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MUSINGS ON THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT BY A PAST PENIS ENVY-ER

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By Sarah Engelhard

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The Montréal Review, May 2017

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SARAH AND ABRAHAM
The Search for Miracles and the Stuttering Poet
Sarah Engelhard
Guernica Editions (MiroLand), 2016

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Sarah & Abraham: The Search for Miracles and the Stuttering Poet is a stranger than fiction account of a woman's reach for miracles and her conflicted love for Montreal poet, Avi Boxer. It is a gripping tale of experiences that includes magic, sometimes black, by way of the captivating and devilish poet who played magician. The sacred and profane blurred in boundary, as did the very definition of morality, blessing and curse. Sarah's emotional and spiritual journey, beginning with her escape from Nazi France, is animated with plot twists of biblical proportion, peppered with equal parts wit and profundity.

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In 1969 I hosted a TV show, THE NEW WOMAN, out of Philadelphia, Pa. WTAF-TV channel 29.

I didn’t know then, on the cusp of the feminist movement that I, like goddess Isis, and womankind, would have to pick-up the dismembered pieces of our men, put the pieces back together and, with magic, fashion a new penis for the one that had been swallowed by a crab.

Goddess of magic, Isis left no stone unturned when she went looking for her dismembered husband Osiris. She found thirteen parts of him inside a tree, in a vegetating state, psychology would explain. She fashioned her husband’s crab-eaten phallus with gold and clay, and conceived new life, their son Horus.

Egyptian goddess of wisdom, homemaking, marriage, the patroness of healing, Isis enlightened women on the nature of man and woman: when to seed and when to reap. She taught women to weave, bake, grind corn, spin flax, read, tame her man and taught men to be good husbands

“Crab, perverse, deaf to reason, unaccommodating, obstinate…” Thesaurus expounds on “crab” mentality: the 2017 state of the feminist movement as it goes through Freud’s vision of “penis envy” stage.

The crab moves backward, or sideways. But the crab, because it sheds its skin, is also referred to as, “casting off the Old Adam”, which now could lead to a new way of honoring the generative organs of male and female in determining WORTH. The privileges that are conferred upon the gender that possesses a penis, and how to equalize the power structure where the gender who does not possess one, are being reappraised.

Thus the earth-quake toppling the unequal financial power structure that has held sway to the twenty-first century, has got to move us out of the “backward, perverse, deaf to reason…” mentality, in order to prove that under the hand of woman, the world can indeed be better balanced, even for the male offspring women produce.

Enter kabbalah as I went searching for the meaning of my life and came upon my responsibility not just as a human but as a woman: “First in thought last in creation”, God fashioned woman last, expecting the feminine archetype to usher in the dreamed of messianic concept of justice and equality.

To begin with, I had to admit myself a crab. I had to recognize and acknowledge my penis-envy mentality, such as wanting to do what men have done to the world instead of bringing to the table what the soul of the feminine archetype can bring, which because of its physical disability a penis carrying entity cannot: womb power.

In “Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives”, Dr. Deepak Chopra explains: “Hundreds of studies have confirmed that chemicals released by the pregnant mother’s body are transported into the womb and affect the unborn baby.” That’s even before the child is born. Then “In the first 12 months, the foundation of later confidence, trust, resiliency, ability to care for others, is formed.” So dumping on males the fault for the kind of males a woman produces then complains about, should also be considered through the lens of the saying that: “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

I came from the paradigm that goes: you come of age and you marry. You choose, or hope to find or hope to land, a good provider. Girls swooned, screeched, fell all over themselves and still do, over alpha males, or just over males they’ll do anything to attract. In a recent Gazette article, a female police officer reprimanded a 14-year-old student getting on a bus after school, “Don’t lift her skirt, you will attract the wrong kind of attention.” Which got the girl’s mother up in a tiff retorting a very feminist claim, “She can do anything she wants.”

Indeed she can! But more magical, according to goddess Isis, would be to bring to consciousness the intention behind lifting the skirt.

In my day, a woman’s claim to worth and position was her man, and she was expected to keep the home fires burning. Fragments of Hestia the Greek goddess of hearth and protector of home and State. Hestia represented the center out of which all radiated, whether of oneself, our room, our home, our community, our country. Hestia was served by the most powerful state officials: her domain included architecture; domesticity; bliss. Responsibility for the Hestia cult fell to the leading woman, or man. Equality is determined by the best qualified to ensure the vision.

Michael Enright host of CBC radio, one Sunday morning in 2016, interviewed offspring of Wayne and Shuster, from the Wayne and Shuster radio and TV show. Answer to the question, “Did they ever argue over the scripts they wrote. Were there ever bad feelings?” was, “We heard them in loud conversations at times, but it always ended in laughter. The important outcome was what was best for the show.”

One had to give up egos: “My line is better than your line,” for the vision to succeed. That’s when equality simply is.

Thus I see us arrived at “New Adam Avenue”, where we are not “getting even”, but like goddess Isis, bringing the pieces together and forming a new life-force.

So it behooves us to respect the male/female dynamic in us, in order to see it outside of us and bring new life in dealing with life and death challenges, which, bottom line is: SEX.

Man or woman, we each practice and participate equally in male/female union, constantly. In simplistic terms: when we speak, we are in male mode, sowing seeds, so to speak, after which the receptor, the listener, is seeded to become impregnated. Whether a human child, or an idea is to be born, the vessel has to respond to produce a new creation: a child, a book, music, dinner or everything else under the sun, we are constantly in a state of male/female uniting in that we either reject or impregnate (take a thought to fruition) or tell the male seed to drop dead. It’s at the emotional stage that the quarrel begins, where the sacred vision is cracked. When someone has to give-in.  A somewhat female attribute: a “giving-in” quality, in order to receive “seed”. Thus whether man or woman we equally use the “give-in” attribute when we open-up mentally to receive ideas.  It is sex, all the time.

Sex, the means that gets us to earth. Sex, that distinguishes as male or female. Sex, where we hurt each other most. Sex we use, to get us jobs, sex by which a man will give us a job or fire us. Sex, the means a woman can use to destroy a man, who hired and fired according to his demand of sex. Yes, power over Roger Ailes, who for some 50 years was the Fox with half a century demanding his price at the gate to female dreams.

It was not proper in the “casting couch” era, to expose what we did not even conceive as being disrespectful. Except that something inside knew that the fee requested was playing with life and death in the basest a man can bargain, where he could get away with a cheap thrill while she could end-up pregnant and seek to get rid of what would get in the way of the “dream” she was ready to “kill” for.

So when the idea dropped into my mental womb with the thought of a TV show to showcase guests who examined woman’s lot of my day, the union was fruitful: it gave birth to THE NEW WOMAN TV show. And here I muse on the New Woman fifty years on.

If the feminist movement keeps putting man in a vegetative state, needing pills for virility and women so dulled by a man in a vegetating state that she needs pink pills to bring her to life, she will have to give him back a penis fashioned with gold, if the life she is clamoring for is to get born. And we come to the nature of the sexes.

On the physical level, in order to be Godly, to “be fruitful and multiply”, or especially if it isn’t to multiply, we will deal with the devil. That is: the seed giver needs a level of virility, “aggression”, to ensure the life of the mission.

“Pro-life”/”Pro-choice” – no one has the right to impose on another their choice on how to live life’s lessons. That said, until the “pro-choice” side admits to penis envy, we will miss the means to get us the “equality” we say we are after.

Sex will always end up a woman’s issue to deal with: unwanted pregnancy; abortion; IUD; before pill; after pill… and the side effects of all.

Up until “the pill” “equalized” the sexual playing field, men had the role of protecting the “weaker” sex. “Women and children,” was the motto to save first. It fell to the male to fight wars, to protect the sanctity of home, family, the country, Hestia’s territory. But with the “pill” “she” could be as free with sex as “he” without the protection of soul.

A Mayfair and the Congregation (Oil on canvas, 2016) by Neil Macpherson (Portal Painters Gallery, London)

I am by no means advocating returning to pre-pill era, and I bless contraceptive means to stop making sows of women, but here is where we must become conscious, by the 21st century, of what we mean by the “equality” we are marching for.

In “penis-envy” mode, women are abandoning “home” while the homes we live in have never been bigger or more sumptuously equipped to spend less and less time therein. But whether a man or a woman, someone has to mind the sacred, the hearth, the womb, the future. We must equalize the male movement spreading outward by females, by going inward and ask what for? What vision are we after?  How will we rock the cradle? Ever only “the bottom line”? What are the new rules? Is the strident female the new woman? Can a man tell a woman that she looks good when you see that she is doing her darnest to be seductive, then putting him through the wringer for the “sexist comment”, that her deliberate wish to be sexy, produces. So we play with clay, leave out the gold and forfeit our magic, when all it takes is being conscious of our intentions.

And I wondered where is woman’s wisdom in emasculating man? Why blame the man whose mother fed “him” the best morsels while dishing out the leftovers to her daughters, if that’s the way he interprets his world?

And we come to magical thinking.

In magical thinking, “equality” is to understand our power and take responsibility for consequences.

Being conscious of “equal” right to her needs is what Tamar proved in Biblical times (Genesis 38), when she undertook to seduce her father-in-law Judah. If ever gold was mixed with clay it was with Tamar’s womb demand. When Judah saw Tamar, he thought her to be a harlot because she had covered her face with a veil. Being covered it seems, is more enticing than showing flesh. But for Tamar, it was womb power and accepting the consequences for  an act that could have her put to death. As the story goes, from that power, aware of why and for whom she would “lift her skirt”, comes the messianic line, the vision of equality.

Empowering a woman, not by simply doing as well as any man can do, which has been proven she can do since recorded history, but by doing what only she can do – work magic.

Magic is what the daughters of Zelophehad did. (Numbers 27: 1-8) left without a father and no brothers, they, as women, had no legal right to inheritance. They came to Moses with their petition to be granted some of their father’s wherewithal not to have to marry simply to survive.

It was not with animus unleashed, with strident voices or fishwife bullying tactics marching en masse that these three sisters appealed with, but by the simple logic of human justice. So Moses asked God for the divine side of the coin. “Their plea is just,” came the voice, and woman was granted property from then on.

But now, equal to the rights of land, we forget the power that got us here.

In kabbalistic writings “timing” is a feminine intuited ability, which is attributed to the daughters of Zelophehad. The kind Isis taught to listen to nature for the battles to fight and when to keep our mouth shut where no greater disciplinarian and guide, is the vision.

And here is something else to work with: the relationship of mother and son.

According to esoteric teaching, a boy child is conceived when the male is devilish enough to bring the female to bliss before his own. A connection between mother and that experience makes a bond that may be responsible for much of why a mother, (without patriarchal prompting) will feed her son the better morsel than her daughters. Then it is left to daughters to deal with the sons that mothers spoil.  So maybe it is not the patriarchal system that is totally to blame for our complaints,

Not overnight will we reach Olympian standards of human equal exchange. But somewhere on the timeline of history, now in the 21st century, we might plan for a universal Bat Mitzvah: a coming of age ceremony, to raise our own standards of consciousness, admit our jealousies, our pettiness, our vanities, superficialities, covetousness, rivalries, and not wonder why the payback is not what we like.

Such is one woman’s ride through a penis-envy voyage. I recorded it in my recently published memoir: “Sarah and Abraham, the Search for Miracles and the Stuttering Poet”.

P.S. So long as the means to bring life on earth continues so compelling, we can only learn from our own experiences. Then, if the woman has survived initiation by fire, she becomes a crone. Whether beheld as “Sinister” or “Good Fairy”, she works with gold. Which one you come upon, is the other side of the coin. 

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Born in 1932, in Saarbrucken, France, Sarah Engelhard came to Canada on the first WW2 refugee ship, the Serpa Pinto, in 1944. She has been a television host, radio personality, teacher, singer/songwriter. She speaks regularly for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. Sarah is the mother of four. She lives in Montreal. Sarah & Abraham: The Search for Miracles and the Stuttering Poet is her first published book.

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