I just watched Good Girls Revolt, a fictionalized TV account of the discriminatory practices that prompted women employees to sue Newsweek in 1970. Women were denied opportunities to write, or if they wrote a piece for the man they provided research for, the women did not get the byline. They were paid one-third the salaries of men while being expected to enthusiastically and submissively support the functions held by men—whether they themselves were more highly educated or capable. The series revealed the many ways in which women were—and remain—treated less well well than men.
On March 22, 1972, the US Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution banning discrimination based on sex. The States had seven years to ratify. Subsequently they were given a three-year extension. The Amendment was never ratified leaving half of us bereft of anti-discriminatory constitutional support. How ironic that constitutionally unprotected US women soldiers now serve in combat.
Nation states have their own security as their primary objective—not that of their population. State security is paramount as their charge is the interests of a particular minority—nothing more. States must remain capable to that end. As with traversing any course, there are degrees of deviation en route an objective. The 1960s and early 70s were a period of deviation—expanding benefits for the population. We exhaled a bit.
Since then though, The particular minority has been gradually taking back what they gave—and more—leaving many of us to hold our breath. A cycle of still tighter contraction is returning. Although an over simplification, high pressure always flows into low pressure. We live in a force/countervailing force Cosmos.
Irrespective of the degree of insolent or violent thought and action perpetrated on women—regardless of what’s being denied them—despite prevailing circumstances of oblique and undisguised systemic cavalier, dismissive and reckless disregard for girls and women—and the Feminine—the dignity, innocence and beauty of girls and women can never be sullied, impeached, abridged or expunged. I see this being true for boys and men too. I won’t go there now as we’re not at that point in our conversation.
Human decency—love and compassion, graciousness and generosity, kindness and respect, dignity, innocence and beauty—and the granting of standing, voice, and power to women—are not the province of the state, religion, politics or the law. This purview is ours alone! This responsibility is our individual sovereign duty! Quoting the comedian Amy Schumer “You will not define my story. I will!”
No one is a victim here. Patriarchy is equally dangerous to men albeit less obvious. Patriarchy has crippled humanity, retarded our growth, and is killing off possibilities to sustain life on our planet. By each of us having internalized patriarchal ethics we’ve created unnecessary divisions within ourselves, and between one another. Whether aware or not, we each are conflicted inside as societal ethics collide with our deeper Wisdom. It is within our capacities to wholly transform ourselves and change—for our betterment—from the seemingly perilous circumstances of our times—the larger system’s actions notwithstanding.
It’s not about “them” out there! Nor about what “they” are doing! It’s about us—ourselves. It’s about our own self-reckoning. Our accountability to our own sovereignty. It is our own responsibility to heal, grow, change and become the Beings and Forces that we genuinely are. Not to be at odds with “them”. But rather, to leave behind the invectives of others. To define our own stories. To celebrate and support our self-confidence and that of those around us. To identify and develop the capacities to give what we are here to give—then to give them. Not only for ourselves, but for those generations in the future.
Paraphrasing a master teacher of mine …a woman would be better off alone and starving in the desert than to remain in abusive circumstances… He is referring to the damage done primarily to the soul of a woman—the energetic aspects of her, distinct and beyond her psychologically, physically. This is equally true for men.
I know and feel the heartbreak with every woman I coach. I see consequences of patriarchy in the men I work with too. I see its adverse effects in my mother, sister and the women I know or meet. And, I know this most intimately in my wife who survived my processes of awakening and maturation.
Here is a verse from William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” //For it is important that awake people be awake/or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep/ the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe—/should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.