adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
Last month, I heard a woman speak of being unmanned by grief. The implicit sexism probably never crossed her mind. (I think it would have been appalling to interrupt and call it to her attention. But I've been thinking about it.) Grief overwhelmed her, like it overwhelms anyone. Profound grief makes humans feel helpless, makes us feel like our strength and courage don't matter. It made her feel impotent--like she couldn't reach the strength and courage that are usually so important to her. I don't know if the same words would have moved me as much if a man said them. I know they wouldn't, if I read them in something carefully composed and edited. But a spontaneous outburst from a woman in pain...Oh yes, I understand. It's awful to lose the masculine virtues in grief, or sickness. I hope you recover soon.

There's an unsettling conversation I had with the local 5-year-old last week. I know it connects somehow, but I can't explain the link. She was telling me about Nanny McPhee, a movie she had enjoyed recently. She's never heard of Mary Poppins or Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, but her account reminded me of those no-nonsense ladies who brought magic into troubled households. As Whitebird told me, the movie begins with a family with lots of bad kids whose mother is dead, so their father hires nannies to take care of them. Only they're bad kids, who like being bad and scaring nannies away. They're working on being the worst kids in the whole world! (I didn't tell her what the competition was like, not wanting to scare her.) After they make lots of nannies run away, and their father doesn't know what to do, a spooky voice comes out of nowhere and tells him, "What you need is Nanny McPhee." So that's who he hires next. She's very ugly and very stubborn and they can't scare her away because she has a stick that can do magic.

A: That stick seems like it would be very useful, especially with those troublemakers. What did she do with it?
WB: She had to teach them 5 different lessons, and then her job would be done.
A: What kind of lessons?
WB: Lessons about being good, of course! *eyeroll* You know...going to bed, doing what they're told.
A: So what happens?
WB: She's really ugly when she starts, and every time the kids learn one of the lessons, there's a magic *handwave* and part of the ugly goes away. So after they do all 5, she turns into a woman!
A: *blink* Do you mean she turns into a pretty woman?
WB: No. She was ugly, and the magic turns her into a woman.
A: That's not how it works, sweetie. She was still a woman when she looked ugly.
WB: You mean she was in disguise as ugly? She was really a woman all along?
A: That's not how it works either. There's more to being a woman than being pretty.

She seemed to look at me with pity. Maybe because I failed to understand something that is transparently obvious from so much of what she sees and reads. Maybe because I'm not doing the appearance thing very well these days. I was embarrassed enough to let the argument drop, and she told me about the end of the movie, in which Nanny McPhee makes another woman beautiful so she can marry the kids' father.


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March 2016



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