Not long ago I watched the 1985 film, Out of Africa, and found myself crying in the exact same place I cried the last time I watched it. I didn’t cry after Karen Blixen’s lover, Denys Finch Hatton, was killed, or when she says goodbye to her longtime Somali headman, Farah, before she boards the train for Denmark and leaves her beloved farm and Africa forever. I cried when the all-male members of the exclusive Muthaiga Club ask to “stand with Karen for a drink.“ It was the only way the aristocratic, British Colonial men of 1931 knew of expressing their admiration for her strength and resolve of character. The very qualities she’d been forced to develop when the same men had turned a deaf ear to her requests for help.
I cry each time I watch this part of Out of Africa because it reminds me of how few men have helped me along the way or acknowledged my strengths, and I believe the majority of women can say the same thing.
Since the beginning of time, women have been forced to develop their strengths for the same reasons Karen Blixen did: Our intelligence and abilities have been seen as less than; not as qualified as a man. But that hasn’t stopped us from moving forward after a difficult childbirth, near fatal illnesses, betrayal and infidelity, the loss of friends, family, spouses and all we hold dear, and we’ve done it better than most men ever could. And like Karen Blixen, with or without a love relationship attached, women want to be valued and appreciated without having to pay a price for being strong and capable.
“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills,” Karen Blixen wrote in her memoir, Out of Africa.
At various times in my life, I’ve had a home on the highest hill in San Antonio, my Little House in the Texas Hill Country, and a ranch. And like Karen, after the men in my life were gone, and I learned I had no money, I tended the house and the land, appeased the IRS and the mortgage companies, got myself out of debt—more than once—and I know I’m not alone. Every generation of women has come face to face with difficult times when there’s no one to stand with them.
“I was up at a great height, upon the roof of the world, a small figure in the tremendous retort of earth and air, yet one with it; I did not know that I was at the height and upon the roof of my own life.” An older Karen Blixen and her handwriting.
Looking back on our lives to date, I hope we, as women, can see the trials we‘ve endured. As Karen Blixen said, a “magnificent enlargement of our world.” For it is then, the great and small come into focus, and we find ourselves comforted by how hard we’ve worked for our place in it.
“Here I am, where I ought to be.”
To the women over 50, here’s to the strong women we’ve become. May the generations who come after us learn from, and be dazzled by, our bravery and tenacious determination.
YES MA’AM!!! I couldn’t agree more! Add one thing to it….in my experience, it is the women who demonstrate the most courage in really tough situations. They will risk much to defend the people they care for and principles they believe in when men are holding on to power.
I agree with you Cynthia, but I will say I know many men who risk everything to defend their families. I’ve seen them in action and they took my breath away! xoxo, Brenda
I agree with Cynthia. Women display the most courage because they can access their feelings. Certainly our fathers and their fathers were raised not to show their feelings, even to themselves. Maybe that’s one of the reasons men die before women do. It’s stressful keeping everything inside.
California Girl, I’ve been hoping our generation has raised men who are in touch with their feelings and willing to share them with those they love. Vulnerable… I think that makes many men uncomfortable. Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment. I haven’t seen you here before! Come see me again! Brenda
My daughter makes more money than I ever dreamed of making but the male factor’s still there. It’s just tempered by political correctness and the fear they will be sued.
Vicki, Hopefully, there will come a time when everyone is truly equal and we don’t have to legislate or go to HR or deny one group to promote another. Very distressing! xoxo, Brenda
Well, I must be the world’s biggest cry baby. I cried when she left to go get treatment for syphilis, when she and Robert Redford danced in her empty house, when she said goodbye to Farah, when Denys dies, and later when I knew he was gonna die, and when I knew she was gonna say bye to Farah, and when the lions came back, and now when I see the producers representation of that untouched savannah, as she travels across it in a train… So, other than the old-school scripting, that I don’t appreciate now as much as I did back then, I think I’m wet-eyed more than dry-eyed during the whole damn movie! Same goes for Dances With Wolves!
Barbara, You’re not a cry baby! Just very sensitive, which doesn’t surprise me at all. I ball like a baby during DWW when they get married and at the end when they leave the tribe and Wind in His Hair continues to shout, “Can you see that I will always be your friend?” That last scene and the music lay me flat every time. Interesting tidbit: The musical score for both Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves was done by the great John Barry. xoxox, Brenda
Out of Africa is possibly my all-time favorite movie. Karen Blixen wrote her book with the pen name Isac Dinesen. Beryl Markham is another strong woman from that era. She was beautiful and led an unconventional life. There are several books about her life available on Amazon. Beryl also was Denys Fitch Hatton’s lover. I enjoyed the biography Too Close to the Sun, about Denys Fitch Hatton. The musical score to Out of Africa makes me cry.
Colleen, Music is a huge part of my life, so I’m with you on Out of Africa’s powerful film score. I think it has the power to stir up the emotions of everyone listening. And yes, I’ve read some of Beryl Markham’s books. A woman I can identify with in many ways. xoxox, Brenda
Welcome to 2022 when women are now again regulated to 2nd class citizens, not in charge of their bodies and subject to criminal investigations should they not toe the line. WTF.
Connie, I hear what you’re saying. Things, indeed, have been turned on their head once more. Very unsettling. Thanks for leaving me a comment, Brenda
Got more to say! If a lot of men hadn’t helped me along, encouraged or been behind me every step of the way, I wouldn’t have accomplished all the things I did in my career and my life. Really, there were NO women orthopedic surgeons to serve as mentors. Male surgeons encouraged me. There were no female trainers to teach me to ride my horse western style. Cowboys taught me. Many cowgirls were competitive and actually discouraged me. My high school boyfriend taught me how to play my guitar. There were no female mentors on whose shoulders I could cry when I was being harassed. My husband was ALWAYS there. Yes, there were always men there to thwart my efforts, but they lost the battle to me and the men who supported me. We still live in a world with men, and I like a strong man. I like what they can do for me and with me. Occasionally, women who matter get in my way, and sometimes they don’t try to help. Some have indirectly paved my way. I’m trying to pave the way for those who come behind me, but in looking back, I grew strong from the struggle, so I never mind the good fight!
Your reply to this story reminded me of something a good friend said to me recently—Men will support other men & Women will support men but Women tend not to support other women!
I’m sure there are many examples where this is not the norm but in my small corner of the world it does ring true more often than I realized.
Oh, yes, Denise! I’ve run into women like that a lot. You remind me of something the late Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, once said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” xoxox, Brenda
Barbara, You remind me of a powerful conversation I had with Dr. Susan Love. I interviewed her for a talk show pilot I shot for PBS. Over the years, she’s shared her knowledge about breast cancer with me. She told me a story that when the network of old boy male physicians didn’t want her to join their practice, because she was a woman, she decided to become a surgeon, focusing on breast health. Up until then, there hadn’t been a lot of focus on women and breast cancer. Those physicians and surgeons didn’t know it, but they were the catalysts for creating one of the most influential voices in women’s breast health. I love strong men. My first husband taught me a great deal and enabled me to grow, only as much as it was convenient for him. My second husband… I waited all my life for that man. He lifted me up in every way possible. xoxox, Brenda
as days go by in my day to day current life, i find my life ordinary…but, thinking back on the chapters that i have lived and the experiences i have had, i know i lived in a brave, curious, and artful and filled way that i would love to share with those women and girls that follow. ups, downs, sadness and joyful…so much! i am certainly not finished. thank you, brenda, for sharing.
Bonnie, Today’s young women need your voice and encouragement so I’m happy to hear you’re still out there, making an impression on them and the rest of us! Brava! xoxo, Brenda
Your posts are always spot on and provide an inspirational boost every woman needs. Countless times friends, family and colleagues have told me, “you’re the strongest woman I know,” often followed by wishing to be more like me. It’s flattering, but my wish is for every woman to become the strongest woman she knows. We all have it in us. It’s just finding it, fighting for it and standing up to the forces that try to stop it.
Donna, Stories like yours and mine inspire the women around us to take control of their lives and stand in their own power! You and I are out there, without thinking about it, but so many women need help finding their voice. That’s why I write this blog! Thank you!! xoxo, Brenda
Brenda, another beautiful post! For the most part of my life I stood alone without the support of men or women. It was extremely difficult and still is at times but I keep fighting the good fight. To quote Donna, my wish is for every woman to become the strongest woman she knows. It’s a rough road for many of us. Let’s stand together, bend but not break. Thank you sharing, Brenda, and thank you for everyone who posted a comment.
Yvonne, I’m glad this post has touched so many women, and I love your comment: Let’s stand together, bend but not break. So powerful. xoxox, Brenda
MEN COULD NOT DO WHAT WE DO……….
Elizabeth, Not in a million years! I wouldn’t want to be a man for anything!! xoxox, Brenda
I agree completely Brenda. That was so touching. I have to admit I cried at the other intervals as well.
Thanks for reading Cindy! I love it when you stop by and leave me a comment. There are probably more films that have made me cry than films that have not. xoxox, Brenda