Friday night I watched “Michael Moore in Trumpland.” The title is a bit deceptive. It has very little to do with Trump, and a lot to do with feminism. It’s funny, educational, moving, and it is a spirited discussion of the struggles of Hillary Clinton, through which, it touches upon the struggle of all women and extols their power.
Michael Moore’s film is a record of a one-man show he performed in October at the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio. Over the course of sixty minutes, Moore spends a considerable amount of time going over the attacks, the abuse Hillary Clinton has endured over the years, most all of it, of course, coming from men. I remember how she was humiliated for heading the Task Force on National Health Care Reform in the 1990s. But I had forgotten how nasty it was, and perhaps dulled to how nasty it has been ever since.
In 1994, at a rally in support of the health care campaign, as the First Lady spoke, protestors held up signs that read “Heil Hillary” and nearly booed her down. For the first time, the Secret Service was successful in persuading Hillary Clinton to wear a bulletproof vest.
It is obvious that Michael Moore likes Hillary, he admires her because she has character, that is, good character, one thing many voters doubted. She took all the abuse heaped on her, never complained (at least not in pubic) and kept moving forward.
About halfway through the performance, Moore looks into the camera and says,
My hope, my optimism for this . . . Hillary, if you’re watching this right now (I have a feeling that someone is going to slip you a tape of this), I just want to tell you something, I know you’ve been waiting . . . but you’re not alone, a whole bunch of the rest of us have been waiting for that one glorious moment when the other gender, the majority gender, has a chance to run this world, have some real power and kick some righteous ass.”
We men have been in charge far too long, and as a result, our world is out of balance. We need to adjust the axis in favor of gender equality.
Now, it’s amazing how certain things fall in place . . . Just Friday morning I was reading these words by Barbara E. Reed: “The Tao Te Ching uses feminine imagery and traditional views of female roles to counter destructive male behavior.” *
Tao is a complex principle. Tao means “road or “path”. Philosophically, it is the “Way”, and for now, let us just say that it is about the way of living. The classic Chinese text, Tao Te Ching, can be translated as “The Way and its Virtue.”
According to one scholar, the origins of the Tao Te Ching were “ideas from anonymous people (not intellectuals) of the 6th – 4th centuries BCE, probably including local elders (“lao-tsu”), possibly including women . . .” He mentions also that the early layers of the teachings emphasized “natural simplicity, harmony, ‘feminine’ behaviors”. **
I am intrigued by the notion that women may have influenced the formation of these teachings. The doctrine of Taoism has always showed a preference for feminine “behaviors”, and at times, it seems the Tao Te Ching is saying that the feminine is the purest form of life.
In ancient China, women were largely illiterate and subjugated. Yet, there were periods in China’s history when Buddhist and Taoists movements welcomed women as both practitioners and leaders, and there were teachings (“Inner Alchemy”) specifically for women.
One modern woman, Ursula K. Le Guin, an American author known for her works in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, published a translation of the Tao Te Ching in 1998. In an interview some years later, she said,
Lao Tzu feminized mysteries in a different way from anybody else. These are not “feminine mysteries,” but he makes mystery itself a woman. This is profound, this goes deep. And the most mystical passages in the book are the most feminine. This is something women need, I think, and long for, often without knowing it. That’s undoubtedly one reason why all my life I’ve found the Tao de Ching so refreshing and empowering.”
This is something that everyone needs, and that everyone has. Feminine energy (yin) is not separate from masculine energy (yang). The feminine and the masculine give rise to each other; they are interdependent and universal. Water and the earth symbolize feminine energy. The feminine is soft, yielding, receptive, fluid, creative, intuitive, transformative, and nurturing.
The masculine is associated with activity, creativity, hardness, logic, and control.
As we seen in the tai ji symbol, yin and yang are enfolded within one another. Every person has yin and yang energies. For instance, I’d say Hillary Clinton has some significant yang energy, while her former opponent has too much.
In chapter 42, the Tao Te Ching says, “All things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by balancing these energies.” The best way of living is living in harmony with nature and each other, and the more we can harmonize the feminine and masculine within ourselves, the more effectively we can check compulsive and extreme behavior, the more we can counteract negative forces within the mind and even the body.
Gentleness is another quality of feminine energy, and in the film, Michael Moore points out that women are mostly non-violent.
“Women generally don’t shoot you,” he says. “Unless you deserve it.”
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* Barbara E. Reed, “Taoism”, Women in World Religions, Ed. Arvind Sharma, SUNY Press, 1987 162
** Russell Kirkland, Taoism: The Enduring Tradition, Psychology Press, 2004
Hillary Clinton photo: Wellesley College Archives