On this ‘International Woman’s Day’ it seems fitting to reflect on my journey to becoming a woman through paying homage to some of the most incredible women that have inspired me to grow and irrevocably shaped my destiny.
But before I delve into that I wanted to say a little something about feminism. Sadly this word has copped a lot of flack in my world and it saddens me that so many men of my generation have deep resentments and wounds in relation to their perceptions of ‘feminism’ and what it has ‘done’ to them. I notice the effect this sometimes has on me when I post things here or on Facebook and find myself questioning whether I sound too ‘feminist’ and therefore am a turn off to men who I perceive would rather have me a quiet and passive observer of life rather than one expressed and outspoken. I know this isn’t always the case, though it sometimes is, and I have been blessed to know some amazing men who hold an expressive women in high regard and are even deeply attracted to her, however, I still see it a wound that runs deep in our contemporary culture as both men and women are delving in to redefine and transcend the limitations of gender while at the same time honouring the core of what makes us so irresisitable to one another.
So that brings me to my eternal gratitude today to the women who have forged the pathway for those of us that long to stand courageously and unapologetically raw, beautiful and vulnerable in their woman-ness. There have also been a number of men I could add to this list who have equally inspired and ‘called’ my feminine and i would love to include them in another blog post shortly. But let us begin at the beginning.
As a late 80’s teen frustrated by the limits of my suburban upbringing, Courtney had it all. She was all the femme fury and anguish that my soul longed to scream and we did night after night in my tiny bedroom. I pretended to not give a fuck who saw the wild and crazed energy of an adolescent girl on the verge of womanhood and at the same time i was desperately trying to be a good girl and contain the messiness, but was bursting inside with a creative lust that shattered my ‘doll parts’ and ‘school prefect’ tiara. Thanks Courtney for not giving a fuck and giving voice to all of it.
The woman that expressed the feminine most powerfully for me as a young woman is my long time inspiration, Ani Difranco who found me in my early 20’s and rocked my world to its core. Poetess, folk singer and divine songstress she satiated my need to hear a raw and real feminine voice that wasn’t afraid to hold back and could express all that I felt in the most poetic and direct way. I remember dreaming once that I was standing at a bar drinking a crystal clear liquor and when the bartender turned the bottle around it had written on it, Ani Difranco liquor. If your out there Ani this was the effect you had on me. I drank you in for so many years inspired to stand taller and more courageously inside my own woman’s voice. You gave voice to all the beauty and anguish of what it meant to me to become an authentic and real woman.
So if Courtney was the crazy fury then Tori was my kooky sister and partner in crime. In many ways i felt like i grew up with Tori. She was a teenager when i was and became a women with me, all the while weaving the inner and outer world of girl to woman into a unique language that spoke volumes to me. This sister knew the suburbs and seem to understand more than anyone my ‘cornflake girl’ upbringing. Her voice grew me up and her haunted complexity, virtuosity, and sassy spirituality sent me soaring to the heavens and back, time and time again, transfixed and in love with the majesty of this oh so feminine, lioness.
What women has not been touched by the exquisite sensitivity and honesty of this painfully tender women who sought tirelessly to write and create a truly ‘feminine’ voice, one that painted a kaleidescopic vision of the myriad of moods, longings, desires and expressions of femininity. In my late 20’s I devoured her diaries like one reborn with every word. Anais you showed me all the beauty and magic that there was in the interior of a woman. You taught me that the inner world despite its messy incongruency could be beautiful and powerful and worthy of expression and respect. You inspired me to be bolder in love and follow my desires even when they made life uncomfortable and even when they sometimes hurt the people that wanted me to stay safe and contained within the status quo. I read your diaries in secret under the covers of my bed away from the jealous eyes of my then boyfriend who knew that this would eventually take my young, inexperienced soul away from the comfortable but sexually unfulfilling life we had created together and to Paris and aloneness and exploration and painful romanticism. Thankyou for opening my eyes and my heart to all that a women can be both inside and out.
So this wild women is not of my generation at all yet what a gift I was given the day I stumbled into a hostel library while travelling abroad to find a worn out, flee bitten copy of ‘Fear of Flying’ Ha! I was blown sideways. I had found my female Tom Robbins. A woman’s voice that was so riotously funny and sexy and vulnerable and messy. She arrived at a time in my life where I was encountering a world of men and a sexuality that I had never known before and she gave me all the permission I needed to play. Thankyou Erica for initiating me into the joy of my own sexuality and sending me on a wild goose chase to read every book you ever wrote. I laughed so hard i cried.
CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTES
Sitting in a cafe in London feeling lost and alone at age 25, I had a magical synchronistic life changing moment when a young angel walked up to my table and handed me a copy of ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ and said to me, ‘I think you should read this next.’ I was flabbergasted. It was the kind of gesture that could only come at one so young and vulnerable and clearly in need of some soul nourishment and inner direction. But whatever goddess was smiling my way that day, it changed my life for good. The world of archetypal story, mythology and psychology made itself known to me through Ms Estes and she turned me on to an understanding of the inner life that I had never fully comprehended before. It was like every part of the crazy jigsaw puzzle that i had been trying to complete inside up until then just fell into place and my light got turned on. This wise priestess has been one of my most beloved guides and teachers on the road to becoming a women and she still is a source of endless inspiration and wisdom as i enter new and unchartered phases of my life. I have been trawling through her prolific spoken work texts for months now as i love nothing more than to hear her full bodied, campfire storyteller voice speak directly to my soul. mmm.
I found Colette and ‘The Vagabond’ in my 30’s on my second trip to Paris. Another women who seemed to me to have boundless love and lust for living and whose voice was poetry to my soul. In this book a 30 something woman had left her husband and was longing to create. I came to understand through this work and all that i subsequently read about Colette and her writing the struggle that this and so many other women had gone through for their art and though i didn’t live in the same time, it mirrored so clearly my own struggles to sit in an independent, creative life which seemed at odds with all I had been brought up to be. I felt so much compassion and understanding for this woman and Colette herself who had been so stifled in a marriage to a larger than life man who published her words under his name. I understood completely how she would hide her rage beneath her love for him and his capacity to both infuriate and uplift her.
“To write is to pour one’s innermost self passionately upon the tempting paper, at such frantic speed that sometimes one’s hand struggles and rebels, overdriven by the impatient god which guides it – and to find, next day, in place of the golden bough that bloomed miraculously in that dazzling hour, a withered bramble and a stunted flower.” La vagabond
Like most of us I guess, I entered my spiritual life through the soul. Through creativity and deep soul pleasure and nourishment I met and fell in love with a beautiful young man in my early 30’s who introduced me to ‘A Course in Miracles’. I listened and was touched by much of the material presented there though i wasn’t quite as passionate as he was about it until I began to read the words of Marianne Williamson. Reading ‘A Return to Love’ was not only a way I could relate to all that ‘A Course in Miracles’ was trying to say and thus relate to my then boyfriend, but I had found a woman’s voice that could finally teach me about love. Higher, grander, unconditional love that I had up until that point been seeking in all the wrong places. She helped me through one of the most difficult relationships of my life where all the ways I had been trying to make my life look pretty and together became unravelled and torn apart. All that I had known up to that point would be burnt to ashes here, till there was nothing left but love. Thankyou Marianne for all you have done for me and the world in the name of love.
“Love is the essential existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.”
The more I continue to write this blog entry the more other women who have touched my life continue to pop up in my awareness, Robyn Davidson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Frida Kahlo, Bjork, all women who catalysed adventure and creativity in my life not to mention the real life women teachers I have had along the way. But as I look back at the list above, I cant help but notice the thing that stands out most to me in their commonality. These are women who had powerful voices and were not afraid to use them. And as I approach the mid point of my life I think I can finally see through my most inspiring teachers who I am and what I am here to do. Happy International Women’s Day. May this be a day when we all reflect on the women who have touched and shaped our lives.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” Frida Kahlo.