Wednesday, December 23, 2015


There are two great usages of the concept of "to fall" in English, to which modern ears are no longer very well attuned, and which twine around one another.

A fallen woman, in antique parlance, was a woman - married or not - who has lost her virtue. Virtue is another of those concepts whose meaning has changed (at the very least), but it is not the topic today.

These days, as sneeringly as a woman may be treated for this or that infraction against other people's morality, it is little likely to be the death of her - at least, outside of contexts I don't propose to write about just now. My mother thinks Miley Cyrus is SCUM (her word) - largely because Miley, less a person than a child raised to be a product, has played into one of the major product marketing techniques of American popular culture, sex. Women who marry rich are as likely to be congratulated as written off for golddigging bimbos, but few observing one appreciate the finer points of her humanity. Britney Spears was the very paragon for a certain set of younger cousins of mine, as long as she touted her purported virginity, but she lost steam with many through a series of ill-timed underpantsless photos and that one time she shaved her daft little head.


But Miley has not been shamed out of society, and certainly the pariah has become staple to a leering community of celebrity  consumers - who literally DO *consume* people famous for five minutes, fifteen, or even almost an hour. Reality TV is built most often on the need to feel superior, even as we aspire to this or that thing such-and-such celebrity owns/product places in their "life".

There was a time it would have taken only the hint of impropriety to destroy a woman. One named Theresa Longworth spent a great deal of her life fighting the destruction of her reputation; and, to this day, the very sexual details of her existence perhaps outlive any sense of how profoundly distressing it must have been for her to have those things so much as imagined. Novels we still read today turn on the virtue of women whose wellbeing depended upon its never being questioned, never being destroyed.

To fall, for a woman, has through history been as fundamental a peril as the fall of Lucifer himself. To be thrown from society has been for MOST women - or anyone at all - through history, the most violent punishment conceivable (another aspect of a quote brought up this week in my comments).

Outcast. To many modern, especially American, ears, the term equates to the kid who gets bullied, or the million invisible mentally ill or imprisoned or otherwise "marginalized" people we rarely see, or try not to.

But in its practical, fundamental sense, it is those whom a community have put into the outer darkness.

This is no small thing, to be alone. Life today may be built to accommodate it, but the life lived solitary is still considered abnormal, and we punish people for living thus, whether they have chosen it or not. I've had my rants and fears about my social marginality.

But I have never been put aside, forsaken, nor shunned.

I have never fallen. Society has not shut me out, I have chosen and found my own place, but never been excluded.

The profundity of shunning is difficult to convey anymore, I think.

An awful lot of us have experienced it to one degree or another, but the ancient practice of social punishment has found a new face, and works in ways just as impenetrable to understand as The Past is for us to comprehend.

I know those who have fallen away ...

But I know nobody who has had to be a forsaken woman ... who has been denied fire and shelter ... who has fallen ...

No comments: