(Ahimsa – non-violence)
The women’s marches of January 2017, of which there were 673 worldwide, inspired me to write today. As far as I’m aware, this simultaneous and international statement has never happened on this scale. Even the 2015 climate change marches did not attract anywhere near the millions of participants involved in this month’s marches. (I think it also worthy of note that out of a purported 4 million there were only 5 arrests.)
I am not a protester and I have learned, over time, that fighting what is is a great way to perpetuate its presence. So why do I feel compelled to narrate what so many others view simply as a backlash, a fight, a forceful push, against the political leader that America (and by extension, the world) now find themselves confronted by? Does it need explanation?
Firstly, articulating a situation well, provides clarity from which point intelligent people can use their own cognitive analytical and decision-making powers. Just because I do not group myself as for or against in this passionate rhetoric on American government policy does not mean I relinquish my right to talk about it.
One of the problems I see as inherent in protesting and reactive responses for or from marginalised groups is that any change in the status quo provokes excitation to an often extreme degree – this means that listening well enough to discern the underlying issues becomes difficult if not impossible. Responses from some intelligent, sensitive male friends of mine, on describing the recent marches, range from ‘self-obsessed babies who were well-intentioned but misinformed’ – to ‘full of bullshit faux-liberal sentiment’. I imagine these types of reactions might stem from a lack of familiarity with the sensations and effects of being outnumbered, systemically controlled and objectified without being acknowledged, listened to or respected, in the general ways that many men take for granted. Easily done. Privilege can be hard to recognise until it is removed. Whether that’s the case or not, I wanted to articulate why I felt so moved by these gatherings and why I think they are important.
In 2016 men outnumbered women on the planet by 66 million. The naturally occurring gender parity has been disturbed in part by the most populous countries of China and India favouring gender-selective abortions and female infanticide. (Technological progression in prenatal diagnosis increased this trend although finding out the sex of your child in India was made illegal in 1994.)
It is of great interest to me how lost in translation the essence of a feeling, of a being, can be, when it is fuelled by years of frustration and outrage. I see these marches as a beginning – the rise of strong, pissed off females finally voicing their vexation at and refusal to compete in a male dominated system. A new paradigm is emerging, one that commands respect of the divine feminine in all her tender glory – a distinctly different prospect from the uneasy posturing of militant, power-dressed, 80’s superwomen.
To truly understand the force that patriarchy, the system that has dominated for roughly 6000 years, exerts, it’s quite useful to note the contrast of what went before. Hunter-gatherer communities of ancient times were mainly egalitarian and organised to prioritise group welfare, interrelation and interdependence – people shared everything, even sexual partners (that’s for another blog). It was a regular hippie commune by all accounts until the introduction of settled agricultural communities that shifted the nature of status, power and social realities to the huge disadvantage of the female. From a respected, central role in foraging societies, she became another possession for a man to earn and defend. (See Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha)
History, in the western world at least, pretty much up until the 1900’s shows the casual erosion of women’s rights as a depressing and inevitable descent into inequality. This is not to mention the atrocious treatment of women in some parts of the Far East. Thus the feeling of finally capitulating to ‘the way things are’ and denying one’s own experience or worth because the description of it is disavowed by the majority in power, runs deep in the consciousness. If I am told again and again that what I say or how I am, is wrong or doesn’t matter, eventually I will get so tired that I become quiet. Eventually I will doubt my own will to power because I am not exercising it. And if you cannot or will not hear me, the unpracticed urge to speak dissolves; I deny myself the right of expression, the essence of who I am goes unknown and thus creativity and connection – the cornerstone of humanity – is lost. This quietness belies deep frustration and loss, derived from the innate understanding that my humanity, my being, deeply wants to be expressed and to be of service but has no easily discernible means of doing so. I have experienced myself the shaky-voiced, faltering and sometimes tearful, ancient explanations – declarations of self – that bear no resemblance to the confident, fiery thoughts that, in my mind – sometime long ago, were expertly elucidated. When parts of ourselves are denied whether forcefully or tacitly, they wither and stagnate. It is less a question of who denied them or who is at fault and more how do we stop it happening? What makes so many women struggle to express themselves wholly, to confidently move through life and relationships believing they have an unquestionable right to enjoy it all? What drives the media to want to inform standards of beauty and behaviour, perpetuating unattainable and frankly, a lot of the time, undesirable standards of being, for females? Why do political leaders still feel it their remit to legislate female reproduction in ways that would be unthinkable were they foisted upon males? Why does female genital mutilation still exist? The answers to these questions inform the answers for ALL OF US as human beings, they lead to questions of war, torture, racial discrimination and other violence that is imposed on humans around our world. It is our undeniable right to be, to exist in peaceful enjoyment, to express and take command of our experience, to venture into the depths of life without feeling restricted. Whichever group is the focal point, the standards remain the same. We all thrive when treated with kindness and respect.
What I am getting at is that if a blanket of subtle oppression has always been there and you suddenly realise it is encumbering your freedom to move as you wish – you’re going to struggle to get rid of it. It probably won’t be pretty (and pretty has been the woman’s cross to bear since forever. It’s time to let that shit go.) This struggle may involve graceless outbursts, undignified expression or over-enthusiastic strength that is surplus to requirements. The point is, when you realise you’ve been had – it is often yourself that you are mad at. It is better to remedy and right the behaviours and patterns of thought toward a more positive outcome than to point fingers of blame – yes. However, just as keeping silent when someone else is being wronged fundamentally supports the perpetrator, staying silent while your own freedoms are being slowly eroded and infringed upon, makes you party to your own ruin. Oppression leads to loss of self esteem, leads to dangerous levels of abnegating one’s own power. You become the bird that stays in the cage even when the door has been opened.
It is for this reason that I am heartened by the mass congregations of women, the peaceful, powerful symbol of the feminine making amends without doing harm, to restore her place as an equal, worthy human being. To recognise injustice and speak up about it takes courage. To say Yes to reclaiming agency, self-belief and freedom of expression involves saying No to being disrespected, silenced and marginalised.
As long as we allow others to dictate how we should be, we sacrifice our power. As long as we segregate ourselves into groups defined by politics, race or gender, we sacrifice unity and connection.
As the female rises, so too will the elements intrinsic to her form – the shakti, the creativity, the boundless pleasure, the nurturing – this world can transform. This is not a battle cry either – the male aspect will flourish as a result of our restoration. Yin and yang always rebalance and the outcome is harmony and equilibrium. Strong, confident women need strong, confident men to thrive alongside. Men, we love you, now help us get back up so we can save the world.