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Beyond Patriarchy

Oct23

by: Letty Cottin Pogrebin on October 23rd, 2018 | No Comments »

Editor’s note: Our Winter 2019 issue is going to address how we can move beyond patriarchy, and some visions and ideas of what a world beyond patriarchy might look like.
Tikkun is a non-profit and we are legally prevented from endorsing candidates or political parties. The article below is not a statement of Tikkun‘s position, but a reflection of one of the founders of Ms. magazine, and is published here in honor of her long contribution to the development of 2nd wave feminism, and not as a reflection of an editorial position by Tikkun.

In April, Tikkun magazine asked: What would a world beyond patriarchy look like? The question hooked me. My brain took flight, imagination soared, hope sprang nocturnal. But after six months, I still hadn’t written the piece. How come? Writer’s block was an unlikely culprit since I’ve been churning out pages for a new memoir. Finally, I realized what the problem is: I could no longer envision a world beyond patriarchy.

This election boils down to a simple binary choice. Photo by Mirah Curzer

In 1975, for the anthology, Women in the Year 2000, a bunch of activist optimists, among them myself, Gloria Steinem, David Saperstein, Nora Sayre, Alvin Toffler, and the then Congresswoman Bella Abzug, were asked to imagine what the world would look like for women twenty five years in the future. In 1975, everything seemed possible. Second Wave feminism had already beached a wide tide of progressive change. We had Title VII, Title IX, affirmative action, and dozens of states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Nixon was out, Ford was weak, a pride of Democratic lions who claimed to be “pro-women” (Jerry Brown, Mo Udall, Birch Bayh, Fred Harris, Jimmy Carter) had their eye on the Oval Office, and Time magazine bestowed its 1975 “Man of the Year” award to “American Women.”


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Increasing Prospects for Collaboration Even before Starting

Oct9

by: on October 9th, 2018 | No Comments »

Graphic from a collaborative Global Governance Model

I’ve been in the collaboration “business” for about 20 years now, working on all levels, from the most internal inner conflicts, to the most ambitious efforts to create at least a model of what local to global collaboration could look like. Up until the last few years, the bulk of my work has been with individuals learning to engage with self and other in ways that have more empathy, compassion, authenticity, and vulnerability. In recent years, I have been focusing more on leadership and on systemic frameworks as well as tools for group collaboration.

I have found that working in the way that I have is like a collaboration gym: exercising our collaboration muscles allows us to regain capacity where we’ve lost it in the centuries since we’ve been torn apart from land and community to create mostly transactional relationships that are based on negotiating self-interest and little more. I have seen people and groups get much better results after applying what they learn about collaboration in workshops and consulting services I have offered.

Something was missing, though, about why, sometimes, even with all the best collaboration tools, individuals or groups don’t get anywhere with their efforts. The beginning clue came to me when I read The Leaderless Revolution by top-UK-diplomat-turned-accidental-anarchist Carne Ross. Ross’s book, which I found remarkable in many respects, got me started thinking about what, ultimately, makes collaboration work. Most especially, how do groups of individuals come into their own power and collectively manage to improve the conditions of their life. For me, it becomes ever more interesting to understand this because I want to learn how, at least locally, we can challenge the larger systems within which we operate.

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Ejecting The Oppressor: It Takes Earth and Earth and Earth

Oct7

by: on October 7th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Prosper Kompaore shared a proverb from his home country of Burkina Faso: “How is it that sky-high termite mounds can be made by such tiny insects?” he asked. The answer, counseling determination, endurance, commitment and plenty of sustenance: “It takes earth and earth and earth…”

It is not given you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Ancestors) 2:16

In times of great disappointment, the temptation to just react is powerful. I’m as angry, sad, and scared as anyone. But I also know that in the grip of those feelings, my judgment is impaired. My amygdala wants to fight, flee, or freeze, but my neocortex knows now is the time to rein in the reptile brain, reaching for higher ground.


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The Pillars of Patriarchal Privilege Will (Hopefully) Come A-Tumbling Down

Oct5

by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on October 5th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Image of Kavanaugh and family standing next to Trump in front of an audience

President Trump nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. Image courtesy of the White House.

Throughout his tirade-filled rant in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh conducted a clinic on white male privilege. In doing so, he served up a clear example of the sense of entitlement many males live with in the (hopefully) dying Patriarchy.

On at least two separate occasions, Kavanaugh exposed what particularly white boys learn from family and the society at large as soon as they exit the womb, that they will advance in life as far as their hard work, talents, and aggressive competitive habits will take them, regardless of their backgrounds and family status.

This notion of meritocracy, the pablum on which they are weaned, endows them with a sense of entitlement deep within the cellular level of their bodies and the recesses of their souls.

When questioned by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) about his heavy drinking in high school, Kavanaugh asserted this as if it should have been understood:

“Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.”

Kavanaugh blurted out a similar retort to Senator Mazie Hirono’s (D-HI) query specifically about his college drinking:

“Senator, you were asking about college. I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”

Kavanaugh connected all the dots for those of us who may not have internalized the lessons as well as he. The outline goes something like this:

If one is born with a penis between one’s legs, and pink-white skin and money from Christian family members, and considers oneself as cismale, and if one works hard, one has the right, or rather, the obligation to party hard and to accumulate as many notches on one’s sexual score card as possible. And especially, one can be guaranteed of achieving financial success, security, and social power over others.

If anyone, however, challenges this patriarchal endowment, one can obliterate opposition by all means necessary with as strong a show of force as physically and expressively possible. That’s the patriarchal social contract.

“So Senators,” Kavanaugh seemed to be shouting as his subtext, “I followed the rules of conduct that I was taught. Now I demand the goodies promised to me!”

Lindsey Graham reinforced this demand toward the end of the hearings with his own blame-laden outburst. Actually, Graham out-Kavanaughed Kavanaugh, while Kavanaugh even out-Trumped Trump – the top and most visible symbol of the entitled Patriarchy.

Possibly, though, our nation is experiencing a sea change of sorts as people like Drs. Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford and allies are beginning to pry loose the patriarchal pillars supporting the entitlement, the inequities, the gendered power differentials, the violence, and yes, the sexual abuse that men have taken as their birthright.

Maybe (and hopefully) we witnessed mortal desperate gasps of an endangered species.

__

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld  is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press), co-editor of Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense Publications), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge), editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon).

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Look At Me (Part Three)

Oct4

by: on October 4th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

When we think about the meaning of events in the world around us, we interpret them through a fusion of past, present and future horizons. Philosopher Hans-Georg-Gadamer wrote about the fusion of past and present horizons in the interpretation of texts, but I say that the future we want to bring into existence is also part of the eternal now that forms the context of our thinking.

We live in a country where writer Gore Vidal called the USA the United States of Amnesia. It often seems as if we cannot remember from one day to the next, much less the last century. However, if we are to understand the current moment, it is important to understand the past. When I wrote about the Anita Hill portion of the Clarence Thomas Hearings, I put that moment in a historical context. Here is some more of what I wrote:

“Once upon a time in America a discussion about birth control was considered obscene, and to tell even married people about ways to control child birth became a free speech issue. In 1912, Margaret Sanger, a nurse and birth control activist, started speaking to left-wing audiences about health issues, including sex education and venereal disease. . . . Sanger published “Woman Rebel”, a paper aimed at working-class women, and one of her goals was to advocate for “birth control.” She argued that a woman’s body was hers alone and to force a woman into motherhood was to deny a woman her right to life and liberty. She did not print birth control information, but she printed letters from working-class people requesting the information. The post office refused to mail the publication and indicted Sanger. She used the arrest to call attention to her cause. . . . Sanger did not stand trial for the charge but left the country instead.

Before leaving, Sanger published a pamphlet that gave information on contraception: “Family Limitation: A Nurse’s Advice to Women” which was distributed by her friends with the Industrial Workers of the World, a socialist organization working to end capitalism. Her pamphlet was intended for poor people who could least afford a large family and who did not have access to information that middle-class women had. Some working poor women were eager for the information, but many were embarrassed to speak of such things openly and others did not have the capabilities or the energy to put birth control information into practice.

Sanger found it difficult to enlist both poor and middle-class women in her struggle until she opened a birth control clinic in the fall of 1916. Making sure that the district attorney was notified, she was arrested, tried, and convicted. The publicity surrounding her arrest and trial brought wide support from middle-class women. As a result of her work, the New York Court of Appeals broadened the law so that physicians could give advice to married people about how to prevent or cure disease. Birth control information was given by doctors under this provision.

Once upon a time in America, women were excluded from political convention platform committee meetings. In 1924, a list of women’s concerns had to be taken into the platform committee meeting by a man. Those concerns included conservation, an 8-hour work day, collective bargaining, a federal employment agency, equal pay for equal work, federal aid for maternal and child health and welfare, and education to prevent venereal disease. Many of these concerns became federal policy during the New Deal. During the depression and during World War II, women found themselves caught between the domestic ideal and the realities of national emergencies.

Abortion had been legal in the United States until around the end of the 1800s. In contrast to their daughters’ daughters’ and their daughters, women’s rights advocates of the nineteenth century did not favor either contraception or abortion. According to historian Nancy Woloch “. . . throughout the nineteenth century, contraception and abortion were condemned by a wide range of women, from feminists to free love advocates to pious churchgoers, since both encouraged the sexual exploitation of women.” But in the early twentieth century, women began to celebrate their own sexuality and to reject Victorian notions of female purity and restraint. At the same time, economic realities set in and both men and women wanted to find ways to control childbirth. Illegal abortions became common and many women sacrificed their health and in some cases their lives. So, in the 1970s with rise of a new wave of feminism, the repeal of anti-abortion statutes became an important component of the feminist agenda.”

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Arguing with Integrity: Ford, Ramirez, Swetnick, Kavanaugh, and the Senate Judiciary Committee

Oct3

by: on October 3rd, 2018 | No Comments »

Brett Kavanaugh should never have been confirmed for any judgeship, nor receive approval for his current bid for Supreme Court. My reasons for saying this are simple: charges of sexual assault from three credible witnesses; an increasingly well-documented history of public belligerence, including violence; a mounting body of lies about his own conduct; and an appallingly intemperate performance of outraged entitlement and partisanship before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The arguments against him on these grounds are solid and sufficient to carry the day, judged flatly on the merits. If they fail to do so, it will be on account of a nauseating party-line refusal to care about women’s safety and well-being, compounded by a cocktail of enraged white male entitlement.

The most recent polling makes this clear: 81 percent of black voters are opposed to confirmation, as are 65 percent of Hispanic voters. Across the board, 68 percent of voters support reopening the FBI background check. A full 86 percent of Democrats believe Blasey Ford as opposed to 10 percent of Republicans. (This Quinnipiac University Poll is pretty interesting on the granular level; for instance, white participants with a college degree oppose confirmation in much greater numbers than those without higher-ed credentials.)

But pull those figures apart and you’ll find multiplying questions and stories. Pundits are issuing analyses as fast as they can. Many sound worthy to some degree, but none of them settles my confusion about what it all means. Instead, they echo in my head like koans that never quite resolve:

The women who support Kavanaugh, what are they thinking and feeling? Overall, 37 percent of women—including 45% of white women—say Kavanaugh should be confirmed. Take a moment to consider this: despite his intemperance, despite the testimony of sexual assault, despite his remarkable show of political partisanship—seemingly grounded in the belief he has a right to a seat on the Supreme Court—in a proceeding that demands at least the appearance of neutrality, nearly one out of two white women want to see his nomination approved.

Some of this is being explained as skepticism. I get skepticism. This nation’s history is pockmarked with false accusation: the Salem witch trials, the Red Scare of the Fifties with its different witchhunts, and so on. (And it’s not just this nation. To pick a single example among many, check out the 1930s show trials staged under Stalin to legitimate persecution of his political opponents.) In many times and places, people have made false denunciations as a way to acquire power or profit, dismissing the accused as so much collateral damage in the race for advantage and ambition.

But what advantage do Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick gain by subjecting themselves to reviling, extreme scrutiny, to the barrage of insult and counter-accusation they knew full well would follow from their decisions to go public? Tales are being proffered, of course: they’re committed political operatives, stealthily awaiting the opportunity to bring a right-wing hero down; they’ll make fortunes from their tell-all best-sellers; they are hired performers, and so on. Remarkable charges to believe without a shred of evidence being offered, are they not?

Some of this is being explained along Stepford Wives lines. These women who support Kavanaugh are fundamentalists, we are told, following the edicts of the men in their lives—husbands, fathers, pastors—whose power, and therefore Kavanaugh’s power, the egregious Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina’s power, and by extension, the power of the white male-dominated Republican Party as a whole, cannot be questioned. If this is true, it is terrifying. I cannot prove it untrue, though I believe that every human being possesses the capacity to awaken from the trance of domination, putting choice in the place of compulsion. And I see glimpses of this truth in the headlines, such as this account of the women who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator, demanding he not turn away.

Some of this is being framed as white supremacy. If Republicans are the party of white power, and through the distorted lens of racism white power must be retained at all costs, then gender is simply a side-issue. Women’s suffering must be understood as an enduring fact of life; trading one’s independence for the security of a white male protector must be understood as a necessary bargain.

On the other side, the people who are pulling out all the stops, reaching for anything to discredit the nominee, what are they thinking and feeling? The last few days, on progressive sites and discussion lists, I’ve been reading detailed discussions of notations on Kavanaugh’s calendar from student days, centering on whether certain words were code for marijuana, cocaine, or group sex acts. There is tremendous interest in seeing him condemned for underage drinking—drinking to spectacular excess, to be sure, but for some, drinking at all before the legal age. To me, this tactic pulls energy from the real issues, sexual violence and bellicose entitlement. But the people using it say it is necessary to sway those who otherwise find a way to excuse unseemly displays of anger, to excuse sexual assault as a manifestation of boys being boys.

Are there people who find attempted rape more excusable than underage drinking? Let me put it this way: in the Watergate era, I visited with a friend of a friend who was heartbroken that Nixon had been forced out. She could see several ways to justify his illegal behavior, she told me—several types of political necessity defense—but, she said, “I could never excuse his terrible language on the Watergate tapes.”

So perhaps charging Kavanaugh with drug use and alcohol abuse in his youth will succeed in swaying a few. I have an inkling of the desperation behind this, because I feel it. I dread to imagine a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh pulling every decision as far to the right as it will stretch. But I also dread to imagine a progressive future president nominating someone—a person whose closet hides no other skeletons, who fits the highest standards of decorum and nonpartisanship despite ample provocation in confirmation hearings—who drank with buddies in high school, who experimented with drugs (as the standard phrase goes)—and who therefore is deemed unfit, tit for tat. Charge Kavanaugh with lying about sexual assault, about the way he got into Yale, about his role in the Clinton impeachment, and other clearly relevant deceptions. Charging him with drinking way too much in high school, and I fear chickens coming home to roost.

Is this spectacle the last gasp of a dying social order, or a display of enduring state power in the hands of ruthless and amoral profiteers? (I’ve been staring at that last sentence for a while, wondering if it’s over-the-top or a flat description of reality; I am forced to conclude that I’m not exaggerating.) I don’t want to portray the ailments besetting the body politic as some epic battle, evil germs versus good antibodies. But for accuracy’s sake, I must portray it as me versus we, the powerful asserting their will just because they can, and the rest of us be damned.

Evidence is piling up, but I don’t always know how to read it. I keep seeing a photo featuring a panorama of appalled female faces behind Kavanaugh’s furious face as he testifies. My friends posted it, saying it portrays a core truth: that the numbers may say nearly half of all white women believe Kavanaugh, facing his lies, they can’t help but be appalled. Appalled the pictured women clearly are, but since most of them turn out to be Kavanaugh allies, evidently not by his performance.

Yet the cries of #MeToo are greatly outnumbering #MeFirst. The Kavanaugh nomination has triggered yet another vast outpouring of personal testimony from women who’ve been raped or otherwise assaulted, many of whom waited decades to come forward. There’s a meme making the rounds. Here’s how one Facebook user put it: “If you believe men who waited decades to accuse priests but not women who waited decades to accuse men, you’re fucking misogynist.” Tons of explanation have been offered for women’s delay, which in the default world must be justified.

Are we stuck in the default world? This is a tipping-point. The 2018 and 2020 elections could tip the delicate balance enabling the Republicans trying to force Kavanaugh on the nation to maintain power. The enormous protests we are now seeing aim to awaken slumbering conscience, to force accountability for abusers. By all measures, there are more potential voters who put we before me, who value women’s safety, a decent judiciary, the public good over the fortunes and power of the wealthy white men who hold the Senate hostage and the donors who own them. Voting isn’t everything. Even with a major shift in Congress, we will still have to contend with a divided country, one in which people have great difficulty comprehending their counterparts on the other side of the values divide. But voting now matters more than ever in my lifetime.

Are we seeing the last gasp of white supremacy or a display of enduring state power in the hands of ruthless and amoral profiteers? Which side of the tipping point are we on?

“The Times They Are A-Changin’” performed by Bettye LaVette.

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Look At Me (Part Two)

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

When Ana Maria Archila, national committee member of the Working Families Party and executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, and activist Maria Gallagher confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator, they demanded that he look at them. Their imperative is one that demands that we see women today and see women within the context of the history of women in the United States. When I wrote about Anita Hill, I read her testimony within this context. Here is some of what I wrote:

“Once upon a time in America, during the Revolutionary War, women became boycotters, refusing to buy British goods, were camp followers, petitioners, fund raisers, loyalists and patriots. Still, at the writing of the Constitution, women were not citizens. In the 1800s, women were seen as the keepers of values while they had no control over property, children, or the number of children they bore. Many women were illiterate, so a lack of education and a lack of birth control kept women in traditional household roles. According to historian Nancy Woloch, reason was considered a masculine quality, even by women themselves, and an effeminate mind was thought to be “vain, capricious, fickle, foolish, frivolous, or extravagant.” In the 1800s women were expected to display personal virtues: “modest, cheerful, timid, delicate, tender, affectionate, graceful, sympathetic.” While women were expected to display these qualities, a man’s approval, husband, judge, legislator, was necessary for a woman to exercise any legal rights.

Once upon a time in America, in the early 19th century women organized for charity work and social reforms. Middle-class women in the North, kept from official authority, made a public place for themselves between the house and government. Still women found themselves confined to a “woman’s proper sphere.” They were allowed to stay home and to visit the unfortunate. Dorothea Dix visited prisoners and worked on prison reform, trying to get insane people put in different facilities from common criminals. Women worked for peace, temperance, and against slavery. They worked for moral purity of male and female. The 19th century saw more young women leaving home, working as seamstresses, factory workers and clerks in cities. Moral reformers, watching out for the welfare of single women working in the cities, became advocates for women’s rights and they became abolitionists. Women now became concerned with politics and with the public limitations imposed on women. During this time in America, it was scandalous for a woman to address a mixed audience of both men and women. Margaret Fuller wrote in 1845 that women ought to end their psychological dependence upon men.

Once upon a time in America, between the Civil War and World War I, women in America continued to work as unpaid labor in their households and thereby, during western expansion, helped to establish European-American communities. Meanwhile, because of increased urbanization and industrialization, women became wage laborers, in larger numbers. Young women worked in factories producing cloth, clothing, food, and tobacco. They worked as teachers, nurses, office workers and salesclerks. But, once married, women were expected to leave wage labor and work inside the home. After the Civil War some two million blackwomen* entered the labor market. Most blackwomen of necessity did not conform to the white domestic ideal of the mother who only works at home. Yet, despite blackwomen’s role as wage earners, black men still wanted to assume a male dominant role. The notion of male supremacy was therefore not incompatible with female labor.

Once upon a time in America, both men and women often worked 60-hour, five and a half-day weeks that required “standing, stooping, lifting, and hauling, as well as heat, dust, dampness, noise, monotony, and exhaustion.” Children worked in factories. Women reformers who wanted to change the working conditions of women and children often saw women’s own passivity as part of the problem. According to one reformer, women had not learned to “work” only “to be worked.” Wages were low and women rarely organized into unions. Male dominated unions while not welcoming women as members, called for equal pay for equal work because they did not want to see women create a cheap labor force that would reduce men’s salaries. Union men therefore supported the domestic ideal. Later, protective laws restricted working hours, imposed a minimum wage, but also kept women from working at night, carrying heavy loads, working in dangerous places, including mines and bars, and these laws were largely supported by women’s rights activists.

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Look At Me (Part One)

Oct1

by: on October 1st, 2018 | 1 Comment »

On Friday, October 28, when two young women -Ana Maria Archila, national committee member of the Working Families Party and executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, and activist Maria Gallagher — confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator as he was on his way to a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Maria Gallagher demanded that Senator Flake look at her.

“Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/us/politics/jeff-flake-protesters-kavanaugh.html)

In her demand to be seen and to be taken seriously, she was speaking not only for women during this #MeToo moment who are telling their stories of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment, but I heard in her demand the echoes of women who have made that demand ringing down through the history of the United States.

When I wrote about the Anita Hill portion of the Clarence Thomas Hearings, I thought it was important to put that moment in historical context. Here is some of what I wrote:

“Once upon a time in America during the 17th century, during colonial times, women were “silent in church, subservient at home, and dependent on men,” just as they were in England, according to historian Nancy Woloch. There was a shortage of women and so shiploads of women were imported. Woloch tells us that: “Between 1620 and 1622 about 150 ‘pure and spotless’ women disembarked and were auctioned off for eighty pounds of tobacco a piece and more to future husbands.” In both North and South nearly all white women were married because families were necessary for settlement and for producing a labor force. Colonial mores established male authority and female submission. At the same time, the 17th century home was also the workplace, and women were important workers in that environment. In North Carolina and Virginia women hunted deer, turkey, wild cattle, and hogs. Yet, despite their work, women had no control over family resources. At the same time, if a husband or father died, a woman often assumed control of his business. Women therefore were shopkeepers, booksellers, tavern keepers, even blacksmiths, butchers, and gunsmiths. A single woman, a feme sole, was a legal individual. She could buy and sell property, sue, and be sued, enter into contracts, administer estates, and hold power of attorney.

Once upon a time in America, Puritans saw the family as a way to transmit religious values and they were expected to show personal virtues of submission, obedience, meekness, and humility. Outspoken women were called “meddlers.” Woloch writes: “Conveying a sense of incompetence and illegitimacy it was frequently used to describe the sort of intrusive aggressive female behavior to which seventeenth century men objected.” In the 1630s, Anne Hutchinson, wife of a landowner, merchant, and public official, mother of at least 14, midwife, and theologian, challenged the sanctity of ministers who opposed her and was expelled from Massachusetts in 1637. She argued that it was better for believers to depend on God rather than to depend on intermediaries. Hutchinson moved to New York and was killed by Indians in 1643. Mary Dyer, a Hutchinson follower, was accused of “error” and called “censorious” and “troublesome.” Mary Oliver criticized ministers and magistrates and ended up in the stocks. Ann Eaton of New Haven, Connecticut disavowed infant baptism and was excommunicated in 1644 for lying and stubbornness. Ann Hopkins, Eaton’s daughter, was said to have been driven mad by reading, writing, and thinking of things that only men should think about. Ann Hibbens, wife of a prominent Boston merchant, was tried in 1641 for lying and slander, was excommunicated and denounced for usurping the authority of her husband. According to Woloch: “Female dissent or aggressiveness remained evils to be suppressed before they got out of hand” If a woman dared to challenge a man, she dared to challenge patriarchy itself. Courage to challenge was interpreted as indicative of mental and moral weakness:

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An Activist’s Penitence

Sep26

by: Simon Mont on September 26th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Bringing shortcomings to light is a form of self-love. (Image courtesy of Ian Chen)

I long to see a world of justice and joy; a world where all people’s material needs are met, and we lovingly support each other’s emotional, spiritual, and creative flourishing. Though my life is directed toward manifesting this vision, I often do things that subvert it. Though I long to be a force of peace and transformation, I often commit violence and perpetuate societal distortions.

As I walk the path back to love, truth, and unity, I have noticed more and more the ways in which I have missed the mark; ways in which I have fallen short of expressing what is truly in my heart. In the spirit and wisdom of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of return to wholeness and connection, I offer just some of the things I have noticed here. My intention is that by expressing them publicly I will be more accountable to changing my behavior. My hope is that others will see themselves in my confession, and join me on the path back to love. My prayer is that this offering will help us all heal and welcome each other in beloved community.

I have hidden.

I have stayed in the comfort of my own mental constructs. I have dismissed worldviews that contradict my own.

 

I have used thoughts to avoid confronting my feelings; used beliefs to cloak my needs and wounds; and used arguments to mask my fears.

 

I have tried to use my mind to control, predict, and create safety. I have fled from the tender power of my heart, and the truths that compassion makes me confront.

 

I have hated.

 

I have hated patterns of oppression. Hated them when they appeared in me, then hated myself. Hated them when they appeared in others, then hated others.

 

I have branded and shunned people who see the world differently. I have done it in my own mind, and I have done it with my language and my actions.

 

I have frozen people in one moment in time, and not allowed room for their growth, healing, and transformation.

 

I have fully internalized a distorted view of myself, believed myself to be nothing more than my unchosen role in an an oppressive system, and hated myself for things beyond my control.

I have diminished.

 

I have reduced people to nothing more than the distorted societal patterns that manifest in their behavior.

 

I have failed to see people’s true humanity and complexity; and then imagined myself insightful for doing so.

 

I have thought the only truths worth speaking about are pain, oppression, and injustice and have failed to make space for love, transcendence, and hope.

 

I have allowed my understanding of my true nature to be limited to what people around me are comfortable with.

 

I have judged.

 

I have seen people only for the harm or threat they pose, and not the wounds they suffer from.

 

I have interpreted people’s different experiences, understandings of politics, and uses of language as character flaws.

 

I have fixated on people’s missteps and failed to see their humanity.

 

I have reduced people to nothing more than their unchosen roles in social systems

 

I have used my words as weapons.

I have gossiped about people’s political or identity shortcomings and by doing so, trapped them in the box of my limited understanding.

 

I have imagined myself as superior to other people, then leveraged politics to put other people down.

 

I have used an analysis of oppression to display intellectual dominance.

 

I have leveraged my access to various forms of education and mentorship to make other people feel stupid, ashamed, unsafe, and unwelcomed.

 

I have worshipped my own self image.

 

I have imagined a world where some people are morally superior to others. I have enforced that vision on others to inflate my sense of self worth, and avoid confronting my own human struggles.

 

I have been infatuated with my self-righteousness.

 

I have idolized my own understanding so much that I could not see the truths of others.

 

I have used the language of revolution to inflate my ego.

 

I have used politics and social movements as a forum to acquire social status.

 

I have feared.

 

I have remained palatable to enforcers of radical left political correctness because I am afraid of being misunderstood or ostracized.

 

I have clung to my beliefs and not allowed room for contradictory truths to emerge.

 

I have failed to speak my truth because I believe I will be judged or shunned by my progressive/leftist/radical community.

 

I have presented myself as a victim in order to be welcomed as credible.

 

I have limited my circle of compassion to only those who agree with me.

 

I have become attached to mental constructs of justice and failed to cultivate the courage to love and act directly from the heart.

This is an incomplete list of what I have done. I doubt any of it will come as a surprise to those who know me, especially those who have suffered at my hand. I welcome folks to add to this list with things they have observed in me, or in themselves.

I am sorry. My actions have hurt people. I have hurt people I care about. I have slowed the cultivation of the compassionate world that I long to see, and I have done it in the name of speeding it up. I cannot guarantee that I will be able to fully stop behaving this way, will commit myself to doing the best I can, knowing full well that next year will be another Yom Kippur, another time for repentance, another opportunity for a more full return.

I also apologize to myself. I have been so hard on myself; constantly aspiring to an unachievable standard and then feeling bad that I don’t meet it. It is easier for me to see and share my mistakes then to notice and be proud of my successes. The gentle heart that motivates my life often goes unrecognized by the mind that sees nothing but how much more work there is to be done. Tomorrow, when the season turns from repentance to joy, I might just follow my father’s advice and write a piece about how much I’ve grown and transformed. Somehow that feels way riskier for me, so today I’ll just bask in the paradox that bringing shortcomings to light is a form of self-love.

I feel a discomfort in sharing all this, but I feel no shame. We are all missing the mark of what we could be; we are all trying our best to return to our loving and compassionate natures; and we are all walking this path on a landscape scarred by the violence of our times in a world we did not choose to be born into. I feel healing in offering my missteps into the light of repentance. Today, I recommit to loving myself, to loving you, and allowing the light of our hearts to warm us during this cold night of history we find ourselves in.

___________
Simon Mont is an Oakland based artist, healer, facilitator, and organizer. To learn more about Simon’s work consulting to support collaborative leadership for just, joyful, and strategic organizations visit www.Harmonize.work. Simon welcomes opportunities to connect, collaborate, and explore.

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#MeToo–I Didn’t Tell Either

Sep25

by: on September 25th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

No one wants to tell about their own sexual assault, but I feel compelled to do so in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is being viciously maligned for speaking out about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh so many years ago.

These years of Donald Trump’s presidency will go down as a dark and shameful period in our nation’s history. A known sexual predator holds the highest office in the land. (We’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape.) Now he has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and he continues to stand by Kavanaugh while insinuating that Dr. Ford is lying because she waited so long to tell her story, saying, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents…” This same theme is being reiterated by other Republicans and across the internet: the implication that she is lying because she didn’t tell years ago.

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