Featured Essay

Photography by Merina Caulfield

Annette Marie Hyder

( Minnesota )


The legislation of flowers

If this were an allegory written to illuminate the abuse of women through the symbol
of flowers – if I wanted to show, in a story, the way that the intrinsic and multitudinous
beauty of women is destroyed over and over again in so many ways and in every land
 – then scenes of fields of flowers being wantonly plucked and tossed aside to wither
for no purpose, no reason, would bloom upon this page.
I could fill this page with images of a global flower field being invaded by corsage crazy
pickers raggedly ruining in a rampage of greed for dominion until the petals bled in all
their colors and the page reeked with the perfume of loss.
In asides, I would remind you that flowers are the secret essence of life – the quickening,
the blooming, the ripening and the withering – in more than metaphor.
Flowers attract, brighten, perfume and carry – the seeds of the future within them and
in spreading their petals and allowing the sharp tongue of bee's exploration/bird's 
exploitation/wind's dalliance and various other utilizations of their secret language which
is rich in propensity to procreation – they plant the continuation of life firmly with their
Chloris touch.
I could mention that there are forced bulbs – brought to maturity through artificial means
and before their time. I could talk, also, about those hothouse creations manipulated into
colors more vivid and shapes more fantastic than any that can occur in nature (as if those
natural shapes and colors were not wonderful enough). I could tell you about the isolated
life that the gilded lilies live in their rarified atmospheres.
If I wanted to illustrate the way that our culture can shape us – I might record the songs
sung by those cultivated flowers – the shivering song of misery that is beautiful to hear
because the flowers are beautiful and can't help producing beautiful music with their tulip
throats, their rose lips their marigold whispers and creamy gardenia sighs – tell you how
the hothouse workers hear the heavy droning of bees loaded with pollen thick with honey
 – making and quivering with the desire to plunge in that song and how the hothouse
workers take that song home with them in their heads – wondering where their humming
of pleasure and the quick use of their mates comes from and reveling in the drive – the
bustle the alive and thick with satisfied confidence – that honeycombs their minds.
I might pontificate on crystallized edible petals that are used for garnish in gourmand
recipes – with "garnish" being as of little consequence other than to enhance the main
(I don't have to tell you about the addictiveness of Poppies or the danger of Melicore – or
that Bella Donna is a poison and a cure.)
I might tell you a parable of the three wild flowers – Maidfern, Matronbloom and Wintercrone.
But what I really want you to think about when I am talking about the beauty and utility of
flowers is this: that women are not flowers.
We are not flowers. We are not for your picking, your clumsy vasing attempts in which you
sort order by the studious arrangement of us, we are not to be forced or permutated to
your ends.
We are something better than the lilies of the field, bouquets of symbolism, perfumed nights
and exotic colors, delightful garnish and purposeful receptacle for insect/bird/bee.
True, we are carriers of life, and it is only fitting that we should bear that life – but at/in/under
our own proper season – one of those seasons being "not now," one of those seasons being
"not at all." The decision is solely our own – not to be governed as if by some strict
"horticulturist's" code – not given over to the winds of politics or the rains of propaganda – not
legislated according to a potpourri of misinformation and a misguided desire for one group to
impose their ideas of how woman should be – whether aesthetically or procreatively.
Let there be no legislation of our bodies/our "flowers"/ourselves. We are fecund and we wish
to remain so – but free.
One "flower's" opinion.


Hyder’s Comments...

The legislation of flowers: the key to the garden

Flowers – depending on the circumstances – prized enough to drive the economy of a whole nation, as Tulips were in Holland, or dismissed as weeds. They are given in timeless rituals of seduction and courtship, a collective subconscious symbol for femininity and yet they are also transmogrified into man eating plants in the hyperactive imagination of science fiction writers.

I was speaking with my friend Jared about reproductive rights, and he said that he wished that Roe vs Wade would get struck down because then people would have to deal with the reality of women bussing across state lines to secure safe and legal abortions – it would really bring it home and maybe that way a change of perception would occur – not just a change on the legal books.

I know he spoke in frustration and not in seriousness. But it did make me think about the need to change perceptions; that perceptions have to change for the realities of women's lives to change. Legislating such a thing as a woman's provenance over her own body is treating her as a commodity – something within the spheres of commerce and cultivation – as so many fields of flowers the demarcation of which, the proper use of which, is a fine and acceptable thing to be determined by laws and regulations.

In that light, I put it to you: if man, in his attempts at controlling nature has had such a dismal record, witness the global warming trend, pollution, the destruction of rain forests and the depopulation of entire species, why give him the "key" to the "garden" of our bodies?

But we are not fallow fields or blooming fields. We are women and we are the caretakers of our own "plots" – or should be.

Addendum material:

The noun flower has 3 meanings:

Meaning #1: a plant cultivated for its blooms or blossoms

Meaning #2: reproductive organ of angiosperm plants especially one having showy or colorful parts

Meaning #3: the period of greatest prosperity or productivity
Synonyms: prime, peak, heyday, bloom, blossom, efflorescence, flush

The verb flower has one meaning:

Meaning #1: produce or yield flowers
Synonyms: bloom, blossom

A flower is the reproductive organ of those plants classified as angiosperms (flowering plants; Division Magnoliophyta). The function of a flower is to produce seeds through sexual reproduction. For the higher plants, seeds are the next generation, and serve as the primary means by which individuals of a species are dispersed across the landscape. After fertilization, a flower develops into a fruit containing the seed(s).

Recommended reading:

Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions, Daniel C. Maguire
The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf
An Enthusiasm for Orchids: Sex and Deception in Plant Evolution, John Alcock
The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel, Margaret Atwood

Next - Leslie Marcus


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