Marion Fennell, Aesthetic Realism Associate


Many women, including myself of once, in answer to the question of our seminar, would say something like, "I'm not in a fight between love and scorn.  I just want to love a man, and be loved.  I only have scorn for him because he makes me--acting so bossy, then he's so helpless!"   Meanwhile, I knew I was scornful and I was ashamed--as I have seen many, many women are. 

Aesthetic Realism taught me what I was thirsting to understand in myself: that without knowing it, I hoped to have scorn for men, and even relished it because I was looking to have contempt for the world itself--the world a man represents.  In a 1969 lecture, Eli Siegel said: 

The awful thing about women's perception is, it's not articulated and doesn't change into the best kind of criticism.  Women enjoy their scorn too much to make it public, except at very acute moments, and even then there are certain elements of the scorn that are kept to oneself. A woman's heart is often a treasury of satirical observations.

My heart was "a treasury of satirical observations" and glad to have changed because I learned to have what is the great opposition to scorn: good will, which Mr. Siegel defined as "the desire to have other things stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful."  Studying this has made possible the happy marriage I have now with Jeffrey Williams, whom I love very much.


I learned that we are in a fight from the very beginning between the desire to like the world, respect it, and the desire to have contempt for it.  When I was a child, I could be very lively, but I also worked on having a cutting wit, and liked making fun of people, especially adults.

Meanwhile, from age seven, I also loved to draw and paint, and spent many house trying to be exact about a still life or even a portrait of someone.  I was proud at these times, but there was a big interference in me to caring much about art or anything, including other people.  In her commentary to issue 1497 of the Right Of, Class Chairman Ellen Reiss explains: 

The big trouble with loving another human being, and the big trouble with being excited by something--whether it's a book, music, a sunset, a dance, a sport--is that this person and this thing are not us....There is that in every person which feels, the read treasure is my own dear self, and if I find someone or something else ever so pleasing, I am unfaithful to my first love: me.

This was true about me.  By the time I was 14, I felt that going home after school to draw or paint was dull and corny, and that it was much more interesting to fool around with friends.  When I won an art contest for a drawing of a girl playing the guitar that was published in a national students' art magazine, I was thrilled.  But soon after, I remember feeling scornful of my teacher and the judges, thinking "It wasn't so good", and my interest in drawing eventually fell by the wayside.

Without knowing it, this same attitude would also affect my relationships with boys, and later men.  My father, Christopher Fennell, worked hard to provide a family of six a good home, the things we needed, and also things like generous Christmas celebrations and summer trips to the seashore.  But I was in a fight between care for my father and scorn for him because he was confusing--he could change from toughness to unsureness.  I knew I was "Daddy's little girl," but even as he praised my golden curls and obedience, I secretly despised what I saw as his shortcomings.  I remember him getting very angry, and thinking he looked ridiculous for losing his dignity.

Years later I was able to begin to understand what went on in me as I studied in Aesthetic Realism consultations.  My consultants were critical of how I used  my father to be disgusted with all men--seeing men as both tyrants and weaklings.  I saw how much I had undervalued what Christopher Fennell could honestly be loved and respected for.  In his work with the Emergency Squad of the Yonkers Fire Department, he had a beautiful relation of toughness and tenderness, for instance, when on a call, he took off his heavy outerwear and boots on a winter day, went into a nearly frozen pond, and helped pull a child to safety.

Had I been able to study Aesthetic Realism from childhood, I would have been kinder to everyone, especially to the young men I met.  I thought they were impressed with how I was lively and feminine, and a funny, "wiseguy" sort of girl.  In issue #770 of The Right Of, Mr. Siegel explains the real source of my sarcastic wit, when he wrote:
There is a kind of bitterness that takes the form of cracks.  The desire to take people not seriously or to forget about them is next door to a desire to hate them.

This was true about me.  Sometimes my sarcasm came out in ways I regretted, and I remember the sting of recognition at hearing lines from a song by Billy Joel:

"She can promise you more than the Garden of Eden;
 Then she'll carelessly cut you, and laugh 
 while you're bleedin'."

But I didn't know how to change!  I once laughingly made fun of a neighbor's serious work as an actor, and he said, "You think you can make fun of anything you want!  Well, you can't!" and with a man I said I loved and wanted to marry, I would talk with scorn of his commitment for his family's business, which was open later and on weekends and interfered with his taking me out.  I had the nerve to act annoyed and say things like, "I hate that pile of bricks."  He was rightly angry and critical as he said, "Well, maybe you should go marry someone else, because this is my life.  Make up your mind!"

When this relationship ended, and others after that, while I mostly blamed the man, I had the nagging feeling that I didn't have the warm feeling a woman should have for a man.  As time went on, I felt more and more desperate, and like a failure in love--but would never have figured out why!


By the time I began to study Aesthetic Realism at age 31, I had given and gotten much pain in love.  I also had less and less interest in things, and felt the only place to meet men was in "singles" bars.

An important turning point in the fight between love and scorn in me was in my second consultation.  Assuming my consultants (being women) would agree with me, I talked with amused scorn about how a man I met had talked for hours about having his first book published, and showed no interest in knowing me.  But far from commiserating, they showed me that while this man might have done better, I was having contempt for him; I'd made his inner life--his hopes and fears--like nothing, and could not like myself for it.  And they said, "When you listen to [the tape of this consultation] six months from now, you will cringe at how you were speaking about this man."

They were so right!  I was learning to see how much I depended on my ability to put a man in his place to feel important and that this was the reason I despised myself.  And I was learning that it wasn't inevitable!--that I could criticize my contempt, and see how to be a critic of a man with good will.

For example, in a later consultation, my consultants asked if there was a man I was interested in, and I answered: 

Marion Fennell:  Yes, but I don't know him so well.  I admire very much how Bill
                         Hemmings speaks....I see a relation of hardness and softness that
                         I think is beautiful. 
Consultants:       Do you think he feels it could be more beautiful?
Marion Fennell:  I hadn't thought about it. 

I learned that I was doing what many women do.  I went from being scornful of man to wanting to praise him utterly.  And both are inexact and contemptuous.  My consultants said:
Consultants:       The job a woman has is to put together admiration and criticism.
                        The qualities you just mentioned--hardness and softness--do you
                         think he could have a better relation of hard and soft?  Do you
                         think he is satisfied with [how he does with them]?
Marion Fennell:  Maybe not.  Like I said, I don't know him very well.
Consultants:       Do you think he is looking for someone to be critical of  him--as 
                         a means of his being stronger?
Marion Fennell:  Yes.
Consultants:       So that is what's being encouraged now. 

The knowledge I was getting then, and continue to receive, is the means of ending the anguish women have about love, asking: "What's happening to us?  We were so happy not long ago!"  And when a man feels that a woman wants him to be a better person--kinder, stronger--he feels honestly cared for.  My education is proceeding richly in classes taught by Ellen Reiss, and some of the questions I’ve been asked are: Do you want to see a man as a person in this world, as himself, or do you make him a Marion Fennell adjunct?;  Are you interested in a man as a means of knowing the world better, or for him to make you the center?;  Do you associate love with not thinking?; and If a man is on you mind very much, does your thought about him make you fairer to everything else, or less fair?

I am seeing in my marriage that good will, which includes warm, critical encouragement, is the same as love--and is the only proud alternative to scorn.


"South Pacific," by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, produced on Broadway in 1949, is a very good music, and the central female character, Nellie Forbush, shows this fight throughout.  Nellie is nurse, stationed with the Navy on an island during World War II.  Like many women today, she wants to have a career, be independent, and to see the world beyond her hometown.  A wealthy local planter, originally from France, Emile de Becque, invites some sailors and nurses to a dinner party, and as he and Nellie meet, there is an immediate attraction.  Soon, they are singing to themselves what is called "Twin Soliloquies" to the same melody.  As we hear something of their hopes and doubts, it is clear that Nellie is affected by how much Emile represents a very different world from the one she knows--is it friendly, could it possibly care for her? 

Meanwhile, like many women, Nellie is also looking for some reason not to be so affected by a man--in fact, she would like to be scornful and feel she has the right to dismiss him.  She  uses various things she's heard about Emile's past, including the fact that he was married earlier and has two small children, to say to her friends in a shrugging way, "Before I go any further with this thing--I just better not get started!"
 In "Love and Reality," a chapter from Self and World, Eli Siegel wrote: "Love is in exact proportion to accurate knowledge."  Nellie is not very interested in knowing who Emile is; instead, she sums him up, and in one scene, she and her friends talk scornfully about men.  Women often do this, as I once did, and it makes the world itself look uglier, and dulls the minds of the persons taking part.

Meanwhile, Rodgers and Hammerstein give this feminine disdain form in a song that is energetic, and lively.  "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out’a My Hair," has delighted theater-goers, I think largely because it takes that hidden scorn women have and puts it out in plain hearing.

I learned from Aesthetic Realism that every good song shows the structure of the world--the oneness of opposites; and that structure is honored even while the emotion it presents is not commendable.  "All beauty," Eli Siegel stated in a great, central principle, "is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves."  In this song, with its jaunty rhythm, and a melody that puts together something sweet and something sour--a woman affirms the fact that she's going to rid her self, her very hair, of a man.  Meanwhile, as the first line is sung three times with exactly the same words and melody, she is actually holding onto, cherishing something--as if she doesn't want to give him up at all. [play example]. And on the next line, in which she "sends him on his way," the melody changes to something rueful, doubtful. 

Emile enters just as this song ends, and invites her to dinner to meet his friends, saying "I want you to know more about me…how I live and think—."  As he tells about his life, and the fact that he once stood up to a very cruel man in his home town that everyone feared, we see he is a man who deserves respect.  Nellie, seeing how quickly and wrongly she had summed him up, is moved by his honesty and courage, and when Emile asks her to think about marrying him, she says she will.  He leaves, her friends re-enter and tease Nellie about how well she washed him out of her hair, and we see how swiftly love and scorn can swing from one to the other.  Nellie now sings with joyful exuberance: "No more a smart little girl with no heart--I have found me a wonderful guy!"  This is Mary Martin and chorus:

I'm as corny as Kansas in August,
High as a flag on the Fourth of July,
If you'll excuse an expression I use, 
I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love,
I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, 
I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, 
I'm in love with a wonderful guy! 

But while love seems to have won this round of the fight with scorn, there is more trouble ahead.  Nellie Forbush has a dislike and fear of the world as different from herself, and is affected by her mother's suspicion of people "with different backgrounds"--which is the very thing that affected her about Emile to begin with!   When Nellie arrives for dinner, she meets two brown-skinned children, and learns that Emile is their father and their mother was a Polynesian woman who has died.  Nellie is shocked and rushes away, saying "I love you--but I have to go!" 

I'll mention here that in this musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein were not only important critics of a woman's contempt for men but also of racial prejudice, which Aesthetic Realism explains, arises from contempt for what is different from oneself.  And through Aesthetic Realism's magnificent, clear criticism of the contempt in every person, prejudice and racism can and do end!  My husband, Jeffrey Williams, and I appreciate this very much, as we come from different “racial” backgrounds--African-American, and Irish-American.

Nellie is so torn that she requests a transfer, and when Emile ask her if this is about his children, she says yes, and—

I can't help it.  It isn't as if I could give you a good reason....This is something that is born in me!

But Emile shows love for Nellie as he, "Shout[s] the words in bitter protest): `It is not!’”


I love Aesthetic Realism for showing that both women and men are trying to put opposites together.  For example, my husband has told me he's trying to do a good job with toughness and gentleness, seriousness and humor--including with his students as a New York City teacher of Special Education.  And he has a good effect on my life with his deep and lively criticism and encouragement.  I love Jeffrey for being a good friend to me and being a means of my being the person I want to be!

In South Pacific, Emile accepts a request to join a dangerous mission against the Japanese.  When Nellie learns this, she is filled with regret, and stays behind as the Americans evacuate.  Looking out at the ocean, she tearfully says:

"Come back so I can tell you something.  I know what counts now.  You.  All those other things--the woman you had before--her color--(She laughs bitterly) What piffle!  What a pinhead I was!  Come back so I can tell you.  Oh, my God, don't die until I can tell you!...Don't die, Emile!"

Emile does return, and finds Nellie in his home, singing a French song "Dites Moi" with his children.  The first lines ask: “ Tell me why life is beautiful;  Tell me why life is gay.” In the French, “Dites moi, pourquoi, la vie est belle.  Dites moi, pourquoi, la vie est gaie.”

Emile joins in the singing, and the musical concludes with happiness and gratitude for their second chance.

Aesthetic Realism is the education that explains the fight between love and scorn--so that scorn can be replaced by good will; and love can win at last!

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