"A woman is a vessel." These words I heard from a young man from Saudi Arabia who used to attend the same university as I did, but majoring in engineering (and I was in anthropology). During that time I was going through a number of gender-related and self-identity issues, and his phrase made me extremely mad. It happened a number of years ago when I vigorously refused to be a "girly girl". My repulsion toward modern ideas of womanhood and femininity was so strong that I even wished myself to be "gender-less". But I was stuck in a female body, and so genderlessness was manifesting itself in the ways I behaved and looked. I didn't want anything to do with "feminine" in the world where women were habitually made into sex-objects whose self-identity and social value heavily depended on how attractive they were to the opposite sex.
And then... this guy tells me that I am a vessel. Rage! The thing that angered me the most was that I couldn't blame his religion or upbringing for brainwashing him into thinking about women like that. A formal follower of Islam, he didn't really practice it. He liked getting his education in the U.S. because in this country he was free to drink, smoke, use drugs, and host crazy parties with dozens of women - everything he wasn't supposed to do back home. In his home country, he was a perfect husband and a heir to a huge empire of oil business and other businesses related to the Arabic royal family. Here, he was wearing Che Guevara tee-shirts, hanging out with regular poor people, and engaging in philosophical debates over endless cups of coffee during lecture breaks.
All this is to illustrate that he wasn't conservative at all.
He was a free thinker, but then there it was - A WOMAN IS A VESSEL.
Fuck! At that moment I hated his guts.
So there I sit opposite him and sip my cheap black coffee. I hold in my hands super-duper deep and complicated books of Foucault and some simpler writings of Levi-Strauss. Am I a vessel?! There I am, thinking about the universe, alternative realities, mysteries of time and space, issues of relativity... There I am, getting ready to attend a lecture which will present us with a speaker from the center of "help and rescue" for the victims of international and military torture. There I am, so modern and smart and free.... And there HE goes - A woman is a vessel.
My anger grows. This self-confident, chauvinistic creature can't call me a vessel just because nature has given him something extra between his legs! So what if I have a womb? I have a brain too! How can he call me a vessel? Does he mean I am just another incubator designed for the sole purpose of receiving whatever goes in and growing babies inside my body?! He has no right. I am a human being. His "philosophy" must be flawed.
- You'll understand it later, - he shrugs. Smiling, he goes back to his engineering books on the university coffee table. He doesn't pay attention anymore, he doesn't even bother arguing with me. It looks to me like he doesn't care about my opinion, my reasons, my mind, my character and my individuality. All these things must be secondary to him because I have a womb. He just said his thing, and that's all - take it or leave it.
You know what?
I didn't understand it back then, but he was RIGHT.
And even in that moment of anger and disagreement I was, in fact, a "vessel" - but not in a bad, insulting way!
He was talking about nature. Biologically, energetically. Being upset with the image of a generic "woman" and femininity in general, I took it as an insult, but back then, when I had gender identity issues of my own, everything "feminine" wasn't good enough for me. I didn't know it back than, but he meant the following:
By nature, a woman ABSORBS. Women take in. More actively and more gracefully than men, we TAKE IN things of this world. We absorb them, we FEEL them, we fill ourselves up with them, and it's not an insult or a disadvantage - it's just how energy works.
Unfortunately, most women nowadays don't know much about their nature and how their energy and organisms work. So these processes of absorption still happen, but without any conscious participation of a woman who simply doesn't know (or refuses to know) what's going on.
Women absorb easier than men, and since the day we are born we, women, are told and shown what life is, what beauty and love is, how we are supposed to look like, how to get what we want from this world, how to eat, drink, sleep, talk to people, communicate with men, get attention, get accepted, have sex, raise children... how to survive in this society and how to become a "proper" citizen of it. And all this stuff is, well, stuffed into us along with very powerful feelings, emotions, reactions... which serve to strengthen our conviction and certainty in all this - very often without us consciously agreeing to it.
If you have a female body and mind and essence, you WILL take things in. It's just how it works.
BUT - you can regulate it and be conscious about it. The key is to pay attention to what we absorb from this world, be it information, emotion, food, relationships, advertising, ideas about life, millions of various influences, or even, forgive me for saying it so straightforward - somebody's sperm, which gifts us with the ultimate result of taking in... A child :)
Consciousness is the key - choosing what we let come inside.