Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How a Woman Hopes to See & Be Seen

I'm very glad to point readers to a recent issue of the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, which publishes one of the kindest instances of writing about what women hope for as to the way we see ourselves as both body and mind: the essay by Eli Siegel "The Everlasting Dilemma of a Girl." The way he describes a young woman—with thoughts about herself, her mind, her attractiveness, her effect on men—is beautiful, and as I read it, I felt understood.

In her commentary introducing and placing the cultural value of this important essay, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education Ellen Reiss writes:

...The essay was written half a century ago. In these decades there have been big improvements as to how women have been encouraged to use our minds. Women today are certainly more able than once to be expressed in every field, from law to medicine to policing to government to space travel. Yet the dilemma Mr. Siegel writes of is with us still, as tormentingly as ever. A woman today may want to look as attractive as she can and also be as educated as she can—yet she does not see these two possibilities of herself as deeply coherent, of a piece, of the same unified self. She does not see them as having the same purpose.

Here I quote, with enormous gratitude, something Mr. Siegel said in an Aesthetic Realism lesson many years ago. It is about a matter connected with the “everlasting dilemma of a girl”: it is about the opposites of body and intellect. He was speaking to a man I had to do with then, who was confused by both me and himself, as I was. Mr. Siegel said:

In the field of corporeal expression or enjoyment, or sex, we hope to be proud and pleased at once. Ellen Reiss hopes to be proud about her manner of taking earth—in the same way as she would take the page of a book. The difference between the two things is felt by man and woman: I’m a different person making love from him or her who goes after knowledge. Do you think if Ms. Reiss could solve this problem of somatic expression and cerebral expression, you could? Do you think, then, that the fate of man depends on the fate of woman?

Aesthetic Realism makes possible, for both man and woman, what has eluded people for centuries. It makes possible at last the proud feeling that what we’re after as body and how we use our intellect go together, are an integrity....

This matter, I know from my own life, doesn't stop affecting a woman after she's no longer in her glorious and often confused youth. I'm a happily married woman, interested in love and all that goes with it, as well as intellectual pursuits. Studying Aesthetic Realism has had me feel more integrated than I ever could have been, and feel I'm the same person thinking about literature and being with my husband Alan. I know I can feel this more and more.

I want every woman, and every man hoping to understand women, to read this great issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!