"Recently my husband and I were in Iceland for an
international conference on the future of the global environment. A
highlight of the bus tour of the capital city of Reykjavik was a visit
to the studio of their eminent local sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson (whose
sculpture of "Mother Earth" I described earlier). He has
another statue "Music of the Sea," which is a woman's body, sitting
down, wide open and exposed in the pelvis, with one leg back and
one forward. She is leaning back, her head flung back, with one arm
forward and out, and the other arm back. But she is laced with ropes
that cut into her knees and breasts and are strung like a musical
instrument to each of her hands. I as a woman winced in pain as I
looked at that statue; I could feel the vagina exposed and the breasts
hurting where the ropes laced through them.
When Matthias Johannessen was writing a book about
Sveinsson, he asked the sculptor about this statue. "But it's a female
figure," the sculptor replied, "I made her breasts like a boat. And her
feet grow out of the wave which again turns into a thigh. It's all
waves. And the hand is holding the strings. The music of the sea."
You can see here, quite unself-conscious in Asmundur Sveinsson,
the deep equation of the woman and nature, the symbolization of
this in the body of the woman, and the total lack of sensitivity to
what is done to the body of the woman. So long as men, consciously
or unconsciously symbolized natural processes as female -- and
"female" means to them controlled and subordinated -- then our
fitting into nature will be delayed and distorted by the male need to
control and subordinate.
Fascinated with the sculptor's lack of sensitivity to what was
being done to the body of the woman in "Music of the Sea," I began
using a postcard photograph of the statue as a litmus test or
Rorschach test with some of our most perceptive male friends and
colleagues. I made a startling discovery. Men do not identify with
the body of that woman! Men do not sense her vaginal vulnerability
in the pose of that statue, and (even more curious!) they do not feel
the pain of those ropes laced into her breasts and knees.
I found this surprising. And chilling for the future of the earth.
Eugene Bianchi's words come to mind about what happens between
a woman and a man when he rapes her: "As a subhuman, her terror
and pain call forth no empathy." This is for me the predicament of
the earth today. The male culture which is raping her does not
identify (perhaps cannot identify) with the body of the earth which
he myths as feminine. And because he cannot identify with it, he
cannot seem to feel the mute pain."
-- "Green Paradise Lost," by
Elizabeth Dodson Gray