The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has left the earth (again), leaving behind a legacy of creating the dreams and visions for thousands of little boys. The inspiration he gave to young men, and even those who were older, of the possibilities of exploration into space, beyond the realms we knew, certainly won’t pass and be forgotten with his death.
Armstrong represented all the things of boy stuff and, being the mother to a young son, I can see how all the motifs of this man can bring a light to the soul of any man. Those visions of planets and stars, rocket ships with extreme powers, the dangerous element of adventure, the virtuous pursuit of the unknown and the touching of the most mysterious places are the things that dreams are made of.
Space exploration has the masculine written all over it and it is this modern mythology that provides a compass for the stronger sex to allow them to explore their own dreams and potential.
Then I look to the female equivalent and I am left wondering. Yes, there are obvious female role models within the last century but often none as celebrated as widely as the man on the moon. Instead, as is the female approach, without blatant kudos and the push for outright recognition, there are the trail blazing women who made their lives their own. Often they turned their backs on the patriarchy and made their own destiny, choosing their own rules and roads to travel. This is the heroine’s journey and it comes often at a cost.
I think of Coco Chanel and her consorts who provided her with the things she needed on a number of different levels. This was courtly love in play during the 20th century where respect and great honour was shown toward a woman of nobility, in her case this was shown through her strength and independence of character. She remained free of matrimonial constraints and those created by motherhood to take her journey. But even now, it is her output that is more widely discussed; the fact she created beautiful clothes for the feminine that provides the huge legacy of her name.
There was Anais Nin who also made her way through life, liberated, bohemian and unrestrained, telling it like it was whether people liked it or not. There were husbands and lovers, there was travel, conversation and most importantly, the celebration of all things that were positively and unashamedly female.
If I dig further, to where that female heroine most resonates for me personally, I look to the story of Saint Joan of Arc (15th Century) or to Eleanor Aquitaine (12th Century). Both, against the odds and sometimes much to their detriment, these women pursued their want and kept the confidence behind them to allow them to fulfil their dreams. Maybe it is something deep in the French culture that values the unique attributes of the female? Who knows, but they bred them resilient and full of verve.
Like with most heroines, this expression of the female, in all its glory, is vastly more questioned for its appropriateness, usually from the religious quarters, who continue to peddle the downfall of mankind thanks to the decisions of Eve. And while Neil Armstrong’s legacy came with the conspiracy theorists views on whether it was faked, male stories which shape our culture do not come under the same scrutiny as those of female.
Religion has a lot to answer for in terms of where it desires women to remain. There is constant reference to strange things such as being too female or creating temptation in men.There is this inference in blame surrounding the stories of independent women throughout our history which springs from the Garden of Eden and continues through history. It has worked its own magic and managed to keep women placed exactly where they can do no harm nor have any influence. Those in the religious quarters perceive a very real reason to keep the feminine under control.
The feminine spirit in full flight is a thing behold. It anchors us and enriches us, allows us to see further, innovate, create and even solve the problems of the world. Against this is the strong force of the masculine. Our current worldview is fixated on the patriarchy, with many of us women choosing to feed it by operating out of our male energies in order to be recognised or respected. This, in my view, is not particularly a good thing.
It is only when we leave it all behind that women can do their best and make the most impact. We need to question who are our roles models and who is creating them; the media, the church, the culture? And we need to think about what our role models telling us and who they want us to be? Who wants to be a Secretary of State? Who wants to be on a board with a group of men? Who in their right mind wants to be a man? Success for a woman, as depicted through our media, is about having it all and being able to keep from getting utterly depressed and anxious while you keep up the balance. Often all while keeping a white wine addiction under control.
While there was a generation of little boys looking to the stars there was a generation of little girls looking to win the fight and on many levels we did. But I voice my views on feminism quite openly with friends and I shall do so here. My views are anchored strongly in the ability of women to have choice and I see that has been largely what feminism has provided.
But mainly what it has achieved for women is choice within the boundaries of a patriarchal society and one which is every increasingly holding onto its power. Ironically now we need the feminine values to come into play. This is where many of the feminists will turn on their younger counterparts and call them unappreciative. Feminism, unless it continues to evolve, threatens to alienate those people it set out to help. Where feminism left off we need to go to the next chapter of securing choice to be female and to bring into effect all those wonderful things that set us apart from the men.
My point is that we need to look deeper and harder to find ourselves and our forks in the road. Our role models and their extreme expression of womanhood have been rebuked, slandered and sullied because their example seems so threatening.Â We need to embrace these women and see that our Western culture needs this behaviour in us more than ever before.
Neil Armstrong will long be held up as the inspiration to both men and women but we as women need the courage to operate as ourselves. We need to go further into our lives and into the examples of those women who can provide the roadmap to the generation of women now and those coming through. Because at the moment there are many of us left looking at each other, wondering is this all there is?And trying to figure out how the promise of a career, a marriage and children fell short of the mark.
At the moment we are on the precipice of the new beginning for women in Western culture.Â If we can move the stale and outmoded goals that seek to make us more like the men then we have a chance to shift the balance in a world dominated by the masculine aspects. These aspects, more than ever, are eroding our Western culture.
While the mythology of what it is to be a woman can be found way back in history, it is now that we need to be creating the new stories. If not, we as women will continue to be exempt from the lofty heights of the moon and find ourselves, literally, in no man’s land.
The heroine’s journey has never been like the stand out journey of a man; it can’t be by the very nature of our lives and our responsibilities to keep the species going. But it is a vital one nonetheless and we need to encourage fellow women to take it so that we can set the new rules for our daughters and their daughters. And this journey is far more interesting, mysterious and fraught than any mission to the moon. All the more reason to take it, I think.