Friday, October 12, 2007

Wild is Not Necessarily Free

Wild is Not Necessarily Free

So what is up with "the Brit pack"? The group - Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, etc - seems inordinately influential with the current generation of young women. But it's a cultural phenomena that hasn't changed a whole lot since I was a teenager: young people prize freedom of expression. Often this means drinking and drugging, being sexually liberated and free to "hook up." I, too, spent my twenties drinking and sexing my way through law school; I answered to no one and did as I pleased. But in truth, much of my behavior was motivated by the big lie, "I don't care what anybody thinks." As far as I can tell, that "big lie" is still alive and well with young people today.

I use the term "big lie" as Carl Jung used the term "big dream" to emphasize the largesse of a lie or dream that transcends any one person or individual life. Jung called these archetypes; I think of them as cultural mindsets or feeling-states common to large groups of people. Do young women today really "not care" about what others think?

A woman who truly "doesn’t care what anybody thinks" in a positive sense gets her personal power from inside herself. Generally, she is highly regarded and has built her self-esteem through esteem-able acts. She doesn’t care what people think because she is on purpose, has some accomplishment under her belt, knows her own mind, and has proved to herself and those around her that she has a strong moral core. That was not true of me in my twenties, nor is that what today's "prostitots" demonstrate when they flaunt their misbehavior in society's face.
Like it or not, fame or no fame, women are still inducted into some specific beliefs:
1) that their sexuality has a certain value, and
2) that they are less of a woman or incomplete without a man. The issue here is not whether or not these beliefs are true; the issue here is to become aware of how these beliefs may affect you.

Perhaps allowing the world to zoom in on her genitalia is Britney’s way of telling us she doesn’t need our approval. The first time I met a woman who was really free (rather than like Britney or my younger self), I was totally entranced. This woman was not self-absorbed; she was self-possessed and completely at home in her skin. She was so sure of her self that she seemed like another species. She exhibited none of the attention seeking, self-conscious, controlling, or flirtatious ways I associated with being a desirable woman. Her very presence startled something deep inside me awake.

I had to do a great deal of inner work before I built that type of solid foundation. I had to face the fact that I would do anything to secure male approval. I had to look at my motives for choosing provocative attire and learn the fine art of knowing when a sexy look suited me and when it diminished me. I had to confront the many ways I was still invested in the idea that a woman with a man is somehow more complete.

Women experience true freedom when they break free of these ideas and discover the ability to exercise choice by applying the will. Sometimes we gain more self-respect by exercising self-restraint than by "doing whatever I want." Then we stand at the threshold of a whole new kind of personal freedom.

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