Starving for Attention
A few years ago, a woman came on to my husband at a children’s party to which he had taken our kids. There he was, a man with a ring on his finger and a child in each hand. This woman went so far as to grab my husband’s hand, in front of my son and daughter, and write her name on his palm in ink—a kind of tattoo. The very same palm which earlier that day had held and caressed my belly. Lovely, right? My rage still burns. Being a man in love and a man of integrity, my husband came home, showed me the “tattooed” palm and I dealt with the woman head on.
I don’t think she knew what hit her. Imagine a Mack truck going 180mph, careening straight for a tin can. I don’t think she expected me to be the one to call her using her little palm etching. She never reared her extremely humiliated head toward my family, nor me, again.
In the time that has passed since this event, I’ve thought a lot about it. Turns out, there was a lot of hurt and confusion to process. Truly, I thought we women were supposed to have each other’s backs. In a world where we’re so often jilted or taken less seriously because of our gender, I had always thought other women had the same mindset as I had: to uplift, protect, and celebrate each other as best, and as often, as we can. So, when I was faced with this situation, it left me completely disoriented.
But, I have a theory that helps explain this phenomenon: I call it the Campfire Theory.
Let me explain it to you.
First, picture a campfire. The campfire is big and warm with thick crackling flames and is surrounded by men – lots and lots of men. It is the campfire of the male culture, our culture. It’s a campfire fueled by the male point of view – masculine stories, masculine tastes, masculine values, masculine desires, and masculine and dreams. And, most importantly, masculine rules.
This fire is healthy and burning bright, but it is overcrowded. This one single campfire is where we all live and it cannot sustain us all. So, around the inner circles of the roaring campfire, concentric circle after concentric circle, sit the men, cooking, eating, telling stories and building a strong, healthy male culture. They’re each vying and competing to get closer to the center of the flame. Some of the men are accompanied by a wife or a girlfriend and, together, the couples eat fresh grilled steaks and vegetables. They sip cold beer from a cooler, and they enjoy the warmth that only comes when you get close enough to the dancing flames.
This is the only campfire most of us know. It represents strength, security and companionship. But to get close to the center of the flame you have to be a man. And if you’re not a man, you have to have a man, or act like a man, or exploit yourself sexually to attract male attention.
Some women have battled their way into the center circles of the campfire alone. They’ve lived by masculine rules and masculine values and, in turn, they’ve become pseudo-men. While they may have succeeded at this male campfire competition, they’ve lost the true essence of who they really are.
And then there’s the other women – the many other women who find it is impossible to compete against men in a male world. These women, mostly single, or non-heteronormative, or those who, in any way at all, challenge the status quoe, are living in the far outer circles trying to cultivate their masculine nature so that they can get closer to the center of the fire and wondering why the hell it’s not working, or why the hell it feels so bad to try and make it work anyway.
They sit just outside the fire, bewildered like I was, where they can almost feel the warmth from the flames. They’re shivering but not freezing to death… or, at least, they’re not freezing to death quickly anyway. And these women are hungry. They stalk back and forth looking for ways to get closer to the flame and the food. Every so often one of the individuals at the campfire tosses a scrap of meat over their shoulder to the ground, and these women jump at it. They are so hungry for the strength, security and companionship of that campfire that they settle for a leftover meal. They subsist on gristly pieces of meat leftover from someone else’s indulgences and delights. And, sometimes, they try to get the men closest to the flame to pay attention to them (whether they are with another woman or not), so that he will bring them up closer to the warmth and safety.
These women battle each other, tearing each other apart and grabbing what they can for themselves and, sometimes, for their children too. This is no way to live. And, of course, it breeds distrust among us.
Why? Because this competition between women is not innate. It is not a natural feminine state. It is a cultural dynamic that women have had to develop in order to survive in this male world, and it’s a great divider of a united feminine sisterhood. To put it bluntly: it compromises the integrity of the feminine, and has created a culture of women who are, on one hand, disenfranchised, and, on the other desperate.
Women in this state will forgo what they know is right just to survive, to get a little piece of the warmth of the campfire, and to feel a little more secure in a world where everything seems out of reach. There is another way, of course, and we’ll get to that. But first, let me dive deeper into the state we find ourselves in when we sit around the masculine campfire.
Women gathered at the masculine campfire find themselves in one of three groups:
1. Cultivating your masculine, or yang side, because that is what is valued in this campfire enabling you to shoulder your way up front.
2. Hooking up with a man, married or not, who will help you get to the center of the flame. You might be able to do this by staying authentic to who you are, or you may have to hyper-exploit your body and face for the pleasure and attention of a successful man so that you can get closer to the center of the fire on their shoulders.
3. Continuing to live on the outskirts like a hungry peripheral scavenger always looking for more sustenance in the form of male attention and masculine success.
Women in these groups have different reasons for being in them. They think a leftover meal is easier and safer than venturing out in the darkness alone to find their own food. Others remember that they already went out looking for their own food but they couldn’t find any and so, with no other choice, they wandered back. Others think the food looks so good it might be possible that the women and men seated at the campfire don’t deserve it all to themselves. Or they think back to a time when they themselves were seated at the campfire and had their food stolen from them, so figure: why not do the same to someone else? Still others think that if they wait outside that campfire for long enough, one of the men will abandon their partner and welcome her to sit beside him.
They know this to be true because the men around the campfire have given them that impression. And some women think, “I was meant to sit at that campfire and destiny made a mistake. That woman took a spot that is rightfully mine.” From here, more distrust between women is cultivated, more dislike, and more betrayal.
And what about the women sitting in the inner circles? Even they are hungry and not completely satisfied because they are not living their own history – or, better yet, herstory. A part of them recognizes that this fire is not their home nor their rightful place. We as women don’t have our own history because we have never felt the right to build our own culture. This is probably because we never realized that the culture we are living in is not really ours. The campfire is an extreme example of what happens when women deny their nature and their own values. When the body, mind, spirit and heart of a woman are denied, she will always be hungry.
Women living in the full bloom of their nature are phenomenal creatures. We are the givers of life, we are magnetic and we are born radiant, graceful beings. It is only when we try to live within a masculine culture with masculine values (when we try to mimic man’s nature) that we lose sight of who we really are and who we can be.We suddenly become pitted against one another to determine who is the prettiest, whose hair is longer and more lustrous, whose breasts are bigger, whose stomach is flatter and who owns nicer shoes. We turn up our noses at one another as we walk down the street and we sense competition rather than camaraderie from our fellow sisters.
Come with me as I take the hand of one of the women and lead her away from the masculine campfire… Together, we walk into the night; it’s dark and scary. She clasps my hand tightly. We walk in a long, slow, S-curved pattern weaving our way around trees and rocks under the quiet night sky. Several times the woman asks to return to the masculine campfire but I encourage her forward. She is very unsure of herself; she lacks the confidence to venture out on her own. But then we see, up ahead in the distance, an unmistakable warm, reddish-yellow glow. We hear the faint sound of sensuous music and laughter. I feel the woman’s hand relax in mine as we walk closer to that place and, the closer we get, the more her grip on my hand loosens until, eventually, she lets go all together..She walks ahead of me, stronger and more confident in her steps.
When we arrive, this woman can see that this campfire is as large as the first. The flames are roiling and wild. Women sparsely surround this campfire. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, soldiers, mothers, wives, girlfriends, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, students, models, dancers, police officers, scientists and poets. My friends are here: Dr. Louann Brizendine, Regena Thomashauer, Dr. Christiane Northrup, and all S Factor women. We are unified and radiant with the knowledge of our bright feminine power—and it is this glow that feeds the campfire and lights up the night. It is the campfire of the feminine culture. We are well nourished by the authenticity of our feminine mind, body, heart, and soul and there is plenty of integrity to go around.
We are not in petty competition with each other; we are sisters, comrades, allies, and friends. Instead of judging one another, we embrace our similarities and our differences and we bond over a common goal—to elevate the feminine to the highest stature possible. There is great respect between women here. No one woman dares to infringe on what another woman has in the form of a love or partner. She doesn’t need to, because she doesn’t need the masculine approval over here. Instead, there is joy, laughter and dancing our curves around the campfire to the delicious music, content in our individuality, our beauty and our oneness.
Sweet, huh? Well it gets better. There are men who love the women who sit at this campfire. These are the husbands, the boyfriends, the brothers, and sons who admire fully enlivened women. They’re entranced with women who are independent and feel secure with or without a man by their side. They are entranced by the energy that surrounds women who have stepped into their power because they know that, together, they will be even stronger.
Take a moment to let that image get real and rub against your skin. It doesn’t have to be an image; it doesn’t have to be mythology. It could be our present. It is already present inside the walls of the S Factor classrooms. As more women bring the power of their beauty out into the world and share it with women who have yet to warm themselves beside this fire, it will only grow.
On that note, let me tell you: You can choose to turn down the leftover scraps from around the first campfire and, as scary as it is, S walk your way through the woods to the second roaring campfire. This is where you will find the whole feminine package of emotional, sensual, sexual, intellectual, wholesome, alive, funny, irresistible, divine YOU. She is there waiting for you to come find her – to discover, reclaim and unite you with your natural, beautiful self.
I believe in women. I believe in the camaraderie of women. I believe in the goodness of women. I believe every woman has something to offer when she is capable of living in her full feminine nature. Whether or not you believe that too is up to you.
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts. Please leave a message beauty xo Sheila