Why do we cry? Sitting with a group of women, my friend, Ruth, commented on the recent impeachment hearings. She said that seeing women step up and speak to power brought tears to her eyes. The rest of us didn’t respond right away. We lacked the words to describe how her words affected us — a feeling plucking at our heartstrings.
I recall seeing Christine Blasey Ford testifying in the Kavanaugh hearing about what she said he did to her in high school. Watching how hard it was for her to speak of it, I cried. Later, I found out that women all over the country on commuter trains, at work, and alone in their homes watched and wept. We related to the feeling of vulnerability and injustice with no hope to even the score. Old scar tissues were ripped open. When Senator Feinstein asked, “How are you so sure that it was he?” Christine answered, “…the neurotransmitter epinephrine codes memories into the hippocampus, and so the trauma-related experience is locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.” We may not be able to explain the science behind our involuntary flood of tears, but science can’t explain why the evening primrose — that helps ease PMS and symptoms of menopause — blooms in the evening. It just knows.
Witnessing a “sister” subjected to men’s inflated egos and self-righteousness, then dismissed and trivialized, is a universal experience that binds us together. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle maintains that women are born with the collective pain bodies of all women before us. “Almost every woman has her share in the collective female pain-body, which tends to become activated, particularly just prior to the time of menstruation. At that time, many women become overwhelmed by intense negative emotion.” It explains why women are prone to speak their minds during their menses.
Eckhart continues, “The suppression of the feminine principle especially over the past two thousand years has enabled the ego [unconsciousness] to gain absolute supremacy in the collective human psyche. Although women have egos, of course, the ego can take root and grow more easily in the male form than in the female. This is because women are less mind-identified than men. They are more in touch with the inner body and the intelligence of the organism where the intuitive faculties originate. The female form is less rigidly encapsulated than the male, has greater openness and sensitivity toward other life-form, and is more attuned to the natural world.” The cosmic link between women wasn’t built overnight. It took centuries of male patriarchy to construct and protect it, which continues to this day.
The history of patriarchy’s war on women is long and persistent. Three to five million women were tortured and killed during the “Holy Inquisition,” a court of the Roman Catholic church. It didn’t take much, walking alone in a forest gathering medicinal plants or show love for an animal and she was branded a witch. Denying a priest her body, and he’d threaten to whisper her name to the “Holy Inquisition.” Other cultures and religions found their own unique ways [albeit less violent] to silence women. But out of sight unthreatened by men, the bond between us grows more determined, and women are speaking up.
The Anita Hill testimony before an all-male panel chaired by Joe Biden was the first time a woman gave evidence publicly of workplace harassment, this time against Clarence Thomas. She, like Christine Blasey Ford, came forward because the stakes were high, a seat on the Supreme Court. It was not about their pain, but the future of their country. Women watched and related. The Senators asked Miss Hill to repeat disturbing and embarrassing details. Were they hard of hearing? Or was her humiliation ignored for an encore about a subject close to their heart? And the link that bonds us reverberated. Before announcing his presidential bid this year, Joe Biden reached out to her to express “his regret for what she endured.” In an interview with the New York Times, “she declined to characterize Biden’s words to her an apology and said she was not convinced that he had taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearing —or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence.” link
Sometimes tears are accepted but seldom appreciated. Why else do most dictionary synonyms have negative connotations: bawling, sobbing, sniveling, and snivel? Fiona Hill explaining an encounter with Ambassador Sondland, said (paraphrased), yes, I was mad. Women’s tears are often used against us.”
When Hillary Clinton almost broke down on the campaign trail in 2008 people said it proved she was too weak to hold the highest office. Women can hold high office, but not if they cry.
Rosalynn Carter teared up talking about the work of the Carter Center, how it had eradicated the Guinea worm (almost completely) that afflicted millions in Asia and Africa. Then said, “I didn’t mean to get emotional.” Why did Mrs. Carter feel the need to apologize for her tears?
I wept at the sight of my newborns and on learning a daughter had died. I wept at the bedside of my dying mother. As a child, I cried at injustice directed at me, when I felt lonely, angry, and helpless. I’ve wept after arguments and when exhausted.
Tears speak for the heart. This gift sets us apart from other species and makes us human. Holding back our tears when grieving is to bleed inside and alone. Shedding a tear is a sign of courage and strength. It’s holy water creating internal rainbows. When suffering soaks us wet to the heart, our tears connect us. When Christina Blasey Ford, Anita Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, and Fiona Hill stood up to power, it made all women stronger. When it’s said that women are too emotional and cry too easily, that’s not true. It’s a sign we are alive and still fighting for fairness.