Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On Women and Men

The lake is oddly still this morning, a grey and silver palette of moving light, no waves but large ripples coursing towards shore, one after the other, repetitive patterns, while white black-tipped gulls wing over head. One boat leaves a wake of silver behind it, ruffling the softness. Clouds hang low, and the tree tops emanate humidity. The new dock is luminous too with its aluminum legs and bright new cedar planks , hosting its two teak Adironack chairs, a perfect cottage picture.

Large white bellied fish leap in an arc out of the lake and return, wiggling off the parasites on their backs, I am told. We are patiently waiting for the rain to stop, and for the hot sunshine to dry us out. But it will be another grey, humid, possibly rainy day.

But enough of the landscape. I am eager to engage with a question brought up by an article I read yesterday.

What is woman’s work? Anne Southam, a well-known contemporary minimalist composer has been described in the G&M as “proud to call her work women’s music, or at least to point out that there’s something in what she does that is deeply grounded in women’s experience.

“’In the very workings of the music there’s a reflection of the work that women traditionally do, like weaving and mending and washing dishes...the kind of work you have to do over and over again.’” from an interview with Robert Everett-Green.

She describes how she creates a tonal centre, by taking a 12 tone row of notes and spinning it out one note at a time...

Although I have not heard her music, I like her description of the attraction of repetitive tones like bagpipes and drones, that can induce a trance-like state in the listener. It reminds me of what Blood Bread and Roses author Judy Grahn, says about women’s menstrual cycles and women’s work: spinning wool, weaving, knitting, crocheting demand a total concentration from part of the mind, while the other part is left free to dream or create something from the imagination. Early women’s rituals around the menstrual cycle seem to dig into this needful repetition of sound or activity, whether through chanting, drumming, knitting or watching the breath in meditation. They are linked through repetition with the cycles of life that repeat in a woman’s body, flowing monthly, repeating like the phases of the moon, in recognizable patterns for those who pay attention.

Women’s work long ago was of planting, weeding, bending, gathering, washing, lifting, nursing, sweeping, pounding cloth on rock to clean it. Since ancient times women have aligned themselves with natural patterns of nature when they want to find themselves, restore their own rhythms, become attuned to life’s pulse.

Of course, it is a human thing, and men can attune to these rhythms too, but their world is more ‘outer’, less inner minded, by their physical design. Women's bodies through menstruating are naturally aligned with the rhythms of tide and moon.

Of course, all this is open for debate. Some will argue there is no difference between men and women, between male and female brain, psyche, intelligence, spirit, and so of course, there is no such thing as women’s work. Have we left some power or magic behind in our rush to embrace the masculine work-style? Have we left our creative imagination behind in our disdain of repetitive homely tasks? Is there such a thing as women’s writing, women’s music?

I leave it to you, to puzzle on this,

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