Women Can Rescue Feminine
Values from the Patriarchy

There once were three women who faced this dilemma. They each had been driven to please patriarchal standards: one with her mind, another with her dancer's body, while the third adored her father from a distance. They teamed with their psychotherapist to write a book, Leaving My Father's House: A Journey to Conscious Femininity (Shambhala), about how they ventured out of this predicament.

The first woman, Kate, quit her advanced studies to marry and raise a family. She was abused as a child by her older brother and resented her mother for not stopping it. She compensated for her wounds by being the perfect student, then the perfect wife and mother. She transformed herself into a princess by imagining herself in a golden dress, forgetting the hurtful secrets of her past. When her roles as student and mother were over, the secrets surfaced. It was only after she had faced them that she was able to continue her Ph.D. studies. Then she could legitimately wear the golden dress of the mind without using it to conceal anything.

The third woman, Rita, is in her seventies, and is a sculptor. Her father ignored her talent because she was a girl. She was childless; twice when she and her husband considered adoption, she had accidents which prevented it. Later, after a young friend was ecstatic over the birth of her baby, Rita became upset and knew she needed therapy. She had many blocks to her creativity, including the echoes of a negative, opinionated mother who had dominated her life in every aspect, not allowing her to choose her own friends or her clothes. The star dress, depicting the cosmos, represents universal thinking with the heart, which is capable of holding contrary truths within itself.

As a result of our patriarchal society, even women themselves undervalue significant aspects of the feminine. Mothers fail to bond with their daughters. Daughters admire their fathers too much: they want to be loved by them, but wish they could lead more creative and fulfilling lives.

Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst who has written many books on feminine psychology, compares these women's stories to a Grimm's fairy tale, "Allerleirauh," meaning "of many different kinds of fur." In this fairy tale, a dying queen obtains the king's promise not to re-marry unless he finds one as beautiful as she. When his daughter, Allerleirauh, becomes the image of her mother, the king decides to marry her, despite her objections. Allerleirauh demands first the following gifts: three dresses--one of gold, one of silver, and one of stars; and a robe made of a thousand pieces of fur--one from every kind of animal in the kingdom. He fulfills her demands and sets the wedding for the next day. She flees during the night with her three dresses, disguised under her furry robe with a blackened face. Though she hides in a tree in the forest she is found the next day by a neighboring king who gives this strange-looking creature a job in his kitchen. Three times she goes to festivals, where she dances with this king. The first time she wears her golden dress. Later, in her fur robe disguise, she makes bread soup and takes it to him. The next time, she dances with him in her silver dress. The third time she wears her dress of stars, and he proposes. She runs away then throws the robe on over her dress and returns to him with soup. He glimpses the star dress under her robe and recognizes her. They are married.

The second woman, Mary, had a father who paid little attention to her as a child until she went to ballet school. Then she became Daddy's little darling. She also performed for Mommy, who herself wanted to be a dancer and a socialite. Mary tortured her body to become a dancer, sometimes feeling disconnected from human emotions. She thought that her sexuality was evil, especially after losing a baby, and became a chameleon of a woman, someone who would be whatever men projected onto her. The silver dress is the lunar consciousness, reflecting back to the solar, or patriarchy, what it wants to see. She was split between being good Mary and bad Eve. In her inward journeying, an old medicine woman, an archetype of healing wisdom within herself, advised her to make friends with her animal nature, Eve.

Each woman is rescuing feminine values from the patriarchy by doing creative work. Each moved toward the harmony of body and spirit, which Woodman calls "conscious femininity"--bringing the wisdom in nature to consciousness. Just as did these three women, all women need to tell their personal stories of what it means to be a woman. (Digest by Claire Munn, Atlantic University.)