Last night, perhaps to the consternation of a Facebook friend, I and another of her "friends" tangled in a discussion about feminism -- both of us being men with strong opinions, perhaps said as much as the many words that we wrote. In summary, "Al" insisted that equality was the thing and everything else essentially, in his words (or letters) "BS". I, on the other hand, wrote that to merely acquire equality in the workplace (equal pay and opportunity), while certainly of fundamental importance, it did not really even begin to address the systems in place that guarantee continued exploitation and oppression...
What do you think?
Equal pay and equal opportunity in Detroit or Silicon Valley would be absolutely great for American women! That much is true. But feminism can't be limited to the workplace on American soil: we know from experience that many -- perhaps most -- corporations are wedded to their "bottom lines": at some point, those same corporations think globally in terms of both production and marketing (profit)... and corporation after corporation adopts their "global strategy" which inevitably includes cheaper labor somewhere other than these American shores. Equal pay does not mean very much in Vietnam, Mexico, or Malawi... So feminism also must take a global view, right?
As a white male, I am like most other American white males: my education (or lack of) in feminism is dependent upon the women in my life... and I might read a few books... but how many men have actually experienced sexism first hand? How many men (white men in particular) have experienced the systems that are in place that have institutionalized patriarchy and domination (huh?)? How aware are men of exploitation and oppression -- from the perspective of an African woman (what?)? How many men have felt a call to a vocation to the priesthood in the Catholic Church -- and been denied the opportunity because, specifically, of their gender (Oh, give me a break! It's their Church so they can make the rules!)?
Ah, so in a round-about-way, we have reached the nub of feminism: who made the rules and who is making the rules? With few exceptions, men have made, and are continuing to make, all of the essential rules of life on Planet Earth. Even a middle-school level examination of religion, culture, economics, and politics will find this to be true: which translates into the fact that roughly 50% of the world's population at any given time has little real power: thanks to the struggles of the feminist movement there have been, and continue to be, changes being made.
Attempting to go deeper still, we must consider all of the spiritual / psychological ramifications of what Dr. Riane Eisler calls the "Dominator Paradigm". Unraveling the history of domination: exploitation and oppression: is an aspect of the work of feminism. But even more important than this undertaking is that of the articulation of a new vision for our common humanity. There is no way of knowing -- in absolute terms -- that anything would be different now if "women had been in charge". Nevertheless, we can ponder how our collective psychology / spirituality would be different if never had a woman been burned at the stake for worshipping the Goddess; if never a woman had been raped as the spoils of war; if never economics had disadvantaged women and women of color; if never the decision-making had been made without the active participation of half of our communities. What if no man had ever imagined "Original Sin"? What if no woman had ever been blamed for all of our troubles? And what if a woman had been given by the Goddess as Savior?
I'm curious as to what you might be thinking...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.