arrogant toward women

June 22, 2020

No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.

Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex

Femaleness and its sexuality are beautiful. Women have long secretly suspected as much. In that sexuality, women are physically beautiful already; superb; breathtaking.

Many, many men see this way too. A man who wants to define himself as a real lover of women admires what shows of her past on a woman’s face, before she ever saw him, and the adventures and stresses that her body has undergone, the scars of trauma, the changes of childbirth, her distinguishing characteristics, the light is her expression. The number of men who already see in this way is far greater than the arbiters of mass culture would lead us to believe, since the story they need to tell ends with the opposite moral.

Naomi Wolf
The Beauty Myth

an outlaw

May 30, 2020

The wolf is a conventional symbol of marginality in Greek poetry. The wolf is an outlaw. He lives beyond the boundary of usefully cultivated and inhabited space marked off as the polis, in that blank no man’s land called to apeiron (“the unbounded”). Women, in the ancient view, share this territory spiritually and metaphorically –

Anne Carson
The Gender of Sound: in Glass, Irony and God

strange and laughable

May 26, 2020

There’s a particular sentence of Woolf’s that haunts me; I’ve written about it before, without managing to exorcise it. It appears in her novel Jacob’s Room: ‘It’s not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it’s the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.’

…In his autobiography, Leonard Woolf writes with pain and some bewilderment about the way in which complete strangers would react to his wife: ‘…to the crowd in the street there was something in her appearance which struck them as strange and laughable … people would stare or stop and stare at Virginia. And not only in foreign towns; they would stop and stare and nudge one another – “look at her” – even in England, in Piccadilly or Lewes…’

Leonard makes the observation that these incidents tended to happen at moments when Virginia was lost in thought – when she had, in a sense, forgotten herself. There was something in her expression or comportment in those moments, which, taken with her unusual mode of dress, made her appear anomalous to people. Like her clothes, her manner marked her out as a woman who went out into the world without apparently caring how she appeared in it. And, as I would find out when I walked back from Canons Park station without giving my appearance a conscious thought, that is a risky way for a woman to proceed. A woman should never forget that whatever else she is, she is also an object.

Joanne Limburg
What was Virginia Wool afraid of?

age naturally

April 28, 2020

Women have another option. They can aspire to be wise, not merely nice; to be competent, not merely helpful; to be strong, not merely graceful; to be ambitious for themselves, not merely for themselves in relation to men and children. They can let themselves age naturally and without embarrassment, actively protesting and disobeying the conventions that stem from this society’s double standard about aging. Instead of being girls, girls as long as possible, who then age humiliatingly into middle-aged women, they can become women much earlier – and remain active adults, enjoying the long, erotic career of which women are capable, far longer. Women should allow their faces to show the lives they have lived. Women should tell the truth.

Susan Sontag
The Double Standard of Aging

monstrous mystery

April 26, 2020

A woman’s body is a dark and monstrous mystery;
between her supple thighs a heavy whirlpool swirls,
two rivers crash, and woe to him who slips and falls!

Nikos Kazantzakis
The Odyssey : A Modern Sequel

pure love

March 24, 2020

Are there many things in this cool-hearted world so utterly exquisite as the pure love of one woman for another?

Mary MacLane
The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself

To Sappho

January 26, 2020

No one will forget you again,
you with your large heart,
like the drum of the daughters,
like the hum of the mothers
as they create the sound
the world makes

All the church fathers
and all the puritans
and all the patriarchs
and all the witch hunters
couldn’t destroy you

Once there was a poet,
women told themselves
for centuries,
and she was female,
and she fell
into the ocean,
and she is falling always,
which is really
what flying is all about

Elizabeth Oakes

When she does not find love, she may find poetry. Because she does not act, she observes, she feels, she records; a colour, a smile awakens profound echoes within her; her destiny is outside her, scattered in cities already built, on the faces of men already marked by life, she makes contact, she relishes with passion and yet in a manner more detached, more free, than that of a young man. Being poorly integrated in the universe of humanity and hardly able to adapt herself therein, she, like the child, is able to see it objectively; instead of being interested solely in her grasp on things, she looks for their significance; she catches their special outlines, their unexpected metamorphoses. She rarely feels a bold creativeness, and usually she lacks the technique of self-expression; but in her conversation, her letters, her literary essays, her sketches, she manifests an original sensitivity. The young girl throws herself into things with ardour, because she is not yet deprived of her transcendence; and the fact that she accomplishes nothing, that she is nothing, will make her impulses only the more passionate. Empty and unlimited, she seeks from within her nothingness to attain All.

Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex

beautiful women are bad

January 2, 2020

A farmer wants his son to be afraid of beautiful women, so that he will not leave home too soon, so he tells a story about how one drowned his brother’s cousin’s friend in a lake, not because he was a pig who deserved to be drowned, but because beautiful women are bad, and also witches. And it doesn’t matter that she didn’t ask to be beautiful, or to be born in a lake, or to live forever, or to not know how men breathe until they stop doing it.

Catherynne M. Valente