I was reading a book by my good friend and author Cate Montana (Unearthing Venus -- really good book BTW!) and in it, she recounts a story told to her by John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman -- also a great book). In this story, he's speaking with a shaman from the Amazon rainforest who's visiting the U.S.. The guy asks John, "Where are your women?!" and John answers, "They're right here, working as doctors and teachers and mothers and wives. Why do you ask?" The tribesman says:
"You know in our tribe the men hunt, fish and cut trees to build huts and canoes. The women gather wild edibles and care for the children. But there's one job the women perform that's the most important job in the tribe."
Intrigued, John asked what that task was.
"You must know that left to their own devices, men will hunt and fish until there is no more game and cut down trees until there are no more trees. Women are naturally in tune with nature and the needs of the community. It is the job of the women to tell the men when to STOP.
"John, where are your women? Why aren't they telling the men to stop?"
After the uproarious bout of laughter I experienced at the notion that men would actually listen to women speaking from a female perspective subsided (that took a while), the question really sank in. I asked myself what Cate asks in her book: What is the role of men and women in our modern society?
Back in "those" days it was simple: men hunted, women cooked, men plowed the fields and everything else (still do) and women cared for the children and everything else (still kinda do, but in a more manly way). But after centuries of being burned as witches for being in tune with life and doing what we're supposed to be doing (according to this tribesman), women seem to have decided it's safer to go at it like the boys. And this was apparently a good thing up until now. All we have to do is look around to see that tribesman is probably right: somebody needs to tell our patriarchal society to STOP!
But how are we supposed to live up to our purpose as women if all that's been, literally in some cases, has been beaten out of us?
As I contemplated this, I received word that in one week, two women who had this concept figured out had passed away. Cynthia Black, the Editor-in-Chief and President of Beyond Words Publishing, and Candace Pert, neuroscientist and author who discovered the opiate receptor. Both women succeeded in what could be termed a man's world, and did it without loosing their feminine identities. Within their work and in their own lives, they truly shouted from the rooftops, "STOP!"
They were successful and powerful, and when I met them I experienced a feeling of love and sisterhood rarely felt these days. There was no perceived threat that I was somehow competition and they both truly inspired me and wanted nothing but the best and highest of all things for me. Imagine that in today's chick-eat-chick world, women coming together is often still perceived as a threat and I often feel like I am forced to choose, especially in my work environment, between the red tent and the corner office. But I know deep inside, we women really all want to scream STOP as loud as we can.
Cynthia and Candace shouted anyway. They touched millions and millions of people, not just with their work but with their way of being, their loving kindness. They never forgot their woman's power--those hidden feminine qualities that for so long have been pushed aside in favor of more masculine ways.
I've often wondered what those qualities were and how I could exude them like Candace and Cynthia did. As a mother I can feel unconditional love for my children. I can nurture and protect. But still, I have the feeling I'm not quite whole; that, even though I'm girly and cute, and wearing high heels while throwing down with the big boys, I'm missing my true calling as a woman.
In Unearthing Venus, Cate explains:
The feminine is boundless, wild and free; the feminine knows and feels; she cares for everything and everyone and expresses that caring unconcerned with profit and political correctness. She shines from within, an inner living radiance that holds up a torch up for others to see by, helping them choose what's valuable, giving them the courage to let the rest go. The feminine is life itself and all that stands for life -- and that's quite a torch to bear!
Yep, that absolutely describes Cynthia and Candace, confident and intelligent, yet nurturing and in tune with all around them and encourage everyone they met to live to their highest potential. It saddens me more women won't get to experience their fire in person, as I did, but their work will carry on for eternity as a burning flame of inspiration for women like me.
As I look around, I am beginning to see more and more women out on the proverbial rooftops, and I am joining them, torch in hand shouting as loud as I can... STOP!!!!