Yes, of course we are One, but we are also very different in the way we express and manifest that oneness. For all apparent solidarity, women too often hold a bleak distance from one another, imposing a barrier that makes all effort at transformation that much more difficult. When we meet it is barely beyond the surface. We put on a friendly face and serve ourselves of readymade emotional masks. All is never what it seems and women the world over in all cultures and walks of life know this all too well.
Mallorca is a unique cultural meeting place. It offers an excellent training ground for world relations. It also present an arduous challenge if one wants to tell things as they are. Here as everywhere throughout my travelling life, each time I switch languages or countries, I am overshadowed by a different gestalt. At each shift my voice and gestures change, as does the angle of ideas and often the level of communication. If I want to be heard, my thoughts need to be dressed in alternate ways suiting various filters, and when I speak to women it needs to be in a different way than I speak to men. Women are a lot more demanding and, when it suits us, see right through issues. We are also very skilled in twisting things by lending them an emotional flavour where there is none, as any man can tell you. So, for us truth is always relative here. Try reaching women from different backgrounds and you will know what I mean.
Normally I write in English and then translate into Spanish myself; in the final draft I need to go from one language to the other to round out the concept. Besides having to refer constantly to emotional appropriateness for this one and the other one, in language I gain much from the back and forth checking; it forces me to think from different angles, even if in the end at least one group disagrees. Identification plays a very strong a role in women’s understanding and if it does not concern us expressly, we tend to discard what is being said. Ideally, if we were to be true to the enfolding nature of our gender we would concern ourselves a lot more with issues that are not of our direct experience or personal benefit.
There are three large clans of foreign residents here: English, German, and European. In the blog we also interact with Americans, Canadians, and a growing number of people from the Arab world. Add to these the mainland Spanish, divided into multiple ethnic groups among themselves, and us Latin Americans.
So, my message for women has to go through all kinds of barriers. Even with the common denominator being our special brand of sensitivity and recognition of the root of power, articles are met with criticism that is not always constructive. Every idea planted, every questioning, every statement is sometimes seen as a generalization rather than as a point of departure for awareness. Our cultures come between us like fine layers of Oriental lacquer.
We resist, judge, and fear whatever is different. Rather than experience difference, we often prefer to cling to a vague dream of essential sameness that does nothing to alter the status quo. If I am different from you, or you from me, if my experience is alien to you, this doesn’t mean we cannot feel and thus know one another. On the contrary, in your difference you bring something new to me, another aspect of myself, and vice-versa. The other perspective lifts us to new possibilities of sentience and perception. The key to our own transformation and that of the world we seek to inspire lies in feminine empathy. Understand that women try on ideas bodily. In our empathy as in its opposite, our dislike, as women we have the capacity to become and understand the other. In this experience lies the power of transformation.
Our sensitivity and perception as women is potentially identical. Don’t we know intuitively that our social differences only serve to bring forth our innate similarities? In this one purpose, the awakening of the authentic feminine principle by women themselves, words and theories, philosophies and euphemisms can never replace the quality of the transformational force brought forth when we are of one heart-mind. And this, given the world situation, perhaps should be our immediate priority.
Feminism served an important function worldwide: it brought out the fullness and amplitude of women’s power as it also contrasted the inner and outer aspects of womanhood (even if we largely ignored the inner part). A number of women opposed it and men armed themselves to the hilt against it, but we were all deeply affected. It served to strengthen men’s macho attitude on the one hand, but also brought insight and sensitivity to many. It also provided ample manoeuvring for the newly disguised super-fem who benefitted from its effects without relinquishing her subtle tactics as “the weaker sex”. Today, most women find themselves in a kind of in-between neo-feminism. We love being soft women and we relish having the freedom to express ourselves strongly, however difficult it may be to combine the two.
Among ourselves, the trappings of nationality and ideology, generation and belief that still divide us, make us subject to individual programs of indoctrination without realizing that they are variations on a same theme: control from the outside world. We judge other women according to our own privileges, difficulties, or personal aspirations, without using the peculiar depth of sensitivity that makes us women.
In Mallorca, as an exaggerated and oversimplified example, there exists a subtle divide between English and Spanish-speaking women that goes beyond language ability. We mix and meet and laugh, love one another, and play but… we also gracefully (or not so gracefully) discard important surface differences, such as the way we express our thoughts and feelings, and the way we appear. Spanish women tend to be categorized by our more phlegmatic sisters as artificial and exaggerated, too emotional, dispersive, and rather obsessive. The more temperamental, on the other hand, are inclined to perceive our British sisters as leaning towards the matronly, aloof and judgmental, stiffly casual, courteously formal and indirectly dismissive. Germans are generally considered by both the English and Spanish contingents as somewhat insensitive, predictable, hard, abrupt and cliquish. Latin American women are seen as less worthy, ostentatious, exotic and much too familiar. And, so on and so forth. We persist in labels instead of sinking into that which is slightly beyond the surface to extract what we can bring to one another.
I find the history of English women fascinating and exhilarating. Boudicca! The fierce power exerted by the feminine deities of Eire. The global influence of Queen Elizabeth I. Margaret Thatcher. The quaint, little English “dearie”. The infamous witches. No other region in this cycle of history can match the strength and influence of the feminine power rooted in the British Isles. Their humour, their bawdiness and sexuality, the natural ease in the management of men. The incessant behind-the-scenes machinations equalled only by the Borgia and the Holy Roman Empire. It is understandable that they stand-alone and do not easily embrace the intimate experience of other cultures.
The impressive, perdurable influence of Spanish matriarchy at home as in Latin America controls the family with a veiled iron will. It reins subliminally through direct or implied judgment, as portrayed by Isabel la Católica (Isabella, the Queen of Castile) and the unfortunate Katherine, first wife of Henry VIII. Tradition is dressed in the full-armour of quasi-religious fervour in Bernarda Alba as in the characters in Isabel Allende’s novels, lending tremendous power to the inner life and branding us permanently. Reminiscent of dominant male power yet wielding unique feminine force, the Spanish-speaking woman became her own undoing, closed within herself in depths of sustained emotion and control, symbols of extraordinary inner power. Today women everywhere stand deceptively serene, imposing, defiant, stoic, intense, and courageously unmovable in times of need.
The American woman is everybody’s target in aspiration as in blame. Her influence rules over all of us matter-of-factly and subconsciously. Devoid of the yielding moisture of innermost authenticity, forged in the Wild West and by puritanical fanaticism, she stands emancipated in her world of infinite choices and possibilities. She finds herself entrenched in the slavery of appearance and execution. It is the model of what each of us strives for and yet avoids to identify with: the lethal Lt. O’Neil, man-eating, formidably dominating, athletic, colour-coded, intellectually agile, and efficient. German Brunhildas rank closely behind, with the added advantage of being always in the right place at the right time with the right skill, measure and support from the men who think they control them.
Wherever we find ourselves, competition is ripe among women. Unbecoming and unnatural for her, it has been forged by a rough survival need. Nobody seems to remember how we got here and how we define ourselves in relation to values shaped by men in their effort to conquer and build our world. What does a woman see when she looks at the world? She senses with the depths of her feelings, feelings that she would rather conceal and disown.
It is time for women to leap into the unknown territory of themselves and cast aside the supposed treasures of the past. It is time for her to stand aside from familiar landmarks and cease to respond to accustomed bait. It is the moment to respect the reality of one another beyond social and surface differences.
It is time for the Inner Woman. Time to unite and understand, to look and to discover, to come out of centre stage as victim and assume the role of Mother of the World. It is time to recognize and build in unity.