Sunday, May 15, 2011

It Was Only a Matter of Time...

...before the Snark-the-Royal-Wedding internet meme roared beyond a feline (or other mocking creature) absurdly and obviously digitized atop a princess's hat, as if exiting through it..."Can I haz Couture?"

During the latter part of this week, in a tantalizing tangent to the Bea-hat's randy roar that echoed in the wake of Kate and Will's nuptials, multiple girlfriends of a certain age (myself included) enthusiastically shared around a cheeky webgrab featuring Will's Aunt Fergie's daughters next to the Disney-fied Ugly Step-Sisters... with their dresses clearly in the same colors.

How cool was THAT?!

A rush of speculation ensued via social network posts, shared like squawking little birds blown through the ether, tweeting about and landing on facebook walls. Not unlike a mainstream media-hound seizing on a James O'Keefe video, I enthusiastically jumped in with wild, wide-eyed wonderings... Did Beatrice's and Eugenie's stylist have it in for them? Were they were that clueless? Or perhaps did they do it on purpose... which, if so, would beg the question: Was Kate in on the joke...?

And then a girlfriend did what I wish I'd thought of first.  She fact-checked the picture. The colors of the Disney step-sisters' dresses had been changed to match those of the real-life prince-cousins. Our furiously fanned fairytale fantasies had been Breitbarted by a seemingly frivolous meme (one which, admittedly, is planted in this blog in service of pitching my shameless admiration for The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster).  

Why and how did I let myself be duped by a cleverly ridiculous photo-prank on two style-challenged royals?  Am I not a more discerning internet consumer than someone who would be so readily, willingly fooled by such a retrospectively obvious joke, particularly when the truth can be really easily verified by multiple sources?  Was I overly enchanted by the idea that this could actually happen ~ truth being not a stranger to being stranger than fiction ~ that I just flat fell for it and passed it on?  And why would I and a good many other usually smart women give a care, when a multitude of other looming matters beg our attention, truly vital issues of war, torture, food safety and supply, the corporate-crony chokehold on our constitutionally derived democracy, on and on and on... Why do we permit this cultural distraction of princess weddings and royal snarks, when so many more important things in the world are desperately deserving of our collective time and urgent cooperative action? 

I can't postulate for anyone in the UK or for other of the Queen's subjects throughout the world, but speaking as an American female fiftysomething:  Our childhood fantasies were guided by common cultural markers of idolized young womanhood, and highly exalted amongst those are the sweet sirens that comprised the coterie of Disney's perky, peppy, perfectly exquisite "princess" heroines.  One after another, commoner or already-royal, they found ~ and represented that, some day, we too would find ~ true love and the promise of living happily ever after with a generically stoic, strong and handsome prince. Such a conditioning may explain to some extent why (in particular) the (female contingency of the) national heirs of my country's citizenry ~ who long ago rebelled against a King to establish this nation purposefully absent of royals ~ would go to some extent culturally ga-ga for fairytale-come-true commoner-to-royal weddings.  (Well, some credit must go to the hats, too.)  

It may be one massive rationalization, but perhaps we were somewhat culturally programmed to see, in that viscerally-stirring Cinderella-n-Steps quad-graphic in my fb feed, our latent princess dreams come true. We saw the catlike, gorgeous Kate, wearing a dress not entirely dissimilar to that of Disney's Cinderella, on the arm of her Prince Will, on whose traditional royal attire the cartoon prince's costuming was indubitably fashioned by Walt's animators... with the delivered the added punch of some feline-scratched fever vis a vis bagging on the "Ugly" Cousins-in-Law. MeOw.

From Snow White to Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella, generations of women (regardless of our inclinations on the sexual spectrum, which have only in recent years been a topic of relatively open discussion) derive encouragement from the idea that our prince could be just a song or dance away, and he will hold us in esteem higher than any other fair maiden no doubt copiously available to him (should he desire, which he won't as soon as he sees us).  Consciously and subliminally, we anticipate his discovery of us in the woods or tower, coming any minute around the bend on his white horse, so much so that we, the flower girls of the 60's and 70's ~ even many of those among us who are the potential philosophical heirs to the hippie chicks of the Haight ~ grew up to be moms who facilitated the proliferation of Disney stores in major malls (though, to our credit, we did break some barriers by breastfeeding in them).  We'd dressed-up our Barbies as princesses, and by golly if we didn't end up marrying up happily-ever-after with a royal (or a wealthy magnate) we were going to dress-up our daughters like Barbie'd princesses who might someday themselves....

And then came what for me was a big breakthrough in the Disney princess parade: Pocahontas.  I remember the glee in my partially Native American heart when our daughter first watched that particular video (which it was, actually, then), and about a third of the way into it she turned to me and asked with some cognitive dissonance resonating in her voice and on her face, "When does the prince show up?" Oh, the gratitude I felt to Disney for finally breaking through with a story about a strong female from one of my ancestral nooks of America's woods who didn't need a man, much less a prince, to rescue her from her plight:  This one actually rescued the lead male...with whom she didn't hook up for a happily ever after.

That was quite a switch, a cultural rubicon perhaps, one that my Spidey Sense suggests played at least some role for some of my flower-powered generation to dig deeper at the roots of a patriarchal, fear-based power system, to dream further awake other influences of our youth who didn't end up with stores in malls (or theme park resorts around the world) named after them ~ names like Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Freidan, influential women of their time (and for all times, if we're smart enough to mind and mine their ideas) ~ strong women who carved out a swath of cultural influence with those of us lucky enough to have mothers or other prominent people in our lives who were swayed by their fiery, feminine mystiques and passionate, paradigm-shifting messages that motivated us out of our bras and kitchens and into the workforce in numbers previously unseen in peacetime.

But still.... deep inside... I find myself unsettled by what I see as an obstacle to be overcome in the evolution of humanKind, which is that a big piece of the heart of too many capable, talented, creative, vital women of our new age remains overly influenced by the fairytale-pounded, old-school Damsel-in-Distress. ("Calgon, take me away!") Oh, wherefore went thee, Feminism? The "Ugly Step-Sisters" take on the Snark-the-Royal-Wedding meme may provide a signpost towards an answer.  

Understandably, many in the world enjoy a touch of fascination with fabulous weddings of the rich and famous. But to present Beatrice and Eugenie as the Disney characters Anastasia and Drizella reveals what I see as an ugly undercurrent to the happy energy and excitement of a fairytale-style marriage that keeps some hope alive for young girls (experienced women, too) that someday their prince will come, by golly, and the undercurrent is this: The bits and bytes of photoshopped fun under examination in their way articulate why I suspect certain aspects of decades of Disney-fied gender, class, and consumer conditioning ~ while providing worthy, uplifting messages, and encouraging an unwavering belief that good will out in the end (and I do, I do believe on that!) ~ have unwittingly served to help repress women, and in turn dis-serve the evolving condition of humankind.  

Now, that is a rough charge at Disney ~ to whom I'm nonetheless thankful for countless, enjoyable entertainment hours for my family, not the least of which involve a good many delightful songs ("The Bare Necessities" comes immediately to mind) ~ and of course there are plenty of other cultural institutions that have participated in the dis-service I've alleged. For now, though, it's the "princess" paradigm that I'm digging hard at, and such a dig deserves a bit of back-up.  I'll use Princess Cinderella as a supporting example, while simultaneously checking the rear-view mirror...
     Unquestionably, her classic story ~ as adapted by Disney from a 1697 version titled "Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre" by Charles Perrault ~ teaches that graciousness and kindness are more valuable than physical beauty, that miracles are all around us, and that the most lovely of all princesses is she who understands this well: privilege comes with the responsibility of ability and resources to care for and tend to the benefit of others.
      Unfortunately, the ugly undercurrent of the story is that the beautiful, nobel of heart female suffered the slings and arrows of her own gender, her own mother and sister figures even, in pursuit of her true love.  Even the ball itself was staged with the intention of being a type of trophy-wife contest... and I'll postulate that such a conditioning fed our national gestalt in a sort of way that, in time, led to the development of cultural phenomena like "The Bachelor," where (in my esteem) the catfights of the rose-receiving sisterhood assisted in further devolving the hard-fought successes of the women's rights movement and the sexual revolution.

Those are the dots I'm connecting, anyway.  (Please do connect your own, and let me know if your drawing comes out any differently...?)

I also think that our food check-out stands are purposefully designed to program our generally not-well-educated populus ~ through the relentless stocking of celebrity tabloids (known widely and appropriately for reading on the toilet) ~ to continue to buy-in to the wealth-worship that's woven into a large and ugly swath of the Americanized-Western consumer condition. My guess is that we "the little people" enjoy feeling like we're up-close-and-personal to the happy events of the rich and famous in part because we anticipate that special tingle of shadenfreude when they eventually, inevitably suffer embarrassment, or tragedies, or their lives otherwise fall publicly apart in ways that are psychically, spiritually similar to the slings and arrows of we the financially struggling and mostly invisible. 

And that's not so much an attitude or behavior that most of us would consider compassionately co-creative, a concept the world can't wrap its head around fast enough in service of our quality of life and that of future generations. Compassionate co-creation is something we can all share with others for free, for nothing in return but to know in our hearts, to the marrow of our bones, that we can speak and act from a place of multiversal love, when and wherever we consciously choose....

But, hey, those folks are loaded with money and power and botox and gorgeous houses and luxurious clothes and travel the world on private jets drinking champagne and that's the golden ring we're all really chasing here, right? We'd be happy to work our butts off (well, those of us in the bottom 90-ish percent who can keep or find work just now) and suffer they way rich and famous folks suffer, right...?

Which brings me back to the teeter-totter of princess conditioning in an age of rising, divinely-inspired feminism, and the alternative the latter offers to the current, testosterone-fed rat-race-to-destruction in which humanity finds itself in these times of climatic shifts and chaotic changes. 

My generation of women was also raised with the hopeful suggestion that the only major difference between us and menfolk was between our legs, along with the bold encouragement that we could reach beyond a great husband and kids to achieve our own financial peak on the mountain of money that was a predominant 20th Century American dream. Of course, in time, we learned that was bunk for the majority of us. 

My lessons in that regard are that the Creator, in inimitable wisdom, quite assuredly fashioned us quite differently (which I have thankfully come to regard as a blessing); that to the detriment of the advancement of women's power in society, institutional and cultural roadblocks remain to prevent any more than a few percent of our female feet from treading the topside of the proverbial glass ceiling; that even in 21st century America we earn roughly three-quarters of what a man makes for doing the same work; that after almost 90 years since its first introduction in 1923 ~ and after passing through both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1972 but not receiving ratification ~ we still can't get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.  Think about it: Corporations gained political free speech under "Citizens United", but women can't secure constitutional acknowledgement in America that we have the same basic rights of citizens as do men (well, straight men, anyway). 

Beyond what seem like simple concepts of equal rights under the law, legal discrimination against my fair sex still holds unrestrained influence in insidious ways that infect our nation's attitudes and actions to the extent that  ~ even after being splashed by the waves of sexual revolution, being nurtured and schooled in seminal books like "Our Bodies Ourselves" ~ certain sectors of society still think that how a woman dresses, particularly if it is in keeping with the culturally-encouraged idea of "sexy", can be called out in public as an invitation for rape. What a crazy-making set-up for the little girls of our time, who are pitched Snookie-style hoochie-girl attire via what my daughter astutely and deridingly referred to as "The Little Ho' Store" that's popped up in selected malls.  

Looking back to how we got here, the birth of America's establishment and national identity was midwifed through a Puritanical lens, grounded in values by pre-Founders who repressed their people's birthright to enjoy sensual pleasures and loving sexual acts for other than procreation (which science has shown are immensely healthful in the production and distribution of yummy hormones that pump vitality through and through).  Semi-clinically stated, to repress innately healthful desires is to create disorders of the mind and body.  

Now, in my mind, for a human to deny his/her intrinsic sensuality ~ of which creations of countless kinds are rich in measure ~ is to deny one of The Big Reasons to show up and wake up every day on this planet. No matter whether we inherit genes that provide an aesthetically pleasing bone structure and facial composition, for the vast majority of those who live in what's known as the Western world, our lives are downright comfortable in comparison to the majority of our brothers and sisters of 3rd Rock, so there's little reason not to find ways to fill our days to the blessed brim with opportunities for sensuality, a horse of a slightly different color than sexuality, and still such a pleasant rush of a ride because you're getting off on the smell of the wind, the feel of the saddle, the splash of the last rays of daylight on your face, the tear-inducing beauty of the mix of colors in the sunset...

While the effects of sensual repression may be kind of elusive to identify, we see sexual repression disorders manifest themselves routinely, through one of the key rim-shots of all lead news stories:  The sex scandal. Exposing the sordid sexcapades of the loudest talking-head homophobes and prostitute-damners have for far too long been standard fodder... only now such true-life tragicomedies are lived out in real time under the harsh glare of 24/7 media scrutiny... and my heartfelt hunch is that the mesmerizing luridness of such scandals has done quite a number on the gains we made, or thought we made, as part of the sexual revolution. 

Oh, sure, the women's liberation movement that made possible the sexual revolution movement got women out into the workforce (as well as into lots of beds). But where has it gotten us in our acceptance of and pleasure in being in our own bodies, being our own selves?  Why do so many of us still frequently measure our faces and physiques and bank accounts against a version of what society-at-large exalts as rich and beautiful? Whether or not you're what society-at-large exalts as rich and beautiful, where's the rest of that liberating power we were expecting to generate and harness?  

And yes, forty years on from the Summer of Love a woman finally became a viable contender for the U.S. presidency, but still... In the entire history of the United States Congress, only 2.1% of its members have been female, even as we comprise over 50 percent of the population.  This is just one example of how society represses ~ at a systemic, national, institutional level ~ perhaps the most powerful tool that consciously aware women can offer in powerful portions to the world, irregardless of our facial and body structures, eye and skin colors, or forms of hair style: The tooling of our very construction, which makes it possible to "shake & bake" (so to speak) a baby, is calibrated by the Creator's hands to love unconditionally the unknown, to protect and nurture the unborn, to plan as best as we can for its welfare and comfort, and to fight hellfire with heartfire and every sinew of strength we can summon to protect its environment.  

In the context of considering how we can reclaim and regenerate the women's rights movement in this time of multi-pronged legislative attacks on our gains, the remaining fascination with (in particular) Britain's royal weddings by a royal-rejecting nation provides an opportunity to consider whether the trophy wife is still viewed, consciously or not, as the exalted pinnacle of Westernized feminine success. If so, as Kate Hepburn said in a climactical scene in On Golden Pond, "Not good, Norman." Not a good state of affairs for females, not a healthful state of perception to pass on to the future women and men of our world (who need us to encourage them ~ and who in turn are encouraging us ~ to Bring It, NOW). And not a place of power from which to fight valiantly back against certain legislators who appear determined, spinzone by spinzone, to reduce and remove the hard-fought gains earned with blood, sweat and tears since brave suffragettes in the late 1800's and early 1900's went to prison for demonstrating in favor of a woman's right to vote.

As a practically perpetual Pollyanna, I'm of a mind that God-sent sparks eternally fire in the depths of our beating hearts, inspiring our tongues to gentler words filled with eternal strength, and encouraging us to dance our way through these dazed days of the death throes of archaic, fear-based ways... to dance like no one's looking, dance like we don't give a care whether or not we're of royalty or the help, an executive or a housemom, a family matriarch or a single woman living her own life as she chooses to the very fullest. And my fervent wish is that now is at last the time... time we reject the societally-pounded notions of feminine success as primarily measured by our physical beauty, our bank account's size, or whether or not we can get recognition in some sustained form or another by what's generally considered Major Media... time when a vitally growing number of us choose ~ at every reasonable opportunity ~ to recognize, embrace, imbue, and harness a rising consciousness of the energy that charges our world with pulses of Eternal Love and Oneness... time to transcend the princess-competing-for-a-prince paradigm, and dream awake into daily action the personal gifts we each carry, divined by the god and goddess who lives in each of us (even if only, maybe, at an archetypical level). 

I'll even go so far out on a limb as to posit it's our call and duty to ourselves and to 3rd Rock to risk the courage to behave in such a way, especially now, in these turbulent times of chaotic change. 

On September 27, 2009, the Dalai Lama said in his address at the Vancouver Peace Summit, "The world will be saved by the western woman." During a moderator's subsequent question about what he believes are priorities for peacemaking in the world, he responded: "Some people may call me a feminist... But we need more effort to promote basic human values ~ human compassion, human affection. And in that respect, females have more sensitivity for others' pain and suffering." 

On reading this, and realizing that it took a man to say it, to call it to my attention, it became more clear to me how feminism in its current cultural interpretation has failed us: The main spotlight on feminism in America has been on getting along and getting ahead in a man's world on men's terms... when, from where I sit, it's really about waking up, standing up, shaking off the shackles of testosterone-fed notions of achievement through competition and coercion, and grounding in our own divinely deigned powers of a gentle strength of heart that naturally and intuitively results in benevolent thoughts, words, and actions in carbon-based creations derived from our divine Source. It's about synergizing and balancing the male and female energies that form and inform us all, about facilitating a rise of the co-creative Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.  And I propose that what might help is to forget the sexual revolution.  Let's declare a SENSUAL EVOLUTION

Exception to houseblog (c) rule:
This is the only proprietary illustrative content
in the entire piece. All others are webgrabs, for
which I offer my deep and heartfelt thanks.
I realize by now, of course, that for me at least this silly meme has served its purpose: I see it as an alarm going off. This present era is too critical for us to cling to the remnants of our "damsel-in-distress" historical icons. Now is the time to harness the best of our fairy tale fantasies ~ the kind heroine who is at one with nature's creatures, the loving free spirit whose lust for life can't be contained by repressing boundaries of those who would restrain her, the generous and empathetic acts of assistance to those less fortunate, the gentle reminders of our femalehood like manners, warm smiles and curtsying ~ and rewrite them with considerations of the neo-notion that the spark and energy of the gods and goddesses of the ages are available to each of us if we simply acknowledge and embrace their divinely innate wisdoms. From now on, let's define "ugly" only by who we are in our hearts and deeds, not by what we look like.  

Back to the beginning, a very good place to end... If I could, I would personally thank Princess Beatrice for selecting a ridiculous, Minnie-Mouse-resembling couture chapeau, and shake the hands of the photoshopping pranksters who cleverly rendered into it such things as a big red flaming eyeball and a world-wide symbol of playful piratehood. For me, at least, the phenomena that was The Hat ultimately sounded a wake-up call to remember that we fashion our future through how we consciously, critically behave and believe, through how we ground our bodies and our selves to enJOYing the present... a truly great, God-given gift that keeps on giving. 


  1. WHEW! Where to begin. I think the Princesses Wales are in a good position to comment on the Prince and Happily Ever After after watching Fergie and Andrew's marriage disintegrate. Perhaps that's why they added a bit of silliness to the proceedings as a warning. I congratulate Kate, but pray she has a good prenup. But this princess thing is a disease. Try to keep a daughter from getting a pink fantasyland bedroom and you might have a royal tamtrum. The marketing world is putting all it's might behind keeping girls girls because they can sell more. However, we also have this nasty nagging intense difference between men and women. The drive to procreate will always cut women my age off from the marriage machine unless we have one Hell of a personality. In New York, we have 300,000 more women than men available. The most important thing we can do for ourselves in old age is to stop defining ourselves by having a man and stop beating ourselves up for it. Yes, it's lonely, but I get to keep my money and I don't have any of the negatives. Sure, I miss the positives but I will never have do I sink into depression or try to find a life? We all know Hillary and Bill live hundreds of miles apart and he has his girls and she sleeps with her briefing book, but she's just fine with it and so should we be. If we have less sex drive...GOOD! Let's turn that energy to solving problems. I've recently almost been dragged into one of those melees around a single man with women blindly clawing at a Prize that is a nice guy, but not really worth all the trouble. I don't have time any more for that. I've got things to do and if some of the world wants to watch The Real Housewives roll in the mud, they can. We have to revive feminism and do it now. It's your daughter I do it for.

  2. Thank you, Susan. It's for her, for all daughters and sons... I was talking with her about this topic today (she refuses to read me, which I'm cool with), and she defended Disney to the teeth, and asserted herself as a feminist in what I defined here in an "old school" sense: Making it in a man's world, instead of making it in HER world. *sigh* She's 18, and I know nothing, and that's OK. Same as it ever was, eh? ;-) And there's nothing quite like a strident, liberally/progressively educated devil's advocate in the house to help keep me honest about and questioning my beliefs!

  3. And I very much appreciate the perspective you bring from a single female perspective. You're one of the "ones" this is for, too xoxox

  4. Susan -- Here I am again looking for superlatives. Okay, here it is: You are a writer with enormous, major talent. On every level. You write with delightfulness, gingerliness, fun-with-words, and fun with idea; depth in theme, broad in topic idea, you tie it all together. It's beyond enjoyable to read. This is something I would pick up and read in The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, etc. It's way above the ordinary mags like the Ladies Home Journal, etc. It's far superior in literary achievement to the ordinary things. But I think it should be in magazines! It's great writing -- beyond, just beyond great. I'm going to pass it along to my friend, Janet Whitmore, next. Janet teaches art history and architecture in Chicago, but has been a published writer for architectural publications and a writer for architectural firms. That's where I met her. She's also a feminist and worked on a woman's theatre group in Minneapolis years ago. She's really busy as she has a lot of irons in the fire, but I'll ask her to read it. In the meantime, this really has to get submitted to the proper people. It's too good not to be published in a literary journal of some kind. You may know better which ones....but only the top literary magazines. In one word -- Exquisite!

  5. Golly, Jill, I appreciate the accolades! I'm having a heckuva lot of fun with it, that's for sure, and I'm glad you enjoyed the read and want to share it on. As for submitting right now, I'll see what plays out, but I'm not in a position to hump the circuit, so to speak, given everything else going on in my life for about the next month and a half... and I'm just two weeks into blogging and sowing my oats a bit. VERY suprasexual, this ;-D

  6. I was caught by your comment about your 18-year-old redefining feminism. I get concerned about these redefinitions when it seems to be about the male perspective. Not talking about her, but we HAVE to be careful of redefining feminism in order to keep men happy or accept our own preferences. It's like most philosophy, more important to talk than to come up with an answer, but when I have acquaintances trying to tell me "I'm a feminist who believes in S&M..." Well, maybe you should keep it all separate. I worry that the advertisers will use it to keep selling those huge amounts of money wasitng products women buy every year. It may be becoming just a word and we need new thinking.

  7. I hear you Susan... When she said it, I knew that in that instant she'd provided a personal anecdote to support my concern of "Wherefore went thee, Feminism?" Though she wasn't much interested in hearing my perspective (I am, after all, the Mom ;-) she's a fiercely bright 18yr old loaded up with lots of strong opinions ~ and Sagitittarian, to boot, so naturally, is bullheaded and strident ~ and I have no doubt the conversations with her on such things will become deeper and richer in the coming years....