This month’s theme is Women. Which is a statement in itself. Once, referring to blacks and whites, in whatever context, seemed regrettable; the idea was to erase the distinction. Now, at least some blacks are proud of it, and so, twenty-one years after the Supreme Court desegregation ruling, there are blacks calling for all-black schools, all-black everything, and forget the white bread.
The Women’s Movement, likened so often to the Black Movement, shares similar historical tensions. The writer Jill Johnston suggested women won’t be free until they’re all lesbians. Even women who’ll agree that’s outlandish don’t think twice about excluding men from their consciousness-raising groups, for reasons that are as politically sensible and morally fatuous as racially segregated clubs.
There is order and form throughout nature; it’s no wonder humans organize, too. But alone among the animals we raise flags, declare wars (yes, ants fight, too, but we find reasons), and murder each other every day with our maddening distinctions, our loyalties and ambitions, our rights and wrongs. One of the chauvinistic notions I grew up with was that men were responsible for this; women, I was taught, were less savage, less warlike. The new politics of liberation, insofar as it encourages mutual respect among humans, regardless of sex, race, or ideological persuasion reinforces my illusion. But insofar as it suggests that all traditional sex roles are imposed artificially by society, that they have no basis in nature, and that men and women are interchangeable rather than complementary, it breeds a greater violence, and ruins the illusion.
But who needs illusions? I offer a deal. I’ll stop imagining women are better than men if women stop imagining they’re the same as men — at least in the broad workaday reality where our destinies are hammered out. Let women drive the trucks and run the corporations, if they wish. Who but the most misguided ever imagined this to be men’s work? Let there be the most genuine social and economic equality. But let’s respect the distinctions. Does a wall yearn to be a ceiling? Fashioned of the same wood, by the same carpenter, they are not so different after all, but different. The distinctions within the human realm may be illusions, to the enlightened mind, but they are distinctions we are meant to experience, a dualistic universe of light and dark, beginning and end, female and male. Unisex is not transcendence. Nor gay liberation. Nor bitchiness and selfishness, in whatever disguise.
What is the origin of the male and female psychic energies? Why is the woman the channel of birth? How does this finite sexual realm reflect the patterns of mind, and mind, in turn, the Infinite? After all the necessary social struggles for equal pay and the rest have been won, these are the questions we’ll still be considering. Women — as the most sensitive women have been telling us all along — are only human; within the shaping of human destiny will women, and men, achieve their true liberation.