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the muse and the slut

Many of us, no matter how feminist we are, join with men in reducing women to their appearances: believing that female power is beauty, we live off each other's images in crass and painful comparisons of thighs, stomachs, hips, breasts, wrinkles, and hair...we go along with acting as though any woman is totally her appearance and empty of a heart.

The muse, of course, comes in the form of arm candy in class, or at work, who threatens to seduce our wives or girlfriends. The slut is the muse metamorphosed into the hag-bitch. So, any woman who competes to be the Object of Desire is labeled not only by men but by other women too. When we call each other sluts we are really shaming female desire on a global scale, seeing ourselves and our needs as monstrous or manipulative or overpowering.

Conversely, we need to refuse to be stereotyped and constrained by male fantasies and fears about the power of women. We can do this by bringing our buried meanings and feelings out into the light of day, by talking of our fears about failing, our ugliness, our inferiority.

Our desires to be desirable, our want to be wanted, have the power to help us dissolve our self-hatreds and self-consciousnesses that keep us focused on lover-struggles rather than on accepting our needs, and we can start building relationships based on love not struggle...the most important relationship, the cornerstone, is one of love of yourself as you are, not as you think you need to be to please others.

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adapted from :Polly Young, "Women and Desire" (c) 1999

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