I like the idea of Motherself. Namely, I like the idea that the Hero Cycle, as we know it from our friends Campbell, Jung, etc., is primarily a story of the *male* psyche. I like this idea because I 1) happen to believe it and 2) have become rather obsessed with uncovering the female counterpart to the Hero Cycle so I can write books that sell MILLIONS. Thus, when Kathryn Allen Rabuzzi, henceforth called “Dear Kathy,” or “DK,” asserts that “The Way of the Mother” is the female “counterpart of the familiar quest of the hero” (21), I’m willing to go with it.
The problem is, I wasn’t fully satisfied with her conclusions.
Firstly, she sets up the patriarchy as the ultimate enemy. And, yanno, whatever. Down with the patriarchy and all that. BUT, even as out of one side of her mouth she’s saying that women should embrace their female rites (like birth, breastfeeding, etc.) as sacred, the model she’s providing is the model of the hero. Each of her chapter headings corresponds to a phase of the MALE HERO CYCLE. And, yeah, she’s arguing that the whole process of giving birth is HEROIC. But she’s not breaking away from the traditional MALE CYCLE to do it. Thus, her entire argument basically boils down to, “See, women, you’re just as good as a man!” And since the form she uses to prove this is the male hero cycle, she’s basically saying that “The best way to be is LIKE A MAN!!!”
Here’s my next problem. The explanations she tries to use to make the process of giving birth “fit” the male hero cycle are often a bit of a stretch. (Probably because a woman’s story is DIFFERENT!!) The one that bothered me the most was her chapter on Apotheosis. Apotheosis is the stage in the Hero Cycle where the hero transcends his mortal trappings and takes on God-like characteristics. In all my grappling with trying to figure out what a female story cycle looked like, this stage was one I KNEW also existed in the female story cycle. Because what woman who has given birth can’t say that she acted in partnership with God? Women, as co-creators with God, should be the very model of Apotheosis. (And just to be clear to all you anti-patriarchy folks out there, when I say “God” I am assuming a divine character that includes both the male AND the female.) But Dear Kathy has a different idea. She says that Apotheosis is “to be avoided by the mother . . . the concept . . . possibly to be destroyed” (157). And, thus, instead of embracing the God-like qualities of the mother, this whole stage DK tries to reduce to a “Down with the Patriarchy!” orgy of destruction, where, instead of becoming Gods, women should learn to “de-create” patriarchal structures.
Sure, she does go on in a later chapter to say that instead of reconciling with the Mother Goddess, a woman should realize she IS a goddess. But that chapter happens to be weighed down with hilarious anachronisms. Like, that we pretend that lesbianism doesn’t exist because we see it as revolting. There are actually a few hilarious anachronisms, actually, not just in that chapter, but in others. Like that the emerging possibility of “in-vitro fertilization” is a direct assault on women because it will lead to either men getting pregnant or the complete labratorization of pregnancy. (?!) (Having gone through IVF, I can say that I still feel pretty motherly, thank you.) Or that a few men had a sex change operation, but in the 1970’s society wisely decided that this is something that just should. Not. Be. Done. And it hasn’t been done since. (Sorry, DK, society changed its mind here.)
To sum up: I liked the idea of this book. I was unsatisfied with the conclusions. I felt like Dear Kathy was trying to please her academic peeps instead of consulting with her deepest sense of story pattern. I can’t blame her for this, really. She is an academic and it’s not like she was pretending to be a storyteller. It’s just that, as a storyteller myself, I wasn’t that interested in the academics of it all. Just in how the heck I’m going to write a story that resonates deeply in the hearts of women.
Now it’s your turn. I’m guessing Karie is the only other person out there who read the book. But maybe I’m wrong. (Zina, you read this book like ten years ago, didn’t you?) Everyone who read it (and I mean everyone) should post a comment. Tell me what you thought chiquitas!
Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/9
2 days ago