Virtuous Women Hand to Hand

Merriam-Webster defines Virtue as follows:

1 a: conformity to a standard of right: morality b: a particular moral excellence; 2: plural: an order of angels see celestial hierarchy; 3: a beneficial quality or power of a thing 4: manly strength or courage, valor; 5: a commendable quality or trait: merit; 6: a capacity to act: potency; 7: chastity especially in a woman

  I especially like number 1 because it is so ambiguous. A woman of virtue conforms to an established standard of right.

My question as I contemplated the definitions is who defines right for the rest of us? Am I only virtuous if I conform to the vague standard that others establish? What should I do if I believe these standards are counter to my best interest as a woman? Do I simply ignore them and live my life in my own best interest, outside of social boundaries? Should I silently allow others to cast aspersions on me because I do not agree to their definitions?

Is there a super-secret list somewhere?

I wondered about this and so went looking, my curiosity was aroused, what I found was enlightening.  Originally, there were four Virtues Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance these came down to us from Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of Christianity, they were expanded to including four Cardinal and three theological virtues to offset the seven deadly sins.

  1. Chastity <=> Lust
  2. Temperance <=> Gluttony
  3. Charity <=> Greed
  4. Diligence <=> Sloth
  5. Patience <=> Wrath
  6. Kindness <=> Envy
  7. Humility <=> Pride

After looking at the list, I searched for how these might directly apply to women today. The search was long and aggravating, all to often running into the historical references and more general terms, I even found reference to more modern video games. Eventually, what I found was women and the application of any virtue usually came back to Chastity, Obedience (huh?) and other strange manipulations to fit expectations of how women should behave within the context of religious characterizations. Historically, virtue was intended to carry women unerringly from their father’s house to their husband’s house to widowhood.


My Fathers House

Medieval Practice of Giving away the Bride

All Images Google

Widows Weeds

This took my mind down the path of what about?

What about the duality of expectations between the genders, something that despite all the other social / economic and cultural changes remains consistently set in our minds. Why must women be chaste yet men need not be. Okay, let me rephrase the question, why is it that if women are unchaste there are distinct classifications (slut, bitch, whore, ho) which are lightly to extremely uncomplimentary, while if men pursue an unchaste lifestyle they do not qualify as anything other than STUD, with a wink and a nod.

Why is obey still an option in wedding vows? Sometimes not an option at all but a mandatory part of the vows a woman must recite. Would most men consider including this particular piece in their vows to their future wives? Somehow I suspect the answer is no. I am aware many women choose not to include it in theirs, but the fact remains it is still there. There are even national figures, women who stand in the spotlight of our political debate today who say  with pride they ‘obey’ their husbands and follow they ‘commandments’ in things as crucial as career choice and body privacy.

I am a woman of compassion. I have merit in my own right for my accomplishments. I have the capacity to act for good or ill and try always to act for good. While I do not have manly strength, I have strength, courage and valor. I am a survivor; truly, I am a victor over circumstances that might have left others bereft of joy in life. I know many other women like me; other women who have managed to thrive in a society that does not often look upon us with gladness or welcome us warmly to the hearth fire.

Women and virtue, are these still relevant today? I think they are but perhaps not in their original meanings. How do we then define the virtues so they are easily understood and capture the essence of who and what we are.

I struggled with the direction of this blog for the past week. This is the direction I am taking for now. I hope you follow and offer your thoughts.

Women of Strength – Not for the Faint of Heart

Queen – Bitch – Goddess or QBG for short

Is there ever a point in time when it is acceptable to say, “This is me, it may get better some day because I decide changes need to be made; but this is me and this is as good as it gets.

I believe this statement is particularly important for women. We should own it and teach it to our daughters. We should say it in our heads as if it were a mantra, a healing chant and then sometimes we should get up close and personal and snarl it to whomsoever dares to question our value as humans or as women. For all the self-help books, videos and television ‘doctors’ out there promoting various ways in which we can improve our lives or just ourselves, there are few that simply encourage self-validation and acceptance. Sure, many say acceptance is the place to start your journey but what if I don’t want to take any trip, what if the statement above is the entirety of it all.

“This is me, it may get better some day because I decide changes need to be made; but this is me and this is as good as it gets.”

Taking it one-step further, here is the rest, to be snarled at the deniers, the self-help gurus and those who believe we are incomplete or in need of fixing.

“The journey to get here was long and sometimes harrowing so I think I will just stick with the me I am. Don’t like it? Please do feel free to jump off the ME train and find another as your opinions are of very little interest to ME.”

Does that sound harsh? Does it sound as if I might be touched by anger or even bitterness? I am not really but let me posit the following and perhaps this will help place my statements in better context.

Literature offers up four archetypes of the female personality, which we accept without question. While the conventions for these archetypes have changed with the inclusion of more modern heroines the basis of their personality remain consistent and fit our a universal unconscious mind. The female archetypes are as follows:

  Damsel (in distress) or Virgin
Take them home to mother and marry them.

Wikipedia – 1950’s Pulp Movie

Mother (Healer / Crone)
The Queen, our Mother.

Google – Mother Theresa

  Femme Fatale (Prostitute / Bitch)
Love and Hate her, demean her and scorn her.

Google – Scarlet O’Hara

Warrior (Avenger / Goddess)
Flawed by life she is strong but feared.

Google – Xena

From these archetypes are drawn all of the variations that typify how women are perceived by and interact within society. Usually we don’t fall into a single archetype but combine aspects them all with one being the most dominate. Depending on life experiences and how we process these, by the time we are adults we will have fallen into our primary ‘role’, our ‘This is Me’ personality and we shouldn’t be forced to apologize if we make others uncomfortable with how we turned out.

Queen – Bitch – Goddess or QBG for short

I was eleven the last time I fell under the Damsel designator from that time on I begin walking a path that was entirely my own, often with no particular destination in mind but a clear idea I wasn’t going to

ABCPrague Czech Crown Jewels

be a victim. These days my this is me statement is, “QBG all the way, I am certain any improvements will be entirely accidental in nature.” It used to be I was insulted by Bitch when used in combination with my name, these days I own it. I earned the title the hard way and hold tight for the sake of my history, for everything that came before; it is mine all mine. My title, my crown signifies my strength as a woman, not to be taken lightly not to be set aside or in need of improvement simply because I don’t fit the norm or others expectations.

What is a woman of Strength?

What do you think this means, when someone says you or another woman is strong? Do you think it is in reference to strength of character or ability to endure hardship without folding? Do we look upon this woman of ‘strength’ and her accomplishments because they are greater than what we would expect of her gender, or because she has overcome greater obstacles to achieve them despite her gender?  There are those women who we label strong because of what they have achieved despite great adversity. We see their strength as an outcome of events and applaud their ability to overcome their circumstances rather than inherent to their core personality.

Art.Com – Burning Joan of Arc, the Heretic

When we speak about the strength of women individually or as a gender is there something we are tapping into culturally, something that has the potential to make us uncomfortable? To be a strong woman often means sacrificing a fundamental aspect of ourselves. Historically women who stepped out of traditional roles had to hide their womanhood, such as Joan of Arc who ultimately burned at the stake; or give up parts of themselves, such as Elizabeth I of England who gave up marriage and love to rule.

Society does not allow for strength in women simply as a part of our personality without attaching often demeaning labels to us. It seems the ideal is still the Damsel rather than the Warrior. Am I a strong woman? I like to think that I am. My strength is inherent to my personality, it is core to me. Has my strength allowed me to survive situations in which others might have crumbled? The only answer I can give is yes. I believe that my life has proceeded along certain paths because I have the personality of a Warrior. Has this made my life more difficult at times? Certainly, however, it has also made me capable and given me the tenacity necessary to fight the battles I needed to fight to survive. Though these are stories for another day, one of my siblings once said to me I was chosen to be carjacked, shot and left for dead because I was the only member of my family strong enough to survive the event. At the time our family required ‘saving’, this event helped to bring us together thus saving us. Obviously my ‘strength was necessary for this happen and clearly also for my own survival.

Women are born with the ability to meet every challenge placed before them, just as men are. Many of us fail to live up to our potential or even understand our potential due to social conditioning and expectations. Just as men, we are rarely any single thing, rarely just a Warrior or a Mother. Rather we are a combination of all the archetypes. As we mature and take on experiences one type becomes dominate usually through circumstance. Strong women – are we victims, bitches, warriors; or are we simply multi-dimensional human beings?

For me I will continue to answer this question this way:

Queen – Bitch – Goddess or QBG for short

What Price Beauty

What is the function beauty in our day-to-day life?

This is a very personal question that each of us must answer. What is the function of beauty in our society, how does it facilitate our advancement and success. What does it draw from and to us in life? If we are beautiful, can we skate across the pond without the ice cracking beneath us? If others believe we are beautiful do we get a pass on all that is ugly in life, able to blithely walk through dark forests without the wolf crossing our path, or must we be convinced of our own beauty for this to be true?

What price beauty? What are we willing to pay, to sacrifice to prevent the mirror from shattering?

Are the questions above the right questions at all? There are many definitions of beauty, over the years these definitions have changed in our minds eye, however the ‘correct’ definition is given to us by Merriam-Webster, below; how we then interpret the qualities are an entirely different standard all together.

1 : the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit : loveliness 2 : a beautiful person or thing; especially : a beautiful woman 3 : a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality 4 : a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or instance <that mistake was a beauty (Merriam Webster , 2011)

The question of beauty, what it means particularly to us as women is one that someday must be answered. One day we might say to much or to little is the price already paid by our young girls, our daughters even our mothers. Nevertheless each of us must say something so we might move through the world with some confidence, dignity and comfort in our skin. Those sly comments we hear beginning at a young age if we are imperfect in any way, if we are short or chubby; if we are clumsy or we are late to bloom, those terrible asides all serve to shake us to the core. Worse those terrible commentaries of our shortcomings, our flaws compared to cousin Jane or the neighbor next door come from those who should be our greatest cheerleader, our booster the one person in our lives that

google image

should see no blemish in us, ever. We are brought low, dropped to our knees in fact, by what can only be their clear vision of our lack of beauty. This then is our fate, how the mirror will forever reflect us; unlovely no matter what we do to change our external self the voices in our head will forever yammer on;

‘You have such a pretty face if only you would lose a few pounds’.

‘Cousin Jane has such nice skin, with her peaches and cream complexion maybe you should stay out of the sun so you don’t turn so brown’.

‘I don’t know where you get those thick ankles they must come from your father’s side of the family you look like a peasant woman’.

‘I am sure you will grow out of the baby fat stage eventually, though most of your friends are already much thinner than you. Maybe we should put you on a diet’.

‘We will just have to make the most of what you do have, after all you are smart. Lots of girls find husbands even though they aren’t great beauties like your cousin’.

There are so many other examples, so many mirror-shattering statements our mothers and grandmothers, aunts and even fathers say to their daughters. By the time a she is a teenager her self-image can be destroyed, possibly for life. How a young girl and later the woman she becomes acts on these soul shattering characterizations of who she is will define her for years to come, the consequences could be life altering.

What price beauty?

What do we pay for the soul shattered and ego battered women of the most recent

google image

generations? Maybe a better question is this, what have they paid for what has been done to them by their families, by well-meaning friends and not so well meaning peers, by society and the media. What debt is owed for Toddlers in Tiara’s and beauty queens unable to form coherent sentences or identify the current President of the United States? How do we repatriate into normal society? How do we begin to convince these women whose mirrors tell them daily their value is less, far less based on the extra five pounds they carry or their lack of perfectly symmetrical features, that in fact they have a value beyond their surface.

What price beauty when taken against the value of a woman’s soul?

What price beauty when compared to a lifetime of diminished opportunity and self-inflicted battery.

What do you see when you look at me? Do you judge me by the circumference of my hips? Do you evaluate my intellect by what you guess is my dress size? Do you speculate I am  lazy and without self-control? Do you presume to know me before we have been

image 4photosnet

introduced, before you know my story. What price beauty and the judgment of a society that has failed so far to find value beyond the surface of a woman.

What is the function of beauty? It opens doors for women everywhere. The price we pay in not meeting the standard is diminished opportunity for love, for work, for friendship even. Perhaps we can be the fat friend, the ugly friend; you know the one every clique wants and needs but we will never fit and never be fully part of anything because we don’t believe in our own value, our mirror was shattered long ago.

What price, the price of our soul the only true value we had we paid thousands of time over.

%d bloggers like this: