She Who DARES… Gets Destroyed… By Other Women
Opening my inbox – Facebook or email – is filled with trepidation at the moment.
The flip side of people knowing your work… is people thinking they have the right to attack you.
Another woman. Not just a little bit miffed. But full of bile… dripping fury and outrage.
Out of nowhere. Someone I have never even met.
Joy of joys the words “systematically disempowering” have been pulled out of the bag. Again. For an entirely different reason.
We know how I love THOSE words.
It seems like I have been a BAD GIRL again. And deserve fifty lashes of a woman’s tongue. To punish someone who DARES to speak for “women” and not do it in exactly the way that this particular woman would do it. Who DARES to speak up… and not be perfect. She who DARES it seems, is cut off at the knees, is to be shamed and name called for daring. Because speaking up and speaking out makes you complicit with the patriarchal forces it seems. Makes you guilty of thousands of years of rape, pillage, and domination…
I am a little bemused.
So as always I back right down. Apologise instanteously. To make up for the hurt I have caused… which was never intended. That first response is NOT GOOD ENOUGH and a second is demanded… which I share here:
I am really sorry you are so hurt and angry. As I say that was not my intention at all. I think perhaps living in Europe I am a little behind the times in terms of the acuteness of racial sensitivity and terminology, which are so much more of a sensitive issue in the US, so much more loaded, and newer versions emerging all the time. I understand that my use of a term that I was brought up as using as just a normal term, is now deeply insensitive, reading your reaction it seems equivalent of the “n” word. Your email was the first I knew of this. And for that I am very sorry and as I say I have taken your feedback on board for when the book is reissued.No malice was intended, no slur whatsoever, as you would see if you read the entire book: tone and context are everything, and nowhere in my book is there anything other than respect for the Native American traditions which I have become only slightly acquainted with in my research. The wording decision was purely an editorial choice of words to avoid using Native American twice in the same sentence. That is all. My choice of words, as I said, was merely informed by the knowledge I had then, as I was writing it.
I am sorry once again that you have been so hurt by the term you read in my book. I hope you understand that as an author I upset lots of people – Christians who don’t like my mention of tarot. People who object to me being too “New Age”. People who mark me down as pagan… when I am not. Transexuals and women without wombs who don’t like that I am seen to exclude them from a book on menstruation. Some women don’t like my ideas about red tents. Some think I am a man hater because I focus purely on women.
Each reader brings their pain and agendas to the page. Each of them is disappointed with me in some way. Each is outraged.This is, I have learned, the danger of putting your voice out in the public domain. Of talking about taboo subjects. Of raising your voice as a woman to speak about things which have not previously been spoken. It is scary.I hate upsetting people. It is not my intention. I do not write to stir up hatred – as you would see if you read any of my books. But I do not owe every person who does not like something in my book a personal apology, nor the promise of an instantaneous change of my work. I am just an ordinary human being, a mother of three, someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, someone who on a regular basis wonders if they are doing OK… And now I can see I am not. So perhaps I shall stop writing. It is not worth taking the risk of inadvertently hurting people along the way. Not worth it at all.
I also hope you understand that I am engaging in dialogue with you, and engaged instantaneously, on a Saturday evening, feeling the sting of your anger, when many authors would ignore you, or hide behind an assistant. I did this because it is not my intention to cause hurt or anger.
But then after pressing send I think – hang on, not one single reader in several thousand, over three years, has been so disgusted and outraged by this word that they have thought to make contact. If it was THAT bad, my first readers would have pulled me up on it instantaneously.
And then I read the last line of her (second) email again…
“Were my job to empower women, I would not limit myself to empower white women only, Ms. Pearce.”
And I thought. Woah there. Hang on a second…
Were it your job…
It IS your job. It is everyone’s job… I am not some publicly elected official…. though if I were, I think you’d see my track record for supporting and speaking out for women is better than most of them… and I’d be a LOT better paid.
But I am not. I am a woman. An ordinary woman. Called to try and do something, to share the things she has learned, with love, to support women who were in the same situation she was. Not an EXPERT, not GOD. Just a woman. Trying, with a big open heart, to support others. To make little changes.
I am writing the books that I longed for but couldn’t find. That I needed.
I have risked my personal reputation and career on doing this. I am FULLY invested in it.
My books might not be what YOU long for… you can write your own then, which speak in the voice you need to hear… lead the groups YOU long to attend. There is no less opportunity for YOU to do that, just because I am already choosing to do it in MY way. I will stand to applaud you, and offer you my support where I can.
But you know what… SO WHAT if I am JUST speaking to white women like me. JUST to middle class, English speaking mothers who are alternative leaning. So what?
That’s a few thousand women who I am touching, that I am speaking to from my personal experience to theirs in a way that resonates. In a language they understand. Several hundred of whom have been called to make personal contact to tell me what a powerful and positive effect my words have had on their lives. And for that I am deeply grateful and humbled every day.
I cannot speak for every woman. I cannot touch every woman. I would not dare to presume that I understood the experience of a transexual woman. Or a Native American woman. Or a strongly religious Christian. How could I dare to? THAT would be offensive. To tell every woman that I understand Her unique history of hurts and fears, oppressions and struggles, joys and values. That I know her heart and mind… just because she had a vagina. I use the word “women” as an inclusive term, to include LOTS of women, but I am not fooling myself that I include EVERY woman. That is why there are so many authors. So many books. But if I were to write “middle class, white, heterosexual, alternative thinking women” in every sentence. Or put this on the cover of each of my books there would be greater outrage at my exclusion of women. A far greater “how DARE you?”
My writing is there for those, whoever they are, men too, who it touches, who it helps. There is no bigger agenda. no bigger promise… and no bigger obligation.
I am doing what I can, with what I have, where I am.
You see, I think that perhaps the reason more books are not written in these taboo areas I write, is precisely because of this fear of attack. Fear of being called an imposter. Fear of shame and failure. Which you have to go through each time you publish… and it is not unfounded, as you can see.
It is easier to stay safe. To play it small. To attack those who dare to speak up in private than it is to dare yourself.
It is easier to cut down than create.
Easier to criticise than create.
And easier to criticise those who are doing what you “could do” who are doing it poorly in your eyes, than risk it yourself.
And much, much easier to take pot shots at a woman. A woman who speaks from the heart. With openness. Than to vent your spleen at those who have REALLY angered you – at the powers that be which oppress you, that threaten and fine you, that take away your freedoms, who have murdered your ancestors, who have bullied you and beaten you.
But I am DONE being an easy target for attack. I have seen feminists do it to other feminists for years. In the pages of public newspapers. I say – how DARE YOU – ENOUGH. Enough tearing other women down because the world has worn YOU down. Enough taking potshots at easy targets. Enough silencing women who dare to speak. These are the tactics that have been used against us by the dominant system for centuries.
Speak up, by all means – but speak in public – speak out, make your voice matter for something positive, something good. Use YOUR energy to build new models for how we can live. And share THAT with others.
Read Part 2 of this post Shining a Light… On Women’s Shadows
Too those who said “haters are going to hate.” To all who said don’t waste your energy. To those who doubted… I have received a response from the woman who today’s post was about. And it puts my soul at peace not to be in needless conflict with another. If that makes me weak or needy so be it. For me, this is true success.
Wow, thank you so much for that heartfelt reply. It means a lot. I see that you come at this work from a genuine, open-hearted place. I apologize if you felt attacked or put-upon in any way. I hope you can understand where I was coming from with all this, and that I meant you no ill will; I simply wanted to inquire into your intentions in using that word. My emotions got the best of me, though, and I feel I came off a bit strong. For that I am truly sorry.
You are doing an amazing job, Lucy. (You published an empowering, beautiful book that has international recognition, for goodness sake!) I’m sure your children feel the same way about their mum
Take good care.
Love, Light and Blessings”
This post is part of the Reclaiming Your Power series:
Other posts in this series: