The Family Jewels: A Feminist Fairy Tale by Dr. Ellen Six

The Awakening

     Once upon a time there were two girls. Their names were Joy and Delight.  They were free spirits who played in daylight and by moonlight. They revelled in discovering the treasures of this world. 

     One morning when Joy awoke to the sunshine smiling on her she found spots like red rubies in her bed. She wondered how they had gotten there.  When she went out to play, she told Delight about her discovery.  Delight said that she had seen the same rubies last month when she was napping in the meadow and that she had also found them a second time, this time in her bed. What could these wondrous red jewels mean?

     Just then, the girls’ mothers called to them.  The Mothers had discovered their daughters’ jewels and they told the girls that it was time to go to the Palace of Women where they would be told the secret of these rubies. The girls excitedly followed their mothers.  As they walked along, many other girls joined them.  The road led to a magnificent building where they all entered through golden doors. They went to a huge hall with satin curtained walls and they seated themselves on velvet benches.

     A woman dressed in ancient garments stepped to the platform.  Her name was Tradition. She began to address the assembly. 

     “You have all been brought here today to be taught the rules of life. You have discovered the treasure of the rubies which have been entrusted to you and which you carry in your bodies.  History teaches us that in the beginning, all was order. The product of the jewels was the gift of children.  Women brought children forth into the world like the blossoming of a flower.”

     Suddenly Tradition’s demeanor stiffened and her voice became stern.  “History teaches us that woman by her willfulness ruined this paradise.  Woman sought to learn the secret of man’s pleasure.  She stole from him the knowledge of passion and thus she became the eternal temptress.  Her punishment was that she would bring forth children in pain. Her only pleasure would come from doing the will of her husband.”

     For the first time in their lives, Joy and Delight felt a heaviness of heart.

     Next, the King of Earthly Matters stepped forward.  He began his speech. 

     “If you follow the rules, you will be protected.  There are thieves and robbers who try to steal the power of these jewels so you must know how to safeguard them. Do not look a man in the eye for then you will be a temptress.  Do not venture forth at night, for then you are asking for trouble.  If someone tries to force this treasure from you, you must be willing to die rather than to submit.  These are the rules for the road of life.  They will provide you with safety and security.”

     For the first time in their lives, Joy and Delight felt fear. Tradition led the last speaker to the podium.  He was called the King of Heavenly Matters.

     He was blind to the women before him.  This was a gift given to him from on high so that he would not be misled by the wiles of women.  Thus he could judge clearly and issue commandments for women so that they could save themselves.  He began to speak.

     “You do not own your own bodies.  Your duty is to bear your husband’s children.  You must never question his authority for the role of leader belongs to man by birth. Because of woman’s sin, her redemption can come only from total obedience to man’s authority.”

     Then he gave them all a new name.

     “Women, your name is Responsibility.”

     For the first time, Joy and Delight felt freedom die inside of them. 

     Tradition then opened a side door and directed the girls to pass through and instructed them to follow the straight and narrow road for this was the road that eventually would lead them to happiness.  They started on their appointed journey.


The Reawakening   

     For thirty-five years, Responsibility walked the prescribed path of life.  She took one step at a time glancing neither to the left nor to the right. But one day a hand reached out and grabbed her and pulled her off the path. She looked up and met the gaze of her childhood friend, Delight.

     Delight addressed Joy by her long unspoken name. She told Joy to stop and not to take another step until she looked at the road ahead.

     A childhood memory awakened a buried feeling of trust.  Joy looked up. Ahead was the Palace of Women.  This time she saw that the women were entering the building by the back door.  She entered and she could see that inside the building the curtains had been drawn back revealing walls covered with mirrors.  The women were being forced to look at themselves. What they saw were gray-haired, stoop-shouldered, dull-eyed reflections. A loudspeaker played the same message continuously.

     “When your monthly rubies stop, you will become old hags.  You will have no beauty of form. You will be plagued by loss of memory. Your life will be purposeless.” The mirrors reflected the truth of these words.  The women stood lost in their reflected destiny. Delight turned Joy’s gaze away from this scene.

     She said, “Trust yourself.  Look within for the Truth. Do not accept others answers for your life.”

     Joy turned inward and felt a spirit rising up in her.  She opened her eyes and looked around and saw that there were numerous uncharted paths leading in all directions. She felt a heaviness drop from her heart.  She felt ageless.

     Delight again spoke to Joy.

    “The power you feel is your spirit stirring in you. You have lived weighted down by the laws of institutions until they nearly suffocated your spirit.  But the spirit of your youth has not died, it has been transformed by time.  Now that you have opened your heart, others can no longer name you.”

     Joy and Delight set aside the names chosen for them by society and the names from their youth.  They chose new names born of time and experience.

    Knowledge and Wisdom linked arms and started their journey on an uncharted path.