The story is enough to make steam belch from feminine ears.
“You have to write about this,” my friend from Houston said urgently. She was referring to the media assault on Amanda Knox, recently described by ABC News as “sex-mad” and “sex-crazed.” I’m on it, Kathy.
As Kathy pointed out, however, Frank Bruni of The New York Times had already powerfully championed Amanda in his Sunday column. How nice that a man would be indignant about the way she has been treated, even after the conviction for her housemate’s murder in Italy had been overturned. “We’re as quick as ever to heap scorn on women seen as sexually bold,” he wrote.
I haven’t been following this story closely and didn’t know about the vibrator in the transparent washbag or the fancy panties that the prosecution found incriminating. If she was sexually adventurous, though, she is not alone in this matter. Feminism has had some unintended consequences, as author Anne Lamott commented at a recent speech in Santa Fe. She hadn’t marched for equal rights, she said, so that teenage girls could give blow-jobs at their high school parties.
The unintended consequence of sexual freedom has been some loss of respect. At the same time, the ancient suspicion of the evil seductress in us all has deepened and widened. Whether the affair of a famous general is the focus or Yale coeds complaining of rape, the female is often viewed as the one who initiated or somehow invited the transgression.
Frank Bruni’s effort reminded me of another gentleman, Craig S. Barnes, author of In Search of the Lost Feminine. A successful trial lawyer, he was inspired by losing a very important case trying to get higher pay for Denver nurses. After five years of research, a three-week trial that included stacks of evidence and days of expert testimony, the judge ruled against the plaintiffs in less than ten minutes. As a result, graduate nurses would continue to be paid “less than tree trimmers,” as Barnes put it.
Well thank goodness for that failure, because his indignation launched research tracing the rise of patriarchy in the ancient world and the suppression of the feminine. A great advantage was the discovery, within about the last 150 years, of artifacts of Minoan cultures. These reveal that there was a time when women probably enjoyed high status and free, sacred sex in a peaceful society ordered by nature religions.
The Minoan islands of Thera and Crete were centers of influence from about 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE, and there were no images of war or violence or masculine domination in their art. Graceful renderings of birds, lilies, wheat, bees, dolphins and women in sensuous poses dominate, and stylized breasts are a frequent design motif.
By 1600 BCE, however, the Minoan civilization was at risk due to the invasion of Greece by Indo-Europeans on war chariots. Even as this threat loomed, the Minoans were devastated by an earthquake on Thera that may have been the largest in human history. One hundred square miles of land were submerged, and the rest was buried under 90 feet of ash. It darkened the sky, coated the farmland of Crete, and blew as far as Cyprus, Egypt, and Anatolia.
The Minoans who survived also suffered the loss of their cosmology, their reverent and trusting relationship with the natural world. As Barnes writes, their religion could not possibly have explained “the vicious, brutal, and unearned destruction that rose up out of the earth itself.” They became easy prey for warlike invaders, and the story of their own civilization came to an end.
It was also the end of an era for the feminine. The invaders’ mythologies demonized the existing panoply of goddesses, and patriarchy proceeded to relegate women to the backwaters of history. The story that Barnes summarizes is enough to make steam belch from feminine ears.
And when you think about it, how dumb was it to deprive civilization of the intellectual potential and creativity of half its people? Balanced influence between the sexes might also have spared the world the big trouble we’re in now. If women everywhere knew more about the history of injustice, we might undergo an apocalyptic change in attitude. After all, the story of humanity is half ours. Perhaps it is time to claim a more powerful role in the shaping of it.
Well I expect this is more than Kathy hoped for in the way of reaction to the mistreatment of Amanda Knox. However, you know that familiar saying, “Don’t get me started . . .”