I was very touched and impacted when I first read this post by my latest Guest Blogger, the very eloquent and perceptive Paulette Mahurin. Having published my own book for teens, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor, my greatest hope has been to convey a message of forbearance and acceptance, which is why I chose such a diversity of species across the globe, knowing we are all part of mixed and integrated societies. Paulette speaks of the universal intolerance, persecution and oppression which motivated her to write her book, and the beliefs and preferences of many who feel that if the persuasions and choices of others contradict their own ideas of what is right and acceptable, there is a reason to hate.
I’m delighted to have an opportunity to write an article for Amelia E. Curzon’s Blog. Being that I am a Nurse Practitioner, specializing in women’s health, and have just completed a novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, about a strong female protagonist, a lesbian who is persecuted and bullied all her life. The motivation for writing the story is what I want to talk about here, oppression of lesbians in history, and feminine energy suppression in general.
World renowned author, Riane Isler’s international bestseller, The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future (Harper Collins San Francisco, 1987), has been hailed as one of the most significant works since Darwin’s Origin of Species. In it she elaborates on androcracy, government by male rulers, and the influence this has on gender bias. So rare is women rule, gynecocracy, that it survives mainly in myth.
Isler’s work was not from research in a didactic vacuum; she lived and understood oppression from an early age, when as a child her family fled Nazi Austria to Cuba (she later moved to the United States). It is this aspect that I find most intriguing about her, how did this influence her life and work? How does any experience, especially in our formative years, condition us? The latter question rhetorical, brings me back to my own research while writing my book.
In doing the research, the masculine dominant energy was pervasive, between the lines one reads of a women’s place, the labeling of our friendships toward what was tolerable, what was conservatively acceptable, and what was meant for oppression.
Through the years this changes, the balance shifts, while the feminine is gaining more of a stronghold, but what remains are the labels, which are still dangerous depending on where one lives in the world.
Women friendships in history have always been acceptable, hugging, handholding, and displays of attention, not frowned upon. In the 1800s women who could afford to live together but never married were considered spinsters, still socially acceptable. Where the tide turns is if a partnership were suspected of being, or labeled lesbian, then they were considered to be insane. The treatment was institutionalization, the therapy, rape.
When I started writing my book, based on the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde and the impact his two year prison sentence had on a lesbian couple, living in a small Nevada ranching town, I had to figure out how to show the oppression, the fear, that the lesbian couple lived under. This was really difficult because how do I write about what I haven’t experienced? Or have I? I sat with this, meditated on this, went back to the books on oppression of self-expression, and found my answer, society.
A society that supports a relationship (including the family unit), in a loving way, molds one type of personality. A brutal abusive society, group, takes its toll. This I can relate to and have experienced, my world view—a box that surrounds my soul with the should and shouldn’t do this or that, be this or that—gave me the backstory to create the story’s antagonist, a woman filled with unmitigated hatred toward anything that doesn’t support her ego.
Just this last week, I received a review of my book, from a women, pleasant and decent to communicate with, who gave my book a thumbs up and a thumbs down and went on to explain that the thumbs up: the best characterization I’ve seen in a book, and I’m big on characterization. Great details and emotional aspects in capturing the feelings and turbulence of that time period with all the different topics mentioned. It was so sad to see how horrible the gossip girls were about the Jewish man in France. And the African-American in the government. Josie is quiet a character. (sic)
She then went on to say: My Rating: I give this a thumbs down because I don’t like and don’t support the Lesbian standards, and prefer to just not have anything to do with those people: whether its books, movies, riots etc. But I give it a thumbs up for being so well written by a woman who is married to a man. For a Straight woman, this was well written. (sic)
I wrote her back thanking her for her honest review and that I was extremely appreciative of us dialoguing, for it is in communicating that issues, large and small, can start to be resolved. After I wrote to her, I sat silently and wondered what causes one to feel/think this way, foreign from my live-and-let-live-as-long-as-you-aren’t-hurting-anyone attitude? I have no answer, not really, and so once again I sat back quietly and contemplated, this time, tolerance, and pray that those whose hearts hold hatred learn what it is.
Bio: Paulette Mahurin is a Nurse Practitioner (NP), specializing in Women’s Health. She has also taught clinic preceptors in the NP programs for UCLA and USC. While at college she won awards for two non-fiction stories she wrote. When not writing or helping rescue dogs, she likes to hang with her husband, Terry (a retired NASA Attorney) and their two dogs, Max & Bella ( rescued from kill shelters).