Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ancient people revered the sacred feminine

In the ancient world, women were revered for their life-giving ability. And apparently, there was a different concensus on body image and beauty that reflected this appreciation.

These were once known as venus figures, but, since we don't know their exact purpose, they are now referred to as "figure of woman."

At the left is the Venus of Willendorf. She was found in Austria and appears in many, many art history texts.

Below are the Venus de Lespugue and the Venus of Vestonice.

These figures date back to 40,000 - 8,000 B.C. -- known as the upper paleolithic period -- the time in human history when art first appears.

Many of them were found throughout Europe.

So what happened to the goddesses?

In her book, "The Creation of Patriarchy," Gerda Lerner addresses the fall of the sacred feminine. What Lerner calls the “dethronement of the goddess”began with shifts in society such as the establishment of kingships (kingdoms) and increased militarism. A king - a male figure - had the power over the lives of his subjects and made decisions in battle that resulted in life or death.

Gradually, the same shift occurred within the concept of creation. Emphasis shifted away from the mystic and revered force of female fertility and along with it the status of the goddess changed too.

With the introduction of a male consort, creation became an act involving gods of both sexes. Eventually, the male consort became the god who eclipsed the goddess altogether. Monotheism put a male figure in the highest, ultimate position of power – the power to give and create life -- thus opening the door for a permanent trickle-down effect that allowed for the perpetuation of patriarchy.

Religion and spirituality have always been powerful and inherent forces within humanity as a means to search for the meaning of life, the origins of life, and the possibility of life after death. However, once male dominance ascended to a supernatural level, it was elevated to the point where it was unquestionable and unchallengeable.

Who would want to risk the anger and wrath of the Almighty (male) God? As the centuries progressed, monotheism became firmly established and it was assumed to be the norm.

Goddess worship has experienced a comeback in recent years – albeit a quiet comeback. Feminists gravitate to it, perhaps in search of a more balanced form of worship.

Many are part of Paganism, Wicca and other earth-based religions that link life with the seasons. Many women are disillusioned with the female role models in traditional religions and find it empowering to worship a deity that resembles them, thus reestablishing a connection that was broken with the emergence of monotheism.

The elimination of the sacred feminine has been exposed and a minority seeks to restore the goddess to her proper place of esteem.

Perhaps this is a small step towards what Lerner calls “a world that is truly human.”

Poetry Podcast: Selections from Anna Swir (1909-1984)

Listen to the poems here:

While on my journey of self discovery, I set out on an expedition to explore and embrace my Polish heritage.

I took a Polish language class through Warren Consolidated Schools' adult education program.

"What is beautiful is difficult. And Polish is very beautiful," said my instructor, Anthony S. Walawender, a learned Polish gentleman.

I came to appreciate the complexities of the Slavic languages. Polish and English have a Latin-based alphabet in common -- but that's about it.

It was during this expedition that I found the Polish feminist poet Anna Swir (nee Anna Świrszczyńska,) in a volume titled "A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry" edited by Czesław Miłosz.

Miłosz said of Swir, "... I value her intensity and warmth of her poetry dictated by eros, or by empathy and pity for suffering people ... She was also a militant feminist and author of uninhibited love poems."

According to Wikipedia and

"Świrszczyńska was born in Warsaw and grew up in poverty as the daughter of an artist. She began publishing her poems in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation of Poland she joined the Polish resistance movement in World War II and was a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising. She wrote for underground publications and once waited 60 minutes to be executed."

"In addition to poetry, Swir wrote plays and stories for children and directed a children’s theater. She lived in Krakow from 1945 until her death from cancer in 1984."

Miłosz also had this observation, "I wonder if she was too brutal for her readers in Poland, or whether her feminism contributed to her being less valued than she should have been."

Of course we know that speaking the truth and pushing boundaries -- as feminists tend to do -- are never roads to popularity.

I have selected three Anna Swir poems that I think illustrate her range: "The Second Madrigal,"The Greatest Love,"and "I Talk to My Body."


Read more poems by Anna Swir at

Poetry collections by Anna Swir -- in English translation:

Thirty-four Poems on the Warsaw Uprising (1977), New York. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.

Building the Barricade (1979), Kraków. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.

Happy as a Dog's Tail (1985), San Diego. Transl.: Czesław Miłosz and Leonard Nathan.

Fat Like the Sun (1986), London. Transl.: M. Marshment, G. Baran.

Talking to My Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) Transl.: Czesław Miłosz and Leonard Nathan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dannon launches "Cups of Hope" for Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month and here's a really simple way to support research.

Dannon Company, Inc. has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation on a program called "Cups of Hope."

Participation is simple.

Look for cups of Dannon yogurt with a special pink lid. On the inside of the lid is a code.

Go to and enter the code. Each code may be entered only once, but it is possible to enter more than one code successfully.

Dannon will donate 10 cents for each lid through November 30.

However, all yogurts are not created equally.

Yogurt is a dairy product -- and while dairy is allowed on a vegetarian diet -- many yogurts contain gelatin -- which is an animal product made from ground bones and skin.

Chris and I have found two flavors of Dannon's All Natural yogurt -- vanilla and caramel -- that contain pectin -- a gelling agent made from fruit.

Why only two flavors in this particular line? Who knows.

But, at least we can contribute to the cause and keep our humanity.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Amelia Earhart's feminist legacy

"Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And, when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others. --- Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart's disappearance on July 2, 1937 remains one of the 20th century's greatest mysteries.

But the lore surrounding her disappearance overshadows her feminist accomplishment. Not only did she set many aviation records -- but she took on the masculinized world of aviation and opened the door for other women to follow in her steps.

Today, over 70 years later, the fact that there are over 7,000 women commercial pilots testifies to her accomplishment and stands as her legacy.

Thanks to her bravery, women are soaring into the heavens -- and even into space.

Here is an episode of one of my favorite PBS shows, "History Detectives."

Elyse Luray investigates whether a family heirloom is actually part of Earhart's plane.

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lady Gaga revisits the sexual politics of meat

Right now, she's nominated for 13 MTV Video Music Awards, but the buzz earlier this week was Lady Gaga posing in a raw-meat bikini on the cover of Japanese Vogue.

Of course People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) rang in on the matter saying, "Meat is something you want to avoid putting on or in your body ... no matter how beautifully it is presented, flesh from a tortured animal is flesh from a tortured animal."

And while PETA's right - those of us looking through feminists' eyes return to the sexual politics of meat.

The consumption of meat is a political issue, a feminist issue, and a humane issue.

The choices we make -- what we buy, what we eat -- make a political statement whether we know it or not.

This image is indeed political.

Remember, there is a link between objectification of animals and the objectification of women.

In her book, "The Sexual Politics of Meat," Carol J. Adams writes about how both women and animals become what's known as absent referents through physical and metaphorical processes.

Through the violent act of butchering, the animal is made absent when its dead body is transformed into food.

On top of that, we rename it. Baby cow becomes "veal" and baby sheep becomes "lamb."

However, "One does not eat meat without the death of an animal," says Adams, "live animals are thus the 'absent referent' in the concept of meat (consumption.)"

Similarly, women are sometimes referred to as a "piece of meat" or their treatment is referred to as "like a piece of meat."

In descriptions of cultural violence, women are often the absent referent.

Adams gives the example of "rape."

This image is so graphic that "the term is transferred from the literal experience of women and applied metaphorically to other instances of violent devastation ... such as 'rape' of the earth ..."

And yet, women are absent from the act of rape and become the "absent referent."

The absent referent takes the focus off the real issues -- out of sight, out of mind.

I don't know a lot about Lady Gaga's politics or her dietary habits.

But, knowingly or not, she has made a political, humane, and feminist statement with this image.

Freaky families -- or are they?

On a rare day off, I went channel surfing. Not that daytime TV has a lot to offer, but here's a programming combination I found irresistible and strangely thought provoking.

The afternoon schedule on WADL 38 in Detroit features classic reruns of "The Brady Bunch," "The Addams Family," and "The Munsters."

I began thinking about family dynamics and began to wonder -- who's freakier?

So much has been written and said over the years about the unrealistic, too perfect Bradys. Dad was an architect, and the family lived in a spacious home that he designed.

Mom had household help in the form of Alice, the maid, so the house was always tidy and mom Brady never had to cook. Everybody was gorgeous, rarely had health problems. And whatever family squabbles were solved amicably in 30 minutes.

Really, now how freaky is that? This is not the "norm." What goes on behind closed doors? What are the Brady's hiding? How accessible would they be? Would they be there for their neighbors in a crisis? Would you want this bunch on your block?

Then we have the anti-Bradys.


There's the Addams family. How cool is this clan? Morticia and Gomez are so madly in love that, even after two kids, he can't keep his hands off her. They have a unique extended family who share their mansion in the forms of Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt, Grandmama, and an assortment of others who drop in or pop out of the wood work.

The Addams are quintessential old money. Mrs. Addams also has household help -- Lurch, the butler, and Thing, who's always there to "lend a hand," literally.

The Addams are judged by their appearance and eccentricities.

And yet, they are kind, their children are well behaved, and I have the impression that as neighbors, you could count on them to help in a crisis.


Over at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, we have another similar family, "The Munsters."

We have the typical man of the house, Herman, who, despite his Frankenstein-like appearance, is a sweet guy.

He's extremely good natured and laughs at his own jokes.

Yet, it's evident that Herman cares about his family. His affection for them is obvious. He always kisses his wife, Lily, good-bye.

Herman works to support his brood -- albiet in a funeral parlor. But again, what's so strange about that?

Like the Addams, the Munsters have an extended family. In addition to Lily, Herman, and their son, Eddie, there's Grandpa, Lily's vampire father, and poor, unfortunate Marilyn, their niece, who looks nothing like the rest of the family.

I see Herman as the kind of neighbor who would be willing to help you with projects around the house, like building a new deck. Although, he might be a little clumsy.

Unlike the Addams, the Munsters are very much down-to-earth, working-class, regular folks who are, again, judged by their appearances and eccentricities.

Lily does her own housework -- and her style of decorating is quite different from Morticia's.

We see classic gender roles in the Munsters -- Herman, the provider; Lily, the dedicated stay-at-home wife.

Both shows ran concurrently in the mid-1960's when America was in the midst of a "monster craze."

But the question really is, what's freaky about families who care about each other, treat people kindly, and keep it real by not taking themselves or the world to seriously?

I'll take the Addams and the Munsters on my block anytime!

The Addams Family is now a musical starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. Check it out:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

OMG! This is me

I tried to unlock the wrong car in Staples' parking lot this morning!

"Ha, Ha," you might say, or "So what?" After all the car was the same color and size as my car. In the bright light of morning, anyone could make that mistake.

Well ...

Sometimes my mind works and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes its scary. So what's going on?

At 46, I'm in a time of transition in my life. I am completing my college education and will be entering the working world once again. If that isn't scary enough, I'm at a physiological transition too -- I'm entering a new stage of life.

I think I've finally come to accept that I am in perimenopause -- the transition period just before menopause.

Although I'm still having regular periods -- and menopause isn't "official" until menstruation has stopped for a year -- the transition period can start years earlier.

As a feminist, I embrace and celebrate the changes in my body. There is no sadness in the transition for me.

One of my favorite books has become "The Wisdom of Menopause" by Dr. Christian Northrup.

Dr. Northrup says my brain is simply "rewiring for the next phase of life." I like that.

My personal gynecologist, Dr. Patricia Ferguson of Southfield, Mich., agrees.

Dr. Ferguson says we have to find new ways of doing things, because at this stage of life, the old ways don't work anymore.

I was thrilled to find this article written by Valerie Ulene for the Los Angeles Times.

Ulene is my age. She writes, "I'm 46, and there are days when it feels like I'm completely losing my mind. I misplace my car keys, struggle to remember details of recent conversations, and can't recall seemingly anybody's name. To help cope with my mental cloudiness, I always keep an extra set of keys nearby, write endless sticky notes to myself, and frequently opt for the generic "hello" over more personalized greetings."

OMG! -- somebody just like me.

I found this article very reassuring. And, it seems that one of the best coping mechanisms is sharing with other women who are going through the same things.

Thank you, Valerie.

Read Valerie Ulene's article in its entirety: Rough transition into menopause.

Visit Dr. Christiane Northrup's website at

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eat, love, pray --- and eat more

"I'm a girl who eats. And I feel beautiful no matter how I look. I have my family to thank for that. I'll have a big Italian dinner, and I don't give a crap because it makes me happy."

--- Lea Michele, star of FOX's "Glee" in the October issue of Glamour

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Packages for Patriots' Day

It's been nine years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 -- forever known as 9/11 -- changed the way we live and travel.

When I first heard the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, I thought it was a private plane accident. It became apparent very quickly that it was much more.

Chris and I have traditionally observed Patriots' Day with a traditional American meal of hot dogs or burgers -- now vegetarian versions of course -- apple pie and Coca-Cola.

I also burn a single candle in my enclosed fireplace. (Note: I can do this because the fireplace is enclosed with doors that close completely. For safety's sake, do not leave a burning candle unattended out in the open.)

This year, there's another opportunity to observe Patriots' Day in a meaningful way by making "care packages" for our troops stationed around the world.

White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery in Troy will be collecting items to be distributed to our armed forces beginning Monday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept. 12 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. each day. Just bring your contributions from the following list to the Temple of Memories.

White Chapel will display American flags along its causeways on Saturday, Sept. 11.

(After attending the V-J day commemoration there earlier this summer, I can tell you, this is display is both beautiful and moving.)

The cemetery is located at the corner of Long Lake Rd. (18 Mile) and Crooks Rd. in Troy.

Suggested items for troop care packages:


>Processed comfort food/fun food (EasyMac, ravioli, etc.)
>Tuna, jerky (beef or turkey)
>Dried fruit, canned fruit, fruit gushers, trail mix, nuts
>Hard candy (Jolly Ranchers, suckers, etc.)
>Gum (blister packs)
>Powdered drinks to mix with water (single serving size)
>Protein or breakfast bars
>Protein powder

Apparel and Bedding:

>Cotton boxer briefs, cotton women's underwear
>Pillow cases
>Cotton crew socks or Fox Sox (
>Twin-size vellux blankets

Health Products:

>Chapstick (any type, including squeeze tube)
>Eyedrops - all types
>Foot powder, baby power, Gold Bond powder
>Hand and foot warmer packets
>Hand sanitizer - small sizes
>Hot/cold squares for sore muscles or instant Cold Paks
>Lens cleaner for glasses - individual packets
(all infantry use glasses, either safety or prescription.)
>Vitamin C drops
>Cough drops
>Feminine hygiene products
>Dryer sheets (may be used as air fresheners or insect repellent)


>AT&T phone cards for international calling
>Dollar store toys/fun stuff
>Small, hand-held games
>Notes of encouragement, news for the deployed troops

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ahhhh, September

Fall is my favorite season.

Cooler weather, color, pumpkins, apples, cider, doughnuts, Halloween, new TV, and back to school.

I love it all.

It's also a great time to set new goals.

My first goal of the season is to complete my last semester at Oakland University. Provided that I pass my final 12 credits, I will graduate in December.

I will also be reaching out into the universe for writing opportunities by preparing my resume, electronic portfolio, and social networking.

Of course, I want to keep reading, writing and blogging.

I want to bring back some neglected blog features such as News Flashes and Cherie's Kitchen.

There's another goal -- keeping up with current events and news. My new gig at WXOU 88.3 FM -- the voice of Oakland University -- Fridays at 2:00 EST will inspire me to do that.

Here are some of my favorite sources for news that span four different media:

>The Detroit Free Press - a tradition in my family for 100 years.

>WDET 101.9 FM - Detroit's National Public Radio affiliate.

>Yahoo news - entering your zip code under the "local" tab will bring up headlines from all local papers, TV, and radio stations.