WHAT? But, no one’s doing that.” What I want to do goes against social norms and academic culture (not at all a paragon for free speech), and even if they did let me in, I am afraid they would want to hold me back. I’d want to do things that are experimental and unconventional, like bring back Karen Horney (whom I LOVE) and marry her with Coco Chanel.

        I agree that avenues for the healthy expression of our sexuality would reduce that kind of violence. What you did is very brave. I doubt many people would’ve had the same kind of courage.

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      5. You should look up the website “the conversation.” It’s slightly less structured but poignant on different topics. I like your ideas. Strangely. Beautiful. Maybe it helps you with your day to day stuff. I had an aha moment today. The need for diversity is important because of the foundation of our stories stems from mostly white males and their struggles. I saw the other side of the coin today. Haha. Not everything is racist or sexist but one can’t deny the ignorance of white males. It’s hard to, understand that and be sympathetic first and create empathy to open that door. I see it a lot more from artists than politicians to create these dialogues. A hard lesson for minorities like myself is that there will be no retribution. One wants equality from one’s circumstances without the critical parts of the educational system that puts someone as a manager, of something. It’s a complex issue that I believe if solved we would not buy things. Like, we do. To fix self esteem issues and create the negative collective consciousness. I’m not above this. I get Ben and Jerry’s after a hard day. Pizza. Watch a movie.

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      6. I will check it out, thank you. I really appreciate that you take the time to think about and comment thoughtfully and critically on my posts. The feedback is incredibly helpful…and it’s always nice to banter with people who like to think about difficult topics. I enjoy moments when we can, if only briefly, experience the “other side” of the coin. I agree that that capacity for empathy and flexibility seems to be more prevalent in creative folks. A raise in consciousness is probably what we need. A new, a better kind of individual wouldn’t tolerate racism, sexism, poverty, etc. I’m a firm believer that that kind of evolution begins with looking internally. But, what do I know?

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      7. You know a lot it comes out in every post. I agree about internal motivations that’s a natural progression. I wasn’t always a day laborer traveling by bus to a new town for work every week. I learned in forensics that physical violence is from violent thoughts. So, a lot of crime could be premeditated but, our laws are property based even on the individual level. Confused? Me too. So, if you have no property you don’t have much rights. Even the most basic rights can be, bypassed. We can’t be discouraged. Your ideas will get traction and help others. That is the essence of Art.

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