Where Do We Go From Here?

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I’m sitting here with a heart in pain.

After a few moments on Twitter, I notice many tweets mentioning
the #waronwomen. I search on the hashtag and see a slew of tweets
that seem to span the gamut of feelings on this subject.

It all feels painful.

It all feels so far away from what I know is alive inside each of us…that sacred spark of the divine.

How could we be facing this in 2012?

How could equal rights for one gender STILL be in question?

::

In my heart, I know…

We teach our children that their body is theirs and that no one has the right to touch it. We teach our children to alert us when someone touches them inappropriately.

Yet, we are debating whether it should be law to control women’s bodies and the power we have to choose for ourselves and our bodies.

At what point do our daughters no longer have the right to say, “No. Stop. This is my body.”? 

::

To those who want to control us, what do you say to your own daughters and granddaughters? To your wives? To your mothers? To the women in your life I know you must truly love?

To those of you who feel such a need to try to control women and our bodies:

It hurts my heart to be at war with you.

It hurts my heart to fear you, to rage against you, and  to fight you.

And,

It hurts my heart to be shamed, humiliated, and denigrated because I am a woman.

It hurts my heart to even begin to think about what my granddaughter will have to face as she grows older.

My heart is not a weak organ. It is bold, and fierce and completely ready to stand firm in what I know to be true…

That we all lose in this system of privilege and oppression, domination and control.

That we will not survive if we continue to let fear rule over love.

That I will not die with words left unspoken.

Who we truly are is not of this war.

When we come to be united as women, and those men who honor and respect us, we will know a power we’ve not yet known.

There is a place outside of, and out from under, this system where we can live in full respect for both genders.

If I rage against those who would want to control me, I just strengthen them.

Yet, I do feel rage.

Let our rage be a creative force that finds a new way.

Let the fierceness that is at the heart of women forge this new way.

This new way is the way of love, and lest you think love is weak, think again.

How do we mobilize? 

Where do we go from here?


 

 

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So Many Silences – part four

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“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ~ Audre Lorde

I’m beginning to understand something that I wanted to understand when I began this journey.

I’m beginning to know why I am silent about so many things and about why I am silent about what is happening to our world.

It is giving me even more clarity about why men might be silent, one of the impetuses for this exploration.

Glimmering clarity.

Lest I get too ahead of myself, I also know there is still much that is hidden.

What is hidden keeps me stuck. Stuck consciousness. Stuck life force. Stuck power. Power in a good, strong, vital way. Power that is life-affirming, like the power the cherry tree outside our house is showing me, right now, as the buds of soon-to-be blossoms begin to take form.

You can get a sense of the power that is released when we speak up and out with truth from these powerful and courageous posts by Jeanne and Angela.

It is the raw power that fuels all of life, the power of truth not wielded over others, but truth spoken form the core of one’s being, in service to freeing consciousness, which in turn frees us all. I can feel it in the words and it is beautiful.

What has become clear,

are some of the limiting beliefs and feelings of shame that keep us silent. I know we all feel shame of some sort.

Amy Neal Miyamoto, who wrote of white shame in the comments, shared this with me. It’s about white shame, excerpted from a book by an African American woman, Thandeka, Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America. She was given the Xhosa name Thandeka, which means “beloved,” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1984.
“white shame is this deeply private feeling of not being at home within one’s own white community. (p. 13) Shame is an emotional display of a hidden civil war. It is a pitched battle by a self against itself in order to stop feeling what it is not supposed to feel: forbidden desires and prohibited feelings that render one different.(p. 12)

“the Euro-American child,… is a racial victim of its own white community of parents, caretakers, and peers, who attack it because it does not yet have a white racial identity. Rather than continue to suffer such attacks, the Euro-American child defends itself by creating a white racial identity for itself. It begins to think and act like its community’s ideal of a white self. When the adult recalls the feelings and ideas it had to set aside in order to mound this defense, it feels shame. More precisely, white shame. …

The parts of (the child) that were not white had to be set aside as unloved and therefore unlovable. (p. 13) Shame is the death of an unloved part of the self because it, apparently, is just not good enough to be loved. (p.17)

When I read this,

“The parts of (the child) that were not white…” everything just stopped. Stopped.

Then, pop.

Wait a minute, I thought. Parts of me that were not white. Parts of me that are not white. It sounded so foreign, yet so true.

So foreign, because I so strongly identified with being white. It seems as if it’s been a given, all my life. I’ve always felt different than those that were not white. There felt like a gap of some sort.

So true, because I can feel, have been able to feel, those parts in my psyche that aren’t white, that never identified that way, that were put to sleep, way down inside.

Such a funny feeling. That gap = those parts and places inside that I have denied of my own wholeness.

Then, the remembering that there is no such thing as race. No such thing as race. I remember when I first learned that race is only a concept with no genetic validity. It’s a social construct (destruct?) created at some point to differentiate, to separate, to categorize, to stratify.

You know how it feels when something hits you that wakes you up? Wakes up a place that has been asleep for a long time? That’s what happened. Something big that had been stuck was now free.

Something important has been seen through.

I take it a step further from what I shared here of Thandeka’s words.

We all have all parts within us. Everything is within. The entire Universe, is inside each and everyone of us. The Universe is holographic, meaning the entire Universe is within. We each have all parts. Girl and boy; white, black, brown, yellow and red; straight and gay; dark and light; joyful and rageful. We all have these parts within us.

“The parts of (the child) that were not [insert quality not mirrored in family, community, country] had to be set aside as unloved and therefore unlovable.”

This very clear articulation of me having to disown those parts of myself that aren’t white fits. I know this somewhere deep inside. I feel joy in seeing this. There are parts of me that don’t feel ‘white’ at all.

For me, remembering these parts and knowing they didn’t die, is the key. I killed them in my consciousness, because that is how I created my ‘identity’. But, what is whole is whole. My unwhite parts, my gay parts, my indigenous parts, my rageful and bitchy parts, are still very much available to me and I celebrate this, because it means I am not so different than anyone else who has been classified as ‘other’.

Hallelujah.

We are much more alike

than we believe ourselves to be. And this is good news, for in releasing the illusion of separation, we find out that we are indeed one consciousness robed as billions of separate human beings.

Just this realization has released even more life force, more stuck consciousness, more remembering of my whole self.

My knowing I am more like you does not mean I know your pain, your experience, your oppression, your privilege, or your lack of any of these things. Rather, it has created an opening of desire to connect, to hear, to listen, to know and to love. It has opened my eyes and my heart ever more widely to my true nature, while also giving me a greater capacity to embody all these parts of myself that I thought I had cast away so long ago.

Many of you have written

about why you don’t speak up, why you silence yourself.

“I don’t dare speak up because i am not worthy. I am white. I am middle class. I am not worthy.”

“Thank you for this post. It made me accept that I need to remain part of the conversation. Sometimes I think I have no right.”

“My voice doesn’t matter. How dare i say anything? Me, who’s had it so easy.”

These words ring in my ears. “Sometimes I think I have no right.”

How many of us believe we have no right to speak up? No right to be in the conversation? No right to speak up for ourselves, the earth, all those who can’t speak, for all the world’s children that are, right now, suffering greatly?

How many of us hear a shrill internal voice, harshly berating us with, “Who do you think you are?”

I ask you

to think about this, something my good friend, Judith Cohen, shared in her comment on part one:

A thought just passed through my mind thinking about oppression and comparing oppressions. I wonder if comparison is just another way the patriarchy tricks us into believing that there is not enough heart and compassion to go around. Patriarchy is so much about hierarchy and power. Certainly, it’s convenient and an energy saver not to have to consider those whose experiences fall lower in the hierarchy. But hierarchy doesn’t exist in support of love. It lives to support a small number of people wielding power over others. We’ve “democratized” hierarchy by letting more diverse people in at the top but hierarchy is still a system that says “NO!” to most people. It continues to poison all of our relationships by asserting that some of us are better than others or that some type of pain is more worthwhile than another.

to feel what Niki Andre shared as a comment on part three:

I’m frustrated by the divisive undercurrents of guilt and blame that distract us
From getting down to the crux:

It is necessary for us
To dispell the silence as One.

Love.
This us and them mentality,
Their divide and conquer legacy…
This is it isn’t it?
This is what keeps us
Aching separately.
Achingly separate.
Alienated.
Alienating.
Too factioned and fragmented to effectively rise up;
Conditioned for infighting,
We are easily quieted or confounded to remain stuck;
The silenced majority remains

Underprivileged.

This system of patriarchy doesn’t live on its own. It can’t. Patriarchy is not a thing. It is not men. It lives in people and in the things people create out of patriarchal beliefs. We breathe life into it when we act from the beliefs and thoughts that habitually feed our choices.

Our internalized patriarch tricks us into making many choices the heart would never choose.

We are all very underprivileged when we allow ourselves to be silenced.

Who do you think you are?

Who do I know I am?

A woman infused with life, infused with the sacred light of love, infused with a basic goodness, living and breathing the sacred feminine. A woman who can, and must, choose in each moment to bring her full self to the conversation for the sake of what is being born.

::

This post is the fourth in a series of posts on Silence, Privilege and Oppression. You’ll find part one, part two, and part three important preludes to this post, as well as this interlude a beautiful expression of how powerful it is to voice what is dying to be said.

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So Many Silences – part three

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“I know the anger lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” ~ Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches)

You may have noticed that I’ve begun each post of this series with a quote from Audre Lorde. The depth of her insights astounds me. In her life, she was an African-American, lesbian woman. I share that because I am aware that I have no idea, no sense at all, of the major amount of oppression she must have faced in her life.

Her words cut my heart open. Wide.

My anger, my rage has been hidden most of my life. Hidden way down. She knew her anger like the beat of her heart and the taste of her spit.

When I read these lines, my heart stopped at ‘the threatening universe of whiteness’.

It would be really easy for me to write something here about Lorde’s quote and how it affected me. I could leave it at that, but I can’t.

Let me take a moment to share something else.

In the comments

of part one of this series, a woman named Kierra D. Foster-Ba shared this:

Both a scratch and a gaping wound share some commonalities. This does not mean they are the same or that the only difference is the degree or severity. This is how I feel when people of privilege talk about oppression. Yes, everyone experiences being treated unfairly but this does not mean that they are oppressed. There are various statistics that reveal that white women have overwhelmingly (at least statistically) benefited from affirmative action, something that people of color have been demonized for. So while, I would not challenge your feelings, your feelings are yours. I think in 2011 oppression is a strong word for a middle class, educated white woman to use. To me oppression is when 97% of the images of people you share several identity groups with (race; gender; complexion; body size; shape) are buffoons; belligerent; and unbelievable ignorant. A recent commercial for bounce comes to mind. It is a series about different people and the way they use bounce. The large black woman announces “Ah put em…Ah put em in my shoes; Ah put in my drawers….Ah put em; Ah bin put em for years.” This is oppression. These images of the angry; unattractive; ignorant and large black woman have not changed from the antebellum period to now, but the images of priveledged white women have changed from fainting women too fragile to work to smart; competative; atheletic women who are equal to men.

When I first read Kierra’s comment, I was taken aback. In my experience, the oppression I have suffered has been very painful. And, I don’t think it helps to judge who’s pain is more.

Yet,

Kierra’s comment has stayed with me. I’ve promised myself to really be ruthless with my own bullshit. Her words pull at me, telling me to stop, listen, feel.

Just before I posted part two of this series, my article, The Courage to Sin, was unexpectedly posted on the Huffington Post. I didn’t expect this, because I submitted the post a while ago, and the post is long. The team at HP told me it was too long. They asked me to cut it down and I chose not to. Suddenly, as I found myself knee-deep in this series, it appeared, and I received this comment:

Well,

I guess it depends on who’s doing the ‘sinning’, since all women aren’t held to the same standard.
For example, myself being black,for me and a white woman to commit the same ‘sin’ isn’t the same. I will always be looked at and judged more harshly, and the worst motives will always be attributed to my actions. It’s not fun, free or innocent when I do it, it’s seen as evidence of an inherent lowliness.

Her words, “inherent lowliness” caused my heart to hurt, again. Those words are a direct hit to the hierarchical bigotry of patriarchy.

I responded saying none of this is fun, free or innocent for me, either…AND, “I hear the pain in your words. I want to know your story.”

I know of my own experience, of friend’s and client’s experiences with oppression. There are experiences of personal oppression, group oppression, systemic oppression and god knows what other kinds. Yes, there are degrees of oppression. And, there are very loud and obvious forms, and there are some very silent, very hidden forms.

I do know, after 54 years of living on this planet, that I will never really know your experience, or Kierra’s, or this other woman who courageously shared herself. I can only know mine. And, I do know that I want to hear their stories, hear your story, while at the same time have you hear mine.

Somewhere it could be easy to slip into silence again, a silence that comes from believing my story shouldn’t be told aloud because I was born white. No one has said that. I just know me, the old me. A while ago, I did believe that. I didn’t speak of it. As I read these words of women of color and their experiences, I know all our stories hold something another woman needs to hear.

The privilege I have enjoyed,

has given me things other women have not had. Some who have read this series have wondered if I’m attempting to speak of privilege as something to feel guilt about. I’m not. What I am wanting to share, here, is my process of investigating into the story I tell myself about silence, privilege and oppression in my life.

I truly want to know where I am not telling myself the truth, where I keep myself separate, where my own consciousness is stuck, holding on to something that I think is serving, but that really is not.

Guilt isn’t going to help anyone. Ruthless truth-telling will. Compassion for myself and my fellow sisters will. A genuine hunger to know what will break the barriers of separation with my sisters, so we can join hands to voice our collective “Enough is enough!” will.

Going back to Audre Lorde’s quote, I was shaken by the realization that an extremely intelligent, insightful, beautiful woman saw whiteness as a “threatening universe”. I am of this universe. I am a part of this threatening universe. I am of this whiteness.

When I read this, “It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” my eyes light on the words, “worth wanting each other”. I don’t know the exact context that led to Lorde’s words, yet I am deeply touched by the depth of her heart. I do know that when I read them, I realized all women, no matter what complexion, race, socio-economic background, religion, nationality, age, sexual orientation, are worth wanting.

I know I am worth you wanting me, and I know you are worth my wanting you.

I now so clearly see that one of the most important ways I give up my power when I continue the deceit of privilege, is the power of connected women. When I speak of power, here, it’s not power over, but power with, and I know I am most powerful when my voice is joined in Sisterhood.

The old way is of hierarchy, the new way is not yet known.

And, the way of the Feminine is connectedness, relationship, weaving and circles. I can’t stand together with other women when I hold onto privilege out of fear of what might come if I lose it.

These past days of living this series of posts have brought many moments of synchronicity. I know, when we are doing what we’re here to do, symbols and offerings show up directly in one’s lived experience. I discovered this poem on Louise Rooney’s blog. The poem speaks to what is happening right now in our world. It speaks to the power that privilege and silence robs us of, the power of women united, voices rising and heard.

This World (by Rose Flint)

In Sudan, a Muslim woman journalist

faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in a restaurant.

In Afghanistan, the family of Nadia the Poet

who wrote of love and beauty, said she shamed them –

she may have died with her scholar husband’s hands

around her throat. Sometimes lipstick is a crime

And Shakespeare, maths, and the desire to dance.

And still a woman’s unbound hair incites a man

to sexual violence – she must be covered up

in darkness, top to toe, to keep her safe.

So. In America, loving mothers give their daughters

breast implants for graduation. Thirty-two thousand

women seek breast surgery every month.

And in Africa, mothers, grandmothers, take the little girls

to the rusty knives of genital mutilation.

All this is fear and desperation,

the last acts of Old Order who is dying on his feet

and punching blind. This is when it changes.

The Goddess wakes. Everywhere, there are women

finding courage, taking action, speaking out, risking

their own lives for other women, refusing to collude.

This is Feminism now: becoming Sisterhood –

politician, priestess and protester working together,

sharing what it means to be Woman, everywhere.

Our linked hands and strong hearts are a power;

the Goddess is returning through each one of us

and we are bringing deep changes. We are dreaming in

a future that gives hope to the World, we are

women’s voices rising: strident, beautiful – and heard.

(c) Rose Flint 2009, published in We’Moon Diary 2011

This post is written in honor of International Women’s Day, 2011. I would love to know your reactions, experiences, insights or anything else you feel you would like to share.

I want to know your story.

::

This post is part of Heather Plett’s 100 Years :: 100 People :: 100 Changes project. Today, she is offering a free ebook, Sophia Rising, with contributions of 20 people from all over the world. I am honored to be a contributor to Heather’s book.

::

This post is the third in a series of posts on Silence, Privilege and Oppression. You’ll find part one and part two an important prelude to this post.

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So Many Silences – part one

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“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
Audre Lorde

Privilege

Privilege, handed out at birth.

White privilege: Yes.

Gender privilege: No.

Born into color. Born into gender. Born into a system.

I am white. I am a woman. In reality, I am neither of these things. Yet, I live in a system, a system full of institutions that are insidiously laced with privilege, domination and oppression.

I don’t know…

what to do with this. I know I’ve been handed privilege. I know I’ve used this privilege and enjoyed its benefits. I know part of me would rather not talk about it.

Yet, I must.

Why must I? Because, not talking about it keeps me in a silence that needs to be broken.

Not talking about it keeps me from seeing my own humanity, keeps me tangled up in a fog of complicity and complacency that go against the nature of what I really am.

Not talking about keeps me from fully waking up to the light that is at the heart of every cell of matter.

Not talking about it keeps us from solidarity, soulful human connection that can help to break apart this system that we all uphold, both consciously and unconsciously. And I no longer want to uphold this system.

Once,

a woman told me this story. She was talking with her boyfriend about gender oppression, about what it’s like living in this culture as a woman. He replied to her that she couldn’t know oppression because she is white. He told her she couldn’t be gender oppressed because she was privileged by her skin color. He negated her experience of gender oppression because he determined that her whiteness denied her the very real and direct experience of gender oppression.

I once had a man, a white man, tell me that my whiteness automatically made me an oppressor. The first time I heard this, I was stopped short with surprise. Then anger. Then confusion.

I asked myself,

“What do I do with this?”

So, I sat with it. It churned. There were no clear answers, no short and sweet snippets of wisdom.  And then I forgot about it.

Until now. Until my deep, deep desire to see men break the silence about gender privilege invited me to break my silence about what I’ve been privileged with – racial privilege mainly, as well as financial privilege, class privilege, etc.

As a white woman, I know both privilege and oppression. And, yes, I know I experience both, that one does not negate the other.

We were all born into a system that oppresses. We didn’t’ choose it, yet it is our responsibility to see it for what it is. And, for the sake of our children and grandchildren we must come to terms with the insidious ways it keeps us doing things that I know are antithetical to our true nature.

We’ve been born into it through no choice of our own. AND, we have a choice as to whether or not we continue to uphold it, because the system doesn’t do it to us. It works through us. The system is just a collection of beliefs that we internalized. Everything that we create from these beliefs continues the system. Everything that we create from knowing that we are simply many expressions of the One source of all of life will create a new infrastructure based on the love that is  this One source.

I no longer want to know separation, because I know I am you and you are me. I know this. I see this, and it is only my internalized idea of the way the world is, and my habitual response pattern to these ideas, that keep me upholding something so painful.

I am angry about what has been done, and continues to be done, to women and children, to the earth. I am angry about the continued degradation of the feminine.

I am outraged at my own complacency.

My love for life, for this beauteous wonder that moves through me, calls me to live something greater than my habitual fear and confusion.

Am I willing to look here? Yes, I am willing to look. And, I hope you’ll look with me.

This post is part one of a series on privilege and oppression, and compliance and complacency. I don’t yet know how many parts there will be, or how and where it will end.

I hope you’ll inquire with me and leave rich comments here. Let’s begin a discussion. Let’s find a way through the fog of not wanting to see and know, so that one day we will meet in the place where there is no ‘other’.

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