In Defense of Marie Kondo, or, Insider Feminism
Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 10:13AM
Elena Taurke in Complexity, Feminism, Focus, Moms are People Too, PsychoZen Meets Life, Queer People, Zen

Does it spark joy?  If not, let it go.  

It's easy to mock this instruction from the adorable and slightly insane master of tidiness, Marie Kondo, but I contend that it is an invitation to a radical revolution. Master Kondo advises us not to engage with a thing in the usual way.  Don't read the book or try on the clothing; hold it to your heart and notice what you feel. 

"Pay close attention to how your body responds when you do this.  When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising.  When you hold something that doesn't bring you joy, however, you will notice that your body feels heavier."

Attention to rising cells is revolutionary; it changes everything.  All my life I have subtly been guided by an idea of what is acceptable to others.  Conversational and physical cues tell me whether I'm appropriate, whether I've made the other feel good, whether I'm feeling the right thing, ultimately whether I will survive the interaction.  Social scientists observe that such social cue sensitivity is higher among women and higher among those who are insecure about belonging.  For those of us in both categories, the ship may need to halt or slow waaay down before taking a turn toward the center.  This year I've taken three solo retreats from external structure and feedback so that I could learn to tune in to subtle internal sensations.  I made one big rule:  I don't have to do anything!  In fact, if I even accidentally started doing something that caused me to feel the oppressive dread that comes from a misplaced should, I would make myself stop.  For example:

Can you sense the revolution here?  I steer myself toward inner experience and away from the rules that I have inherited.  Let me share some of what I discovered:

If you did a retreat like this, you would discover other stuff, stuff that is particular to you.  You would discover what matters to you and maybe let go of the rest.  To give you an idea of how threatening this can be, the otherwise progressive Transparent mercilessly mocked the mother who let go of her children's early art projects.  She wanted to be free.  Her children couldn't handle it.  They wanted her to contain all that they ever were, into eternity.  

Living from the inside is deeply feminist.  Objectification and perfectionism live in the same closet together.  Consider beauty.  Women are taught to make themselves into the cultural standard.  Those of us who fall short (most of us) are encouraged to repair our inadequacy with the right clothing, makeup, plastic surgery and so on.  They (who? you might ask) propose that all of that will make us feel better.  But what if we go straight to it.  I want to feel good.  How can I change the situation?  I'm not constructing myself, I'm acting on the environment.   

I believe this turning is a step in our evolution.  Things are starting to bubble up, even as some would push them down.  For example, some people want to define their own gender from the inside while other people want to impose an idea of gender from the outside, using an estabished symbol of authority, perhaps a holy book or a tradition.  

In a book of Zen Koans, The Gateless Barrier, it is said:  "Where Absolute Subjectivity works, the old fixed ideas are of no avail."  

Living life from the inside is the real radical feminism.  Will you join the revolution?  

I'm in.  



Related: Vote for a Vagina  Am I a woman?

Working on it:  Femme Zen, Methods for Moving from the Center of Existence



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