DO WOMEN HAVE A FIGHT BETWEEN LOVE AND SCORN?
Here is Part I of a seminar I gave on what I learned on this very prevalent subject : "DO WOMEN HAVE A FIGHT BETWEEN LOVE AND SCORN?"
Part II is a discussion of Nellie Forbush from the Broadway musical "South Pacific" to further illustrate the answer to this question.
Aesthetic Realism taught me what I was thirsting to understand in myself: that without knowing it, I hoped to have scorn for men, and even relished it because I was looking to have contempt for the world itself--the world a man represents. In a 1969 lecture, Eli Siegel said:
The awful thing about women's perception is, it's not articulated and doesn't change into the best kind of criticism. Women enjoy their scorn too much to make it public, except at very acute moments, and even then there are certain elements of the scorn that are kept to oneself. A woman's heart is often a treasury of satirical observations.
My heart was "a treasury of satirical observations" and glad to have changed because I learned to have what is the great opposition to scorn: good will, which Mr. Siegel defined as "the desire to have other things stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful." Studying this has made possible the happy marriage I have now with Jeffrey Williams, whom I love very much.
I. THE FIGHT BETWEEN LOVE AND SCORN IS IN US, LONG BEFORE WE START DATING!
I learned that we are in a fight from the very beginning between the desire to like the world, respect it, and the desire to have contempt for it. When I was a child, I could be very lively, but I also worked on having a cutting wit, and liked making fun of people, especially adults.
Meanwhile, from age seven, I also loved to draw and paint, and spent many house trying to be exact about a still life or even a portrait of someone. I was proud at these times, but there was a big interference in me to caring much about art or anything, including other people. In her commentary to issue #1497 of The Right Of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Class Chairman Ellen Reiss explains:
The big trouble with loving another human being, and the big trouble with being excited by something--whether it's a book, music, a sunset, a dance, a sport--is that this person and this thing are not us....There is that in every person which feels, the read treasure is my own dear self, and if I find someone or something else ever so pleasing, I am unfaithful to my first love: me.
This was true about me. By the time I was 14, I felt that going home after school to draw or paint was dull and corny, and that it was much more interesting to fool around with friends. When I won an art contest for a drawing of a girl playing the guitar that was published in a national students' art magazine, I was thrilled. But soon after, I remember feeling scornful of my teacher and the judges, thinking "It wasn't so good", and my interest in drawing eventually fell by the wayside.
Without knowing it, this same attitude would also affect my relationships with boys, and later men. My father, Christopher Fennell, worked hard to provide a family of six a good home, the things we needed, and also things like generous Christmas celebrations and summer trips to the seashore. But I was in a fight between care for my father and scorn for him because he was confusing--he could change from toughness to unsureness. I knew I was "Daddy's little girl," but even as he praised my golden curls and obedience, I secretly despised what I saw as his shortcomings. I remember him getting very angry, and thinking he looked ridiculous for losing his dignity.
Years later I was able to begin to understand what went on in me as I studied in Aesthetic Realism consultations. My consultants were critical of how I used my father to be disgusted with all men--seeing men as both tyrants and weaklings. I saw how much I had undervalued what Christopher Fennell could honestly be loved and respected for. In his work with the Emergency Squad of the Yonkers Fire Department, he had a beautiful relation of toughness and tenderness, for instance, when on a call, he took off his heavy outerwear and boots on a winter day, went into a nearly frozen pond, and helped pull a child to safety.
Had I been able to study Aesthetic Realism from childhood, I would have been kinder to everyone, especially to the young men I met. I thought they were impressed with how I was lively and feminine, and a funny, "wiseguy" sort of girl. In issue #770 of The Right Of, Mr. Siegel explains the real source of my sarcastic wit, when he wrote:
"There is a kind of bitterness that takes the form of cracks. The desire to take people not seriously or to forget about them is next door to a desire to hate them."
This was true about me! Sometimes my sarcasm came out in ways I regretted, and I remember the sting of recognition at hearing lines from a song by Billy Joel:
"She can promise you more than the Garden of Eden;
Then she'll carelessly cut you, and laugh
while you're bleedin'."
But I didn't know how to change! I once laughingly made fun of a neighbor's serious work as an actor, and he said, "You think you can make fun of anything you want! Well, you can't!" and with a man I said I loved and wanted to marry, I would talk with scorn of his commitment for his family's business, which was open later and on weekends and interfered with his taking me out. I had the nerve to act annoyed and say things like, "I hate that pile of bricks." He was rightly angry and critical as he said, "Well, maybe you should go marry someone else, because this is my life. Make up your mind!"
When this relationship ended, and others after that, while I mostly blamed the man, I had the nagging feeling that I didn't have the warm feeling a woman should have for a man. As time went on, I felt more and more desperate, and like a failure in love--but would never have figured out why!
II. CRITICISM AS LOVE: THE BEAUTIFUL ALTERNATIVE TO SCORN
By the time I began to study Aesthetic Realism at age 31, I had given and gotten much pain in love. I also had less and less interest in things, and felt the only place to meet men was in "singles" bars.
An important turning point in the fight between love and scorn in me was in my second consultation. Assuming my consultants (being women) would agree with me, I talked with amused scorn about how a man I met had talked for hours about having his first book published, and showed no interest in knowing me. But far from commiserating, they showed me that while this man might have done better, I was having contempt for him; I'd made his inner life--his hopes and fears--like nothing, and could not like myself for it. And they said, "When you listen to [the tape of this consultation] six months from now, you will cringe at how you were speaking about this man."
They were so right! I was learning to see how much I depended on my ability to put a man in his place to feel important and that this was the reason I despised myself. And I was learning that it wasn't inevitable!--that I could criticize my contempt, and see how to be a critic of a man with good will.
For example, in a later consultation, my consultants asked if there was a man I was interested in, and I answered:
MF: "Yes, but I don't know him so well. I admire very much how Bill Hemmings speaks....I see a relation of hardness and softness that I think is beautiful."
Consultants: "Do you think he feels it could be more beautiful?
MF: "I hadn't thought about it."
I learned that I was doing what many women do. I went from being scornful of man to wanting to praise him utterly. And both are inexact and contemptuous. My consultants said:
"The job a woman has is to put together admiration and criticism. The qualities you just mentioned--hardness and softness--do you think he could have a better relation of hard and soft? Do you think he is satisfied with [how he does with them]?"
MF: "Maybe not. Like I said, I don't know him very well."
Cons: "Do you think he is looking for someone to be critical of him--as a means of his being stronger?"
Cons: "So that is what's being encouraged now."
The knowledge I was getting then, and continue to receive, is the means of ending the anguish women have about love, asking: "What's happening to us? We were so happy not long ago!" And when a man feels that a woman wants him to be a better person--kinder, stronger--he feels honestly cared for. My education is proceeding richly in classes taught by Ellen Reiss, and some of the questions I’ve been asked are: "Do you want to see a man as a person in this world, as himself, or do you make him a Marion Fennell adjunct?"; "Are you interested in a man as a means of knowing the world better, or for him to make you the center?"; "Do you associate love with not thinking?"; and, "If a man is on your mind very much, does your thought about him make you fairer to everything else, or less fair?"
I am seeing in my marriage that good will, which includes warm, critical encouragement, is the same as love--and is the only proud alternative to scorn!