When the multi-faceted jewel we call “woman” was split into one-dimensional categories females found themselves disempowered. No matter how well a woman epitomized one or two stereotypes, happiness and inner power were still not attained because there was a societal denial of the whole. The fragmentation of females began at the end of the Stone Age a few thousand years BC and has lasted until this century. Only in the past fifty years have females found the ability en masse to pull themselves back together and rediscover the complexity and power of a whole woman as a force unto herself.
Popular culture recognizes the “young hopeful maiden” who starts out in life trying to find love and success. Pop culture knows very well the “alluring woman,” the “femme fatale” who seems to have all the power over men but for all her wiles will often have an unfortunate ending. Then there is the “wise old lady” who is hardly ever shown at all in mass media. There are wise men, wise eastern fighting masters, and Yoda. There are also lots of wicked witches. But not too many wise grandmas. No wonder ladies don’t want to get old. There is also that stage between young female and old lady, the dynamic “mother.”
For some reason, the “mother” is still not fully understood as a strong respectable and formidable force in popular culture, though many real-life households reflect another story. The mother phase is a blend of alluring woman and wise woman. She can be sexy and be a good mother at the same time. Often people can’t seem to resolve the two aspects into one coherent positive image.
Mamas don’t want to feel or look beaten down by life just because they are a mother. They want to strut their stuff and be proud of it, not because of who’s looking, but because they have a right to feel comfortable in their own bodies.
Only sixty years ago, around the world, it was a woman’s duty to make babies and if she didn’t something was wrong with her. Motherhood at the expense of independent womanhood. Now its sexy woman vying for career positions at the expense of motherhood. The increased interest in celebrities who are pregnant may be a reflection that society is beginning to celebrate motherhood in a more balanced way rather than woman as a sex object whose value decreases when she has kids, or, like in the past, increases with the number of kids she has. The identity of a woman shouldn’t become lost in the identity of her child. Mothers are individuals too.
After the baby years, mothers can age gracefully. There aren’t too many celebrated images of this in pop culture. The body of the mother at this stage may include a few wrinkles here and there, some crow’s eyes, some stretch marks. Her boobs are no longer perky or symmetrical, but they are still a welcoming pillow for a head bowed in sorrow or pain, or a child in need of soothing, or a devoted husband. She has a body that’s been through the ups and downs of life, but she also has a smile for those who succeed and a reprimand for those on the wrong track. However, society and the entertainment industry only see a has-been, a woman who needs to move out of the way to make room for new blood. There needs to be more wise role models in our media culture who are viewed with respect for their experiences so that a young girl can say “that’s who I want to be like when I grow up. She’s strong, beautiful and wise.”
Women should not have to give up one aspect of herself to embrace another but rather she should become more integrated as she ages. Then the “mother” archetype can evolve into what it really is, just one aspect of “Woman,” a divine being deserving of far more respect than she is being given, even in today’s progressive world.
Written by Soanya Ahmad
Photo: Mother Goddess, woodcarving by Reid Stowe, 1972