There was a beautiful film that came out a few years ago here in France. Called ‘La Source des Femmes’ (The source of women), it told the story of a group of women in a small North African village who went on a sex strike after the men in the village refused to bring running water into the village. For centuries, it had been the women’s job to go and collect water from the well at the top of a hill for cooking, which was grueling work in the heat and often dangerous work. Some women even miscarried whilst doing it. The film is the story of what happened when the women all united to withhold sex from their husbands until the men consented to their demands.
It is a touching and beautifully made film and, whilst the idea of a sex strike has controversial connotations in the feminist movement today, it makes some important points about notions of power and love.
Typically, love and power are seen to be polar opposites and, often, seem to be at open ends of the spectrum of male-female dialectics. Love is seen as a passive, idealistic, ‘soft’, quality; power denotes force, energy and, often, aggression. Invariably, power is seen as the preserve of men; love, of women. Women are often discouraged or afraid to express power and love as a quality is often diminished and belittled as weak.
But what would it mean if we could look at the idea of love as a power? Love as a transformative power that has a far greater force than our current notions of power that are so often displayed in our world.
Power, considering it’s Latin root, posse, means ‘ to be able’. It expresses a sense of capability, of an enabling force, possibility, even. The word ‘potential’ is a derivative of the word power and suggests a latent force that is in the process of being uncovered.
Could it be that love is that latent force – an untapped resource - that will bring true strength, dominion and leadership to this world? And one that is not limited by climate change, conflict or global instability?
Much is spoken of about women’s capacity to bring a more humane approach to world issues, and the importance of encouraging women’s leadership in the public sphere. This is crucial and invaluable work. But, we all know that love is not the exclusive preserve of women, any less than power that of men. Indeed, it is the qualities of both the masculine and feminine that, when brought together, create a force more ‘powerful’ than anything we have yet to see.
The 19th century spiritual thinker and pioneer, Mary Baker Eddy, said: ‘The unity of masculine and feminine constitutes completeness.’
As the film so beautifully demonstrates, when women and men work together, each expressing the highest ideas of love and power, extraordinary things can happen.
I am a trained actress and founder and director of Hua Dan, one of China’s first and leading social enterprises. Hua Dan uses the power of participation in drama-based workshops to reveal and develop individual and community potential. Hua Dan has a particular focus on working with China’s rural-to-urban migrant workers, particularly women, who work in the manufacturing and service industries, at the heart of China’s economic boom.