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Subliminal Domination and Why Feminists Are Right (!)

“As a result of the feminist revolution, ‘feminine’ becomes an abusive epithet.”
 Wyndham Lewis

Before I went to college, I never realized that I was subliminally dominated by men, betrayed by the very words I uttered every day. Nobody taught me Latin, the gender of the origin of my English nouns;  no teacher suggested I could use pronouns referring to generalizations in the neuter, or (goodness gracious!) in the feminine case.

Yet Benjamin Franklin said that “admiration is the daughter of ignorance,” and maybe those who left me in ignorance were gracious.

As a girl I was flattered when, after wearing red white and blue, I was called patriotic. But I never questioned why I couldn’t be matriotic; why patria/patriae (fatherland) instead of matia/matria should form the Latin base-especially when countries are generally formally and informally referred to with feminine pronouns? (Of course, no such Latin noun as matria/matriae exists-subliminal male domination apparently has been an issue for thousands of unhappy years).

Never did I wonder why (in virtually every Latin-based language) unknown or generalized pronouns automatically took masculine form.

“To use his/her as a pronoun simply isn’t technically acceptable.” My mother explained to me after dinner one night, as I stirred my coffee and rebelliously banged my spoon against the rim of my mug.

“It’s awkward.”

I told my mother that it was not acceptable for women to vote a hundred years ago, to go to college two hundred years ago, and to sit and eat dinner at the same time as men two thousand years ago.

We both turned and looked at my father and brother.

My roommate at college claimed that she didn’t feel subliminally dominated at all.

“I was like you once.” I assured her patronizingly. (Or matronizingly?) “However, your denial of your subliminal domination is actually confirming evidence of its effect on you. Subliminal domination has been so successfully applied to you that you don’t even realize its affect.”

I’ve found few people who could argue with this logic.

So I go on, grateful to have my eyes open to the tragic utilization of language as a tool to suppress my sisters, happy to have the opportunity to open my sisters’ eyes to their domination, and pleased to insert feminine generic pronouns whenever I have the opportunity.



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Soul Mates

I think you’re crazy

Just like me.

Gnarles Barkley

My mother and I share a strange kinship, an uneven attachment that allows us to regard the world with a quiet condescension, a silent superiority. I could tell her; I felt she could understand my intricate struggles and intense perspectives.

Regarding the boys in my life, my analysis constantly ended in mock facetiousness. “So you do not think that we are soul mates?” I always concluded, with large eyes and a subdued smirk.

“And what do you mean by ‘soul mates’?”

“What does anyone ever mean by ‘soul mates’?”

And with an irritated determination to know myself understood, I pulled out Wuthering Heights and fingered distantly through its papiers.

I paused upon a passage, and read quietly “Surely you and everyone have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? . . . My love for Heathcliffe resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliffe! He is always, always in my mind; not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself; but as my own being.”

I paused to glance at my mother’s quizzically lifted brows.

“You know how that relationship ended.”

“I’m providing the concept, Mother. You asked.”

“It hardly seems healthy.”

I re-opened my book to the forward by Charlotte Bronte.

“Whether it seems right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliffe . . . I scarcely think it is. But this I know . . . the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master . . . there is little chance left but quiescent adoption.”

I closed the book and my mother smiled. “Try not to drown yourself in philosophical parallels, dear.” She had not answered my question.

I lay that night in my brother’s abandoned room, staring passively at his ceiling.

What concept of soul mates is so illusive?  My mom and I  have shared our great miseries and joys – she is always with me, not necessarily as a joy (for I inherited her few faults as well as her virtues), but at the cellular level.   Our bond is deep – when not beautiful, substantial. We can hurt; we can forgive. We are the rocks, the foundation.

Perhaps soul mates are less elusive, less rare than I had previously thought.

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