Friday, February 1, 2013

Feminist Values: Making Our Non-Violent Homes

The beautiful faces of people exploring feminist values.
One of the more interesting discussions I've been in lately occurred last Sunday, January 27, 2013 in Augusta at the Pine State Arboretum. It occurs to me now that this was about a month into the beginning of the new great cycle of the Mayan calendar. (For those who say who cares about an ancient calendar I say, check your facts: plenty of Mayan people are still alive today. Also, the ancients who made the calendar had a genius grasp of astronomy.)

A Feminist Values discussion was organized as part of the 19th Changing Maine Gathering which occurs about once a year bringing together progressive dreamers from around the state. This year CODEPINK State of Maine and Portland local groups co-sponsored with ROSC (Resources for Organizing Social Change) and proposed the topic. No, not feminism: feminist values. One participant summed these up as: Respect for the Earth, and for everyone. Amen to that
Someone had suggested we introduce ourselves as descendants of our moms and their moms. About a third of the 40+ people who attended were male; for many, especially the younger people that also made up about one-third of the group, this type of identifying may have been a first.

I chose to be in the breakout session discussing Reclaiming Domesticity: Abundance or Scarcity? We took turns sharing how we live right now, and why we have made the decisions we've made around how to live. It was a diverse group: young parents who live on a land trust and are constantly on the defensive, being criticized for choosing to spend a lot of time with their children (ages 3 months and 4 years) and as little time as possible earning money; a thinker with a degree but no job who sleeps on friends' couches; a single mother of five; a grandmother who lives with her husband in the house he and his friends built on land they cleared; and a bachelor labor organizer who is tired of living alone and tired of society's message that he must "get a woman" in order to live comfortably and correctly.

Much of the discussion during the day centered on commodification: of natural resources, of women's bodies. There was a general consensus that feminist values reject this, and that the era of commodification is coming to an end.

I described how I live on land that was stolen from the indigenous people and turned into a commodity to be bought and sold, along the Kennebec River, within the Penobscot Nation homeland. Some of those people are still neighbors of mine. The large group acknowledged the importance and hope of Idle No More and the earth-defending resolve of initiatives led by First Nations people in Canada and other indigenous communities.

After a lengthy potluck lunch where conversations and new friendships flourished, we re-convened as a large group to hear reports from the breakout groups and continue our discussions. The entire day for me was characterized by deep, respectful listening. One of our group was a woman activist who is over 90, and a special hush fell on the room when she spoke.

In one of the breakout sessions there was some trouble with interrupting, and the vibe felt a little hostile. This caused a 10 year-old girl to leave the discussion and return to the childcare group. After her mom explained why, the participants made a new plan for taking turns speaking, and the facilitator of the group described it as a successful "self-correction."

We all go astray from our ideals many, many times in life. Just look at the formerly (allegedly) idealistic Hillary Clinton, outgoing Secretary of State. Can we find the courage to examine the road we're on, and make a "self-correction" if necessary? We had better be able to if we hope to continue human life on this planet.
THE UGLY FACES OF PATRIARCHY: A screen grab from a video of last week's State Department dinner for Mr.  and Mrs. Hamid Karzai. Hillary Clinton has placed herself firmly in the service of the patriarchal empire that is ruining the Earth and killing children and women and men wantonly every single day,  making "defense" contractors so wealthy they are sometimes referred to as the 0.01%. Afghanistan and its people in particular continue to suffer under this regime.
One breakout session was about violence and the One Billion Rising movement which is spreading globally like wildfire. Here's a great video I watched yesterday of people in the EU Parliament rising up to dance against violence on women. Eve Ensler, a leader of the movement, speaks at the end to explain why one billion women and the men who love them dancing could just be a revolution. Maine events on V-Day will be held in Portland & Belfast. Non-violence is a feminist value.

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