(Intro to Feminism)
Social Systems—The global system of Patriarchy refers to male domination—both in public and private spheres. Feminists mainly use the term ‘patriarchy’ to describe the power-relationship that exists, in every country on earth, between men and women, and to characterize a system whereby women are kept subordinate in a great variety of ways. Thus, patriarchy is more than just a buzzword—it’s a concept, and like many concepts it is a tool to help us understand women’s realities. Patriarchy describes the institutionalized system of male dominance, usefully defined as a set of social relations between men and women which have a material base, and which, through hierarchy’s rankings, create independence of and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women.
To live in a patriarchal culture, as we all do, is to learn what’s expected of men and women to learn the rules that regulate punishment and reward based on how individuals appear and behave. Laws, expectation, ideas which make up the symbolic sea we swim in and the air we breathe. Systems locate us in relation to people in other positions—father, mother, battered woman, boss, president, citizen, clergy, employed, unemployed, homeless. Our identity is created through these social ideas and the expectations instilled within us from birth. Cultural ideas— such as the belief that mothers are naturally better than fathers at child care and housework.
Misogyny means contempt for women. So when men interrupt women, ignore them, or use their authority to harass them, then the reality of patriarchy actually can be seen in concrete daily ways. Women and men both feel misogyny because the systems tell us it’s true, and show us constant images of it. The path of least resistance is not to argue with systems. Do you ever wonder how it is that what we think of as “normal and natural” life relates to male privilege, female oppression, and the control-obsessed, hierarchical world in which everyone’s lives are embedded? How we think affects the kinds of questions we ask. The rules of our culture define not just what to think, but what we can think about. We mostly don’t think about social systems. Although we exist inside them, they are invisible, as water is to fish.
Patriarchal ideology exaggerates biological differences between men and women, making certain that men always have the dominant, or masculine, roles and women always have the subordinate or feminine ones. Patriarchal systems accept that men have—or should have— one set of qualities and characteristics, and women another. The ‘masculine’ qualities—strength, bravery, fearlessness, dominance, competitiveness— and ‘feminine’ qualities—caring, nurturing, love, timidity, obedience. These are not just divided, but then one set is systematically raised above the other. Male values are exalted, while female values are denigrated, world-wide.
This ideology is so powerful that men are usually able to secure the apparent consent of the very women they oppress. They do this through institutions such as education, religion, health care, employment & economics, and the family, each of which justifies and reinforces women’s subordination to men. The patriarchal system is characterized by power, dominance, hierarchy, and competition. So, patriarchy is a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.
To preserve male supremacy, patriarchy created ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characteristics, as well as private-public realms gendered by deliberate socialization processes. Socialization is considered to take place primarily during childhood, when boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior for their sex. All agents of socialization process are cultural institutions,—such as the family, religion, the legal system, the economic system and political system, the educational institutions, and the media— these are the pillars of a patriarchal system and structure. The use of the term “social structure” is important here, since it clearly implies rejection both of biological determinism, and the notion that every individual man is in a dominant position and every women in a subordinate one. In this system women’s labor-power, women’s reproduction, women’s sexuality, women’s mobility and property and other economic resources—are under patriarchal control”.
Above all, patriarchal culture is about the core value of control and domination in almost every area of human existence. From the expression of emotion to economics to Nature, gaining and exercising control is a continuing goal. Because of this bent, the concept of power—(what one is able to Do)—takes on a narrow definition in terms of power-over—the ability to control others, events, resources, or one’s self, rather than alternatives such as the ability to share and cooperate, to give freely of oneself, or to feel and act in harmony with nature.
The main use of any culture is to provide symbols and ideas out of which to construct a sense of what is real. This is what social systems do. We all participate in social systems, and as we do, we are shaped by socialization. In all systems today, human experience=male experience. But, every one of us is involved and implicated in this system, despite the rewards or punishments heaped upon us by it. The key is that we get to choose HOW we participate. Masculinity and femininity are discussions that are socially constructed in a field of power. Every generation re-creates patriarchy and passes it forward to the next. Until it doesn’t.
History— According to modern psychology, women’s biology determines their psychology and, therefore, their abilities and roles. Sigmund Freud— that misogynist male genius for example, stated that for women, anatomy is destiny. In his view, which is the ancient Greek view posited by their most famous ancient philosophers, the normal human was male. But these theories of male supremacy have been challenged and it has been proved that there is no historical or scientific evidence for such explanations. There are indeed biological differences between men and women but these distinctions do not have to become the basis of a sexual hierarchy in which men are dominant. The analysis of many of these theories enables us to recognize that patriarchy is man-made—historical processes have created it.
One thing that the historical process is producing in the modern world is feminist scholars. According to scholar Maria Mies, women were the first producers of life, of social production, of the first tools of production and if they were also the first to initiate social relations, why were they unable to prevent the establishment of an hierarchical and exploitative relationship between the sexes? She answers this by saying that male supremacy, far from being a consequence of men’s superior economic contribution, was a result of physical strength, and also of the development and control of destructive tools through which they controlled women, nature and other men.
In the words of feminist scholar and creator of the first Women’s History graduate program— Gerda Lerner—“Patriarchy was not one event but a process developing over a period of almost 2500 years, from approximately 3100 BC to 600 BC, and a number of factors and forces that were responsible for the establishment of male supremacy as we see it today— Lerner begins by emphasizing the importance of womens’ history in women’s struggle against patriarchy and for equality. According to her, patriarchy, in fact, preceded the formation of both private property and class society.
Women’s subordination by patriarchy, which pre-supposes the natural superiority of male over female, shamelessly upholds women’s dependence on, and subordination to, men in all spheres of life. Consequently, all the power and authority within the family, the society and the state remain entirely in the hands of men. So, due to patriarchy, women were deprived of their legal rights and opportunities. Patriarchal values restrict women’s mobility, reject their freedom over themselves, as well as refusing them property ownership and inheritance. Subordination means having less power or authority than somebody else in a group or an organization.
In her book, The Creation of Patriarchy, Lerner said, “The use of the phrase subordination of women instead of the word “oppression” has distinct advantages. Subordination does not have the connotation of evil intent on the part of the dominant; it allows for the possibility of collusion between him and the subordinate. It includes the possibility of voluntary acceptance of subordinate status in exchange of protection and privilege, a condition which characterizes so much of the historical experience of women.
Patriarchy is a system whereby women are kept subordinate in a number of ways. The subordination that we experience at a daily level—regardless of the class we might belong to— takes various forms. Discrimination, disregard, insult, control, exploitation, oppression, and violence, within the family, in the work-place, on the streets, and in the general society. Some world-wide discriminations against women are—son preference, discrimination against girls in food distribution, the burden of household work on women and young girls, lack of educational opportunities for girls, lack of freedom and mobility for girls, wife battering, male control over women and girls, sexual harassment at workplace, lack of inheritance or property rights for women, male control over women’s bodies and sexuality, no control over fertility or laws controlling her reproductive rights. Thus, patriarchy is called the sum of the kind of male domination we see around women all the time.
This control over and exploitation of areas of women’s lives mean that men benefit materially from patriarchy—they derive concrete economic gains from the subordination of women. In what British feminist sociologist, Sylvia Walby calls ‘the patriarchal mode of production’, women’s labor is expropriated by their husbands and others who live in the home. She says housewives are the producing class, while husbands are the expropriating class. In fact, women’s endless and repetitive labor is not considered work at all, is unpaid in all societies, and housewives are seen to be dependent on their husbands. That’s what creates what Marists call a material basis for patriarchy.
Most property and other productive resources are controlled by men and they pass from one man to another, usually from father to son. Even where women have the legal right to inherit such assets, a whole array of customary practices, emotional pressures, social sanctions and sometimes, plain violence, prevent them from acquitting actual control over them. In other cases, personal laws curtail their rights, rather than enhance them. In all cases, they are disadvantaged. So the material base of patriarchy, then, does not rest solely on child bearing in the family, but on all the social structures that enable men to control women’s labor.
Private patriarchy is based upon household production as the main site of women’s oppression. Public patriarchy is based principally in public sites, such as norms of employment and laws of the state. In private patriarchy, the expropriation of women’s labor takes place primarily by individual patriarchs within the household, while in the public form it is a more collective appropriation. In private patriarchy, the principle strategy of domination is exclusionary, in the public it is segregationist and subordinating. Above all, Walby argues, “The state has a systematic bias towards patriarchal interests in its policies and actions” In this system, different kinds of violence may be used to control and subjugate women, such violence by men, which is even be considered legitimate in many cases, and women are always routinely experiencing male violence.
Male violence is systematically condoned and legitimated by the state’s refusal to intervene against it, except in exceptional instance. Due to such violence—rape and other forms of sexual abuse, female infanticide, dowry murders, wife-beating, physical coercion, and the continued sense of insecurity that is instilled in women as a result, keeps them bound to the home, economically exploited and socially suppressed. In this patriarchal system, men and women behave, think, and aspire differently because they have been taught to think of masculinity and femininity in ways which condition difference.
Both house-work and wage-labor are important sites of women’s exploitation by men. Within the field of paid work, occupational segregation is used by organized men to keep access to the best paid jobs for themselves at the expense of women. Within the household, women do more labor than men, even if they also have paid employment. These two forms of expropriation also act to reinforce each other, since women’s disadvantaged position in paid work makes them vulnerable in making marriage arrangements, and their position in the family disadvantages them in paid work.
Our participation in systems both shapes our lives and gives us the opportunity to be part of either changing or perpetuating them. At every level, from the global capitalist economy to sexual relationships to parenting, we can make systems happen differently, because, we make systems happen. All people—all women and all men, and all who don’t identify as either— are involved in this oppressive system, and none of us can control whether we participate in it. We can only control How. There is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be outside the system. One is always inside a system, however noble and egalitarian one’s intentions. So, choose. How will you act?
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(Intro to Women’s Studies)
Feminism is a perspective that views gender as one of the most important foundations of structure and organization in our social world. It argues that because of gender, women have lower status and value than men, more limited access to resources, and less freedom and opportunity to make choices, which is about less power. Gender inequality is not nature. It is taught to us, and rooted in the social construction of human experience, which means that it should be possible to change the structure of our social worlds.
The civil-rights and social-justice struggles of Feminism have had a long journey towards safety and equality. It’s still evolving. There are been three successive waves of Feminism in our modern world—
1st wave- 1830's- 1920 ‘s suffrage— the movements for the vote and also for emancipation.
2nd wave- the mid 60's-late 80’s with the anti-war and Civil Rights struggles. Movements for equal pay, sexuality, birth control, freedom from sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women, and the end of legal sex discrimination.
3rd/4th wave-1990-s— today—Intersectionality of race and queer struggles, movements for globalization and post-colonial struggles, sex positivity, deconstructing gender norms, transgender politics, eco-feminism, class and racial justice. As with most political movements, the main issues were prefaced by the movements that preceded it.
The Awakening of Critical Consciousness — The task of feminist scholarship is to forward the search for truth, and in so doing, to develop a body of knowledge about gender that will inform public policy and change our reality. It can be a painful awakening, but knowing the worst frees us to hope and strive for the best.
Political consciousness and social justice must be learned through experience— your own and that of others’.
Naïve Consciousness- is an understanding or awareness, that is still only rooted in your personal experience. (Nobody I know is a sexual abuser)
Critical Consciousness- is having an analysis of systems of power that allows for and exposes social and political contradictions. (But there are so many women who’ve reported being sexually abused, the world must be populated with a variety of abusers)
Contradictions- statements of opposition—the difference between what a person, or a system, says and does. (workplaces say they don’t tolerate sexual abuse) Identifying contradictions in your own experience and that of others is imperative in activism, (but they do, for a variety of reasons) and becoming part of the process of changing the world.
A raised consciousness means understanding self and others in relationship, and the inevitable results of interaction. (While I don’t know of anybody who’s a sexual abuser, I support the reporting of the masses of women who have been abused.) The outcome is society working together through the creation of new norms, new roles, policies and procedures. (sexual abuse reports are fully documented, investigated, and prosecuted) We call this social change.
A social movement is a collective effort by a large group of people to solve a set of problems they think they share. (women who’ve been sexually abused and their allies) Often incited by a precipitating event that sparks a special awareness or new consciousness on the part of a relatively small group of people, who in turn organize and attempt to mobilize others they think should share this consciousness. (The Me-Too Movement)
Social movements don’t generally start from scratch, but develop from and build on existing networks and organizations. Mobilization is even more important than attempting to influence the powerful. Much time must be devoted to consciousness raising at this stage. As a movement grows, its actions adjust to changes, such as reactions or backlashes from outsiders and to changes in historical circumstances. It’s about moving away from oppression and towards awareness of one’s situation. From being an object to being a subject.
Object- being acted on by the will of another. Passive.
Subject- having the self-determination and the autonomy to act on your awareness. Active.
The personal became political when standards of beauty, family life, work, and relations with men were no longer private matters or social custom, but issues of national importance. Younger women have run from the word "Feminist" without quite knowing why, or what the word has stood for. Most women are so busy surviving, they’re barely acquainted with the movement that has shaped our lives. Younger women are portrayed as being more concerned with dating than with changing the world, more obsessed with celebrity gossip and hotness than liberation or social change. We see a mounting generation gap, where yesterday's flaming radicals and today's hip-girl bloggers barely recognize each other as fellow travelers in the fight for social equality and personal satisfaction—this obscures the larger war.
Feminism isn't dead. It's never been over, or frozen in static finale. Conflict has always been feminism's life blood. Tension, and contradictions are so important to the work of liberation. The deep tension between change-as-internal and change-as-institutional rages on. This patriarchal culture loves a zero-sum game, and a dirty catfight. The media puts feminism in one corner and anti-feminism in the other, but true feminism is in the middle of the cats, where the girls are.
Without a movement behind them, the reasons why women 'Can't have it all' — a fulfilling career, a committed relationship, kids-—seems again "merely personal". It's not personal. It’s a world-wide cultural pandemic of propaganda that drives us towards super-human, unachievable goals. It's a common cultural failure to see the shared themes and patterns in women's personal struggles as connected to larger, structural issues. Across race, across class, across geography. Instead of asking what's wrong with the system, younger women ask, "What's wrong with ME?"
Catherine MacKinnon, radical feminist lawyer says, ‘In the law, under existing conditions, where sex is a difference, and underneath that difference is human commonality/sameness, how to work towards true equality and liberation?’ How to get women access to all that we’ve been historically excluded from under patriarchy, while valuing everything we are, or have developed through our struggles? We’re as good as you. Just get out of the way. This is so obvious in the institutions of employment, education, athletics, the military, health care, and so many others
Most jobs require that the person who is qualified for them will be someone who is not the primary caretaker of a pre-school child. Can you imagine 5,000 years of elevating half the population and denigrating the other half, and producing a population in which everyone is equal?
The sexes are NOT socially equal. To see gender inequalities from the standpoint of the subordination of women is feminist. Maleness provides an original entitlement. Affirmative action is a mere blip to all that. The pedestal is rare to actually benefit from, in the real world of action, other than that door-opening ritual and similar purely symbolic habits. We don’t need you to open the door for us. We need you to help us break down institutional doors, the barriers that keep us from meaningful equality. Women’s material desperation, rape, battery, pornography, and denial of her reproductive control creates a political and systematic relegation of an entire group of people to a condition of inferiority which is attributed to their nature.
One very controversial piece of our culture is pornography. Porn is the social status in which we can be used and abused and trivialized and humiliated and bought and sold and passed around and patted on the head and put in place and told to smile so we look like we’re enjoying it is not sexual equality. The word Pornography, comes to us from the Greek, porne, which is the lowest class of sexual slaves. Female sexual slavery is present in all situations where women or girls cannot change the immediate conditions of their existence. Women can make more money as sex workers than as teachers or waitresses. Our options are so limited in patriarchy, yet we’re told that we have all this sexual power over men. While in truth, sexual terrorism is maintained by a system of sex-role socialization that encourages men to be terrorists in the name of masculinity, and encourages women to be victims in the name of femininity.
Politics were slowly taken out of Feminism, which made it all more acceptable as now women can become 'feminists' without fundamentally challenging or changing themselves or the culture. Many privileged women 'do' feminism, as fashion or podcasts, or simply enjoying the benefits these movements have brought, but they don't embrace feminism. They enjoy a heady mix of postmodern womanist texts, queer culture, post-colonial discourse, direct action, Buddhism, and sex positivity, without challenging institutions of oppression that punish women. Global hyper-capitalism, greed, utter disregard for the earth, violence against women...either you believe that the system that ensures 50% of the world's resources for 6% of the population by any and all means is leading us to annihilation through one cancer death at a time, one rape and one species extinction at a time and the man-made tragedy of global warming, or you don't .
Feminism is not over. The struggle for female safety and the movement towards women’s equality won’t end until we are safe in this world, and equal. Where do we go from here? This is a new chapter in the history of the Feminist Movement.
Questions for Intro to Women’s Studies —
For women—How have women developed survival skills under patriarchy? How have you?
For men, what do you imagine 'survival skills' to mean? Reflect on your observations of male/female power structures that you have personally grown up with.
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Unity Consciousness Vs. Duality
A lesson based on the work of Joanna Macy
We have this patriarchal legacy of Duality, which forces us to think in oppositions, and which ranks in hierarchical form, according to made-up (not real) values. For example, Matter and Time are seen as less than Spirit and Eternity. Matter and time, which are HERE, which are Immanent; spirit and eternity, which are NOT HERE, which are Transcendent. We seek to escape from the first pair into what we imagine to be more worthy of our attention. Our nuclear missiles may be the logical unfolding of our desire to escape from time. And, as we destroy the future, we refuse to even imagine other possibilities. This is what our culture does to us. Dualism is an illusion—Good vs. Evil. Male vs. Female. Body vs. Mind. It’s all about thinking in oppositional pairs.
Time and Speed— Both the destruction of our world and our capacity to slow down and stop that destruction, can be understood as a function of our experience of time. Our sped-up sense of time cuts us off from the other rhythms of life, from nature, and from the past and future as well. We have more time-saving devices than ever before. We are always in a hurry, like never before. This is a paradox and an irony.
Look at the ways our attention is constantly hijacked. We are pulled away from everything into a matrix of speed. To re-inhabit time must be the goal for us now, before we end time.
Our experience of time reveals a blindness, a pathologically-shrunken sense of time that denies the very on-goingness of time. It's like we cancelled the future, so we can exhaust, destroy and poison the land, air and water. Time as a commodity and time as an experience are both becoming scarcities. We have hurry-sickness, and hectic fever- heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and depression of our immune function.
Friendships and the love of nature take time— these are not time-efficient or time-predictable.
Speed and haste are inherently violent. We kill the moment, we kill nature, and our appetite for time-saving devices—pampers, coffee pods, unrecyclable plastic cups inflict a constant violence on our environment. We are blind to the effects our lifestyle has on nature.
We become devoured by what we consume, and we increasingly view time as the enemy. Our mission isn't to escape from this world, or to fix things by pushing buttons and pulling levers, but to fall in love with our world. We are made for that. Our daily adventure is to realize that.
The Kali Yuga, the dregs of time, dense and gritty. We search for a cessation of time through aloof spiritual practices. We need to inhabit time to understand radioactivity, extinction, toxic waste, all the sublime anxieties.
We have the ability, through our moral imagination, to break out of our temporal prison and challenge speed. Unlike other animals, we can deliberately CHOOSE to slow down, to change the story. This is why humans are special. Not because some god favors us over all of creation, but because we can envision the future and change the path of our evolution. We can choose to re-orient to an ecological vision of life, to empathic rhythms rather than power rhythms.
We can choose our practices and slow down, garden instead of shop, the slow food movement, or bicycle transport, choose shutting off our gadgets, or walking in silence, choose being alone in nature, exercising or resting our bodies, our minds, or practicing daily meditation.
We've gone from worshipping nature to mastering nature, and to controlling life. Our technologies have disastrously amplified the delusional story of capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy. We’ve fallen for the societal lie that the world is made of stuff to be extracted and sold. Because short-term profit is everything to this culture, because it tells us that corporations really want the best for us, because it tells us that somewhere else is really our home. Because all this started with our ancestors' worshipping of transcendent male gods.
To reclaim time, we need a Good Story. “KNOW THYSELF" was an early command of the Goddess, the divine feminine look-within, and start of a really good story. Know thyself was one driving message behind the religion that worshipped women, nature, and inter-relationship. It was inscribed above the entrances of her temples. It was the goal of many of the mystery rituals of the Bronze Age, of Crete and Ancient Greece. But we got all transcendent and mental with the rise of patriarchal religions, as the male drive to logic and rationality achieved supremacy over the feminine, so the values of instinct and feeling and connection became despised values, seen as weak and emotional. Separation triumphed over Unity Consciousness, the most ancient of human stories in our evolving consciousness. The new story must include the whole world and all beings.
Systems Theory —Descartes and Bacon hijacked our minds—minds which the ancient Greeks split off from creation thousands of years ago. Minds were ranked higher than senses, mind triumphed over the body. The scientific method of measuring and counting, of constant separation and ranking hijacked our evolutionary consciousness away from an organic, holistic view of the world and into an analytical, mechanical one. In the 15th century, Descartes announced that he didn't trust his senses—he was kind of delusional like that, it was just His personal story, but he universalized it—and it changed the world forever—until now. The machines we made to extend our "untrustworthy" senses became our model for the universe— until now. Everything could be described objectively and controlled externally. We no longer were allowed to participate in creation, but just to push buttons and keys. Until now.
This story fueled the engines of industrial progress, but, as 20th C biologists realized—echoing our ancient knowing-of-unity—this story cannot explain the self-renewing processes of life. The lunar Great Goddess cyclical religion was expert in that depth of understanding, with its observation and celebration of Nature and the cosmos. Eventually, science caught us, and evolutionary biologists started to look at wholes, not parts, and at processes instead of substances. The wholes—cells, bodies, ecosystems, the moon’s journey, seasons, migrations, the cyclic laws of the planet itself— are not just an assemblage of discrete pieces of things, but they are SYSTEMS, and those systems INCLUDE US. These systems are dynamically organized and intricately balanced. Each is a part of a greater pattern that connects and evolves according to General Systems Theory. It's a whole new way of seeing—"The biggest bite out of the tree of knowledge that people have taken for 2,000 years." (Gregory Bateson)
Life Self-Organizes — We can become aware of relationships, rather than separate entities. Life-forms arise from interactive currents of matter and energy and information. How this works, in terms of a women’s studies class, is that we are FEELING INTO new possibilities—we are challenging what we thought of as natural, as permanent, as the only story.
In fact, all life processes here on Earth are determined by flow and feedback. We are all flow-throughs of relationships—matter, energy, and information. The systems self-generate because of cooperation between their parts, and for mutual benefit. For the benefit of ALL. This is a brand new concept to many of us. Even as we repeat the words ‘with liberty and justice for all’, we can feel in our experience, in our very bodies, that these terms have been reduced, under imperialist patriarchal institutions, to meaningless shells. Nothing is guaranteed for all in this culture, except for all of us working to keep the rich satisfied. That image, the pyramid fueled by the labor of the masses at the bottom for the wealth of the few—of domination, separation, and power-over is the basis for our current hierarchy.
There is no flow through in this system, no interrelationship, and no true sharing. Certainly there is very little feedback. Our system is more like a funnel sucking all energy upwards and away from those who’s energy creates the basis for the whole machine to keep moving. But this normalized vision of greed and exploitation that drives culture and our daily lives needs to end because the mechanistic view of self/other, mind/matter—this warring duality—no longer holds. Modern science, religions, and capitalism began with Descartes and Bacon ‘torturing nature's secrets,’ also torturing women in the Inquisition, Native people who were conquered in colonialism’s ‘Age of Exploration’, wild nature and wild animals everywhere there was Euro/human settlement. What appeared to be separate, what we were told is disconnected, or less-than, are now seen to be interrelated, interwoven, interdependent sensate, and profoundly important to life.
When life forms evolve in complexity and intelligence , they shed their armor in order to grow sensitive, vulnerable protuberances‚ lips, tongues, ears, eyeballs, fingertips, to better respond and sense, to better connect to the web of life and weave it further. What we had been taught to dismiss as mere feelings—sensations, instincts, the invalidated feminine in a misogynistic, dualistic system—are valid responses to our world, and much better ways of perception and participation for actually understanding the relationships that make up our world, and our place in that world.
When we think of the old story of power, we think of domination, of exerting force over others and limiting their options. Power correlates to invulnerability. To keep from being pushed around, we need armor and fortresses and weapons. But from a Systems Theory perspective, this notion is dysfunctional. If you were a nerve in a neural net in the brain, and you were convinced that power worked in a power-over way, and so you made DEFENSES because of this belief, that would eventually sabotage the whole system. You would die, and the rest would weaken, and then die. It would be a suicidal act. These systems are organized to FLOW THRU. They are open systems because of how they interact. The capacity to integrate with and through each other is our True Nature. We function through relationship. We have to let the signals come through— we have to be free to respond creatively. All life works this way. Through constant interaction, we get more connections, and more strategies for survival.
Look at how governments that call themselves "democracies" suppress information if it will go against corporate interests. Think of cancer, chemicals, climate change and war. They jail whistle blowers and lie to the rest of us, and because they constantly suppress feedback, and so, they are committing suicide, and taking ‘civilization’ down with them. Those who seem to be doing so well with the power-over model appear to get what they want, but they do so at a cost to the larger system. Power-over is dysfunctional because it inhibits both diversity and feedback. It creates entropy and systemic disintegration. None of this is sustainable.
Look at what war does to the whole system of life on earth. Look at what huge concentrations of wealth do. And, to the powerholders themselves—it's like wearing a suit of armor—it restricts their vision and movement. It narrows their choices and cuts them off from the world and from free participation in life. All they can do is grab more power. Again, not a sustainable model.
But the story of change and the change of story is upon us. Gaia Theory showed that earth is not a dead rock. Deep ecology questions the fundamental assumptions of the Industrial Growth Society and the basis of all patriarchal religions. This species’ arrogance threatens all complex life forms. We need to see through our anthropomorphic self-cherishing. The human is no longer a stranger, or a master, no longer separate to the world. The fog of amnesia begins to disperse as we begin to recall our true nature. To paraphrase ecologist John Seed —“I am not a person trying to protect the rainforest. I am the rainforest, most recently grown to full human consciousness, protecting myself.”
Feelings free us from the need for having solutions. We need to learn to be present with the situation. First, we need to be with it, to dare to take it in. If we think we can't look at it until we have a solution, we'll never look. But we can let the response come before the solution. We need to Learn to Feel. To let the authentic truth of our senses in. To hold it, to love it, to Be with it. How can we be with suffering? How do we live with despair? How do we learn to love it? You don't need to have the right answer, just a Boundless Heart.
Our grief for the world isn't a neurosis, but a deep caring for our own selves. We're told to believe if we feel sad, scared, or angry about war, about misogyny, about the death of animals and nature itself all around us, that we're neurotic, that we're really mad at our dad, or stuck in some childhood trauma, that it's an individual problem or a private personal conflict, but it's really 4,000 years of PTSD and 500 years of the lies of science's story, and empire’s story. Capitalism’s story. Misogyny’s story. Patriarchy’s story. We are the world, and can act on behalf of life on earth, act on behalf of the whole, and of the future.
Hope is something you DO, not something you HAVE. Empathy is feeling another’s suffering. Apathy is the refusal or inability to suffer with. What's happening in the world today that breaks your heart? Gratitude for the world is a great practice for elevating your sense of Aliveness. We may not be capable at this point of seeing all the answers to the urgent sublime anxieties of this modern world, but we can help each other feel our love for the creation that surrounds us. Non-hierarchy and emergent properties happen when we begin to work together. The whole story of evolution is things appearing that weren't here before.
If you knew that everything would be ok, or that nothing you could do would make it be ok, would that bring out our greatest courage and creativity? It's not so effective to scare people with information, or to fight to win an argument. It’s compelling, because of the way the system rewards us for being right, or for winning, but that alone is not going save the world. That’s just fuels more fierce individuality and competition. What we can do is help each other to FEEL. Because, at some level of consciousness, we all feel this loss, these losses, and this is the pivotal psychological reality of our time.
Questions for students to follow this lecture—
When i think of the world we are leaving to the future unborn beings, it looks like_________.
Feelings that i carry around about all this are____________.
Ways i avoid feeling these feelings are____________.
Some ways i can use these feelings in service to the world are_________.
Get in dyads and write—If you knew that failure was impossible, what would you do to help shift the world back to sustainable, respectful, co-creative unity consciousness?
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Deep Ecology explores the reduction of human’s environmental connections and awareness. In order for our rogue species to survive and for Nature to survive us, we need increased intimacy, knowledge, and admiration for nature. This could lead us back to the realm of Kinship. Kinship—the awareness once again, of Oneness between our alienated selves and the rest of creation. Loren Eisley, an early pioneer of ecology and connection writes, “Do not forget your kin or the green world “from which you sprang. To do so is to invite disaster.”
Eco-feminism accepts this disaster as the truth of our modern world, and explores the reciprocal implications of ecological and gender crisis. Eco-Feminism contains both a theory of domination and a strategy for change. It sees that both women and nature are victims of men’s abuse. Both are ideological products of the culture of control that began in the witch-hunts and the-ironically-named operiod of the late middle ages called ‘The Enlightenment’. While fashionable post-modernism enjoys splitting factions in a safe world of ideas, life is hurting.
Feminist objectives fit “with movements for ecology, against capitalist accumulation, surveillance, military power, and industrialization, but the truth is that most women can only enter politics on a capitalist/patriarchal agenda, and everywhere, feminists and eco-activists are obliged to think, talk, dress like technocratic men.” (Ariel Saleh).How can we change patriarchy, train patriarchy to hear our voices, and the voices of voice-less nature? Here are a few of my most important teachers on these questions, who explore and explain the deeper yearnings of Eco-Feminism.
We are the land. And the water and the trees and the soil microbes. This is not a New Age statement. It’s a medical statement; a scientific statement. The Precautionary Principle is a revolutionary idea that turns our culture’s use of science on its head. It states that when you have uncertainty, you should take precautionary action. That we prevent harm, rather than fix it or clean it up afterwards.
We think science (and business) can solve all our problems. We’ve separated emotions, values, and ethics from most all of our decision making. We pretend that decimal points are more real than morality, or than love. There’s nothing currently in how we do science or business that says we should prevent harm. It’s all about managing risk.
Really, the only precautionary principle that’s working is that we mustn’t harm profits and the processes of production. That’s what guides all decision making— imaginary sets of transactions we carry out with green paper. If there were a precautionary principle, we wouldn’t be using fossil fuels right now. We might have used human ingenuity and creativity to create a transportation system that would honor our place on earth. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have any technology, we just wouldn’t have one that is so fundamentally destructive.
Systems Crisis—We live in a time of enormous fragility, violence, and gradual collapse. Economic, political, biological, social, ecological collapse. Can you feel it? We need to be pioneers of the soul, to stand, with full attention, to the miracle of being embodied in this time. We are witnessing the ripping out of the social safety net, and the ripping out of Earth’s life support systems at once. We’re in perpetual war, permanent war, against other humans and against biological systems. This year alone, B.P. and Fukushima, and it seems our “leaders” learn nothing from the past.
This is suffering. We were born now in order to see it. Not to pave it over, not to bury our heads in the sand, but to witness these layers of unraveling.
There will never be another civilization like this one, because we’ve used it all up, as if there won’t be life after us. At most, there will be Bronze Ages, or even Iron Ages to come. Maybe the loss of biodiversity will mean no more complex life forms, nothing aerobic that requires oxygen. Maybe we are witnessing the unraveling of the basis for conscious life forms. What makes oxygen? Forests and phytoplankton. Try going to a dinner party and raising these concerns. People don’t want to think about it. But subconsciously, we all know it’s true that we are destroying life as we know it.
Because we’re bred in a hyper-individualistic society, we’re reductionist in nature. We believe our grief is personal, is a result of our own, private biography. We get sad about being sad and we shut it down, but we’re all in grief for the world. Dare to feel it—Dare to suffer WITH our world. I am not an isolated capsule of ego. Compassion means to suffer with. You of the boundless heart.
Systems Theory — Our shared life. Caring springs from radical inter-being. Inter-existence. We need this planet like we need our next breath. Wake up to your belonging to each other; wake up to your power together. What can you do together? (‘power’ isn’t oil or coal or nuclear. Power is what we can do together. Energy is what we have.) “Let this darkness be a bell tower, and you the bell, and as it batters you feel how your pain becomes your strength.” (Rilke)
How do we transform despair and apathy? I am inseparable from the living earth. I am it’s expression. My humanness, your humanness is merely the most recent stage of your existence. Get in touch with yourself as mammal, as vertebrate, as species only recently emerged from the rainforest. So that “I am protecting the rainforest” becomes “I am part of the rainforest, most recently emerged into thinking; I am protecting myself” (J.Seeds) we must stop thinking of environmentalism as based in sacrifice; it’s an enlarging of perspective. Through widening circles of self-identification, we vastly extend the boundaries of our self-interest to include all life. We are not separate! When the self is widened and deepened we see that the protection of nature is actually the protection and love for ourselves.
This society contracts our experience of Time. We grab and we run. We’re always busy. Technology moves so fast! All of capitalism is based on short term thinking and technologies that speed everything up. Our true age is not our human age in this life; it’s cumulative. We are life on earth’s age: 4 billion years old. We are the universe’s age :14 billion years old. We need to begin to act our age! We need to speak and work and act from the authority of our billions of years.
Ecofeminism argues that the war against nature waged by The Industrial Growth Society arises from more ancient patterns of domination. Patriarchy, and millennia of male rule, divorces mind from body, man from nature and women, emotion from reason. The western world has virtually ignored our relationship to the natural world.
Power over vs. power with. Domination and dualism makes for delusions of separateness and invulnerability. We believe we need to be guarded behind gates, fortresses of weapons protect us. But, we need to become more sensitive. (Did anyone ever tell you you were too sensitive? Not possible!) Living systems evolve, not by erecting walls to their environment, but by opening more widely to the currents of energy and information. They require constant interaction and the most intricate possible connections and flexible strategies and responsiveness. As life forms evolve in complexity and intelligence, they shed their armor, grow sensitive, vulnerable protuberances (lips, tongues, ears, fingertips) to better sense and respond, to better connect to the web of life and weave it further. Our power-over mentality, our need to be In Control, is dysfunctional, as is our economy which depends on infinite growth in a finite world. Male domination and patriarchy just narrow our awareness and cut us off from participation in life; our responses are far fewer than we need in these times. Women know how to respond. Women are more flexible and sensitive and connected. Relationships is what we DO. (discuss)
This world is ALIVE. The Gaia Hypothesis shows that the earth is a single, living entity. We are all like fetuses in her body. The photo of earth from outer space, in 1968 created the environmental movement. Rachel Carson’s book, silent spring, that same decade warned of pesticide poisoning, mobilizing both love for the earth and an awareness that life on earth is being destroyed.
Joanna’s questions for students— 1. What do you love about being alive. Be specific. 2. How is it for you to be sensitive and aware of the crises on earth? 3. What are the gifts you feel you bring, what energizes you about being alive in this time of crisis?
The most urgent and fundamental political task is to dismantle ideological attitudes that have severed our human belonging to nature. We mut learn to acknowledge our libidinal grounding in the cycles of nature, and connect our relational selves, both in psychology and in politics.
Women’s unpaid work is resourced by transnational capitalism just like the natural commons. Gender is the lowest common denominator of all dominations, the unique status of womyn as a source of countercultural values is so often ignored. But, one particular social group is better placed than any other to save the earth from human excess. Since the interest of womyn as a global majority lies in challenging existing structures, we are astonishingly well-place to constitute a political force.
It’s plain that the concerns of men in an industrial production system are quite different from those of women in the daily round of domestic and reproductive labors, our work which remains unpaid in most every society on earth, to this day. What we need to save the natural world are values of care, modesty, connectedness—53% of the world is already educated into these behaviors.
Our inscribed gender difference has left us historically outside of the institutions of our society, and our skills provide a means of resistance to this irrational excess of a capitalist patriarchy that we have little egoic need to preserve. Like the political status quo, post-modernisms’ practice of deconstruction is limited and cannot GO anywhere—it is ahistorical. The making of an earth democracy must take into account subsistence farmers and indigenous hunter-gatherers and WOMEN as participating citizens.
But, often the terrain of ecofeminism is reduced to the feminist controversy over whether women’s politics should be guided by the principle of “equality”, modelled by men’s institutions, or the principle of gender difference, which puts us down there with nature. Many Equality Feminists are wary of discussing women in connection with nature because this is loaded by centuries of using this argument to keep women in their place as closer to nature. And Nature is so disregarded in any of patriarchy’s terms besides pure exploitation, these women fear that drawing any attention to biological differences will play into men’s hands. It’s a double bind, that women either side with nature and tighten their own subordination, or seek liberation by disconnecting from nature and abandoning the natural world that supports all life to its fate as a resource.
Both ecology and feminism are split internally between old and new thinking—liberal environmentalists lobby for licenses to pollute and trade carbon taxes, and liberal feminists lobby for anti-discrimination legislation. Radical enviros and feminists envision appropriate technology, collaboration with indigenous movements, and want communal governance.
All double binds are merely problems that need re-framing. Seen as distinct from men’s lot, women’s activities are designed to protect life. We’re not closer to nature than men in any ontological sense, but attaining the prize of masculine identity depends on men distancing themselves from that fact. They leave all alliance with the earth, but they leave behind a hostage—women.
Women do life maintenance work, like nature does. While men maintain distance and separation, negotiating for their interests as they dominate, conquer, compete, extract, and accumulate, our voices are largely silenced. The maintaining of comfortable habitats and cohesive communities is the most highly productive work of society, but in patriarchy, these tasks are ignored and unpaid. Holding means to minimize risk and reconcile differences rather than to fight about them.
Though our holding labors to protect and nurture life, Mother—as Other—becomes unconsciously associated with food and excrement (dirt), marking out the boundaries of the body–– me vs. not me, and human vs. nature. Women’s holding labors are imperative as a solution to unfettered masculinity. For example, the social position of women, the sexual division of labor that subjugates women, the exclusion of women from waged work, the mechanization of the world (which legitimized the exploitation of women and nature), and women as the machine for the production of new workers.
M/Other is the other side of ego, and jokes armor men from the fear and fascination with oral, anal, genital excretions—all the transitional swarming that threatens to include Him. Death becomes as problematic as birth, the other end of lived time where humanity recedes back into nature. But, against the spills and smells of birthing and dying which frame women’s lives, the church, the state, and science fail to orient men in enduring time. Men have aggressive sports, property ownership, control of self and all others, and the preoccupation with personal potency to assuage the emptiness of the ungrounded self.
At childbirth, it is the man who lacks. Why else should the act be so shrouded by secrecy, hushed voices, and medical mystification? Nevertheless, paternity—basically a property relation, soon reinstates the correct order of things. The sense of dislocation in masculine reproductive consciousness is very pervasive in the western tradition, and it goes hand in hand with the suppression of women’s actual contribution. If men cannot produce life, they can certainly appropriate it, and thus fatherhood becomes a right, and fatherless children are damned as bastards and illegitimate.
Patriarchy is the power to transcend natural realities with historical, man-made realities. For men, the compulsion to produce has brought the rest of life on earth to the brink of annihilation. Possessing the ability to create culture and all its accountments, men mine, drill, build cities, make war. In an attempt to bridge this experiential fracture from the life process and ‘natural time’, the alienative consciousness of men has invented compensatory entities, such as god, the state, laws, history, science, and technology.
Patriarchal relations rest on the shocking reversal of material (maternal) reality. The unresolved violence that hovers around the memory of the original break with nature must constantly affirm itself by consuming the energy of the Other—women and nature.
So much of theory and status quo suppositions beg gendered scrutiny. We must look outside the personal horizon of shared masculine significances. But, the profound split between masculinity and femininity is rarely a political concern beyond the rubric of Feminism. Men’s commercial ideas of progress and fascination with mechanical models ignores the agonies of industrialization. Women’s holding labors are imperative as a solution to unfettered masculinity.
For ex: the social position of women, the sexual division of labor that subjugates women, the exclusion of women from waged work, the mechanization of the world (which legitimized the exploitation of women and nature), and women as the machine for the production of new workers need to be included in any discussion of solutions.
The feminist concept of the body is key to understanding the roots of male dominance and the construction of female social identity, as well as the consolidation of patriarchal power and the male exploitation of female labor. We are the power by which the body is produced. And so men in power must insist that god is male, and that minds rise above bodies. For women, the body is what the factory was for male workers—the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance. Masculine agency produces knowledge by splitting subject and object, and then dividing the object into separate, discrete units in order to re-make it. This is “the frightened dualism of transcendent subjectivity”.
For a future world to be healing for women, nature, and men, men must strive to share these holding labors. This will be emancipatory all around. Holding means to minimize risk and reconcile differences rather than to fight about them. Holding is a way of seeing with an eye towards maintaining the harmony, resources, and skills necessary for sustaining life in safety. It’s the attitude of world protection, world repair. It’s also the ultimate expression of adaptability and reflexivity. Holding is exemplified by The Precautionary Principle. Holding opposes the scientific method of separation, which is the work of resisting entropy.
Unlike the scientist , the mother cannot invent categories to deny what’s natural and messy. Men in power seem to be possessed of an obsessional drive for artificial principles vs. a sense of place, which negates separation and duality with enfoldment and resonance. The most urgent and fundamental political task is to dismantle ideological attitudes that have severed our human belonging to nature. If womyns’ lived experiences of conservation were given legitimacy, it could provide an immediate and living social basis for the alternative consciousness that radical men are trying to formulate as an abstract ethical construct.
The most radical activist politics develop when one comes to understand the dynamics of how one is oppressed and how one oppresses others. We need connections and coalitions. Enlightened rationalism makes interconnections invisible or unlikely. There is no language to oppose “rationalism” or “Cartesian dualism” that doesn’t sound kooky. This is the last domino that must fall in order for equality and our survival to be realized. Our over-socialized version of dualism/ “reality” deletes objective nature or turns her into a human construct. Where is that voice to protect hollowed-out life on earth?
Economic transnationals (corporations) need nation states the way men need wives. To service industry, pacify the underlings, and repair the territorial body. Business now milks the state to provide free infrastructure and cultural legitimization. The cost of economic justice for a masculine proletariat means increased sexual abuse, racism, and environmental assault. Today’s conquistadors are the officers of the WTO and The World Bank. The feminization of poverty was the first effect of the development of capitalism. capitalism is necessarily committed to racism and sexism. Waged labor today = enslavement, for which women have paid the highest cost—with their bodies, their resources, and their lives.
A corporation is just a legal entity designed to absolve men from liability for their decisions based on greed. It’s dissociated from consequence and totally unnatural. It will never see the web of ecological relations as real. We need an international Eco-Feminism Security Council to fight the monoculture of savage corporate capitalism
Here’s (another male genius)— Karl Marx on historical agency and radical chains—
“A class must be formed which has radical chains; a class in civil society which is not a class of civil society. A class which is the dissolution of all classes; a sphere of society which does not claim a specific redress because the wrong done to it is not a particular wrong, but wrong in general…a sphere which cannot finally emancipate itself without therefore emancipating all other spheres.”
Marx never saw us out there. He couldn’t ever have assumed that socialist progress paves the way to human liberation if he had looked at history from the viewpoint of women. So much of theory and status quo suppositions beg gendered scrutiny. We have to look outside the personal horizon of shared masculine significances. But, the profound split between masculinity and femininity is rarely a political concern beyond the rubric of feminism..
The witch-hunts were as important as colonialism and the theft of the land from European peasants for the development of capitalism. We are the power by which the body is produced. And so they must insist that god is male, and that minds rise above bodies.
The most radical activist politics develop when one comes to understand the dynamics of how one is oppressed and how one oppresses others. We need connections and coalitions. Enlightened rationalism makes interconnections invisible or unlikely. Can the rampant misogyny, sexual violence, economic poverty and cultural marginalization fracture a woman’s identity? Or can these conditions serve to wake us up? Dissociation, annihilation, decomposition can lead to a collision with the contradictions and break through our consciousness to create new possibilities.
How does historic change happen? We need an international Eco-Feminism Security Council to fight the monoculture of savage corporate capitalism, and the ubiquitous Western idea of Progress. This is our hope for the terrible future.
Sylvia Federici — It is said that “The witch was created by the land to speak for it.”
The witch hunts—the campaign of terror against women, which killed 10 million people, almost all of them women, over the course of 300 years during The Black Plague and Renaissance in medieval Europe, is unmatched by any other persecution in history. It is mostly unstudied. The witch-hunts destroyed a universe of practices, beliefs, and existences, redefining the main elements of social reproduction. The witch hunts occurred simultaneously with the colonization and extermination of populations in the New World (native, indigenous), and the slave trade, the end of feudalism, and the start of capitalism. None of this is a coincidence.
They came at the time when the peasantry in Europe had reached its full power and was defeated, at a time of land-privatization, increased taxation, and the extension of state control over all life. The persecution of witches was class war, at a time when the price of food skyrocketed, land was denied to peasants, and they were taxed and worked to death. It was also a time of the rise of the male medical profession, and “the Enlightenment”— the rise of reason over passion. The witch hunts were a major political initiative to end idleness, sharing, and magic.
Magic permeated daily life, as did the human relationship to Nature. Magic is premised on the belief that the world is animated, alive, unpredictable, and that there is force in all things— water, trees, stones, substances, and words. Capitalism aimed to control nature—it must be ordered and exploited, enslaved, as women must. Worst of all to the sensibilities of Christian religion and capitalism, Magic seemed a refusal to work.
The incompatibility of magic with the capitalist work discipline and the requirement of social control are important reasons why a campaign of terror was launched by the state against the population. The subjugation of women went along with the subjugation of nature. There were, in the 15-17th centuries, Enclosures of land, of knowledge, and of social relations. Women were reduced to a standing resource for the reproduction of labor—to supply a population for work, and for war.
1. By virtue of their sexuality, which was the target of men’s lust, which we were blamed for. The church saw women as leading men astray from spiritual concerns.
2. Because of their control over reproduction, which was now demanded for war and capitalism’s need for labor.
3. For their ability to heal, (healers, midwives and witches)
The witch hunts were an attempt to criminalize birth control, and place the uterus at the service of population increase and the production and accumulation of labor/money/power. A steady indoctrination of fear took place after 1550, with laws in Scotland, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and England.
In this “Century of Geniuses”, all of them male, of course—Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Shakespeare, Descarte—witchcraft became a favorite subject of debate for European intellectual elites. All these guys wrote pamphlets, plays, and papers that called for its punishment.
We know that the church hated women, blaming us for Eve’s sin. Also, holy men in all religions still blame women for tempting men away from holiness, and despise the vagina and all things physical and mysterious. Women were seen as “A temple built over a sewer”. Without centuries of the church’s misogynous campaigns against women, the witch hunts wouldn’t have been possible. Both Catholic and Protestant nations, at war with each other and agreeing on nothing, joined arms to persecute witches.
A bit of earlier history—between the 5th and 7th centuries, serfs got land and the ability to pass it on down- this created self-reliance and the means of their production/reproduction. In those days, they also had The Commons, which provided crucial resources and community. This supported cooperation and solidarity. Cooperation and solidarity was the substance of their social relations.
Female serfs in the Middle Ages were much less subservient, less differentiated from the men, both socially and psychologically. They were way more free than women were in later capitalist society. The only oppressive institution was the lord of the land’s authority over them—he controlled all aspects of persons and property, and he even got to take the virginity of female serfs on their wedding night.
But, in exchange for their labor, the land was given to the family, and women didn’t have to depend on their husbands for support. It was a true partnership. Women’s work wasn’t devalued as it would be later in a money economy, when housework ceased to be considered ‘real work’.
Most of the tasks of women serfs were done collectively, in cooperation with other women, and so what division of labor there was wasn’t a source of isolation, but of power and protection for women. It enabled women to stand up to men. But at all times, the power of women and their relations with men were determined by the struggles they fought, as communities, against the lords over master/servant relations.
By the end of the 14th century, the peasants’ revolts grew huge, massed, and armed. This conflict had run through the Middle Ages as a relentless class struggle, a theater of daily warfare. Eventually, peasants were in chronic debt and had to borrow against their future harvests, and thereby lost their lands, becoming landless peasants and homeless beggars.
The Heretic Movement was a movement of communal sharing and equality. It was mainly led by women. It was a conscious attempt to create a new society. Women formed their own communities and were present in the history of this movement as in no other aspect of medieval life.
And then, the Black Plague killed more than 1/3 of Europe’s population. This was a demographic disaster, a labor crisis. Women’s control over reproduction, which was acceptable and even necessary in medieval society because of limited land and the poverty of peasants, changed. The scene shifted from the persecution of heresy to witch hunting. Peasants began to refuse to work, more and more, and their resistance was powerful. Entire regions revolted, forming assemblies and recruiting armies to end the power of the lords.
After the Black Plague, idleness was condemned—vagabonds, beggars, and those refusing to work were persecuted. The European ruling class launched a global offensive that would change the history of the world in just three centuries, laying the foundation for capitalism. They planted deep divisions into the body of the proletariat that intensified and concealed exploitation. Men vs. women. Whites vs. Blacks and Natives in the colonies. Otherness feared and hated.
The destructive divisiveness of the monetization of economic life split the peasantry into classes. Women and Jew both became easy targets over time. Many women moved to the cities so they could live without men and form new communities. They became teachers and doctors and surgeons. In response we see a new misogynist backlash.
During the scenes of starvation, proletariat men weren’t allowed to marry. It was an attempt at population control, and rape was illegal, so they were frustrated and very angry at the masters. At last, efforts began to co-opt the youngest and most rebellious of the male workers by means of a vicious sexual politics that gave them access to free sex and decriminalized rape, provided the women were from a lower class. This worked to turn class antagonisms into antagonism against poor women. Poor girls were targeted for gang rape, and the proletariat men got to take revenge against the rich— their masters, by raping their property. Again, rape as a weapon of war, this time, class war. This de-sensitized the population to violence against women, and prepared the ground for the witch hunts.
“The half of humanity in charge of the whole world’s agenda is led by men addicted to power, control, and maintaining their dominance. It’s time to gather the women and save the world.” (Jean Bolen, Jungian psychologist and author)
Caroline Casey, great eco-feminist who speaks of “making humanity better citizens”, through the concept of “reciprocal altruism”, offers this prayer, for the world and for our survival— “May humans emerge (from this alienation) with ingenious altruism and participatory animism, as though everything is alive, as a form of manners.”
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The Heroine’s Journey
Myth and Social Control
The roots of our symbols and myths have been perverted by patriarchy. The quest in search of differentiation, or the search for the father, is a masculine construct; one of exile from the female source and femaleness, from the mother and her womb. Those female parts of our humanity are disclaimed, repressed, fought against and distorted. Transcendence/escape from the body is the problem. He fears all that body stuff, the liquids of her blood and emotions (seen as watery). He dreads his vulnerability and his mortality. He actively demeans this in others, and attaches disgusting labels to these aspects of his nature. For 2500 years, men have talking about separation and difference and isolation as the human condition. This is the landscape of the Hero’s Journey.
The Hero’s Journey
“Every successful society must have a means by which it indoctrinates its members into the society's system of values and morals. One of the darker aspects of The Hero is the role he plays in disseminating these values. Our heroes are mostly European warriors, fighting and killing to solve their problems. They reflect the violent history of their respective societies in conquering and colonizing other groups. The hero reflects the appearance and values of the dominant societal group and justifies the society's crimes against others by showcasing the hero's strength and violence. These stories result in the hero's people gaining independence, usurping power, or obtaining any of a number of other results favorable to the dominant group, usually at the expense of marginalized groups. Obviously, this reinforces violence as the only means of gaining power; in fact, for persons living in a nation with violent heroes, it's hard to imagine any other way. And, unfortunately, being militarily dominant has historically been very effective in maintaining dominance for privileged groups.
We can see that other societies are culturally-constructed but we feel that our world is not at all the result of a historical process. As innocent myth-consumers, we read our myths as facts instead of culturally-constructed images.
Joseph Campbell outlines three steps of the hero’s journey — separation-initiation-return. Campbell emphasizes how the hero not only conquers the problem, but returns to society to "bestow boons on his fellow people." In modern American cinema, the fixation on the conquering or initiation aspect of the hero has hidden the full life of the hero — that of maturation into leadership and wisdom — from viewers of modern myth. Ancient-world heroes would often return after their journeys to marry and lead a mature life, imparting their hard-won wisdom to their people.
But popular culture’s lack of portrayal of this part of the hero's life in modern media leads to an "arrested adolescence" that "constantly avoids social responsibility and marital commitment." The result is an incomplete individuation process, with members of a society caught in a dangerous, "self-destructive individualism," unable or unwilling to reconcile the worlds of personal ego and community. It is this holistic vision that Campbell believes the heroes were trying to demonstrate. The necessity of heroes, Campbell felt, was to "pull together all these tendencies to separation, to pull them together into some intention.”
War is regarded as natural and right, and historically brought men together in the shared aim of heroic purpose, whose intensity was such that no tilling of the soil or herding of animals could match it.
The hero’s journey is a pattern, repeated in all the stories. Separation, initiation, return. It’s the call to adventure, and about claiming your own inner resources. It’s movement is from an unsatisfying life to a satisfying one by going through the scariest things you can imagine.
Steps in The Heroine’s Journey
It’s also about expansion, growing larger through answering a call to adventure, but this one is different, and has more steps. We start in the darkness, telling our story to build light to follow.
1. Spirit wants to get our attention. It starts with life-as-it-is, when we’re still a little bit asleep and we’re not asking questions. It’s said that the quality of your life is determined by the questions you ask, and life is committed to you waking up. There’s either some kind of loss, or an uncomfortableness around things not working anymore. We hear the call to take the journey.
2. We deepen our inner conversation to build self awareness: what do I want/ what don’t I want? What is it that we value? To find your values, see what makes you mad. What thrills you? We wonder about the path. We listen inside, journal or do therapy, or go into nature.
3. We meet the threshold guardians. Our culture doesn’t support women being wild, or gathering together for the purpose of waking up. So, we find our tribe and we build it stronger. It’s not an isolated journey. We have others to help us fight against the fear that’s inner and outer, all the what-if’s that make us feel small and contracted. All “the loyal soldiers” are the parts of our personality that keeps us safe and holds us back, addicted, distracted, and not receptive to magic. We need help of others, friends, ancestors, teachers, to get clear on our values, and be in harmony with these.
4. We say yes to adventure, and we find or make the path. Magic appears —the forces that we can’t see, but that have been waiting for us to say YES to a bigger life. We agree to let go of The Knower, which is too protected, and embrace The Learner, which is way more flexible and brave, and can find creative solutions. Allies and mentors will show up now. We leap.
5. Transformation takes us right off the cliff, or into the fire, to become something new that we’ve never seen or been. It’s a very intense stage, about faith and an inner knowing without the parachute of all the answers. We look for the message in the pain, or we agree to let go of the suffering. The key is to love the dragon, your own dragon, and stop fighting yourself. You write your own myth, answering questions like “Where didn’t I fit in as a child?” or “What didn’t I cry about?” We are on a search for the deepest part of our heart. We’re willing to stop playing small.
We disarm “the enemy” with our magnificent gift. The dragon is our greatness. We learn to love it and embrace it and feed it.
6. Claiming the Treasure — Here’s where we learn to live our lives for something new, we find the missing piece, or the next piece. We don’t stop here. We take the journey over and over to fully align with who we are meant to be. We use gratitude, appreciation, and wonder to get there.
7. Celebration and Service — We bring our gifts forward to make a contribution to the world. We create rituals and celebrations to honor our expansion. Every day we can do this. Then we are seen by the world for who we truly are. Non-violently, creatively, we lift the collective through this journey.
Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Course in Miracles)
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