Monday, July 11, 2011

The Avatar of the Feminine

July 11th, 2011

Over the past few weeks, I have spent lots of time with amazing women. I've walked the Stanford Dish with them, listened to glorious music with them, eaten Fred Steak with them, and discussed the whole mysterious business of what it means to be a woman - an honest to goodness, strong, confident, caring, vulnerable, loving, competent, funny, financially independent woman in these times.

Here are some of the things they have said to me over wine, walks, and laughter that deserve lots more thought and reflection.

"We shouldn't be measuring ourselves by the old indices by which the world measures success - how many boards we sit on, how much money we make, how well recognized we are. That tells us nothing because the world of that corporate board is still an unchanged world. We should be measuring our success by starting our own businesses, our own nonprofits, baking or sewing or consulting or running or being a parent, on our terms, our way, no compromises. That's the only way we will change the world."

"Sometimes, I feel as though I have more than 2 children, or 4, or 3, because my husband is so emotionally needy it is like having another kid - exhausting. "

"Now that we have less time ahead of us in our lives than behind us, it seems all the more important to choose with whom we wish to spend the rest of our lives and how."

"So what if we lived our lives and approached our challenges with the full measure of our femininity and feminism? What if we did not do the "less than" inside our heads - ie." as a woman i am always considered less than so I have to work twice/3x/5x/10x as hard to succeed at whatever I do"

"Being fully and completely in touch with your feminine is a place of great vulnerability - it means a space of accepting and encompassing it all. We cannot be in that place all the time - we need the boundaries that our masculine energies allow."

"In a way, Hinduism in its most abstract form could be seen as the most feminine of philosophies, not because of its goddesses, but because it is not an exclusive religion that claims, "we are the chosen people" "we will be saved and the rest will go to hell" - instead it is deeply and profoundly inclusive. To me it says, "your way to the divine is this and there are other ways and all those ways can be honoured and accepted. we are all part of the oneness of the divine."

"Yes, Chinese tradition has the yin and yang and the notion of integrated male female power, but the fundamentals of the tradition, particularly as it became shaped by Confucianism were deeply patriarchal and non-welcoming of girls. It doesn't surprise me that China's adoption of the one-child policy has resulted in the skewed sex ratios in favour of males."

"We have to be the change. Just like Gandhi said."

I've meditated on these various thoughts and snippets. They come to mind as I read the news. They insert themselves when I note how much more at ease my husband Zuli is in the kitchen than I am - and how much less messy!

They provoke me into exploring why I loved the movie Avatar (which means incarnation in Sanskrit) but felt so let down at the end. It was that sense that violence had indeed triumphed over peaceful civil disobedience in the last scenes. I asked myself, "how could a culture with all that wisdom about the feminine, with a tree that understands the profound inter-connectedness of all living beings, with priestesses galore, simply resort to picking up the weapons of the oppressor and fighting them literally, "tooth and nail"? Yet, I recall how my sister Sagari, who works with indigenous women and shepherds in rural Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, told me how the tribal communities saw the film and loved it. "They loved that the blue people who had a different vision for the world refused to be silenced and anihilated. They loved that a man from the oppressing outsiders saw the light and came over to their side - they did not see him as the white hero - they saw him as the tool by which the native communities could learn the secrets of their oppressors and undermine them. Sort of guerilla warfare."

What kind of guerilla warfare will we need to advance the power of the feminine? Is it even conceivable in a world where, as per the most recent UN Report, women are so routinely abused and diminished that they aren't even fully one half of the world anymore, because they are killed before they are even allowed to be born and still treated as minors within many legal systems.

Will we need a combination of doing it "our" way: non-violently and co-operatively and/or using the pressure tactics of our opponents? Was the poet Audre Lord, right or wrong, when she asserted, "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."? In answer, I hold fast to another one of her sayings, "“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” To this feminist, the fantasy Avatar ending would be a case where the mother tree wrapped firm but loving arms around all and asked everyone to, "please, use your words!".

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