Dare not to be a bird in a cage

Recently, I was listening to Mendelssohn and thinking about the controversy over the Wedding March. There are those who believe that the history, background, and underlying messages with in the well known music should prevent the use of it for a religious based wedding ceremony! I disagree. There’s always a bit of “wild” in a woman and, we should never be birds in a cage or we would end up crazy like the woman in the Yellow Wallpaper.
There are many famous and infamous women in history/books/movies who are trying to find themselves: Josephine Baker, The Woman from the Yellow Wallpaper, Jane Avril, Holly Golightly, Elsa from Lohengrin, and Carrie from Sex and the City. I see them all as feminine feminists even though some may be courtesans or modern American Geishas. Most of these women came from sad and dark backgrounds which I think makes them survivors, not “bad girls.” There have been many movies and songs written about women like these feminine feminist: Bad Girls, Roxanne, Lady Marmalade…

Holly Golightly, is free spirited modern call girl with a crazy streak, a bird in a cage. She doesn’t want to belong to anyone or anything to belong to her. Like Carrie in Sex and the City she is a single girl living in NYC. She’s also a traveler, forever seeking a place that she can call home; a place where you feel at home. She chooses love of money over love of integrity. Tiffany’s was a place that calmed her down “nothing bad could happen to you there.” We all want to find that happy place where we feel safe; a real place like Tiffany’s where we feel we belong.

Josephine Baker overpowered men with her sexuality, but she was a loving woman full of life. She was famous for performing at Folies Bergeres wearing a costume consisting of a skirt made of a string of artificial bananas, adopting twelve orphans she called the “rainbow tribe”, and was awarded the medal of the Légion d'honneur.  Josephine was also a muse to many artist, writiers, and designers. Like the character Holly Golightly, Josephine came from a sketchy past and was searching for a place to call home.

Toulouse-Lautrec gave Jane Avril  everlasting fame. She danced alone at the Moulin Rouge for her own joy. If you’ve ever seen the movie Moulin Rouge, you know the tango scene danced to the song Roxanne. It was dark, stirring, and passionate. Looking at lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec’s Jane Avril, you see her face was the same. He captured her just as she was, a lost survivor.
The history of the tango suits these women; it is sexual, popular in brothels, and the men are in control. Think about who leads the tango today? In life when you meet a man, the man leads, then woman takes over, finally the children overpower both! The tango is my favorite ballroom dance to watch because it exudes strong passion and life. What I like about “The Scent of a Woman” tango scene is that it’s not about sex, but life. Al Pacino plays a blind man who is hungry to feel the joy of living. Dance is life and life is dance; the body in motion that makes the world go round.

 If men and women are truly equal in society today, they should be able to lead if they want to. The choice allows for creative control. Even if the man leads, the woman has a choice to follow him or not. The tango is an expression of emotion. Women feel the same powerful emotions to lead the tango that a man does.  The question is who is willing to play the role of the object?
I remember reading the Yellow Wallpaper in college; it was one of those haunting unforgettable stories that you can’t peel yourself away from until you finish. The husband in the story controls his wife and labels her crazy; It used to be common to diagnose women with “temporary nervous depression.” This couple had a totally unequal relationship where the woman was given a “rest treatment” and not allowed to care for her children, leave, write, or do anything she would enjoy (a bird in a cage). In the story, she has nothing to stimulate her so she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. She is trying to achieve self-worth only to fail. Her spirit is breaking and dying and her husband thinks he’s curing her of depression by locking her in a room to “rest.” There is wildness in women that can’t be changed; it seems much better to have a little crazy spirited behavior than to have no spirit at all.

Mendelssohn’s Wedding March (Here comes the Bride) from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream,  can be heard in Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. This is the most popular tune there is. Mendelssohn’s Wedding March has become a staple in American weddings; but because of its sexually oriented scene, some religions object to using it as a wedding march. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, the march is played as Elsa and Lohengrin retrieve to the bridal chamber. Lohengrin who had won Elsa defending her for being wrongly accused for killing her brother makes Elsa promise to never ask him his real name or where he comes from. Curiosity got the best of Elsa on their wedding night and Lohengrin leaves her, so theirs is a false marriage.
In a wedding, the happy tune is commonly played as a recessional piece. I remember talking to the Priest with my husband about our music choices and being totally floored to hear that the Wedding March wasn’t allowed. Well, we snuck it in anyway (choosing to seek forgiveness even after permission was denied) and I felt very much like a modern feminine feminist as we left the church as man and wife.
Even though times have changed, people hang on to stories as if they’re holding on to a grudge.  I think Jane Avril, Else, Holly Golightly, Josephine Baker were all wrongly labeled as courtesans. They may have been modern Geishas, but they were also survivors. We are all travelers forever seeking that place where we feel at home. It may take some of us longer to get there but we can help those who are down so we don’t end up like the woman in the Yellow Wallpaper. I dare you to march to Mendelssohn, do the tango, and even dance in a banana skirt… find your spirit and help those who have lost theirs. Do you have the nerve to take my dare?

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