Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Monday, November 21, 2005


For my book group this month, I chose to read Kate Chopin's The Awakening, a classic written in 1899 about a woman in search of self-discovery. She turns away from her family and society and delves into a primal world of the senses and of solitude.

In this book she has several self-realizations, but I find the one particularly compelling.

"A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her,-- the light which showing the way forbids it.

In short Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her...

But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginnings! How many souls perish in its tumult!

The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmering, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation."

Edna Pontillier will ultimately hearken to the sea's invitation, as she commits suicide by drowning in it at the end of the book.

Reading about Edna's awakening sense of the world and her position in it has made me also think of my own awakenings. One of my bigger ones occurred when I went to grad school. As an undergrad, I had been a big fish. Professors loved me and thought I was brilliant, I felt I had unlimited potential. I had only to set my sights on any goal and it would be achieved because of my talent and abilities. And then I went to grad school and realized I wasn't the best any more. I came face to face with my own mediocrity. I realized the unimportance and pettiness of my accomplishments. I was forced to admit that I will probably never make an important impact on the world.

Tough realization for an idealistic 22 year old.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Matrix as a Model?

Last night, I watched part of The Matrix II which was on TV. I was struck by the fact that in this world, men and women had positions of authority. Women as well as men (of all races, by the way) were prophets, oracles, military commanders -- and audiences ate these movies up.

I believe the world is ready to see women entering into all realms that have been traditionally masculine. When, when will women in our LDS culture have the same opportunities -- opportunities to lead, to help define policy and doctrine, to act as prophets, seers, and revelators? When will we look up to the stand in sacrament meeting and see a strong righteous woman presiding? When will people realize that priesthood will never equal motherhood, and that when over half an organization's membership is excluded from leadership on a general level, it is all the poorer and more limited because of it?

Please, please, God, let this change soon.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I am working as a substitute library assistant right now as I type. It's pretty slow at the moment so I have time to do this.

I'm in the children's section at the desk, and I help all the parents and kids that come up to me who need help finding books. I really like this part of library work -- helping kids with projects, finding good historical fiction books for kids, etc. I could definitely see myself doing this as a career.

Problem is I have to get through library school to ever get to this point. Library school is....well, boring. The classes I'm taking are all about managing a library, which quite frankly, I'm not very interested in. I just want to be a literacy advocate who helps kids find information and literature they need. (I also want to have purchasing power to buy whatever books I want for the kids. Fun!!)

One aspect of children's librarianship that I am unsure about is the storytimes. Children's librarians have to read to pre-school age kids and sing songs with them and do crafts with them for 40 minutes a couple times a week. This intimidates me a little since I have never done this. I should probably drop in on my church's primary more often to get a better idea of how you keep little kids' attention.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dream Work

I've become a Mary Oliver junkie. Here's another one I like.

Dream Work
One day you finally knew
what you had to do and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~Mary Oliver

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wild Geese

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

I like this poem. I like the idea that to be your best you simply have to love what you love. You have to discover the best individual you that you can be, and work to become it and embrace it. And that might be different for different people, and that's fine. I am also compelled by the idea that we, all the living organisms on earth are part of one huge family. We all have our despair and our challenges, but life and the world go on and it's beautiful.