Thursday, 18 March 2010

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (VIII) - 3

As much of the poetry written by women has made plain, the secret desires of the blood are very probably quite identical in both sexes, but a stereotyped idea still persists in drawing a distinction between a female and a male sexuality. In this idea the woman, in spite of her seductive qualities, is perceived as the one who submits, while the man is the active and acting one. Since human beings are to a large extent defined by their sexuality, this is one important reason why many people find it hard to ascribe the same authority to female art as to art produced by males. In our cultural latitudes, women with power and self-awareness are often destructive of men’s sexuality. Or powerful and demanding women invite and encourage men’s aggression.

While it is probably impossible to measure the degree to which men’s sexual images of women are significant for women’s self-understanding, attitudes and ways of behaving, and for men’s perception of women outside the sexual sphere, it is obvious that many sexual fantasies still constitute a barrier to the appreciation of female art. Woman is not an image. She is a living being. But very few men are able to perceive that a woman may be at once a passionate and a thinking individual, both at the same time. That she may entertain a wish to be the one of whom the man dreams – partly because she desires and yearns for this, and partly because she has the pride and the strength for it – and also a wish for a high degree of awareness. That she possesses the ability for self-abandon and is at the same time capable of putting on a show, and that she can do other things besides be an object for man’s lust and desire. Or make him into such an object. That in other words she is a complex being. On the other hand, women who emancipate themselves have also had a tendency to lose their humility. Freedom does not mean making men weak. That is either tyranny or great stupidity.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Over the Water I Walk (VIII)- 1
Over the Water I Walk (VIII) - 2

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