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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Inaugural roadshow salon evening in Peninsula Lake, Ontario

Our first salon yesterday evening was an amazing start to the roadshow. Thanks to Ann Moffat for setting it up and to Ann and Tony for welcoming us with such warmth and hospitality for 2 nights at their beautiful cottage on Peninsula Lake; to Nancy for hosting the evening at the stately Portage Inn which is definitely worth a visit; and to Susan for the beautiful food.

After a brief introduction to each other and to the history, vision and ongoing activities of wine women and philosophy, we turned to the topic of the evening: The Invisible Matron. Our unifying theme, courtesy of Gloria Steinem, was that women grow more radical with age. Zeroing in on 2 working concepts - the Female Voice (Carol Gilligan) and the Monster/Beauty Paradigm (Joanna Frueh) - we drew on participants' revelations about their lived experiences as midlife women to both connect our topic and theme, and to elaborate an understanding of what it means to negotiate a place for yourself in a world that has traditionally silenced and erased you.

The group started out by discussing what the term 'matron' connoted for them, and how the term 'invisible' qualified and shaped their sense of what it meant to be matronly. Focusing in on the respective benefits and drawbacks of being pigeon-holed by either of these terms, we explored the possible freedoms that might lie in being less the objects of society's gaze and more the subjects of our own lives and self-construction.

Reflecting on whether we considered our mothers to be invisible matrons, and equally how we saw ourselves at various ages in relation to this trope, we experimented with standpoint and voice through a series of small group exercises.

A lengthy discussion was spurred by this initial foray into the various voices (and selves) that 'speak us' throughout our lives. Turning to matters of a corporeal kind, we introduced our second concept of the evening - the monster/beauty paradigm - and worked the idea of midlife women challenging classic conceptions of feminine beauty through transforming their bodies into sites of risk, aberration and pleasure.

If this conversation provoked a good deal of pleasure in itself, it equally had its moments of serious introspection. We were touched by the honesty and openness of the women who brought their stories of courage and fortitude to the collective table, just as we were inspired by the depth of insight that they had when it came to transforming these anecdotal accounts into a living and breathing philosophy that had relevance to their lives.

The formal part of the evening concluded with an exercise in listening and seeing that turned these accumulated insights over the course of our session together into collective poetry. The results of this experiment in writing in the 'wild zone' of midlife female existence were refreshing, funny, and...well...nothing short of liberating!

During the round-up of this evening of tasty wine, wise women and adventurous philosophy we asked Jan, Susan, Ann, Shirley, Gaye, Barbara, Nancy, Jacqui, Vicky, Carole and Gill to grace us with the sound of their own voices. It is important to us as we make our way across Canada that we carry with us the voices of those women we encounter, so that they live on in the spirit of the roadshow, as well as give us something special to share with other women and to build upon our women-driven pedagogy.

Thank you to all of you who took the time to leave your voice card with us. Here are some of the sentiments shared by those women who participated in this highly stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable salon evening at Peninsula Lake...Again, (great) photos to follow once we get our technology up and running!

"I realized that at 68 I am happy where I am and very happy that I can continue to change...I felt my strength increasing tonight." Shirley

"Being with you tonight was a freeing experience. It was joyful and fun. Thank you." Barbara

"Strength and freedom, freedom and maturity, a very warm open evening with great exchange." Jacqui

"Just know ladies we are not alone." Jan

"The community of women, the joy of connecting through shared experiences...always uplifts my soul." Vicky

"A wonderful memorable evening for all us gals...an inspiration for us invisible but invincible women!" Susan

"You have given me back my voice...this evening helped me to think and to realize that I am still me and can still have a voice!" Carole

"I very much enjoyed participating in this very fun process with all these lovely women." Nancy

"A chance to voice my wisdom...the voice connects my body and my personality and brings to life a message." Gill

"Life is so wonderful and thank you for being an important part of it." Ann