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Archetypal, Mythic Strong Women and Patriarchy -- A Conversation with Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD-- Transcript

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storycon.org Headlined to H4 12/14/15

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JSB: Well it's interesting, the mother archetype in Greek mythology could not protect her children -- the ones who are primarily mothers. Demeter, who is a goddess of the...you know the mother of Persephone...she couldn't do anything about Persephone being abducted into the underworld.

And I really came away from reading Eve Ensler's book -- and Eve Ensler is indomitable, you know, her doing the Vagina Monologues and then her doing One Billion Rising...and then revealed to us in her autobiographical memoir that her childhood was one of severe abuse, sexual and [physical]...and only when she could identify with the victims in the Congo who had been raped in war and her own cancer...and her own...did she...was she able to speak about how, in spite of all of that, she has been a real force for women and girls. And that's very much indomitable Eve...Eve Ensler.

And so what it means to be the mother bear part of...unfortunately is not that strong in a lot of...the woman who is a true mother bear has an Artemis and she will leave a bad relationship if her daughter or her sons are molested or beaten. But a woman who is like archetypally Hera's, whose being with this powerful man is the most important thing in her life...she unfortunately will not stand up for her abused children. So a protective mother usually has some mother bear/Artemis qualities in which she really says 'Don't mess with my kid,' and it may be to her mate... it usually is actually -- domestic violence being the most common violence there is in the United States.

Rob: Okay, so...yes now you talk about rape culture in the book...

JSB: Actually Eve Ensler introduced me to that word in her book.

Rob: Yeah.

JSB: I hadn't seen it before, and then I thought way back when I was writing...30 years ago I wrote Goddesses in Every Woman and it became a best seller and it just got reissued. Gods in Every Man is 25 years old, and it also got reissued, both in July. And I talked about Zeus as the archetype of the philanderer -- that was how I was perceiving him in Gods in Every Man....you know, that he is the CEO of Mount Olympus and he can do what he pleases and take what he wants. And if he...and he in this mythology the second generation Olympians were all his kids, and kids that were the result of his seductions or his rapes. You know, so he really was a very incetu...well he was a rapist, pure and simple. But with the kind of coverage of the Greek mythology being our mythology in western civilization, and it's about the click -- you know when something clicks, you know, you've been sort of looking at it and taking it in and it's just what it is, and so philanderers, so all the Gods of ancient Greece used to rape everybody except the three virgin goddess -- every other...was game, was fair game. If you were attracted to a nymph, a goddess, whomever -- it didn't matter. If you wanted her you could take her -- that was Greek...that's Greek mythology. That is the basis of the mythology of western civilization. And I didn't see it as rape culture until I read Eve Ensler. And then to have the Prime Minister Modi of India in his major first address, which was from the Red Fort in New Delhi when...in Delhi when he spoke to...spoke and said the shamefulness of India having a rape culture and it's time to stop violence against women. So it's entering our consciousness that there's something about patriarchy as exemplified by Mount Olympus going way back that could be...could define our culture, really, as a rape culture, which is awful and sad.

Rob: Yeah but, I guess what I'm processing this is....Greek and Roman mythology are the...are what civilization is built upon just about, aren't they?

JSB: Yes it is, it really is. And out of it came democracy and our literature, and a lot of wonderful things. And there was another click, this one more than 40 years ago, when I realized that the history of western civilization that I took and...when I was in college that was a required freshman year course, we all took history of western civilization. And we learned about the origins of democracy and all good things like that. And then to discover that yes, it applied to men only. At the time that the cradle of democracy was happening in ancient Greece and in Athens, women were the property of men and fathers could sell a non-virgin daughter into slavery if her daugh...if his daughter was raped or if he incested her....as soon as she was not virginal, she could be sold -- she could become a member of the slave class. And that the women could not testify in the courts. I mean there were...the establishments of the courts were a wonderful thing...the idea of a jury, presenting evidence. But women could not testify. The cradle of democracy, the click was yes it was the cradle of democracy, but it did not apply to women...it would not apply to me. It applied to men. That was an eye-opener too.

Rob: Yes, now you write in the book about how it wasn't always that way. There have been matriarchal cultures -- I believe there still are some. Can you talk a little bit about non-patriarchal cultures?

JSB: There was an archeologist, Marija Gimbutas, who helped bring forth the reality that it wasn't just a made up story that once there was matriarchy. And for a long time, in scholarship, it was totally dismissed that there was ever a time when God was a woman so to speak. There was this excellent book by Merlin Stone back in the...probably about 40 years ago -- When God Was a Woman...and she was describing the shift from a time when the feminine was valued to patriarchy, and Marija Gimbutas's research in archaeology and all helped them establish that. And so for 5,000 to 25,000 years prior to patriarchy in the west, we apparently had, in western civilization, a mother culture -- and it made sense because if you did not know that a baby was made because of sperm and an egg came together, and an embryo was formed, what you saw -- what everybody saw -- was that Mother Earth brought everything forth from her body, women were the creators, women gave birth through her body...and it is a miracle. If you've ever been in the delivery room or if you're with the mothers -- I don't know if you were in a delivery room ever but from....

Rob: Yes.

JSB: Yeah, it's a miracle! It's amazing! This new human being comes out of the body of your wife. Or if you're the woman and this whole new person has been growing inside of you and comes out of you, it is amazing. And it's been denigrated...a lot...because men can't do it and patriarchy devalues what women can do. But really if you didn't know about the part that the masculine sperm played in...aided functioning, you'd assume that God was feminine -- the great goddess that she was the creator. And so people did. Plus, there was Mother Earth and the amazing element of that, everything coming out of the earth and things like that.

So it seems like not only is there science that says that there once was a time when there was matriarchy, it makes sense that there would have been. And really, Riane Eisler wrote The Chalice and the Blade about a time, and a time in the past and a time potentially in the future, which is the one I'm interested in , the future potential of patriarchy coming to an end and there being, not matriarchy...not just a reversal of, you know, who's in charge because they're different qualities -- masculine and feminine. To have the experience that Divinity is masculine and feminine if you're going to make it gender...relate to it in a gender way...most of what...most of the values of why men are valued over women since Christianity came along was because of the belief that men were made in the image of God and had dominion over things and could name everything, and that even though there are too two stories in the...in Genesis about the creation of women, the one...the first one that's sort of overlooked is that male and female were created in the image of the gods, and it was plural, interestingly.

Rob: It was what...I couldn't hear the word?

JSB: It was plural. It was, 'Let us...', there's something about the whole...if you read the Genesis carefully, it's interesting, there's Yahweh, but Yahweh is with other godlike somebodies in the garden, and Yahweh creates male and female in the image of Divinity in one version. And then in the version that is so used to oppress women, it's that Yahweh God has created everybody and everything, and now is talking to Adam about how Adam needs a companion. And so He puts Adam to sleep and makes out of the rib of Adam a companion, who is created solely to be a companion to Adam, and subordinate to him. So that's the story that most of us sort of get about how we were created out of Adam's rib.

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