One of the most powerful feminist works of the late 20th century was Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly. There is nothing fluffy about her perspective. It is a scathing condemnation of the world that men have built. The title itself is provocative and suggests many layers of meaning. Of all those layers, what means the most to me personally is the wonder of nature and the incomprehensibility of what we have done and continue to do to her.
Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade and more recently, The Real Wealth of Nations made a crucial contribution to the feminist literature by showing us that the opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy. In fact, matriarchy is a patriarchal concept. The true opposite is partnership, a harmonious balance between the masculine and feminine, men and women. Both patriarchy and matriarchy are models in which one group dominates another. This is the antithesis of gyn/ecology.
What woman would foul the nest in which she raises her young? What woman would create chemistry not found in the natural world, only to turn it loose on the planet with no understanding of its long term effects on ourselves, our children and their descendants? What woman would design a system of energy generation that would produce waste products highly lethal for a quarter million years? What woman would manufacture plant and animal life by tinkering with their genetic code outside the constraints imposed by the limitations of selective breeding, with no thought to the long term consequences of this genetic pollution?
That we should even have to ask these questions is baffling, astonishing and overwhelming. That women are not outraged by our current realities is incomprehensible. Why aren’t women rioting in the streets?
There are many reasons, but let’s address a few of the critical ones.
We are used to things as they are. We are busy trying to raise healthy children, be good mothers, wives and employees. We can barely find time for ourselves, much less wrap our minds around issues of this magnitude.
We are all members of a society. There are rules, norms of behavior, implicit and explicit expectations of how we should dress, interact, believe, mate and comport ourselves in whatever tribe (neighborhood, school, business, church, organization) to which we belong. Living at the edge of the village is uncomfortable. It is being an outsider in a world of insiders. Society has a love/hate relationship with its artists, mystics, poets and bohemians. At some level, insiders know that those who live at the edge of the village do so in a different reality construct. The disturbing and unsettling visions and creations by people who live on the edge, both disrupt the complacency of the insiders and bring essential vitality to prevent society from stagnating.
People’s behavior is largely shaped by the system in which they operate. Nora Coffey, who has run the H.E.R.S. Foundation for more than 30 years, estimates that 98 percent of hysterectomy operations performed every year have no medical justification whatsoever. How can these largely well-meaning people participate in such carnage? It is because the system authorizes, supports, financially incentivizes, and reinforces such behavior. There is no “star chamber” with hooded conspirators pulling the strings. The system has a life of its own and is self-organizing. It also has a highly developed immune system and will spit out any pathogen that questions the underlying assumptions of the system.
The same can be said for the fossil fuel companies, nuclear power companies, and many other systems that are deeply hostile to life itself. We as human beings have an amazing ability to fabricate realities that we find comfortable.
In the old Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant, six blind men approach an elephant about which they have heard but never experienced. Each grasps a different piece of the elephant and their discoveries provoke a huge argument about the nature of the beast. One has the ear and believes the elephant to be like a fan, another the side and conceives of the elephant as a wall, the tusk a spear, the tail a whip, the trunk a snake and the leg a tree. The parable, of course, teaches us the nature of consciousness. We live in what we believe to be reality. Yet all of us only have a tiny slice based on our sensory capacities, language, education, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, our age and many other factors.
Wherever we live, work, socialize and interact, the systems in which we find ourselves relentlessly shape our worldview and behavior, and we simply tune out the data that is incongruent with survival in the system.
Our work is to wake up.
Our work is to look and really see.
Our work is to have the courage to assimilate reliable information that challenges our complacency.
If we are not to be completely overwhelmed and crushed by the insanity of life as we live it in the early 21st century, we must also expand our existential framework beyond this narrow life and death.
Ultimately, the enemy is dogma.
By definition, dogma is a finite, fixed and frozen picture of reality that is immune to being revised, updated, fed and kept alive by new ideas, information and hard data. We cleave to dogma because it feels safe and comfortable. But it is completely false. Its fixed nature means it is dead, disconnected and dangerous. Dogma will always lead us astray and is ultimately a tool of those systems and institutions that cannot tolerate and survive real scrutiny, and that depend on their constituents remaining asleep.
Awakening requires the repudiation of all dogma. This is what is meant by the Buddhist koan, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”
To create a sustainable, safe and nurturing relationship with nature we must awaken, we must contend with those whose conflict of interest with us requires our continued slumber, and we must do so from a place of non-judgment, without rancor. This is difficult. But Gandhi showed us what persistence and non-violence can do.
Ultimately this isn’t Female work or Male work. It is Human work and probably the only hope for our long-term survival as a species.
Christine Kent, RN holds Bachelor of Science degrees in both anthropology (from Northern Arizona University) and nursing (from the University of New Mexico). She pursued her nursing degree after years as a mother and homemaker. Her book, “Saving the Whole Woman”, was published in 2003, the same year she founded her company and put up her website, Whole Woman. She has produced five DVDs, “First Aid for Prolapse”, “First Aid for Prolapse for Elders”, and three “Whole Woman Yoga®” DVDs. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico USA where she runs the Whole Woman Center, works with women from around the world to teach them her methods, is researching and writing a book on the health of the hip joints, and conducts training for Certified Whole Woman Practitioners.