A story of gender

January and February have, as usual, been a difficult time in my brain. I'm emerging a little, though, now that the days are longer and we've had a couple of sunny days. 

Yesterday, I even took myself on a story walk -- a short wander outside, during which I tell a story or a part of a story I'm working on to the trees and water and rocks and sky. It's useful practice for story performance, as well as being grounding and integrating for me. 

The story I began work on yesterday is one that's been in my head for at least a decade, with the seeds having been planted far back in my young adulthood: the telling of the tales of women made from, by, and for men. 

Starting with the story of Eve, moving through those of Galatea and Blodeuwedd, and ending with Coppélia, my aim is not just to tell their stories, but to provoke questions about the construction and maintenance of gender norms and power imbalances, and our possibilities for agency within, around, and against that.

The fascination I have for these women began in poems I wrote in the voice of each of them. Despite all of my backups and Cloud services, I have only so far been able to find the one I wrote for Eve (below). Perhaps more will emerge in time.

What would happen if...

I think, when They asked you to name me,
you convinced yourself you’d made me
all by yourself, that I belonged
at your side, forever
under your arm,
under your hand,
under your thumb.

The serpent,
even lower to the ground than I,
spoke to me as an equal,
which was rather refreshing,
like the fruit he offered me.

The bite I took, crisp, sharp,
sweet juice dripping from my chin,
filled me with such wonder
I desired to share it;
I shared it with you

and what did you do, mister
“I named it, so I own it”?
You called it ‘apple’ and ate
the whole damned thing,
pips and all, leaving only

a stalk
and what earthly use was that
to man or beast
or woman either?

What would have happened if
you had taken your bite, joy
dissolving on your tongue,
then pressed our apple
to the creature nearest you,
and they in turn had done the same,
until all of us who had tasted, joined

to plant the core,
nurture the leaves,
breathe in the scent of blossom,

watch and guard each fruit throughout
each swell of form,
each swirling colour change,
and shared each one again
and planted
and shared
until all beings could know?

We cannot know,
but perhaps the serpent can be convinced
to start anew;
a fresh experiment.

Image credit: Bartolomeu Rubio, "The Lord Reprimanding Adam and Eve", ca. 1362 -- photo by Sharon Mollerus, used under license CC BY 2.0.

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