In the book, The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (2003) there are many passages that highlight women in civic and social movements throughout the nation’s history. The laundry workers marches for better pay, the infamous sweat shop fire that brought attention to the inhumane treatment of thousands, the women involved in the civil rights movement, more. Many of these women had children and families that they were either helping to support or they were the sole support. In this history of bonding and uniting to make changes in systems bent on usury, they stood together. And as the military, industrial (corporate), government complex pushes for more power; women are coming together to question and counter these forces once again. Is this a new kind of feminism, a new movement or a radical change in paradigm?
After several decades of shifting family values, women are adjusting to the changes and speaking up in new ways. Acknowledging that what was won through the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960’s was less satisfying than expected; there is a questioning of goals and values. In the gap, attempts to reestablish conservative more traditional expectations and roles, cloaked as a return to “family values” are being launched in the media by various groups seeking to stabilize their institutions. (Churches, far right conservatives etc.) This may appeal to some but others are seeking to go forward, into new territory.
In this shuffle, a new feminine archetype is emerging. With a sense of purpose and urgency, women are seeking to take the lessons learned from the past and combining them as a means to inform a new balance between the individual and the cultural psyche.
“In the problem of women was the germ of a solution, not only for their oppression, but for everybody’s. The control of women in society was ingeniously, effective. It was not done directly by the state. Instead the family was used – men to control women, women to control children, all to be preoccupied with one another to turn to one another for help, to blame one another for trouble to do violence to one another when things weren’t going right. Why could not this be turned around? Could women liberating themselves, children freeing themselves, men and women beginning to understand one another, find the source of their common oppression outside rather than in one another? Perhaps then they could create nuggets of strength in their own relationships, millions of pockets of insurrection. They could revolutionize thought and behavior in exactly that seclusion of family privacy which the system had counted on to do its work of control and indoctrination. And together instead of at odds--male, female, parents, children--they could undertake the changing of society itself.” (Zinn, p 514)
After a few decades of proving they could compete in the men’s world, women are coming to realize (as are many men) how dangerous that “world” has become. It extols values that are not concurrent with a broad range of newer understandings. The entire pool of human knowledge has grown exponentially and with that knowledge comes new responsibility. It is perhaps this feeling of responsibility that is awakening their passion and courage as they reach out to find others of like mind, seeking balance, support and harmony. They are finding it and each other in co-ops, non-profits, fair profit start ups community meetings and festivals, at work, coffee shops, in the commons and in homes, face to face and via audio casts, videos and internet conversations. These are varied yet simultaneous points of entry, points of light illuminating the great change.
This is not gender exclusive, men are also responding, but women might have a special compulsion to act as mothers and midwives of this transformation. (Marx Hubbard, B. What is conscious evolution? Foundation for conscious evolution, 2011) Perhaps it is a primal urge to protect the young, to nurture what is living and not just defend it from harm. Perhaps it is part of a series of growing pains that have been acknowledged and acted upon; perhaps this is just human progress, going towards the light, seeking health and wellness for all living things. Perhaps it is just time.
Revolutions of thought and behavior within the family construct are not new; witness the suffragettes and the women artists throughout “herstory.” In less public arenas, small revolts within the family erupted behind closed doors. According to Betty Friedan, (The Feminine Mystique) “The problem lay buried, unspoken for many years in the minds of American woman. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United Sates. ……Suddenly they all realized they shared the same problem. They began hesitantly to talk about it…two of the women cried in sheer relief, just to know they were not alone.”(Zinn, p. 505)
Eventually the “problem” spilled into the streets. Writers, artists, teachers, secretaries, nurses and housewives bonded. Though this first wave of feminism was primarily a white upper middle class movement, it was informed by the civil rights movement and there was cross over. (Freedoms Daughters- The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970) Eve decided she was not to be denied. She wanted to explore her fuller potential, to enter the work force in a wide range of fields; she wanted respect, power to make decisions about her life and lifestyle. She wanted equal pay and equal rights. As women entered the work force in droves a new role was developed by media and marketers, the Super Woman who could have and do it all. Like the Perfect Wife and the Devoted Mother before her, she was given a role that protected the values of family. “Doing it all” just added income production to her long list of duties.
“The myth of the superwoman 'having it all', juggling a stellar career and children with breezy efficiency, has given working mothers inferiority complexes for decades. ……But now, the Having All It All generation are giving way to the Actually, I Don't Want It All - or at least, Not All At The Same Time generation…… and (she) calls on men to share more of the responsibilities at home. A move towards equal relationships could be the greatest hope .. of more balanced lives ., …...”(Hinsliff, G; Hill, A. Why the have-it-all woman has decided she doesn't want it all, 2005)
The family roles are shifting again as people react to what they have learned. Men in the last 30 years have become increasingly more involved with the raising of children while women learned to function in formerly male domains. This was perhaps a necessary balancing exercise that has prepared our species for the greatest balancing act of modern time.
If the paradigm change is about balancing the larger whole of life, then making peace between the rational, spiritual and emotional intellects of homo sapiens, the self and the “other” is paramount. The shift to balancing human needs with greater living ecosystems and reawakening (or finally realizing) to the value, beauty, diversity and interconnectivity of this amazing life will aid us all in realizing our full human potentials. The old walls between disciplines, roles, gender, race, biotic and abiotic forms are falling away. Something new is rising and women are responding. It is more than a movement, it’s a paradigm change.
Viva la evolucion! Viva la phoenix!
Hill, A; Hinsliff, G., Why the have-it-all woman has decided she doesn't want it all, The Observer, 2005, retrieved 5/16/11 http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/nov/27/gender.observerpolitics
Hubbard, B Marx What is conscious evolution? Foundation for conscious evolution, retrieved 5/22/11, http://www.barbaramarxhubbard.com/con/node/8
Olsen, Lynne, Freedoms Daughters- The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970, Scribner, 2002.