I have wanted to say that, as a man, Donald Trump, with his locker room banter, does not represent me. I have long been a feminist ally. Years ago I began to loath the kind of conversations some men have when women are not present. Nonetheless, the sad truth is that "locker room banter" remains all too frequent, as we move painfully slowly out of the mire of patriarchalism. Underneath the "banter" is a continuing belief that women are less than men, playthings of men, and not to be taken seriously. Even some of the outraged comments, "I have a wife and I have a daughter," perhaps contain a hidden assumption that women are still "owned." "Banter" then becomes merely a threat to my personal property.
I am not outraged, as if Donald Trump's comments and actions come as a surprise. But, I am saddened that such deeply held prejudices still exist, and that for many, it's just "what every man does, at least if he's normal" (according to a Congressman who wants to be reelected). To be honest, I have found the last few days of public discourse quite depressing.
I have been looking for some light in the darkness, and I have found a glimmer in the ancient Daodejing. It happens that, at present in my Asian Philosophy class, we are discussing the Dao. With my students I am trying to internalize the complementarity opposites of yin and yang, finding the suggestiveness of the ancient texts helpful to get an appropriate perspective. Unlike many ancient texts, the Dao avoids overt patriarchalism. In the Dao male and female are equally valued. In fact, in parts the Dao emphasizes the female as a corrective to the blatant male dominance of ancient Chinese society. In chapter 24, it reads:
Know the male,The Dao's suggestiveness invites playfulness with the text and its meaning. "Know the male," seems like a comment on much of recorded history, where the female has been hidden, secondary, and subordinate. Yet, the Dao urges us to "keep to the female," receiving "the world in our arms," a powerful image of motherly care. After eons of the dominance of yang, is it time for an assertion of yin? Having known the male for so long, is it now time to keep to the female?
yet keep to the female:
receive the world in our arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be a like little child.
Perhaps, at last, the times are changing, and the current outbursts of the alpha male are the death throes of a masculinist culture gasping for life. I truly hope so.
In Chinese, the proverb "pi ji tai lai," literally, "evil extreme, good arrives" and can be expressed:
Out of the depth of misfortune comes bliss.Or:
At the end of Hindrance appears Advance.
(Alfred Huang translation)
The darkest hour is just before the dawn.Who knows but perhaps some good will follow from the truly awful mess we seem to be in.
(Pic credit, Plate Ducks from http://www.chinasage.info/proverbstoic.htm)