Martisor is an old Romanian tradition celebrated on March 1st. The name is a diminutive of March (Martie in Romanian).
The tradition, as the tale goes, started with a red and white string. The person who wore the string, attached to a trinket, would enjoy a healthy and prosperous year. Not to mention the decorative look. I’d wear it for the beauty of it alone. It can be worn in a variety of ways, but most wear it as a brooch.
According to archeological research, Martisor traces its history some 8000 years ago. Long time, isn’t it? Some researchers believe it has Roman origins, others think it’s an old Dacian tradition (Dacians are the ancestors of modern Romanians).
In old times, Martisors were made of river pebbles, painted in red and white. Good luck, good weather, good health and everything good came to those who wore them.
I remember in primary school, friends gifting one another the trinkets, pinning them on our lapels, giggling as we admired their colors and shapes. They come in a number of shapes nowadays, from ladybugs to guitars to anything the designer can think of – one more creative than the next.
I always loved Martisor time, happy in the knowledge good times were ahead since winter was just about gone and spring awaited around the corner.
Over the years, I haven’t kept up with the tradition, but I’m reminded of it every year when the occasional Martisor arrives in the mail.
Tell me your favorite, or least favorite, tradition.
For a million dollars today, I couldn’t tell you what day it was. At least for the first hour or so.
I woke up thinking it’s Sunday. I should spend time in bed, reading. Slowly, tracing the happenings of the world, I realized it’s Monday. I should get up and check my work email. Get coffee ASAP.
I would’ve preferred reading. I love work, it keeps me centered, but there is this book I’ve started on. A far cry from my usual (mysteries and thrillers). This is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay titled, Bad Feminist.
Before I say more, I need to mention Roxane Gay’s memoir, Huger, where she details some deep ways one can hunger – be it for food, love, acceptance, more love. How hungering is so dangerous, so painful – literally. How hungering, in all its forms, destroys, rebuilds, and destroys some more before the fixing (if ever this can be fixed) begins.
I hurt reading it. I also smiled, felt the love, felt the hunger, some of it so profound it defines human existence. The book made me want to read more by Roxane Gay, not always the case with a book, no matter how much I like it. But this one did. The writer’s wit, self-deprecating humor, cultural criticism. I wanted more.
That’s how I found Bad Feminist.
The collection of essays got me looking at my own feminism.It got me declaring myself a bad feminist as well. Not a bad thing, the writer assures me. I’m a work in progress.
Aren’t we all?
There is Feminism (capital F) and feminism, as Roxane Gay says. The first has become a profession for some, a public-relations platform. That can be good and bad. Famous people bring attention to important issue, but when those people falter, after having been labeled Feminists, the whole idea is weaponized to exhaustion by critics.
“Just another freaking feminist, a hypocrite,” the critics cry out. “Look at her now. She has the nerve to preach.”
That is (F)eminism.
Then there is feminism, which is just what the definition says – the advocacy of women’s rights – where the work is done behind the scenes, by people hardly known or not at all.
By the way, many of those critics mentioned above are women. They criticize while benefiting from all the advantages the movement has bestowed upon them thanks to those who worked their hearts off. The critics are the unwilling recipients of their own rights, which they very much enjoy. Somehow, they either don’t equate the movement with their privileged lives, or don’t care.
But anyway, the more I think about it, the more I get that I am a bad feminist.
I support the movement, I try to do my part to help it along. I understand there’s still much to achieve despite critics telling us we are equal (we’re not, come on!), but at the same time I do things that contradict feminist ideas.
One example Roxane Gay gives is fashion designed by men to make women look like sex toys. Not just the pretty dress, the pink blouse, but the ridiculous stilettoes, clothes tight enough to cut circulation. Such attire was once predominant in my closet. Still is in the back corner somewhere.
There is the music from straight-up male chauvinists (some married to women who declare themselves Feminists). Songs with demeaning lyrics where every other word is bitch this, bitch that. If I were to dissect those lyrics and understand them all (many of those artists mumble when singing), but if I did, I’d be ashamed for having given them a second of my time. Yet, I groove along to the catchy tune. Because catchy it is. The industry knows how to get us past the mumbled lyrics. The artists know. Their Feminist wives must know … Sigh.
There are other examples, but you get the idea.
We’re human, the writer reminds everyone. We’re far from perfect.
I’d like to say, our intentions are good, but that’s a tired excuse. I’m tired of excuses. Including my own.
One thing reading this book does: it helps me identify, or re-identify, those things within myself. Things I obviously knew about in abstract ways, but didn’t quite know how to highlight in ways you highlight an idea that needs analysis. Having something defined to the point of clarity helps understand the way I move about the world.
We’re all works in progress, yes.But without the self-work, a work in progress is an abandoned idea.
So, I leave you with Bad Feminist, for now. A few quotes.
“When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.”
“Some women being empowered does not prove the patriarchy is dead. It proves that some of us are lucky.”
“Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights.“
“If people cannot be flawed in fiction there’s no place left for us to be human.”
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
I have not felt it for some time given the way our collective world has been turning lately. Close to home, things are just fine. But in a world increasingly connected through social media and the like, we cannot look out there and feel good about ourselves. If we were to be honest. And that’s what blogging is about, right? Being honest. Or what’s the point?
People dying in record numbers, ugly politics. A people divided. A big one to accept: the deep division.
We all seem to move about the world in completely different ways. Sure, the loud, obnoxious voices are amplified by the media – isn’t that always the refrain … the media, the media? – but this time it feels like there is more to it that a constant barrage of news segments pushing the insanity. This time it feels like we look right through one another, not hearing, not seeing one another. Not even interested.
To me, anyway. That’s how it feels to me.
So, what do we do about it? There is no shortage of answers, some more political than others. I’ve heard them all, I assure you. And decided there is no good answer. Not yet. It may come soon, but as of now, anything that starts with: the answer is … should come with a disclaimer pointing out the very arrogance of such assurance. Because the answer is imposes a point of view so vastly different, it borders on offensive.
The answer is … No. No one has the answer. The real answer. Because the real answer is somewhere no one wants to look. To look requires compassion, and compassion has been trampled on. Just about destroyed. Just about.
There is always hope.
Hope is the thing with feathers … Remember?
Hope is good. Hope is human. Hope is all of us.
A new year brings hope. A new beginning.
We should take it, nourish it, revive it, while we still can.
Life as we knew it has taken a back seat to nature’s dictum.
Here we are, the powerful humans — or so we think — now, the backstory to a narrative long in the making. We can pinpoint to exact reasons we’re staying indoors these days (as we should). But upon reflection, once layers of grievances are peeled to the heart of the issue, what do we find?
That we had it coming. In some way or other. The world as a whole, not any one person in particular. But the particularity of the person — the utter focus on the self to the detriment of the whole, which nature is part of — turned the collective attention away from that which benefits us all.
I don’t know exactly what that is, but if I were to pick one word to describe it, it would be Nature. Something we are all part of. Something we should try harder to protect.
One example, which I’m often guilty of: Staying tuned to what’s going on is vital, yet all too often, a big part of me wants to retreat internally. Take care of my business. Focus on me and what’s immediately around me. And that’s not necessarily bad; it’s what makes us strong. But it’s not enough, is it? How can it be enough?
So, yes, life as we knew it will return to normal. A reassuring yet disturbing thought, because it was much of that previous normal that brought us here. I sure hope we use this pause to try and create a better normal all around.