“Warming Her Pearls” by Carol Anne Duffy (Poet Laureate)
In this beautiful poem about love between women, the affection, as far as we know, is unrequited. The maid loves her mistress, we do not know if her mistress reciprocates. But there is something in the power imbalance between the two, that tends to be found in many situations where romantic love ignites between individuals. I think we love people who most epitomise our ideal lifestyle and who, we think could, by association, grant it to us. The truth is harsher; because it is precisely by denying ease of living to others, that one class acquires an abundance of it themselves.
There is a huge advantage to be gained in being able to look down from a position where the social landscape in which we live can be clearly observed; over those who must look up, straining to see what lies over the top of the mountain; in all battles (including class wars) high ground is an advantage. Those with this advantage are much more conscious of the duplicitous nature of the propaganda and sweet distracting lies, that are poured down upon the minds of the disadvantaged. They know that “nobility” perpetuates itself by the exploitation of underclasses; and they have half believed justifications that they roll out when required; about the superiority of bloodlines or the innate merit of those who become rich. Of course, lack of merit is actually locked in by a system of inherited privilege and enforced male paternal rights. A person of great ability can be crushed by the weight of the system against them and produce no children because of it. Whereas a person of great inability can be supported by the system beneath them and produce many children. Inherited hierarchies are fundamentally flawed and this will tell over the extreme long term, but over the span of a few generations; fake advantages can actually manifest as real advantages. On some level we all have, at least a partial awareness of this, and may experience emotions accordingly.
I once asked a teenage girl obsessed by her absent an uncaring father: “What would you feel if he was a tramp, someone with nothing?” love for the tramp version of her wealthy father disappeared, in the moment of its conception, and did not rekindle until she envisioned him restored to his usual comfort. A young man I knew, who adored his wealthy friend to distraction, was astonished at the rapidity with which his passion changed to indifference; when he found out that his friend was about to be embroiled in debt and scandal.
Men most often experience feelings of love for other men who outrank them in one way or another, (love as a sort of social sycophancy). So of course do women! Because in a system such as male supremacy, where one sex is elevated above another; even men relatively low on the social scale, can still outrank higher class women in some areas of social privilege i.e a middle class woman in many countries can still be ostracised for being a single mother and would have more social status married to a working class man than remaining alone. A working class man on the other hand who fathers a child with a single woman is seen as a bit of a lad. So when a woman falls for a man of a lower social class to her own, it may not be as altruistic as it first seems; she may still be seeking freedom from the system, within which all women find themselves second class citizens, through her association with a male individual. One who might be induced to value her to an unusual extent; because of the superficial trappings of privilege she will undoubtedly display. So conferring on her the sense of freedom and appreciation she seeks.
Lust is quite different in nature from love and seems to mostly manifest in an obsessive desire to torment someone more vulnerable than yourself. This appears to me to be the antithesis of love, and is the most common emotion men display toward women.
Mother love, uncorrupted by a patriarchal social structure, is a freeing love. A sun under which you prosper while giving little thought to the source itself; until it disappears! It is the freedom this love brings, to try ourselves against life that we crave, and we crave it because we are systematically denied it at the time in our lives when it is vital to our healthy formation. A simplistic example, might be an adult with rickets, still craving the milk in adulthood; that would have prevented the development of the condition in childhood. The craving is what remains, and you create a craving by imposing an absence of something that is required fundamentally; by creating craving, you control a person. Patriarchal interference between mother and child is, in my opinion, the source of most addiction. It is cynically created to control adults within a hierarchal and exploitative system. What is surprising is that our capacity to love, does sometimes survive the worse excesses of our oppressive social structures, especially in women?
I like to think, that one evening ‘her mistress’ bored with the self absorbed men she meets. Orders her carriage early and finding all quiet at home, takes tea with her maid by the fireside. Long into that night they talk of their lives, hands occasionally brushing among an exchange of confidences. Sometime, in the early hours of the morning; they slip quietly between the warm sheets of a private love, that lasts for a lifetime.
But in reality, the home of intimate love lies in the bond between mother and child, and is the source from which its numerous variations spring. It appears to be a love of inequality, where one serves the other. But is in actuality an exchange, in which what is given in present time, may be returned by immortality in future time.