Imagine how different the story would be told; think of the experiences and values that might never receive attention or the unique and important female perspectives that would be entirely omitted from your family history.
As it turns out, this seemingly hypothetical scenario represents the reality of our own collective written history. Not until the recent past was it acceptable for women to actively participate in interpreting, writing and teaching history...or fiction, for that matter.
With more women having entered the fields of history, archaeology, science, medicine and psychology, the important perspectives, experiences and interpretations of the other half of humankind are finally being contributed and recognized. As a result, important, previously omitted or undiscovered information is slowly finding its way to the minds of women and men and shaping our collective reality. While the male experience is still too often believed to represent the experience of all human beings, we are slowly moving to a more balanced perspective and understanding of the world, one that inspires both sexes to recognize their value in the world.
The following represent just a few of the many important and empowering gems of information that have the capacity to shift our common reality as they make their way into the writing of a 'history' that is beginning to look a lot more like 'our story'....
- Women were once revered rather than objectified.
For thousands of years, before women's bodies became a source of shame and ultimately the over-sexualized objects of today's music videos and magazines, they were considered divine and powerful in their capacity for sacred sexuality and the ability to create and sustain new life. Increasingly potent archeological evidence of this reality is currently being dated at 20,000-40,000 BCE, which makes our more recent reality a 'blip' on the timeline of humankind.
- The female body connects generations.
Science now shows us that by 20 weeks in utero, a female fetus has a fully developed reproductive system replete with 6-7 million eggs. Translated, this means that the uterus holds the energy of generations. When your grandmother held your mother in her womb, by 20 weeks gestation, you 'sat' in your mother's womb. Because your grandmother was linked in the same way to her mother's and grandmother's wombs, you are connected to more distant generations as well. This is powerful energy and wisdom for you to carry (and sometimes heal).
- 'The curse' is actually a powerful gift.
In ancient goddess cultures and even today among many indigenous peoples, a woman's monthly cycle is called her 'moon cycle' - and for very good reason. It was recognized long ago that just as a lunar cycle is 28 days, so is the average woman's menstrual cycle. Although we tend to focus exclusively on a 5-7 day 'period,' our body actually moves through a full cycle made up of a series of hormonal changes that affect every aspect of our being over the course of 28 days (and slightly longer for some). Just as the moon waxes and wanes, so does the female body. Knowing this and getting in tune with these cyclic changes is tremendously empowering for women. After all, the moon creates tides. Imagine what you have the power to do!
- Freud was clearly not familiar with the female anatomy when he proposed his theory of 'penis envy.'
In fact, the clitoris contains 8,000 nerve endings, double those contained in the uncircumcised penis and interacts with over 15,000 nerve endings throughout the pelvis. It is the only part of the male or female anatomy that exists solely for the purpose of pleasure. Sadly, it is largely for this reason that an estimated 135 million girls worldwide have faced female genital mutilation, a practice in many countries used to eliminate sexual desire in women.
- Menopause was once valued as a time of wisdom and mastery.
Dating back to ancient times (and still the case in many indigenous cultures), women in the post-menopausal phase of their lives were considered to be the wisest among their people because they permanently retained their 'wise blood.' As such, these women were the leaders and healers of their tribes and a source of wise counsel for important decision-making. Wonderful women in menopause, embrace your wisdom!
- Many marriage traditions are rooted in the belief that women are first the property of their fathers and then of their husbands.
This explains the traditions that we are so quick to romanticize such as the groom-to-be asking the father of the bride for her hand in marriage and the father walking the bride down the aisle to 'give her away.' Need more to contemplate? The origins of surnames are rooted in ownership, a practice that was also applied in slavery.
- Male anatomy has long been used as a point of reference for all human beings.
Though heart attacks are the number one cause of death among women ages 45-75, until recently, research was based almost exclusively on men. Their symptoms and response to treatment were used as the gauge for treatment of heart disease in women. Not until the late 90's did the American Heart Association launch a three-year campaign to educate women and doctors about important differences that would help to save the lives of women whose symptoms and treatment for heart disease are actually very different than men.
- The study of behavior has, until recently, also been the victim of gender bias.
As was the case with our anatomy, it was often assumed that findings related to male behavior also automatically applied to women. Historically, psychological findings based on male subjects dictated standards for 'normal' human behavior. Therefore, if women deviated from those standards, they were often considered abnormal or dysfunctional. As for girls, the same also held true. Mind-boggling as it is, in 1980, not a single chapter in the Handbook on Adolescent Psychology was devoted to girls. Imagine how difficult that made it to support them through their challenging teen years.
- Ironically, the earliest recorded author in history was a woman.
Enheduanna, the world's earliest known author wrote in cuneiform approximately 4300 years ago. Yet, female authors have always struggled to be taken seriously. It was necessary well into the early part of the 20th Century for a woman to use a male pen name in order to be taken seriously as a writer of fiction. Even Joanne Rowling, author of the enormously successful Harry Potter series, was advised by her publishers to use the pen name 'J.K. Rowling' for fear that boys wouldn't read her books if they knew a woman had written them. Let's hope that the next in the series, should one ever be penned, is proudly authored by Joanne Rowling. I know our daughters, and yes, our sons, would all be better served should that happen.