The idea of the “muse” comes to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans who liked to assign to everything in their world a god or goddess. In this way, they established a sort of order in a chaotic environment of which they had little understanding, and less control. They assigned power to these deities that helped them explain the human existence.
The muse survives today as a largely female entity that serves as a source of inspiration to the creative individual. She is often described as fickle and capricious, undependable and flighty.
Until fairly recently, artists and writers who achieve any level of recognition were predominantly men. Women have often had to pretend to be men in order for their work to be taken seriously. Even in our own time, an author such as Joanne Rowling’s name was changed at the recommendation of her publisher.
Why is the muse a woman?
Men have historically been in the habit of shifting blame for their weaknesses off of themselves and on to women. Women have historically accepted this. We have accepted our inferiority, our weakness. And in so doing, we also have shifted the blame of our own failings off of ourselves.
To be fair, I don’t believe this is a “man” problem, or a “woman” problem. Rather, it is a human problem. And the creative arts are only one area where women have been historically undervalued.
Dove has recently released an ad campaign on Twitter, #MyBeautyMySay, attempting to redefine female beauty by looking at the way we speak to and about women athletes. This is only one part of the same cultural bias that exists against women and girls. It is deeply rooted in our history and only a truly honest, soul-searching evaluation of our inner thoughts can ever produce any significant change.
What should we do instead? I think what’s required is a complete shift in our thinking, a serious consideration of our thoughts and the words we speak.
Rather than shift blame, we need to own our own failings and weaknesses. They are a part of our identity. Whenever possible, we should work to improve and overcome those failings. When it isn’t, we should use our strengths to compensate for our weakness.
My “muse” is a part of myself, and as such, she is decidedly female. Yes, I can be flighty and capricious. Sometimes I lack self-discipline. But I can also work hard and aggressively pursue my ambitions. I will own my failings. I won’t blame my weakness on someone else, or some outside force.
When I sat down to write this post, this isn’t what I’d intended to write at all. But it seems, my fickle muse had other ideas.