As I mentioned in previous blogs, I have been doing a course on Feminist Theology at AIHT. This has made me consider the perspectives from which we view the world, and to attempt to understand the cause of some of those perspectives.
The reality that we perceive in the world is shaped by our past experiences, so each one of us looks at the world differently. Even though there are many commonalities which unite us – our need for water, food, security, shelter, and love – we all have different aims in life, and different views on how we might achieve those things.
As I have delved into the history of ours and other societies, I have begun to understand more clearly some of the reasons that we, as individuals, respond and act the way that we do.
Most of the world’s civilisations are based on a patriarchal, hierarchical system. In many countries, this system has grown from the Judeo-Christian understanding of a male god as ruler with the men of the world as God’s servants. As the church has taught that woman was created as an afterthought and as an underling to man, woman is seen as even lower down in this hierarchical scale. Man brought this hierarchical view to science as it developed, so that, as creatures were studied, they were added to this hierarchy, with man above every other species.
Even in those cultures where previously there was a more egalitarian approach to life, colonisation has often caused a change. The rich European male has been seen as further up the hierarchical scale, and in an effort to emulate him, the African, Asian, and South American male has measured success according to the coloniser’s yardstick. In so doing, he has adopted similar attitudes of superiority in relation to women and the natural world.
Women’s roles have changed over the years within most societies of the world. Like those men in colonised countries, women have joined the patriarchal hierarchical system and found themselves climbing the corporate and political ladders along with the men.
In the past, women were seen as more emotional, more intuitive, more sensitive than men. As the traditional nurturers within the family, it made sense for a woman to be sensitive to the emotions of those around them, so that they could know how to comfort their crying babies. Men were taught from an early age that such sensitivity was not desirable in a man. How could a man who is sensitive to the emotions of those around him strike off the heads of their opponents in battle? In the modern world, how could the man who is sensitive to those around him, foreclose on a loan and throw a family onto the streets?
In the patriarchal world which we have inherited, rational thought became king. Women, as inferior beings, were told that they were not capable of such rational thought. Look how emotional they became over the death of a puppy, or the ill-treatment of a slave. They couldn’t possibly think like a man, could they?
In our scientific age, nothing is real until it can be proven by science. Woman’s intuition, her sensitivity to the world around her, had no value. The only knowledge that was of value in this world was provable knowledge. Nothing else counted.
In order to succeed in this man’s world, woman had to ignore her sensitivity, ignore her emotions, ignore her intuition, and focus only on the rational scientific knowledge which could be proven to men. She became the woman who could also send a man off to war, and even go to war herself. She became the woman who could put a family out into the street just as easily as the next man.
Women discovered that they were capable of rational scientific thought. They had had that ability all along, but had believed men when they were told otherwise. However, so many generations of being told they are inferior has left many women with a lack of confidence in their abilities. This is particularly the case when they have grown up in a country where they have been made to feel doubly inferior due their race and their gender.
Men, too, are beginning to change. Perhaps it is their increased involvement in the raising of children, but men are becoming more sensitive, more emotional, more intuitive. When these natural abilities, which all men have, are not suppressed, men can be as sensitive as any woman.
We need to understand that, although we are moving towards a more egalitarian society, it will take vigilance and strength to overcome the influences of patriarchy built up over so many generations. Because these influences have been prevalent in our societies, we have rarely noticed them. Many of these influences have been subtle.
I noticed in my French class, the text book referred to “l’homme” (man) and “les hommes” (men) when it meant “l’être humain” (human being) and “les êtres humains” (human beings). This sort of language negates the existence and the importance of women. If this language can be allowed in text books which could be used to educate children, and published in a country which produced the first feminists, it is clear that we still have a long way to go.
We need to support each other as we rebuild our confidence in our abilities in analytical thought, and in intuitive processes. We need to allow boys and girls to be both clever and sensitive. We need to teach our children, not only to think for themselves, but to feel and to know intuitively. We need to understand that although God is genderless, she is found equally within each woman as he is within each man.
As a society, it is time to start to value knowledge that comes through our use of those traditionally feminine abilities. There is often no evidence, no scientific proof; there is just an inner knowing that is coming from our connection with the divine. It is time to combine our God-given analytical thought processes with our God-given intuition, and use these abilities in the betterment of, not only our species, but all species on the planet, and the planet herself.
If we do this, I believe we would abandon the hierarchical system in many sectors of our societies. We would understand that every person on the planet has something to contribute, and is of equal importance.
We would understand that we are all connected and interdependent. A virus may be very minute, but it is capable of killing a human. Small plants, like parsley for instance, are filled with nutrients vital for our health, and nothing at all could survive without our Mother, the Earth. We would, however, understand that the value of a species to the biosphere is not measured by its benefit to humans. We would not consider one person or one species as superior to another.
We would understand that we are one.
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