I often wonder why I am driven to make the kinds of things I do or paint the particular subjects or themes I choose to. Goddesses, for instance. Why that? What to they mean to me? Why do they shout so loud for me to pay attention to them – to tell their story?
Some part of the feminine in me, the part that perhaps felt that it was better to keep quiet and act more masculine in order to find respect, or be considered to have something of value to offer, or to be a source of strength wants to scream loud enough for me to hear… I AM STRONG TOO! OK…I get that…now. How I came to equate femininity with weakness or lacking in strength is a bit of a mystery to me. There were definitely messages in my youth that I picked up that being strong had a “boyish” toughness about it. And in my “corporate” years I did watch women rising to the top by acting and behaving like one of the “old boys club” rather than by finding their unique female qualities and leveraging those.
It’s subtle, but it’s there. And yet, ironically, as the years have passed I have come to see that the feminine in us IS the source of strength – the glue that holds all together. It takes years of personal growth and reflecting back to see it.
So, perhaps the Goddess symbol reminds me that I AM that kind of strength. That I do have a voice that needs to be heard, that my message has value and should be shared. Yes, this is why I make and paint the Goddess figure. We all need reminders of this on occasion.
In a similar vein, I recently came across this extraordinary poetry performance by Katie Makkai. It’s powerful and empowering in a gritty, in-your-face kind of way. I like that. You GO girl!
Pretty by Katie Makkai
When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? What comes next? Oh right, will I be rich?” Which is almost pretty depending on where you shop. And the pretty question infects from conception, passing blood and breath into cells. The word hangs from our mothers’ hearts in a shrill fluorescent floodlight of worry.
“Will I be wanted? Worthy? Pretty?” But puberty left me this funhouse mirror dryad: teeth set at science fiction angles, crooked nose, face donkey-long and pox-marked where the hormones went finger-painting. My poor mother.
“How could this happen? how to repair your skin? You’ll have porcelain skin as soon as we can see a dermatologist. You sucked your thumb. That’s why your teeth look like that! You were hit in the face with a Frisbee when you were 6. Otherwise your nose would have been just fine!
“Don’t worry. We’ll get it fixed!” She would say, grasping my face, twisting it this way and that, as if it were a cabbage she might buy.
But this is not about her. Not her fault. She, too, was raised to believe the greatest asset she could bestow upon her awkward little girl was a marketable facade. By 16, I was pickled with ointments, medications, peroxides. Teeth corralled into steel prongs. Laying in a hospital bed, face packed with gauze, cushioning the brand new nose the surgeon had carved.
Belly gorged on 2 pints of my blood I had swallowed under anesthesia, and every convulsive twist of my gut like my body screaming at me from the inside out, “What did you let them do to you!”
All the while this never-ending chorus droning on and on, like the IV needle dripping liquid beauty into my blood. “Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Like my mother, unwrapping the gift wrap to reveal the bouquet of daughter her $10,000 bought her? Pretty? Pretty.”
And now, I have not seen my own face for 10 years. I have not seen my own face in 10 years, but this is not about me.
This is about the self-mutilating circus we have painted ourselves clowns in. About women who will prowl 30 stores in 6 malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how wear joy, wandering through life shackled to a shopping bag, beneath those 2 pretty syllables.
About men wallowing on bar stools, drearily practicing attraction and everyone who will drift home tonight, crest-fallen because not enough strangers found you suitably fuckable.
This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters.
“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely ‘pretty’.”