I believe that one of the great disorders of the world is a misunderstanding of the value and role of women. This misunderstanding has been propagated by men and accepted by far too many women. In a history dominated by violence, men found it easy to oppress women, and thought of all sorts of clever justifications for the relegation of women to the status of second class citizens.
Arguments were presented that it was a woman, after all, who first ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden, conveniently forgetting that it was quite probably a male “serpent” who offered it to the poor innocent girl. Long discourses were presented about women’s wiles, and deceptive natures. Women were told that their brains were too small and that they couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of science and politics. Thus, the vote was denied them. When women became emotionally overburdened amidst the stress of a male-dominated society, Victorian physicians callously removed their ovaries, to prevent “hysteria”.
Lest my male readers think that all this is “in the past”, is it not still true that women around the world are even now oppressed? Why is it that women are still paid less when they do the same jobs as men? Why is there a glass ceiling? I doubt that women feel truly good about their current status, whether they live in a Manhattan penthouse, or are bundled up in a burka in the Middle East.
Men may feel enough confidence to present a laundry list of women’s deficiencies, and may even feel like quoting Hamlet’s assertion that “Frailty, thy name is woman!” A man may nod, and wonder aloud about the risk of a female president pushing the big red nuclear button on a bad hair day. Puffing on their cigars, some men might wink and say, “PMS, you know.”
It all sounds terribly logical until one compares the history of violence among men to that of the “gentler sex”. How many times have women lamented about “the evil that men do?”
One wonders if part of the male desire to keep women in their place stems from an unconscious fear of the power of women. Is it a base desire for power and self-aggrandizement that turns men away from their earliest memories of the powerful influence and love that they received from their mothers? Do they worry that selfish agendas will come to nought if they lift women up to their rightful positions?
The nineteenth century poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., said that “The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.”
Before the violent onset of testosterone, which for some boys happened as soon as they were able to walk out in their back yards and beat the ground with sticks, males of our species experienced the enveloping softness of their mother’s love. It was the center of their world. Most of us still recognize the value of our mothers. What is more classic than the 1930s gangster beating up his opponent because the wretch insulted his mother? We love our mothers, generally speaking. We remember them on Mother’s Day, and sometimes quote the Jewish proverb that says, “God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.”
Even on Death Row, a man will rest his head on his mother’s knee, for as Honoré de Balzac said, “The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
It is a great disorder of the world that our profound appreciation for our mothers has not extended outward to give all women their rightful positions in the world. Men may love their mothers, but sharing power with them is another matter altogether.
I believe that a central reason that men dominate women is because of a misunderstanding of value. What is the most valuable thing to a man, and to all men, and in fact, to all women? Is it power and wealth that men should pursue to the sacrifice of all else? We pursue what we hold dear to our hearts and minds. We pursue what we desire, and what we believe has value.
This is a hard question to answer, for we have many distractions, and the pressures of our lives in the physical world are often extreme. It’s far too easy to become practical and businesslike, and focus on bills and work and the defense of one’s home. Yet, men have many good points, including honor and duty and nobility. They are not strangers to self-sacrifice and they often believe wholeheartedly in beauty and in love. Why is it, then, that women are still repressed?
The most valuable thing for a male infant is love. At that age, male babies are very clear about their priorities, and speak the language of love with every smile. In the book, Mary Poppins, the twins, John and Barbara, who had not yet reached the age of one, could still speak the language of the birds and the trees and the sun and the wind. As they grew, they lost their ability to understand. In the same way, I think male children often lose their sensitivity to the embracing spirit of motherly love, and by extension, the essence of love as expressed and felt by women.
What boy wants to become a “girlie man”? In that playground assessment of the fairer sex, boys and men distance themselves from the amazing strength of a woman’s love. By doing so, men do themselves a disservice, because both genders share degrees of each other’s attributes. As women are able to love with a motherly and compassionate heart, men also can feel deeply and love with the same compassion. The natures of men and women are different, but if we didn’t share some degree of each other’s attributes, how could we possibly relate to each other?
More than anything else, at this time in history, I believe that men need to sharpen their awareness of and deepen their resonance with the pure, unadulterated energy of parental love. One might compare a man to a river bed and a woman to the water that flows across the rocks. They both have unique value, and men are certainly capable of embracing others with love. It is the love that flows from the hearts of women, however, that most closely resembles the original essential aspect of God’s embracing love. It is this transcendent quality of motherly and feminine love that imbues women with such incredible value.
Everything starts from that quality of love. It is present in the song of the birds, the whisper of the trees, and the embrace of the sun and the wind. Male babies revel in it, and male adults find solace in it, if they open their hearts to the real value of their wives, their sisters and of course their mothers.
Holding the feminine aspect of God’s love in such high value makes it impossible to mistreat women. Viewing our wives in this light affirms that we married “half of God”. Of course, since we are all flawed, and sometimes deeply damaged and broken, it requires imagination and effort to see the true value in each person. Even though we have spots and bruises as individuals, our view of each other’s gender must go back to the original ideal of what we should be, can be, and someday will become again.
What is nobler and more dignified than the purity and strength of a good woman’s love? True unselfish love flowing from the heart of a woman is magnificent and divine, for it is indeed a river of healing water that has its source in the heart of an invisible God. When my wife and I were first married, we often talked about the so-called “order” between husbands and wives, as it was defined by history and society. Our conclusion was that neither the husband nor the wife should be the “boss”. Instead, we decided that “true love is the boss”.
When both men and women decide that true love is the one thing in life that has the highest value, then men will regard women with a newfound respect, for in matters of the heart, men have often lagged behind. In the same way, when true love is held in the highest respect in every aspect of life, including the corporate and political worlds, women will no longer need to act like men in order to be respected. Female CEOs and political leaders will not have to lose their femininity or “womanliness” in order to get things done. A kind glance and a smile will be far more powerful than a barked order. In this respect, women have the opportunity to show men how to be leaders of heart and love.
Young teenage girls who recognize that they are growing into magnificent and divine women will protect their sexual purity, while at the same time embracing their powerful feminine sensuality after they are married. Women will be able to stand like goddesses, emanating the divine heat of the sun, and reaching out with a love that will heal and restore the lost hearts of men. With their intuition and unique feminine creativity, women will be integral to the creation of a world of true peace.
Where does this leave men? Does this mean that men must be dominated in turn by women, as superior beings? Frankly, it is up to men to pursue their own heartistic healing and to pursue the ideal of true love. I believe that men and women share God’s attributes equally, each living as half of God, and each completed by the other. Men will be able to reclaim their own magnificent divinity as they lift up and honor the magnificent divinity of women.
The spiritual atmosphere of the world has been cold and barren, and filled with pain. The restoration of women to honored positions as mothers and leaders of heart will help cleanse the world. Men need not be afraid of the loss of power in a society of heart, for they will share power with women equally, and they will come to know that the joy that comes from heartistic interaction far outweighs the ephemeral pleasures of power. If we doubt that this is true, all we have to do is ask our mothers.