Posted 12/13/2019 07:42:14
Category: Think Pieces
This month I have a question for you: Do you find feminism offensive? I ask because I just read an interesting essay, The Pros and Cons of Abandoning the Word 'Feminist', in which the author, Prof. Abigail Rine, admits to ambivalence about use of that particular F-word. While Prof. Rine embraced feminism early in life, I didn’t until much later. In the 1970s, when I was in my teens and early twenties, I, like just about everyone I knew, was against ratification of the ERA. If you’d asked me why, my answer would’ve been vague. Knowing, actually, little on the topic, I would’ve regurgitated things I’d been told. People talked about the “breakdown” of the family.” Mothers said they didn’t want to see their daughters drafted, it was hard enough letting go of the boys.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist family. Before I found feminism, I found Spirit. When I was a girl, most of the women in my world were housewives who played subservient roles, as did I, in an unyielding patriarchy. The women, like the men in my world, didn’t trust feminists, or the early waves of female professionals. (I remember how my mother, in particular, refused to see a female doctor.)
My reading, beginning in my early twenties, of books like Our Bodies Ourselves and, in my early thirties, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and, in my forties, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, led to growing self-awareness.
And today, I am a feminist.
The feminists of the 1960s and ‘70s were disparaged and stereotyped as angry, ugly, un-womanly women. But the outrage those women expressed was justified. Those women had to shout, and they had to growl, in order to be heard; in order to have a snowball’s chance in hell of effecting change. It’s cruel and unjustified to accuse feminists of not being feminine. A feminist is the most feminine woman of all. Because she’s real. Because she doesn’t buy into all the lies she is told. In her infinite variety, a feminist doesn’t take anybody’s word for who or what she is, she decides for herself.
It has been said that earlier waves of the women’s movement benefitted mostly affluent white women. Even if that were true, the movement has evolved. Feminists today are a very diverse group, comprised of persons, male and female, consciously invested in justice and equal rights for all, people of every gender and socioeconomic background, every so-called “race” (because, as we know, scientifically speaking, there’s only one race on this planet, and that is the human race--humans don’t distinguish themselves by race as much as they do by tribe and by culture; it’s not really race which divides us, it’s tribalism and culture wars).
Around the time I came upon Prof. Rine’s article in The Atlantic, a man I know, in a discussion we were having, used the term, the “new feminist paradigm.” I liked it a lot. So much so that I asked my friend if I might use the term myself in my writing. He said, of course. (Thank you, Gary Pearson.)
The fabric, the foundation, the heart of what I refer to as the New Feminist Paradigm is the feminine principle. Unlike so many of the paradigms we’re currently trapped in, the New Feminist Paradigm operates with heart and soul as well as with power and intellect. The New Feminist Paradigm is a healing system. It seeks resolution in ways that are more collaborative than competitive; more communicative than combative, but prepared to fight to defend if necessary. These are hard times. We’ve all got to shift the gears of the world out of ego into the heart. We’ve all got to get in touch with our feminine sides. It’s the only hope for the planet.
Abandon the word feminist? No way. Rather than remove that word from my lexicon, I embrace it. I believe everyone needs to, and to include it in their discourse on just about every problem facing society today, because just about every problem facing society today has a gender-based root or component to it, and is almost always slanted too heavily toward the paternal, or male, perspective.
I don’t think the Revolution has stalled. I think it might be only just beginning. We’ve had some setbacks, for sure. We’ve had to recover, process, and regroup more than once. . .and wait for new, more empowered generations to arrive on the waves we created and the winds we blew and land on a new and brighter shore. But arriving, they are. Women are gathering. Everywhere. Everywhere, women are rising up. I can feel it in my bones. Their strength is growing. The New Feminist Paradigm is all about power, and it’s all about knowledge, and it’s all about soul, and it's all about the heart. Woman Power. Woman Knowledge. Woman Love and Woman Soul. We’re gonna spread it all over the world. Baby.
* * *
For century after century we’ve operated in an overly masculinist paradigm, the patterns and energies of which have seeped so deeply into our individual and collective psyches that we are unaware it is so, or that there’s a better alternative. Women have cracked the glass ceiling, but there’s another layer which must be penetrated as well, and that one lies under the surface. That one lies within. The world is in desperate need of the feminine principle, the feminine spirit; of what the woman has to give. Moving away from the patriarchy while at the same time engaging in self-examination may facilitate a new feminist paradigm which does much to correct, and heal, the effects of what is occurring in our hyper-industrialized, over-militarized, super-commercialized and commodified society. We live in a system of capitalism so insane it commodifies our very minds and bodies, our very existence. To get ourselves out of the many messes we’ve made, we’re all going to have to do our part. But Western women, being the most educated and powerful women in the world at present—in recorded history, in fact—are in a unique position to lead the way. The Dalai Lama has prophesied that educated Western women will lead the way. I trust the Dalai Lama.
My heart goes out to those who suffered such devastating disaster in Oklahoma this month. I hold them in my prayers.
(UPDATE: This blogpost has evolved considerably since 2013. It’s grown into an entire collection of essays. When finished, the book, as well as the lead essay, will be entitled, The New Feminist Paradigm.)