On Philosophy, Pronouns, and Stoic Women

Last week in an article in the New York Times, columnist Laura Collins Hughes referred to a recent performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

No, not that performance. The one Hughes spoke of was at an all-girls high school. Not only were all the roles played by girls, the word “man” was changed to “girl” throughout the script.

Hughes wrote:

“Thou art the ruins of the noblest girl that ever lived in the tide of times,” Mark Antony said over the dead body of Caesar, and I thought: When do we ever describe girls as noble? When, in the stories we tell, do we ever take them that seriously?

–from “When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading
by Laura Collins-Hughes, the New York Times, July 17, 2017

To which I say, “Right?!”

It started me thinking – or rather, it returned me to thinking, as it’s not my first time – how powerful language can be, especially the words we choose to describe ourselves.

I’ve been doing some reading into Stoicism (because I’m weird like that), partly because it reminds me of my dad. He was a calm, quiet Norwegian. A perfect fit for Stoicism.

But also… well, have you ever read something and thought to yourself, “Yes! This, right here! This is meeee!” (Squealed in a most stoic fashion, I assure you.)

You find out you’re not a weirdo after all. Someone — okay, someone in ancient times, but still, it’s someone — thinks the way you do. Only smarter and with a better vocabulary.

Stoicism is like that for me. But there’s one little problem: it’s a wee bit masculine. Oh hell, it’s all the way masculine. I mean, they were all men.

(Okay, fine. I realize there were some female Stoics, but we know very little about them, and they don’t appear to have written anything. Not so much as a grocery list.)

So after hearing of the plucky girls doing Shakespeare, I started changing the language of what I was reading.

For instance:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.
― Seneca

becomes:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great woman struggling against adversity.  ― Seneca, feminized

Granted, it’s a small change. Just one word. But that one word not only makes it more relevant to me, it’s done something more.

It got me to thinking: Maybe there are other women, maybe lots of women, who would like these Stoic thoughts too.

To tell the truth, I never felt I had much in common with other women. It wasn’t a gender issue, but more a mental one. I wasn’t as interested in the things they were (or what I thought they were – shopping, makeup, diets, fashion), which may explain why I always had more male friends than female.

But what if that was based on misplaced thinking?

Women are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. — Epictetus, feminized

Consider the basic Stoic principles of humility, self-control, equality, justice — are those strictly masculine ideals? Of course not. Do all women practice them? No, but then neither do all men. That’s why we call them ideals. (Also, did you notice how christian they sound? Again, ideally speaking.)

Okay, so what’s the big deal, you say. Just read “man” as humankind. If these ideas aren’t exclusively male, then neither should they be exclusively female.

To which I say, Geez fella, lighten up! After several centuries of language going your way, you can’t give us a few quotes of our own?

Because just as it is for an all-girl Julius Caesar, changing the pronouns makes the quotes more meaningful to the average female.

She who lives in harmony with herself lives in harmony with the universe.
— Marcus Aurelius, feminized

A nice concept, isn’t it? A woman living in harmony with herself?

Imagine if young women were hearing messages like that, rather than “Jeans that Make Your Butt Look Great!” (from Seventeen)

Of course, I realize we’re not in the habit of quoting philosophy to our kids, either to our daughters or our sons. That’s not my point.

(Though if you do quote philosophy to your kids, I want you to know how much I love you.)

My point is… well, I’m not sure what my point is. Let’s say it’s my wish. I wish we had a Stoic equivalent for women. Because Stoicism is far more than tweetable quotes, it’s a way of life.

I wish there had been a female Marcus Aurelius who wrote down all her thoughts on how to live a good and honorable life. Maybe Marcus had a second cousin, twice removed.

Let’s call her Marcia. Marcia Aurelius.

But what’s the use of wishing? (Wishing is not a Stoic-approved practice.) Maybe we don’t have ancient philosophies to bolster us up. That doesn’t mean we can’t make use of them, or alter them if need be.

Or — hey, how ’bout this? — what if we wrote our own Meditations?

One day, someone will find a wise woman’s diary — your diary — filled with ideas, admonitions, private reflections; Empowering words on how to be a good, noble woman.

I really wish we had something like that. Tell ya what – I’ll work on mine if you work on yours.

Deal?

Waste no more time arguing about what a good woman should be. Be one. — Marcus Aurelius, feminized

My Idea Journal: the Foolish and Forgotten

Do you keep an idea journal?

JournalsI have two. One is a pretty little journal someone gave me several years ago. Unfortunately, I misplace it constantly. So I’ve taken to using the notes section in my daily planner.

(Yes, I use an old-fashioned printed planner. Don’t judge.)

My problem with idea journals is that I rarely remember what I had in mind when I first wrote the ideas down. Which is what happened when I reviewed my entries recently, hoping for inspiration.

Instead, I’m offering my ideas to you. Maybe you can work them into something.

You’re welcome. Continue reading “My Idea Journal: the Foolish and Forgotten”

Polly’s Party Game: The Feeding on Folly Edition

How do I get into these things?

Somehow, through no fault of my own, I wind up participating in some sort of friendly, “getting to know you” kind of game. And this is bad because I really stink at them.

It goes waaay back. Like in high school, when a friend would start with:

“Okay, so you’re on a desert island and you can only have two things–”
“Why two things? Who’s keeping me from having more things?”
“No one. It’s just you only have two things.”
“That’s dumb. Who goes to a desert island with only two things?”
“That’s all you have after your ship sank.”
“Wait, I was on a ship? Why did it sink? Are we at war?”
“Gah! Never mind!”
“WAS ANYONE ELSE ON THE SHIP? DID EVERYONE DIE?!”

Suffice it to say, I avoid those sorts of things. But the other day, Rhonda over at Pollyanna’s Path wrote of her Party Game, and me being the observant reader that I am, asked if she expected others to play.

And what with one thing leading to another… well… here’s me playing Polly’s Party Game. (Man. I really stepped into this one.) Continue reading “Polly’s Party Game: The Feeding on Folly Edition”

Community News With Pancakes

magazineThis last Sunday at church, a woman handed me a magazine to give Husband, who is currently out-of-town.

It was one of those freebie publications you might see at a doctor’s office or hair salon, with a ridiculous number of ads and one or two articles on local interests.

The reason she was giving it to Husband is that he sings in the same group as the couple on the cover, so she figured he knew them. (He very well may, but beings how he’s out-of-town, I can’t say for sure.)

What I can say is that somewhere in the 85086 zip code, there is a woman who may or may not be in dire need of medical attention. Also, whoever Mama G is, her pancakes look damn fine.
Continue reading “Community News With Pancakes”

In Which I Question the Motives of a Blogger Who Recently Followed Me and Politely Suggest He Stop Using Super Long Blog Post Titles

writingDear Blogger Who Recently Followed Me,

Please accept my heartiest welcome to our Feeding on Folly neighborhood!

Take a seat anywhere you like… well, not there… that’s where Brian of Bonnywood always sits… no, not that one either, that’s Patricia’s spot. She needs the side table for her tea…

Oh, geez, just take the one next to the sofa, will ya?

Okay, feeling settled in now? Good.

You can’t imagine my surprise last Saturday morning when I learned you were following FoF. Not that it’s unusual having new followers, but normally there’s a process involved. Such as they read a few posts, like one or two of them, then decide to follow.

You, on the hand, first followed, then liked 17 posts in a row! My goodness!

What’s more, you’re obviously a speed reader, as all 17 of those likes were accomplished in only one minute. Most impressive!

But then I went to my stats page and saw this: Continue reading “In Which I Question the Motives of a Blogger Who Recently Followed Me and Politely Suggest He Stop Using Super Long Blog Post Titles”

IT Support: I Bow Before You

White dog next to person with laptopSo I’ve been doing some cleaning around the ol’ blog – not sure if you noticed? New theme, upgraded account, no ads (you’re welcome), clearing out some dead links. Just kind of sprucing things up a bit.

Not to brag – well, maybe I’m bragging a little – but I  wasn’t at all worried about making these said changes. It’s not that I’m a computer whiz, exactly.

Oh heck, let’s be honest: I’m more whizzy than your average suburban housewife.

All this is to say that on my second day of working on the blog, the new theme and upgraded no-ad account in place, I started my first post of the new year and wound up with a problem I couldn’t fix.

And I wound up calling support. *sob*

Here’s what happened…  Continue reading “IT Support: I Bow Before You”

The Blogger’s Annual Review

wp_20170101_13_12_33_proState your name, please.

Hey, what’s with the light?

Just state your name, please.

Christi. What is this? An interrogation?

Yes. Yes it is.

Who are you?

I’m one of the WordPress BPs.

BPs?

Blogger Police. We’re conducting our annual review of blogs to see which ones will be allowed to continue. Continue reading “The Blogger’s Annual Review”

Anonymous Note Update, #2!

The tension is mounting people, even drawing in our most chill-est of personnel! (If you didn’t catch our previous update, click here.)

This morning I walk into the break room for my requisite cup of Earl Grey, and there by the microwave stands one of our counselors. One of the cool ones because she reads this blog. (Although she’s running a month behind, meaning she hasn’t read my last two posts.) Continue reading “Anonymous Note Update, #2!”