"Femininity, as it turns out, can be a barrier to enlightenment."
May 6, 2015 10:20 AM Subscribe
The psychotherapist Carl Jung, after seeing a photo of the Arctic explorer Augustine Courtauld, remarked that Courtauld's was the face of a man 'stripped of his persona, his public self stolen, leaving his true self naked before the world.' For women, this is doubly true: a woman's life is one lived under surveillance, a system of inner and outer regulations even more restrictive than a man's. Even a simple stroll down the sidewalk becomes an exercise in self-loathing. Suck in your stomach. Straighten your hem. (What if it rides up, exposing you?) Every shop window offers a glimpse of your own reflection. Adjust, adjust, adjust.So where are all the women hermits?
It's enough to drive a woman crazy (and isn't this what we're always being accused of?). It's enough to drive any woman to the woods.
"For women, for most of history, it's been mother or maiden, daughter or wife. The roles shuffle, their names and details changing, but all share one feature: which man does she care for, which man does she take care of? Woman as defined by man; woman as seen by man. How unappealing. With so few choices, it's clear why we know of so few women hermits, and why solitude is viewed as male."Women hermits mentioned in the essay and otherwise:
× The sixth-century saint Anastasia the Patrician, who fled from Constantinople to a remote cave in Alexandria and disguised herself as a eunuch for 28 years to ensure her vow of chastity would remain intact
× The 13th-century Abbess Mugai Nyodai, the first female Zen master in the world
× Margaret Kirkby, a 14th-century English anchoress and predecessor of...
× Julian of Norwich, a philosopher and Christian mystic whose 600-year-old anchorhold remains in use to this day
× Orgyen Chökyi, a 17th-century Ḑākinī known in the West as the "Himalayan Hermitess"
× Sarah Bishop, the hermit of the Berkshires
× Suchitra Sen, a legendary Bengali actress ("the Greta Garbo of Indian cinema") who retreated from the public eye following her retirement in 1978
× Greek patriot Despina Achladioti, the Lady of Ro, who lived alone on the remote, uninhabited island and raised her nation's flag over the coast so it would be visible from Turkish soil every day for nearly 40 years, until her death in 1982
× Martha Frock, who lived in a "little shack" deep in the Florida Everglades
Frock gets old magazines from a neighbor and has a radio but spends much time working on her grounds. Her sentiments when describing how she felt after one of her brief trips away: "Coming back here's just like going to heaven."× Robyn Davidson, whose 1,700-mile, nine-month trek through the outback of West Australia was adapted in book and movie form
× Sr. Rachel Denton, 21st-century hermit and calligrapher for hire at St Cuthbert's House in Nottingham
× Karen Markham, who makes her home in the hills of Shropshire, at the the Hermitage of Divine Wisdom
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