‹ Go Back

Amanda and the Feminine



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.

Minoan Fashion

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 . . .”

4 Responses to “Amanda and the Feminine”

  1. Paul Karlstrom

    Ellen, Count me in! And hello, Michael. Thanks for the compliment. Sometimes we just have to speak our minds. Paul

  2. Michael S. Bell

    Well said, Paul. Well and truly written, Ellen, from Santa Fe – the city of Holy Faith.

    Too fast pushing 70 years of age means I lived through a good many years prior to onset of the Feminist evolution, during its earliest days, and surviving it all with a tremendous optimism that, as I believed, humanity is able to spiritually advance. Indeed, we/it did so.

    Holy Faith, as it were, had been renewed, if not restored.

    Two wonderfully feminist daughters (who never once had a thought of subservience) and now four granddaughters later (for whom Feminism may well be deemed the linguistic equivalent of psychoanalysis) this article reminds me of where we have yet to go, and will we ever return or arrive there, and was it worth the effort?


    • celeryellen

      Many thanks for your comments, Michael, and it’s nice to know you’re out there. Paul was pleased also, and as a result of our conversation, I may post on this subject again. Glad to know that you have so much lovely, feminine energy in your life. Ellen

  3. Paul Karlstrom

    Celery Ellen,

    Your blog and today’s NY Times:

    Thank you for this important Minoan background (mostly new to me) for the history of sexual discrimination with its ruinous consequences. A recent review (I think in the NY Times, I could find it) of Amanda Knox’s memoir compares her “innocence abroad” to Henry James’s Isabel Archer. The comparison seems to work up to a point (although not as art). Anyway, as you rightly point out, it’s not just this individual case, whatever we may have to say about Ms. Knox’s judgment, youthful naivete, and apparent recklessness, but rather the general and predictable demonizing of female sexuality and desire as part of the individual quest for freedom, especially when it dares to step outside socially prescribed limitations. (As we know, the same restrictions do not apply to the overwhelmingly male perps). Take a look at Maureen Dowd’s spot-on editorial in today’s Times that takes up the bigger story which turns on this inequity. .

    Seems to me that today’s NY Times front page news (Jennifer Steinhauer) about sexual assaults in the military (26,000 non-consensual physical “events” in 2012 reported in a confidential survey) is not unrelated in terms of attitudes. Whatever respect many of us formerly had for the US military (it’s macho, self-protective culture notwithstanding) should be seriously if not permanently damaged by the increasingly clear evidence and shameful cover ups. Our military is operating clearly above (outside) the law, US and international, for which it typically has very little regard. Where are the Constitutional protections for our enlisted “men and women” who are already–a constant refrain bordering on sanctimonious cliche–in “harm’s way?” Who would have thought perhaps most of the harm turns out to be at the hands of fellow soldiers. Those near or at the top of the command chain (the buck stops there) who run this sorry show need to be exposed to, I hope, an appropriately indignant citizenry. Their disgraceful contempt for the women (and a few men) in the service, to whom they have a legal as well as moral responsibility, must be brought to account and be punished. Otherwise, nothing will change. I’m ashamed of our military and the Pentagon’s arrogance. I’m sad to report that I view the whole situation as exhibit one of fundamental American hypocrisy (consider our dismal record–going back at least to Viet Nam–on torture and slaughter of civilians).

    Doesn’t this all seem cut from the same dirty cloth? Oh, no. Not us. We’re the USA. Of course, when it comes to human rights and justice, only our enemies are guilty of such abuses. Or am I overreaching?