marlene mountain
october 1988



It's not uncommon for an artist to be misinterpreted or, more realistically, for a reader/viewer not to have the base from which to interpret an artist. Occasionally a clarification is needed. I seem to be perceived as a 'feminist,' and my poems as coming from that 'perspective.'

There are at least four views of feminism. The most prevalent, unfortunately, seems hardly more than the 1960s obnoxious term, 'women's lib.' Feminism is used with derision, but at least there's admission that another way of seeing is possible.

Then there's, '1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2: organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests. 1 On the surface this definition seems well-intended and sensible, but since it addresses a society informed by patriarchy, which by its very premise of father-rule denies equality, it is to say the least rather short-sighted, if not totally misdirected. (What/Whom can one really wish to be equal with?) It also allows many to cloak themselves in a kind of smugness while evading an in-depth look at this abusive phenomenon.

Much more meaningful are feminist research and criticism. These approaches have rattled the mind-set of almost every discipline from anthropology to zoology--perhaps in time, haiku.

Lastly, radical feminism, which seems to frighten most people, merely means to get to the root of things. When one finally/truly sees the world-wide inversions and perversions of basic dignity, it seems quite natural to speak to 'radical' change. I very deeply appreciate the latter two views, and encourage all to take a close look at the richness of thought. As it happens, however, I've created a word for myself, spiralutionary.

Spiralutionarily-speaking, the process of moving out of the 'common reality' of patriarchy is a journey of mind and heart without parallel.

One finds, for instance, that the philosophies of East and West which seem so different at first are merely one side of a coin: distancing people from all other nature, 'organizing' all things to fit into the notion of paternity. What was once matricentric order, indeed, matriarchy (mother-rule is not the opposite of father-rule), emanating from primal female experience in time came to be usurped by the incredible concept of male motherhood.

We see this in countless 'creation' myths. Either the Mother of All is slain (e.g., Babylonian Tiamat by Marduk) and from her 'destroyed' body comes the universe, or the Mother is bypassed completely (e.g., the biblical god 'creating' alone, followed by the male-birthing of Eve), or the Mother is taken inside a male god so that he might give birth (e.g., Greek Zeus), or the Mother is a desexed incubator for a god (e.g., Jesus from Mary), or the Mother is degraded for birthing 'nature,' while the male is self-elevated to give birth to civilization (e.g., Japan). (Symbolic as well as painful ceremonies of male menstruation and male-birthing which attempt identification with female/nature are world-wide phenomena.)

Though patriarchy is a complex tool of control, its illogical premise comes from a sense of inadequacy in light of the natural order of birth and motherhood--in other words, womb envy. We are so used to such inversions that they are rarely seen to be the political situations, the reorganizing of society, that they are.

Along with this reorganization comes the dualistic concepts of male/female, positive/negative, dominance/submission, and so on. The yang/yin of patriarchal Taoism is a good example of dualism. This version says that the male and female are opposites (beware of 'separate but equal' attitudes), then, unsurprisingly and so obvious as to be silly, it attempts to malign the female by maligning certain qualities, and vice versa.

Typical comments are: negative, dark, watery, soft, cold, deadly, still, winter and death, moon, heavy, demons and evil, emotions. 2 The male of course is given a touch of these attributes, the female a touch of their 'opposites.' What this really does is compartmentalize all facets of being and in the process malign all people and our collective environment. Insistence on separation is a hallmark of patriarchy. Separation, as 5000 years of history--when decoded--have shown, means anti-female/anti-nature.

The yin and yang was not always patriarchal. 'According to the doctrines of Tao, the power of yin was stronger than any male power; therefore men had to learn to take feminine fluids into themselves, to gain wisdom and health.' 'Though now regarded as a bisexual emblem, the Yang and Yin symbol was once wholly feminine. During the Sung period it referred to the cyclic phases of the moon.' 3

Even early Taoism of course is hardly ancient, nor is it isolated. Generally, such thinking has its roots in the complex and sophisticated Paleolithic and Neolithic eras in which art expresses a unified culture of female and animal; the latter era expressing the actual integration of female with bird, snake, doe, butterfly, toad, and so on.

In over 30,000 years, however, hardly any male representations exist in the former era, and disproportionately few in the latter, where the emphasis is phallic--sexual, as paternity was unknown. 4 Does all this say that the male was perceived as inconsequential, or is there reason to believe that he was of the world of female/nature?

Here's my spiralutionary view (borne out, it seems, by ancient and modern observation): we and all other organisms are 'female.' All that is born, sprouted, and so on, comes from female matter and, therefore, is female. The 'male' is not opposite, but an integral aspect of female matter, created within the overall contemporaneous or generational process of female self-fertilization.

That is, she produces that which she reproduces with. 5 (One might want to consider that an egg merely continues to develop when an X chromosome is introduced, or merely develops related shapes, placements and functions from the same source after a Y is introduced.)

Too long has the notion of 'different' dominated our relationships with each other and with our surroundings, allowing for all kinds of abuse. Wholeness is to re-recognize ourselves--our inherent 'femaleness,' our natureness. Wholeness is to see ourselves as 'daughters' of the universe.

Does any of this have anything to do with haiku? I feel deeply that it does. If our poems are to be about ourselves as nature (which I believe we have neglected if not rejected) and our relationship with all aspects of nature, indeed, with all that exists, then before these poems can be conceived, identification must already exist. For it to exist--truly exist--it seems necessary to search our very ancient past to find original unity and 'meaning.'

Eventually we may find that as there is only one 'race' (no East/West, and so on), there is only one 'gender.' My haiku have barely begun to express my spiralutionary consciousness; perhaps they never fully can. I do, however, seek beyond the 'common reality' of separation. Might you join me?

2 Laszlo Legeza, TAO MAGIC, Pantheon Books, 1975;
3 Barbara Walker, THE WOMAN'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYTHS AND SECRETS, Harper & Row, 1983;
4 Marija Gimbutas, THE GODDESSES AND GODS OF OLD EUROPE, University of California, 1982.
5 Re 'matter,' compare the Indo-European meanings of female, male, mother, and so on, and various body 'parts,' in particular, vulva.

Brussels Sprout 6:2 1989 America.

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