So there I was
Walking down a back street in Santa Fe. The sidewalk was minimal, the adobe wall on my right hand was solid, my left hand could have touched any passing car. It was a one-lane sidewalk.
I heard the slow rumbling approach behind me. Then I heard the young men in the car. They were speaking Spanish, but their intent required no interpretation. They leaned out the open windows. I took a deep breath, blew it out and ignored them. They matched my pace, rolling along directly behind me, providing color commentary.
Then I noticed the old Hispanic man walking towards me. He looked at me, he took in the boys. He could see what they could not – I was visibly pregnant – and it just popped his top.
He jumped off the curb in front of the car. He stood there screaming at the boys, in Spanish of course. He waved his arms wildly in my direction. The only word I caught, multiple times, was “Madonna.” I turned. The boys got the message. The old man continued to yell and pound his fist on their hood. The chastised put it in reverse, backing away from the avenger.
I slipped around the corner, unnoticed.
And that, was in fact, the problem. Nobody on that street had seen ME. The ones in the car saw the biological usefulness of my backside. The one in front of me saw the biological usefulness of my womb. All had opinions about my status as a woman. Their opinions were in severe conflict.
None of them saw the young woman who was neither flattered nor frightened by the unasked for attention. No one saw the young woman who needed no protection or vengeance. What I thought or felt mattered not at all to them.
But hear me now.
I am not my biology.
I enjoy all the things that my body can do.
But I am not my body.
I treasure my body, giving it respect without worship. It is my friend and my servant.
But it is temporary and I am not.
My gender is temporary.
I, created in the image of God, cannot be truly defined by gender.
When my blood and sinews, hormones and neurotransmitters are all rot,
I will remain.
Some of what walked that street will remain.
But those blind men on that street that day would not recognize me,
they never saw me.
I have been looking my old copy of Camille Paglia's book "Sexual Personnae" once again. Paglia describes at length the biological realities of people, nature, and the planet more generally. Paglia seems naturalistic in her personal philosophy, but I doubt that her descriptive approach is positioned to negate spiritual realities. She argues at length that beauty should recieve it's due, and that it's inherent to nature. I see her work as a piece of a large puzzle called reality. This puzzle is too large for me to complete I'm pretty sure.
I once felt more naturalistic about life too. I was a worse person as a result I believe. Some people seem to have some talent for picking up some of the worst from a philosophy or social environment, I have a bit of that unfortunate talent.
p.s. -- I quoted your post on my blog as my "blogroll quote of the week" -- it that's not cool with just let me know, but it struck a chord with me and I don't think I could ever express it better, the essence of that feeling that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't as a woman. I think the way you wrote it can make any halfway open-minded man actually place themselves in your shoes so to speak, and grasp exactly what the issue is. Thanks :)
What do we do about the fact that young impregnable women's secondary sexual characteristics - breasts, buttocks, skin tone, hair sheen, eyes, lovely smell - ALL are apparently designed by a Benevolent Deity with one practical object in mind... and that, brothers and sisters, that practical function is to attract otherwise clueless young males.
Otherwise they might spend all their time blowing things up, or punching each other on the arm.
I mean obviously. The biological task programmed into any young guy is - at a glance - to tell the difference between a possible mate, and say, a sapling. Or another male. Wouldn't want to make that mistake, would we?
Look, Ms Parson's, I have always enjoyed the smart strong savvy women in my life. Always. And I've usually been able to admit the truth with a smile when I knew some woman was smarter, stronger, savvier than me. For instance, better in airports, just to pull a wild example out of my imagination...
As an almost 55 year old guy I can say a little easier these days, "Dress - or undress - any damn way you want. Wear a burlap bag or a bikini: my job is to treat you with courtesy and respect."
And absolutely, the young guys in the car were out of line. Three on one is chicken anyway you slice it. I feel a little more sympathy for the older guy; because I think that having a protective attitude towards the pregnant lady is a good and gallant thing.
So... but... so... do you really think, "Hey bud, whattayou think you're lookin at...?" is quite fair?
Isn't little buddy - our universal young man - just looking because that's the way he's built, too?
Just sign me
Perplexed in Portland
I think you have missed my point, which was not to deny biology, but to insist that everyone - including young males - can transcend their biology.
That the varied reactions on that street while puporting to be about me - were not about me at all.
I was not flattered or threatened by the boorish behavior, but I did not want or need the behavior that you call gallant.
What I deserved was autonomy, and the ability to walk in public without comment.
You comment is interesting enough that I think I will not leave it here in this back water but will pull it up onto the front page later today.
This issue you raise, about not being seen as an individual but only in certain assumed roles for a woman, is an important one. I'm glad you raise it.Post a Comment
But I find myself reacting somewhat like Derek, to the way you characterize and seem to judge the old man. The thing is, he didn't know you as a person, so he really couldn't see you individually. The situation didn't allow for it. He saw a bunch of kids treating you like crap, and he straightened them out. The particular language and tone he took might have been off-base, but the easy response would have been for him to ignore the kids' behavior, and he didn't do that. The fact that you didn't need any protection, doesn't mean the old man should have assumed that and walked away. He used your pregnancy to shame the kids, but it's entirely possible he would have responded that way to punks making trouble for anyone. The way you tell the story, he seems like that kind of tough old coot.
I hope I don't come off too strong with this. Most of what you're saying in this "Women's Blog-o-rama" seems right on the money and important. But you might not have been the only person on that street who wasn't seen.
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