We read short stories written by women (if you haven’t read The Yellow Wallpaper you need to. Now.) watched movies directed or written by women, read The Vagina Monologues (another must read for women everywhere) and did in class projects such as self portraits, short stories and poems.
I especially enjoyed the poem assignment. The guidelines were simple enough. Write a poem reflecting your view of a feminine issue. I immediately thought of something funny, like “Ode to My Tampons” or something along those lines but when I sat down to write, something decidedly less funny came out:
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies.
But what you see is not her sight
Your compliments, to her, are lies
Two inches below the perfect height
Far too wide throughout the thighs.
One implant more, ten pounds less
Four pounds of makeup on her face
Her stylish clothes cut to express
What magazines describe as grace.
Hairspray holds each shining tress
Lipstick on, smile in place.
“Who are you really?” You might ask
But she’ll pretend she doesn’t hear.
In the sun of perfection she does bask
Only hiding her face for fear,
That you may not like the girl behind the mask.
And so, alone, she sheds a solitary tear.
For those of you who read poetry, specifically of the Romantic era, you’ll recognize the first two lines stolen from Lord Byrons “She Walks in Beauty”
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
I wanted to write the other side of this poem, which in true Romantic era form, is the sudden spontaneous overflow of emotion after spotting a beautiful woman walking past. Today women spend the majority of their time belittling themselves. Fretting over hair and clothes and makeup, so worried about looking good that when we’re praised for it we deny it. “This shirt? Oh no, it’s old and out of style and my hair is just being stupid today. No, no I look horrible, I know.”
Keep close attention to women you’re talking to and what they say, how often statements are started with “Well I don’t know but…”or “This is dumb but…or “Not that it matters…”
We have to get away from this habit. Don’t belittle yourself, there are plenty of other people willing to do it for you. Take the compliment and be happy for it. Say thank you and move on, let it make you smile and cheer your day instead of denying it. Say what you have to say without apologizing or minimizing it.
But there are positive signs of improvement, if you know what to look for.
Blogging, knitting, sewing, writing, reading, these are selfish acts. We take time away from our work, our families, our day to day duties and do something that is specifically for us. Even if the knitting or sewing is being given away that time that you take to make the item is yours.
I’m proud of us all.