In Shakspeare’s MacBeth, Lady MacBeth’s “Unsex me” soliloquy has always intrigued me. As a high school student reading this speech, I wondered if there was something -outside of religion, of course- in my female design that limited me. Within Mormonism, I was always taught I was completely different to males: sweet, righteous, obedient. And yet, the idea of removing something perceived as natural or natively in tune with gender, something that is powerful enough to prohibit or allow one to commit murder, stayed with me. Is this the power that makes harness in order to become kings and leaders? Does priesthood somehow come from this power? Is there a masculine, internal … something… that allows for, or takes life away?
When Lady MacBeth calls to “unsex me here,” she is calling upon calls upon the supernatural to remove any femininity from within her soul. In this, she is hopes that as a member of the “fairer sex”, she will lose her compassion, ethics, patience, motherliness and everything conceptually feminine so she can carry out the murder of Duncan. Duncan is of course, the king, but his benevolence is too much of a feminine characteristic for the MacBeths to revere. To the MacBeths, Duncan’s kindness and humanity emasculate him, and make him unfit to rule. Annihilation is how they choose to deal with this situation, and for Lady MacBeth, she feels powerless as a female. Her “divine female nature” is what renders her powerless to perform murder.
This makes me think about the sense of powerlessness that I, and I think most humans have, in regard to taking the life of another. Frankly, I do not believe I have the conviction or depth of hate to murder someone. I think in reality, few people do. And yet, this is where, “unsex me here,” haunts my mind. Am I unempowered because I am female? Do I need to call on strengths to quash femininity in order to progress and protect myself? “Unsex me here,” particularly strikes me when I see someone on Facebook declare “Unfriend me now!” For me, it invokes the same sense of powerlessness I feel when I conceptualise taking the life of another- I can’t bring myself to “murder” or end a friendship. Am I too feminine empower myself, even when relationships are utterly toxic? Do I need to demand that someone else write me off because I do not have the strength?
Perhaps that is more reflective of my Mormon background. Sacrifice is of Christ- it is what He did for us. The prophets sacrificed, the pioneers sacrificed, our grandparents sacrificed in World War II, and so on. We are taught to sacrifice for tithing, sacrifice in serving others and more. So, in the days of Facebook, we are berated by keyboard warriors who would never endeavour to speak so crudely to us in person, to the point where we are so weak that we offer Facebook friendships up for sacrifice.
Most certainly when someone declares “unfriend me now” on facebook, it is out of complete emotional anguish. I have seen it several times over the past twelve months by American friends who are exhausted with COVID, Trump, the US election and everything else in-between. Frustrated from afar, I found myself wondering if I should –or if I could- post something like that. Would I feel the sting from the loss of friendship? Would my discomfort with individuals of vastly different perspectives be relieved with the end of the friendship? Should I continue to patiently “turn the other cheek,” even though I have whiplash and my cheeks are both blistered? Is this what sacrifice really means?
*Sigh.* What would Jesus do? Resign to the pain? Not speak to the Pilates who only really want to type clever remarks they have stolen from other places on the web, feigning intelligence and self-righteousness? What would Jesus do?
Almost a year ago, proud of my mask-making, I posted a photo of a few of the hundreds of masks I had made. An American man, related by marriage (feel the distance already?), commented, “cute.” Cute. His posts and comments were in favour of the far-right, so the “cute” was a dig. And I felt it.
After some interaction regarding politics, I pulled out a figurative Olive Branch and privately asked, “What are three things that Trump has accomplished, and affected you, which have earned your vote for this next election?” Family first, right? If I am with him in eternity even by distance, I am going to have to figure out how to get along. That is the feminine thing to do. I would sacrifice myself and try to amend and create family love. Just like I learned as a beehive to become a peacemaker. This would surely be worth it.
He replied, I like “the reversal of the majority of Bammies attempt to destroy our nation.”
I felt physically ill when I read his response. And I felt powerlessness. Those minuscule, repulsive, antediluvian words sickened me.
Pick your battles, I told myself.
Families are forever, I breathed. And then,
Maybe I can change his mind, I lied to myself.
Sacrifice brings forth blessings.
This man’s grasp of the English language was a rudimentary reflection of his willful resistance to partake in the socialised education system that is one of the most beautiful parts of the United States’ Bill of Rights. Thus, I tried to infantilise the interaction, looking for some kind of common ground. “What are Bammies?” I wrote, pretending I was unaware of the use of the plural vs. possessive ‘s’, pretending I was unaware of his racism, Pretending that I was unaware of his seething hatred towards fellow Americans who did not mirror his skin or genitals. “I wasn’t aware of a group by that name aimed at US destruction.”
He didn’t catch it. Or maybe he did? I really do not think he did. His grotesque response was flatly littered amoung other literary and conceptual atrocities. “Bammy is Obama,” he wrote. I knew that he meant that. Cue the banjos’ musical chords as they hyper-strum themselves in nooses around the necks of children of God.
UNSEX ME HERE. Mormonism taught me to bow to family- extended and otherwise, i.e. “family first.” Mormonism taught me to bow to the priesthood power of men. Mormonism taught me patience is a virtue. Mormonism taught me to be a doormat.
UNSEX ME HERE. Free me from those feminine foot bindings so I can walk away from ideologies of hatred and danger, coming within or without the realms of family.
This family member’s additional responses, which were equally perverted, showed no openness, desire, or capability of seeing beyond the length of his own short, red neck. In “the world”, I would not choose to be employed, related to, or friends with this person. And he? He clearly did not care. We’re family and so—he, being male, was not beholden to peacemaking, compassion and tolerance. He had no desire to reconcile because he had been taught that he was always the leader. My leader.
Maybe going the obtuse route was the best way out of this, I pondered. “Does Trump have a nickname like Obama? Maybe Rumpy?”
He did not respond privately. I believe he was offended by the term “Rumpy.” I hope so. I hope it offended the hell out of him. I hope that I elicited some kind of emotion in him that showed my displeasure. My words were not Lady MacBeth, but they were the words of my 12-year-old Beehive self, when after being assigned to clean up after another mixed activity I said, “Why can’t the boys clean?” At that time, I was laughed at. “Get used to it,” said a 17-year-old boy, like that was all I could ever hope for- compliance. I was, in my small way, showing him a tiny mirror.
Instead of responding, this relative increased his posting of many hateful things against “liberals,” whom he only saw as radical for reasons that were untrue. Is it that radical to believe that a woman can think academically? Is it liberal to recognise that some people are born gay? And that melatonin production has nothing to do with curses? He commented angrily on many of my facebook posts, most of which I deleted. Because I don’t need more hate in my life.
And I thought about declaring, “unfriend me if…” hoping he would get the hint and go away.
But I didn’t write that. I didn’t offer the relationship for un-friending sacrifice. I think he would have laughed and belittled me, saying, “get used to it.” And I had no intention of “getting used to it.” Because I deserve better. Quite frankly, I think it likely that he would have NOT unfriended me because he is a bully- especially to Mormon women.
Instead, I took care of myself. I un-friended him. Poof! And when I did that, the Holy Ghost rushed over me, healing me from this man’s hate.
So maybe I am more powerful than Lady MacBeth. I did not need to call on the spirit to give me power. Maybe my femininity is more powerful than hate, because I remove as much hate as I can from my life. After all, I “murdered” an unhealthy, unChristlike, family relationship. But I don’t feel powerless. I feel free and at peace.