From the moment that I laid my eyes on this illustration until now, its implications and possible meanings continue to haunt me.
Art invites subjectivity; rarely if ever, do any two persons see exactly eye to eye about an artistic impression.
Beauty and interpretation lies in the eyes of the beholder.
With the recent celebration of the day established to mark International Women’s Day (March 8), I paused to take in the message that this work of art evoked within me.
In Jamaica, where life presently finds me, I’m constantly disturbed and perplexed by what I see as an urgent plight of the loss of identity amongst the male paradigm. It is not just the men that appear to be lost and confused.
Our society is in grave danger of losing itself—as in the absence of engaging each other. We are driving a wider divide between the masculine and the feminine, the man and the woman.
The aim here is not to blame the other but rather to question each of our responsibilities in this paradox.
Women are also a part of this dividing equation. As we continue to enhance, improve and uplift ourselves, it seems to me that an integral part is missing from this process; namely, how we relate to our masculine selves in particular, and the men whom we encounter in general—especially within the professional arena where masculine traits, particularly as they pertain to management are encouraged and celebrated, the feminine is either minimized or downright ignored.
Yet it is our feminine edge that when embraced and understood, provides our ‘edge’ within the marketplace and beyond.
Often described as a ‘strong woman’—as though this is a sign of weakness, especially in my relations to and with the masculine—my actions and intentions are often regarded as threatening.
This limiting interpretation of who I am being curtails any possibility of building relation with me. How can you engage someone when you’ve already decided who they are, based on your own fears and projections? Instead, I invite you to remain open to whomever you encounter and invite that feminine trait of discernment to determine whether or not one wishes to engage with the other.
Many of us are desperate to share meaningfully in dialogue with our men but simply don’t know how. Absence of intimacy is the cause of this, I suspect.
The men on the other hand are drowning in an ideal of who their families, communities and society expect them to be: bold, courageous and strong. Unlike females, it is unnatural and more pointedly discouraged for men to bare their souls—as this is often seen as a sign of weakness—another distorted projection. So the subsequent end result that I see is that they (and us) continue to implode.
From this image I see and feel that here I am curled up in fetal position, enveloping myself with nurturance and self-love, while the male, with his back turned toward me is seated on the edge, the precipice of his own masculinity.
All of this is taking place within the patriarchal ideal firmly entrenched in the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. Am I at the heart of being forbidden? And if so, by whom?
‘Forbid me not to come onto thee’ comes from the Bible, Matthew 19:14. Is my plea to the man with his back turned to me that he not forbid nor forsake me? I remind myself that only I can be held accountable for being forbidden and forsaken by myself, and others too. In other words, I set the standard for how others treat me.
In this life and any subsequent ones that there may be, I’m envisioning a situation where the masculine and feminine are able to face each other, curled up together from a deep place of acceptance, empathy, respect, understanding and ultimately love.
And so it is.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel