J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."



So, there’s this Woman & Lioness post going around……

……that I find extremely manipulative.  At first, I wasn’t exactly sure if I was offended by the piece because of who posted it (which, if you’re wondering, can influence your opinion) or if it really was the piece itself.  So, I held back on my opinion, kept my thoughts to myself and waited to see if it got shared again.

Woman & Lioness.
Understand – the woman would be dead if the lioness felt like it.

It did.

I was genuinely offended and outraged by what this piece was saying.  It is a sly piece of work, presenting in a complimentary way an insult and denigrating view of women and the choices they’ve made for their lives because they have the opportunity to do so.  It’s implying a great many things without actually stating up-front what these roles are.

So I decided to break it down, line by line.

“Our generation is so busy trying to prove that women can do everything men can do, women are losing the unique qualities that set us apart.”

How are women losing their unique qualities? Aspects of their personalities? Or are they losing aspects of their physical selves? And according to whom? What are their sources? And why is it wrong for women to prove that they can do everything men can do?

All I see are women going into careers that, until recent decades, have long been denied them because of their gender – in sciences, in tech, medicine, military, police, business, etc. I mean, until the early 1970s, women couldn’t even get a bank account in their name or their own credit card without their husband’s permission. In the United States of America.

Mary Shelley created what we call modern science fiction at the age of 19 – she was forever subjugating herself to her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, ironically, was an advocate for women’s rights, having written A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The only ones placing the expectation that they be as good as or better than men are those who established the rules in the first place.

“The God-given femininity & unique way our Creator designed us.”

I almost snorted my drink through my nose when I read this one. Fortunately, I was able to do a spit-take.

Let’s take a look at ancient mythology, shall we? I’m gonna focus on the Greeks because I’m more familiar with them.

Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and chastity, swore never to marry; was the patron and protector of young girls; and even aided during childbirth. She is the twin sister of Apollo and her symbols are a bow and arrows, and hunting knives.

Athena, Greek goddess of war and wisdom, is incredibly feminine and intelligent; she was the patroness of the city of Athens; her symbol was the owl. According to her myths, she was generous to those who pleased her and vengeful to those who did not.

Aphrodite, goddess of love and procreation, is also incredibly feminine (as most goddesses of love tend to be) and owned her sexuality. She had a mind of her own and did as she pleased (as most immortals do), with no apology or shame. She was also married to Hephaestus, blacksmith to the gods, but was not faithful to him.

Side note – there is a male version of Aphrodite, named Aphroditus – his statues depict him dressed as a woman, but lifting the skirt so as to show his, um, attributes. He fell out of favor.

Hera, goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth, was also the sister-wife of the most intolerable, arrogant Zeus.

As I write about her, I am wondering if the creator of the original post I am now dismantling was thinking of her as the ideal woman – a long-suffering wife, who is essentially brainwashed by her manipulative, philandering husband into continually forgiving him and punishing the women he seduces and the children they bear. Because she had a temper and woe be to you if you dared to cross it.

All of these goddesses are aspects of all women – powerful, vengeful, loving, kind, passionate, intelligent, tender, and forgiving.

Humble, not so much.

“Women weren’t created to do everything a man can do…. Women were created to do everything a man can’t do.” – unknown

Again, according to whom? I think a woman can jolly well do whatever the hell she wants to do. She might not do it exactly as a man would do, but who says that certain roles are made for men only and women only?

A woman cannot self-inseminate, like certain plants, except by medical means and men can’t give birth. That’s pretty much the only real difference that I can see.

I bet that ‘Unknown’ was a man intimidated by strong, intelligent women who saw through his shit and refused to be manipulated by it.

“The lioness does not try to be the lion.”

Did this writer not watch any National Geographic programs? The lioness would actually kill the lion (and here’s an example of one doing just that, in a zoo. He probably pissed her off one too many times). The lion is just a figurehead of the pride – the lionesses do all the work.

Also, she can actually develop masculine traits, like like growing a mane, and altering her behavior to act like a lion.

“She embraces her role as the lioness.”

Um, whut? She doesn’t ‘embrace’ her role. She IS her role. Stop that.

“She is powerful, strong, and nurturing.”

I’ll buy that – mothers are like that, all across the board.

“She does not mistake her meekness for weakness.”

Again, whut?

Lionesses are NOT meek. They are predators – they go out and kill the prey that feeds the pride.

Will someone please tell the idiot who wrote this post to go and watch some National Geographic and maybe spend some time with people who actually know something about lions? Like, you know, a zoologist?

“The world needs more kind, compassionate, humble, faithful, persevering, confident, fierce, bold, pure, and tender-hearted women.”

I agree with this one, too.  I am all of those qualities, I embody them every day of my life because I do not know how to be any other way and still feel authentic. I’m pretty damn lucky to know a LOT of women these words in the last sentence describe.  And they have nothing to prove to anyone, least of all a man.

But you know what? It’s a ploy, tacking this on to the very end. The whole of this post is a sly guilt trip and back-handed insult to women AND men. Leaving this final sentence to the end is manipulative.

You know what this sounds like? This sounds exactly like the propaganda used after World War II, to ‘encourage’ women to leave the work force and go back to being wives and mothers, to forget about having a life and autonomy over one’s finances and future.

The text of the actual post.
Author Unknown. Typical.

In short, unless you, as a woman, are a wife and mother, completely subjugated to the needs of your man, you are trying to be a man.

I call human feces on that.

Calling it bullshit, horseshit or hogwash would be an insult to the bull, the horse and the pig.

But it’s written very prettily, isn’t it?

So, I got hooked on Grey’s Anatomy a couple of months ago……

……. thanks to Lifetime Network and their habit of airing half a dozen episodes five days a week (it repeats to the first episode of season 1 after the last episode of season 10).  I’m surprised at how much I like it, considering that my memories of the show when it first aired were decidedly not impressed.  I’ve been wondering why it took me this long to get sucked into the daily life of Seattle-Grace turned Grey Sloane Hospital and my only conclusion thus far is that, like anything else in life, there is a timing for everything.

And seriously, what’s not to like about this show?  Women are allowed to be silly and strong and angry and loving and emotional on this show (and its spin-off, Private Practice, which I preferred over Grey’s at the time).  No one comments on it, except as a response – a woman getting pissed off is actually respected by the male characters as having a reason for being pissed off, not just dismissed as unimportant.

This is due to Shonda Rhimes’ vision and direction and she has chosen writers, producers and directors to further that vision.

There are characters I don’t really like (Karev, Arizona, George), despite their moments of pure generosity and humanity;  there are characters I really like because of their utter awkward goofiness (Lexie, April);  I like the friendship between Callie and Mark, who keep the lines and boundaries clear, regardless of where it goes;  I like Derek and Meredith’s faith in each other, despite the heartache and pitfalls;  and I absolutely love and admire the almost Victorian courtship of Owen Hunt and Christina Yang that didn’t entirely hide the raw passion between them.

Of all the characters on the show, Christina Yang has emerged as one of my favorites.  She doesn’t have time for bullshit, she doesn’t have time for niceties, she just wants to work in surgery and be the best in order to save lives.  Sandra Oh brings that hard-edged, unapologetic character to life so fully, that it would be impossible to picture anyone else in that role.  Yang may not have the best bedside manner, but if she’s there to save your life, I rather think the latter is more important than the former.  I’d certainly want her as my doctor and surgeon because I know she’d fight like hell to keep me alive.

No spoilers on Seasons 11 through 13, please!!!

Review: Desert Queen by Janet Wallach

From the back cover:
“Turning away from the privileged world of the ’eminent Victorians’, Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) explored, mapped, and excavated the world of the Arabs. Recruited by British intelligence during World War I, she played a crucial role in obtaining the loyalty of Arab leaders, and her connections and information provided the brains to match T.E. Lawrence’s brawn. After the war, she played a major role in creating the modern Middle East and was, at the time, considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.”

I’ve been recommending this book right and left to friends, family and strangers. An excellent read about a strong, independent and intelligent woman who was ahead of her time, it’s also a timely book, given the current political climate in the Middle East in general and Iraq specifically. Interestingly, many of the obstacles Gertrude Bell faced with her British co-workers in relaying what she knew about the Arab tribes because of her gender are still being dealt with today.

I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this book. Although it takes place in the early part of the Twentieth Century, Bell’s experiences of others due to her gender still resonate today. Her sheer determination and an unwillingness to take ‘no’ for an answer lead her achievement in venturing into places no other person ever attempted. She not only learns the language, but takes the time to observe the hierarchy and customs, earning her the respect of the tribe leaders she meets.

Although much of Gertrude Bell’s work in the Middle East took place during World War I, it read as if it was happening in the here and now. Articulate, intelligent, educated and well-versed in the culture she chose to live in, Bell dealt with men in positions of power who chose not to listen to her opinions. She felt that the wisest course in giving the Middle East some stability was to put local tribal leaders in positions of power to run their own newly formed government, with British officers acting in supporting roles.

Instead of listening to her advice, Capt. Arnold T. Wilson, among others, followed his own agenda in holding power close to the vest. It would be too easy to dismiss it as being ‘of the time’, that women had no place in politics, either foreign or domestic. The personal conflict between Bell and Wilson reflected the external and volatile conflict between the natives of the Middle East and those who sought to control it.

Desert Queen is a powerful biography with an insightful look inside the Victorian age, the Great War and the Middle East of one hundred years ago. One is left with the personality of a strong and fiercely intelligent woman who defied convention and sought her destiny outside the narrow confines of what was expected of her.

Look for Desert Queen at your local bookshop or on-line.

This review is my personal opinion and mine alone.

Excerpt: Untitled Fantasy Novel

My brother Angus was the better swordsman, but my arrow always held true and found its mark, even in the strongest wind. Father had always maintained that my eye, my sure hand with a bow, could easily bring down a charging bull. Angus would roll his eyes at such praise leveled at his younger sister, but it was just as precious to me as the charm Mum made us wear under our tunics….

And there it was, the reference of a charm worn by Amidelanne, the first woman archer to have ever made captain in the King’s Army of Talisierre.
I marked the page with a broken quill, shut the heavy tome with care and sat back in my chair with a sigh. It had taken me more than two months of painstaking research through the collected histories of Talisierre. The histories were a set of twenty volumes, each book more than two thousand pages of recorded events, written in a cramped hand.
I had finally found what I was looking for, that brief mention, in volume nineteen.
Leaning forward, I ignored the sudden aching protests of my muscles and snatched up my quill. Dipping it in ink, I reached for a fresh page of parchment. I made quick notes about what I’d found, the quill making soft, scratching noises as I wrote. The sound was soothing and I was soon lost in it.
A half hour passed before I finish, my hand aching. Folding the page into thirds, I tucked the slip into my knapsack. Scowling at volume nineteen of The Histories of Talisierre, I stood and, hefting the massive tome with both hands, walked back to the stacks. I replaced it with care back among its siblings, my fingers caressing the worn bindings of each volume, my thoughts drifting.
It wasn’t much, that reference, I thought. It seemed to be more of a throwaway comment. The charm had no other importance attached to it, in the eyes of the historians. Other than it was a gift from her mother, there was not even a description of it in Amidelanne’s own words.
And yet, legends had risen about this charm, this bit of magic worn around a young girl’s neck. A girl who became an archer in the King’s Army, then rose to the rank of captain. So it did have some meaning, both to the wearer and to the person who began the stories that surrounded it.
I reclaimed my seat and leaned back, my eyes drifting closed as my thoughts swirled, trying to make sense of the knot I had before me. How had these legends of a charm not described come about? Did it still exist? What sort of magic did it claim? And who wanted it badly enough to commit murder?

That was what bothered me most in my research – that someone willfully committed violence over what some would dismiss as mere stories.


Edited: This was previously published January 2015 on in two parts, here and here. JJB

And now a word from Nellie Bly……..

“I have never written a word that did not come from my heart. I never shall.”

from The Evening-Journal, January 8, 1922

Nellie  Bly

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