Oh, what a joy that the brave and amazing Malala Yousafzai has won the Nobel Peace Prize!
She shares the prize with Indian children’s slavery activist Kailash Satyarthi, and together they portend a shift in the global temperature regarding gender and youth: Girls—their health, their well-being, their contributions to the world—matter.
For millennia and in so many places still, girls have been shoved aside, denied education and treated as property. When Taliban can send a gunman to kill a schoolgirl and terrorists can still steal hundreds of innocent young women from their families, Malala is both a symbol of the death of the poisonous patriarchy and hope that humanity might get it together after all.
Her victory means even more as Little Yenta Girl and I just returned from Southeastern Women’s Herbal Conference, a yearly gathering of sisterly camaraderie and classes in the gorgeous mountains of Western North Carolina, where the trees are just beginning to flash their fall colors.
I’ve been attending since 2007 to deepen my understanding of natural remedies to nourish my family and to spend time with like-minded sisterfolk who dig a good drum circle. Over the years I’ve learned and implemented the medicinal uses of honey, how to prepare a poultice for a bee sting, the herbal pharmacopia used by slaves and a thousand uses for lavender. This is where I get tips on how to sneak more astragalus into the soup and how long to boil down bones for the best broth. It’s where I take in big breaths of unconditional love for my one precious life.
I used to bring along Yenta Boy until his *ahem* britches got too big and began wrinkling his nose every time I said the word “vagina.” I sure hope the knowledge he absorbed stays with him as he forges his own life in the Instagram era. Now my lil’ girl has finally come of age to be initiated in the wise woman ways.
Even though we live in a country where women are free to drive, go to school and wear what they please, our society is still sick with rape culture, inequality in the work force, sexualization of children and Nicky Minaj. Girls and women (along with boys and men!) receive so much negative conditioning about their bodies and social roles, but so terribly little about their inherent gifts and those of the planet itself.
It feels like a very big deal to be a mama to strong, beautiful girl right now, and and I am so grateful she had the opportunity to supplement her education in the following ways:
She sat in the Red Tent with her Soil Sisters (aged 10-13) learning that when her body becomes activated by the moon, she is powerful, not dirty.
She learned that the Earth and its plants are allies for our own health, and the best medicines can often be found growing right outside our front door.
She saw women of all shapes and colors and ages, learning that womanhood is expressed in a kaleidoscope, not a scale.
She helped build a mandala out of flowers to honor the sacred feminine element within all of us.
She ate and danced and drummed with no one telling her “too much, too loud, too wild.”
She was validated and valued for being a girl, that she can and will participate in the healing of the world, including helping the boys and men embrace their own sacred femininity.
What could the world become if every girl received the same sacred education?
What an awesome post! It’s so important to me that you recognize that so many girls and women feel that their likes and dislikes have to be placed in a box, and that moving away from said box is dangerous or bad. Boys and men, too, feel these societal constraints and it’s so silly; too many times have I heard students tell each other “you can’t ________ (fill in that blank with anything that doesn’t fit a gender ‘norm’) because you’re a boy/girl.” Our children need to learn that’s ok to just be ourselves!
Wow…what a lovely article. It was both thoughtful and timely. I’m interested in the way people express themselves through writing. I realize opinion is unsolicited (as it so often is), but if you will indulge my compulsion very briefly?
Your subject matter is great but your initial paragraph should entice the reader to keep reading. Right out of the gate the use of the word portend, while used correctly, was a little distracting. I love words and I’m in favor of recirculating some of the infrequent and forgotten vocabulary. That being said, portend is one of those words that makes people think you’re spending too much time with a thesaurus. Every writer is guilty of this at some point. Signify or suggest probably would have been a more prudent choice, given your audience. The other thing that gave me pause was the temperature metaphor for a cultural theme. It was puzzling and seemed like it belonged in a different context, and readers are easily confused. How about this: …together they signify a global paradigm shift regarding gender and youth. If you think paradigm is too thesaurus-y, you could go with model or standard. I guess my point is that you can state something simply and still be eloquent; and the first paragraph is no place to lose your reader.
Please forgive my interference; It is kindly meant, and a bit of a compulsion for me. I mean, if I came out of a public restroom with my skirt tucked into my tights, I’d want someone to tell me. I feel the same way about my writing: any and all constructive comments are noted and appreciated; because ultimately it makes me a better writer.
And I really thought it was a lovely piece.
Wow…that’s some serious chutzpah, Shoshanna. In my 20+ years as a professional writer and 10+ years as a blogger, I have never felt the need to comment on someone else’s writing style outside of a workshop. I’m sorry you were distracted and confused by my vocabulary choices; may I suggest frequenting a different blog with simpler language?
To be honest, I almost thought your long-winded critique full of “thesauraus-y” terms about my lack of brevity was a joke, but it’s clear you have a compulsion to troll people’s blogs handing out writing advice, which you had to reiterate twice.
I will say that if you came out of the bathroom with your skirt tucked in your tights, I’d probably let you walk away because you seem like you could use a lesson in what happens when you alienate people with your arrogant “good intentions.”
This is why you’re my hero and the head Yenta!
Soooooo . . . another writer, here. Novelist, screenwriter, former book editor in NYC, professor, and I’ve been cited in the OED as examples of usage fifteen or twenty different times, which I bring up only to say that I have more than a small amount of experience with the English language. And I can’t making a small contribution to this discussion.
Shoshana, I admire the strength of your convictions, and it’s nice to see any kind of discussion about vocabulary and word choice, but I can’t agree with your assessment, here. The fact is, words are meant to be used. That’s what they’re there for and when you refer to certain words as being “thesaurus-y,” you’re doing them a disservice. There aren’t bad words or good words; there are merely words that are used aptly or not used aptly. In this case, the author used “portend,” because she felt it was right. “Suggest” or “symbolize” wouldn’t have carried the same, er, suggestion of divination; it wouldn’t look toward the future in the same way.
To me it seems a perfect choice.
And it certainly isn’t insulting the reader to use such a modest bisyllable. However, it is, to my mind, insulting to readers to think that they wouldn’t understand it. Also, if writers never used words that someone might not know already, we’d never get past our ABCs. We wouldn’t have words at all. And then we wouldn’t be able to such lively online conversations—wait, sorry; too many syllables?—I mean debate—sorry, I mean talks—sorry, I mean—
Shoshona clearly did not know the depths of the literary swamp into which she waded. I have edited a few columns in my time. Never a blog because it’s beneath me. But I digress.
It is true that on occasion the effort to avoid cliches and other trite expressions results in the use of a word that disrupts the rhythm of the phrase or what have you. But as the esteemed Mr Davies has pointed out, obscure words are to be feasted upon none the less. Not everyone has the same pallet. Davies is a Thesaurus Rex. I once saw him devour the entire Manhattan white pages in search of the perfect name for a debutante’s schnauzer that met an untimely demise at the hands of a dismissed paramour who happened to be a butcher. The schnauzer’s name escapes me.
In the future you may want to consider commenting on the content of the blog and not the verbiage, perhaps even providing an idiosyncratic anecdote about a similar experience you may have had as a young woman confronting societies’ stagnant codifications.
In the mean time may I suggest reading Adam Davies novel “The Frog King”. Truly a masterpiece.
Hey there, El Yentaman. Thanks for the note. And jeeze, the White Pages thing—not many people know about that. It’s giving me a Griffin and Sabiney feeling. Do we know each other?