THE BLOG

What's Really Hot...

05/17/2012 04:45 pm ET | Updated Jul 17, 2012

O.M.G... Hillary Clinton in public without makeup. That this is news or newsworthy is bananas, and once again points to the bizarre obsession with women's appearance in contexts where one should just, as Jezebel's caption read, "give zero fuc*s." But it does count as more evidence of just how smokin' she is.

Oh yeah, this is the woman who has the distinct honor of having a nutcracker created in her likeness during the 2008 primary season. Her relentless commitment to a higher goal enabled her to endure during the campaign and, now, thrive as a Secretary of State who has placed girls (child marriage, education, sex slavery) and women (domestic abuse, rape, economic rights) in the center of diplomatic relations around the world. The "Texts from Hillary" mini-meme that was such a sensation a few weeks back cemented the growing recognition that Hillz is cool. But I'd like to suggest that Hillary Clinton is beyond cool; in fact, she's hot. Her awesomeness is defining what I'd say is a new hot. If we want our culture to evolve beyond the absurdly narrow definition of what counts for a woman, then we've got to embrace new kinds of hotness.

Frankly, I've thought that it's ridiculous to use the word "hot," which of course is about sexiness, to mean anything and everything that makes our hearts beat a little bit faster. Like many of the ubiquitous terms that convey excited approval or positive response, such as cool, awesome or phat, the term is almost laden with adolescent hormones. It's particularly annoying when the media is increasingly sexualizing girls and objectifying young women, airbrushing them to a plastic pornified sameness that is being called perfection. However, since "hot" is the term of the time, let's think about hot.

Without heat, there would be no life. Simple. Perhaps, then, it just makes sense that hot = sexy, since the basic purpose of sex is reproduction, which is about creating life. Friction between bodies! (And of course the obvious: that estrus in female mammals is known as being "in heat.") Yet "hotness" has been commoditized so thoroughly that the deeper drive of the erotic toward intimacy, connection and self-abandon has been lost in a high-stakes game of increasing sensation. As the late great poet and essayist Audre Lorde said decades ago in her still powerful essay, "The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," "the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough. The erotic... has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic and plasticized sensation." The fact that research suggests that young postmodern girls/women apparently are remarkably nonorgasmic, given all the emphasis on being so dang "hot," proves Lorde's point. Heat actually has to arise from within -- flames of passion abd so forth -- and can't really be discovered or lived by strutting one's stuff in often unconscious conformity to what turns someone else on.

Hot is fundamentally about Eros -- the creative drive of the Cosmos itself, as the early Greeks believed. Integral philosopher Ken Wilber defines Eros simply as "the drive that takes you beyond yourself," which certainly describes peak sexual experience. But it's more than that. In The Passion of the Western Mind, Richard Tarnas explains that Eros "expresses itself in the sexual instinct, but at higher levels impels the philosopher's passion for intellectual beauty and wisdom, and culminates in the mystical vision of the eternal, the ultimate source of all beauty." Eros is also the creative impulse that is only expressed through human beings, and as well, the spiritual impulse, which drives the development of higher orders of consciousness and care.

Hot: flames of sexual passion, the creative spark and the fire of spirit. These are three distinctly different levels of Eros that human beings have the capacity to express. Which means women. I say that because the emphasis on one level of Eros -- the "oooooohhhh, she's HOTTT" -- outside-in, oh baby baby, level, keeps women from aspiring to higher orders of, yeah, hotness -- if that's what we're calling it.

It's not that these levels are unrelated, either. Take Margaret Mead, for example. From what I have heard, as she got older, more confident, bold and brilliant (not to mention renowned for her groundbreaking work studying diverse cultures), she was a like a magnet, compelling the interest of powerful men. She wasn't a beauty by any stretch, but her vitality, curiosity, intelligence -- they fired her up, and made her hot. From the inside out.

That's where I come back to Hillary Clinton. Here is a woman at her prime who is both engaging creatively and even spiritually in pushing to realize a vision for humanity that is even larger than her role in U.S. diplomacy. How hot is that? Living on the true edge of human possibility is profoundly thrilling and enlivening. That's Eros in action, the creative force of the Cosmos creating heat through the friction of blasting through the old to make way for the new. Can you imagine what a world we would have if what's "hot" in women had to do with our realizing and expressing Eros at the highest levels?

____________
Find out more about realizing Eros at higher levels: Sex, Power & Leadership for Women, a virtual seminar, May 19 & 20.