Friday, October 7, 2011

Sorting People Like Laundry

This week's topic, Madonnas and Whores, arises from the notion of duality - something is either A or X, but never both. You met Duality in the Star Wars saga - you know, "Use the Force, Luke"? The hero is cautioned to stay on the side of the Light. His mentor warned him in low, dire tones to avoid the path to the Dark side. In this same vein, women are either madonnas (pure and therefore good) or they're whores (impure and therefore bad).
Human kind does have the disturbing tendancy to want to sort everything in their lives, including other people, like you'd sort laundry - darks here. Whites there. Does it engender a sense of safety? Lizard brain can rest assured that everything in the surrounding environment has been catalogued and none of the categories matched 'lion waiting in grass'?  The problem is that while you're busy sorting light versus dark, what are you supposed to do with the white teeshirt with the bright imprint? Or that light gray sweatshirt? Where do those go? Whites? Darks? Oh, crap. Do you need a third pile labeled 'shades of I-don't-know'?

The laundry metaphor is silly. The point is that while the human brain likes simple either/or classifications, humans as individuals utterly defy the labels the rest of us would like to attach. Point to someone or something pure evil. No, not even the devil. If you believe that particular mythology, Lucifer WAS good until pride and jealousy took hold and he was cast out of heaven. That's not pure evil if some modicum of good went into the original mold, right? Pure evil would never have been lightened by the slightest touch of good. Pure good would never have been tainted by the faintest touch of evil. Yet even humankind's ideals of good and evil aren't pure - they're shades of gray.

The yin and yang illustrates the concept pretty well - good cannot be good without a seed of evil at its core, nor can evil be evil without the awareness of good in its makeup. This is about choice. Choosing to do good when you know evil makes the good better. Why yes, the human psyche is twisted. So, madonnas and whores are labels interchangeable with good and evil. The labels just allow someone a facile way of not having to face the realities and complexities of interacting with living, breathing human beings. The labels shortchange both the people to whom they are applied and the person applying them.


  1. Every Madonna carries a little bit of whore in her heart - love that idea!

  2. Having spent the better part of the day doing actual laundry, here is how I sort my clothes -- and quite possibly people -- "with bleach" and "everything else."

    ~wanders off cackling about who gets stuck in the bleach pile~

  3. Hmmm...I tend to have to sort my fuzzy jammies separately, or else they leave fuzz all over the hubby's work shirts. So...there is a "fuzzy pastel" load at our house. :-S

  4. Interesting, about the way we sort people. I personally hate being put in a box, and yet I confess I do sort people, quite rapidly after I meet them. This requires some thought and possibly adaptation on my part.

  5. I will admit that when you take your laundry to a laudromat, the whole sorting thing gets a little nebulous. It's mostly about how can I spend the least amount of money and time in this joint as possible? Sure, the black undies can take hot water! Why not?