I have begun to call my mother the “Reaper,” which I understand could be to some mums sort of insulting. Images of the Reaper are typically not terribly flattering, you know, with all that sunken skin and stringy black cloth flying around. My mom looks nothing like that, by the way. In fact, she has at all stages of her life borne a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor, causing many a stranger to run up to her over the years, exclaiming, “Oh my goodness, do you know who you look like?” And, let me add, often much to the consternation of those in Mom’s company, such as, well– me, for example– when I was trying to deliver my first baby and the attending nurse ignored me in order to chat with my mom about her resemblances. But, I digress here.
Mom is the Reaper because she is at that point in her life when she rather unabashedly tells it like it is, “reaps truth” as I have come to think of it. Though she may look all violet eyes and white diamonds, she is beyond mincing words.
Is this a feature of aging? I once read that the decreased estrogen and increased testosterone levels in post-menopausal women may contribute to a personality shift where women are more inclined to report on what they are thinking. This may be a factor, but I would find it likelier that many women, menopausal or not, simply get to a point when they have seen/heard/experienced/endured enough that they find little merit in putting up fronts, regardless of hormonal predisposition.
Plus, I am wildly unimpressed by some of the material out there on menopause. It seems like a lot of conflated nonsense that correlates every aspect of female sexual maturation with hormonal imbalance and impending doom. I recently read a book by an “expert” named Dr. Miriam Stoppard – great last name for a menopause specialist, right? – that actually gave medical advice alongside hints about make-up tricks, relationship management tools for your depressed mid-life spouse, and what girdles to wear to help hold up your sagging flesh.
It is interesting that “women who speak their minds” are even an object of contemporary cultural commentary at all. I mean, would there be any talk at all about males who speak their minds? Young girls who speak their minds are cast as feminists, strong-willed, scary to boys, unfeminine, and so on. Of course, the embedded androcentric assumption is that they are doing something contrary to normative female behavior. Older women who “speak their minds” are cast as rude hags and crones, spreading around their venom and disappointment, especially if they swear. This , kind of says it all:
A woman who speaks her mind is simply too lazy emotionally to check herself before uttering something hateful or rude. Having an internal filter is the hallmark of anyone with good character, especially a woman. Double standard? Yes, but no worse than any other. A sweet, pleasant woman doesn’t need to be a plain speaker, she would be able to get her point across even with a healthy dose of verbal restraint.
Think before you speak. And don’t even get me started on women who curse. The F word is the hallmark of low class.
And, these insightful replies:
First, the “woman who speaks her mind” is a woman who does not filter and does not internally challenge her impulses. She says whatever impulsively comes to her mind without regard for its appropriateness or its validity. This just shows someone with an un examined life that they don’t test their impulses.
Secondly, there is the glorification of the “woman who speaks her mind” that she is in some way a feminist because she “doesn’t care what anyone else thinks”. So she doesn’t care that she can look like a buffoon with what she says and she doesn’t care who she hurts with what she says.
And in response to one comment that women should not use the “F” word:
True. If they have a potty mouth, they should expect to be used and disposed of like toilet paper, and they will be, often.
A woman’s profligate use of profanity is a slut tell.
To be sure, these culture critics have categorical assumptions about women and a limited poetical awareness of language. I am not sure which is worse. Well, “F” that, says even a pre-menopausal woman! Of course, celebrating Reapers of truth as I do, I must concede that cruelty, harshness, or rudeness in speech is aggression, no matter from whom or where it comes. These gentle authors included here above, for example, seem to stand outside their own delicate standards of decency and tolerance about vulgarity and politeness, and I find that… rude! There, I said that too!
In the absence of truth telling, we allow to get away with “rudeness” not just divorced men looking for:
my dream of a gorgeous 45 year old virgin with a tramp stamp who dresses girly girl and doesn’t swear... *sigh*
So, I totally get it. When a woman speaks or swears or “tells it like it is,” I get why no one wants to listen; why it is tiresome and laden conversation, full of judgment and rage. I get why it’s impolite and trampy and non-maiden-like and hormonal and “f…n pissed off” and unattractive and haggish. It is kind of like the Reaper, dark and terrifying and best left unspoken. And hard to look at.
I know my observations here are not new, and it is I who am coming into a new appreciation of them. Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology named it … hags, harpies, crones, witches, spinsters – all terrifying examples of dangerous female categories for speaking and being. But, in this month of October, and especially after the keen-reaping example of my mom, I would like to add to the “crones” and “hags” the category of “Reapers,” perhaps the scariest ones of all. Happy Reaping!
Natalie Kertes Weaver, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Natalie’s academic books include: Marriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009); Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2012); and The Theology of Suffering and Death: An Introduction for Caregivers (Routledge, 2013). Natalie is currently writing Made in the Image of God: Intersex and the Revisioning of Theological Anthropology (Wipf & Stock, 2014). Natalie has also authored two art books: Interior Design: Rooms of a Half-Life and Baby’s First Latin. Natalie’s areas of interest and expertise include: feminist theology; theology of suffering; theology of the family; religion and violence; and (inter)sex and theology. Natalie is a married mother of two sons, Valentine and Nathan. For pleasure, Natalie studies classical Hebrew, poetry, piano, and voice.