The Visionary Activist Show

The Visionary Activist Show – Caroline hosts Susan Griffin

OK, let’s save democracy, via democratic animism: Caroline welcomes long-time ally, fellow member of the Council of Unreasonable Women,
Susan Griffin, prolific author of myriad books, today featuring a new edition of “Women and Nature- the Roaring Inside Her.”

“In this famously provocative cornerstone of feminist literature, Susan Griffin explores the identification of women with the earth both as sustenance for humanity and as victim of male rage. …” See more at http://susangriffin.com

  • Gypsy Scholar

    Why the term “Feminism” should not be “thrown into the Cauldron” along with “Masculinism”

    This is an argument against the suggestion by the VA that as long as we are throwing “masculinism” into the Cauldron then why not “feminism” too. This is to say that such a move is based upon a false equivalency and, thus, misplaced.

    As much as some American men would like to believe, “masculinism” is not co-equal, on equal gender-liberating footing, with “feminism.” * It is rather a reactionary phenomenon that is for the most part against the ideals and agenda of “feminism.” The so-called “men’s movement” phenomenon of the 1970s and1980s (whether that of the anti-feminist militancy of Warren Farrell or that of the more subtly coded “mythopoetic men’s movement” of Robert Bly) is not the ideological complement to the “women’s movement,” but rather a fearful reaction to the second-wave feminist movement, with the stated goal of “liberating men from the constraints of the modern world which keep them from being in touch with their true masculine nature.”

    The problem here is twofold: (1) the term “true masculine nature,” which assumes that it is given and not socially constructed and (2) who or what is responsible for these anti-masculine “constraints.” Yet, despite the deep anti-feminist motivations, the leaders of the “men’s movement” (ranging from the conservative to the liberal: the “Christian men’s movement,” the “men’s rights movement,” the “men’s liberation movement,” the “mythopoetic men’s movement”) insist on mimicking the rhetoric of the “women’s movement”—“the masculine mystique”—, to gain legitimacy while refusing to recognize the positive contribution of “feminism” and join hands in mutual liberation. Instead the agenda seems to be to re-assert their damaged and waning “masculinity,” for which these “radical feminists” are somehow to blame (with all their bitchy “political correctness”). * To allow this idea of “masculinism” legitimacy as ontologically co-equal with “feminism” is to de-legitimate and distort, by its very presence, the latter. It not only institutionalizes the habitual misrepresentation in the general public’s mind that “feminism” is just about “women’s liberation” and not also the mutual liberation of men (indeed, it fosters the deep-seated male resentment that “radical feminism” is against men; i.e., “man hating”), but also the notion that “feminism” must of necessity be complemented by “masculinism,” which, while critiquing feminism’s excesses, would do for men what “feminism” has done for women. In other words, to believe that men need to be “empowered” (because historically oppressed) in the same way as women do is to be blind to the patriarchal power structure of American society. Thus a “masculinist” movement rests upon an ahistorical consciousness—a “false consciousness”—that would either deny the systematic oppression of women in European and American civilization or assert a “victimhood” status of men’s equal but opposite historical oppression.

    As I understand it, the term “feminism” incorporates both a (neo-Marxist informed) field of social activism and the field of scholarship concerning the “patriarchy” (from cultural anthropological, archeological, historical, economic, ecological, and theological perspectives), which trace back the overturning of the Neolithic and Bronze Age Goddess-worshipping cultures by about 1500 BCE. (For example, Raine Eisler [1987] argues for a replacement of “the dominator society world view” or “androcracy” on the model of the gender egalitarianism of these goddess-oriented cultures, which were “partnership” societies based upon “gylany,” a social system based on the equality of women and men. These ancient “matrifocal” cultures believed that spirituality and nature were one. Therefore, they did not treat earth as an object for exploitation and domination.) Thus, when we think of the term “feminism” we should be cognizant of the fact that there is, on one end of its spectrum, what could be called the “spiritual feminists” (e.g., “thealogians”) and, on the other end, the “social feminists.”

    Considering this history of patriarchal oppression and the relationship of “woman and nature”—and speaking of the witchy “cauldron”—let no one forget that a good part of this history of oppression of the “feminine” manifested with great violence in the medieval and pre-modern “witch hunts” carried out by both church and state in Europe and America, in order to stamp out a perceived heretical or diabolical religion. Bridging the polarity of today’s spiritual feminism and a social-activist feminism, we should remember that women herbalists (keepers of plant lore), healers, midwives and abortionists were special targets of the European “witch-hunt” persecutions.

    Moreover, the European “witch-hunt” phenomenon wasn’t limited to the sphere of “religion.” It also profoundly effected the origins of it’s supposed arch-enemy—“science” (i.e., the Scientific Revolution), giving it an anti-feminist stamp in a negative woman-nature equivalency, which has led to (from a feminist critique) “the death of nature.” (For example, “the father of modern science,” Francis Bacon, under his sovereign James I, author of the book Daemonologie, was involved in the witch trails of the seventeenth century, and hence much of the imagery he employed in delineating his new scientific objectives and methods derived from the inquisitional courtroom. He compared the inquisition of nature to these courtroom interrogations. “Nature,” according to Bacon, was to be treated as a female to be interrogated and tortured with mechanical inventions—“put on the rack”—to extract her secrets. She must be “bound into service” and made a “slave.” She must be put “in constraint” and “molded” by science’s mechanical arts. Bacon’s strong sexual analogies are evident in his making the case for the male domination of nature: “Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole object ….” Indeed, he frequently described matter as a “common harlot.” This, then, is the origin of the time-honored “scientific method”—a legitimation of the rape and exploitation of nature for the human good and utopian progress!)

    In short, then, the reason that the term “feminism” should not be “thrown into the Cauldron” is that it represents the most revolutionary movement to come out of the late twentieth century. I say this because, unlike many other revolutionary movements of this time, it gets to the essence of domination; that is, it goes beyond the critique of the lessor dominator models of church, state, and capitalism to the overarching “dominator model” of patriarchy (or “androcracy”) upon which these are all based and from which they take their legitimacy and authority. “Feminism” then is the key; it opens doors into the inner sanctum of male dominance, going behind the interlocking systems of authoritarian control—back to their source. It’s like the “feminist” theorists, with their long view of the pre-patriarchal past, have tracked down the secret hiding place of totalitarian power, broken into its control tower, and are messing with the levers of power, exposing and pulling out the wires and short-circuiting Western Industrial Civilization (against Nature). You can’t get any more basic—more revolutionary—than this! Because once you pull out the deep underpinnings of the authoritarian power structure, it all comes tumbling down.

    Therefore, I would venture to argue that instead of “throwing feminism into the Cauldron” we should, on the contrary, throw the “Cauldron” into “Feminism”—putting it back where it belongs, since the “Cauldron” (the Celtic mythical “Cauldron of Rebirth”) properly belongs to the Witch’s (the Crone’s) Great Triple Goddess (“Cauldrons symbolize not only the Goddess but also represent the womb, because it holds something, and on an altar it represents earth”). The same “Cauldron” of the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend containing the magic potion that promised to heal and set free the prisoners of patriarchy, as they realize they are all of this earth-cauldron. This would truly issue from a “revaluation of all values,” turning the patriarchy (and much of its “new-age” spirituality of otherworldly transcendence) upside-down.

    “There is more mystery in the dirt and dung than there is in all the heavens.” —W.B. Yeats

    “… because I know I am made from this earth, as my mother’s hands were made from this earth, as her dreams came from this earth and all that I know, I know in this earth, the body of the bird, this pen, this paper, these hands, this tongue speaking, all that I know speaks to me through this earth and I long to tell you, you who are earth too, and listen as we speak to each other of what we know: the light is in us.” —Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature

    ______________________________________________________

    * For example, Andrew Kimbrell’s The Masculine Mystique: The Politics of Masculinity (1995). “Many women have of course challenged the prevalent stereotypes of modern gender consciousness. They launched a three-decade- long assault on the ‘feminine mystique’ …. Unfortunately few men or women have mounted a similar assault on the ‘masculine mystique’ of our times. There have been few ‘masculinists’ to defend masculinity from the onslaught of the current stereotypical view of the male gender.” The author presents a more balanced argument concerning the men’s movement from a “masculinist” position.

    However, both the conservative faction of the “men’s movement” and the more liberal faction (such as Bly’s “mythopoetic men’s movement”) share the same basic anti-feminist assumptions: (a) these “feminists” have gone to far,” (b) the paterfamilias is depicted on TV since the late 50s as either weak or a fool, (c) family courts discriminate against men in divorced child custody cases (hence the “fathers’ rights movement,” a subset of the men’s rights movement), and (d) the absence of a strong masculine presence in the single family headed by women leads to you know what in their boys—“feminization” and even “homosexuality.” Indeed, Bly is very explicit about this. Furthermore, Bly’s mythopoetic rhetoric often disguises an overt male chauvinism with language borrowed from depth-psychology. For instance, when discussing when impact of fatherlessness on men’s psychological development, he has routinely criticized “soft men” (read “effeminacy”—and potentially “homosexual”—men brought up in the 60s and 70s) and argued that boys must be initiated into manhood in order to possess “Zeus energy,” which according to Bly is “male authority.” For Bly, “masculinity” (undisturbed by any kind of “feminist” or general social science analysis) is seen to include deep unconscious patterns and archetypes that are revealed through myth, story and ritual. This displaced male chauvinism (or anti-feminist, mythopoetic machismo) comes through clearly in his addresses to gatherings of “wild men” (“unleashing the wild man archetype within”). The archetypal image of the wild paleolithic male (the cave man?) seeks to overcome this “feminization” of the male identity that has occurred since the late 50s and early 1960s. While most of this retrograde chest beating around the campfire by middle- and upper-class urban men may be therapeutic for some—when not downright silly—, the real unfortunate consequence of Bly’s “men’s movement” is that it has tinged the Western tradition of the “mythopoetic” with a male chauvinist color.

    I should point out here that I’m not arguing that all imitation by men’s movement activists are bad. By the mid-to late 1970s, the “men’s liberation movement” had split into two separate camps with opposing views: the profeminist men’s movement and the antifeminist men’s rights movement. Those men of the former camp, who were sympathetic to feminist standpoints, took a cue from the early feminist critiques of the traditional female gender role (“the feminist mystique”) and became concerned with deconstructing male identity and “masculinity.” They thus used the language of feminist “sex role theory” to argue that the male gender role was similarly restrictive and damaging to men. However, this deconstruction of rigid gender relations lead some men’s liberation theorists to mistakenly conclude that since these socially constructed sex roles were equally harmful to both sexes women and men were equally oppressed. (At best, this is both true and not true. And it’s certainly highly problematic an equation when feminist theorists have demonstrated again and again how male dominance—the “dominator model”—works its systematic oppression in our culture, and yet a significant number of males refuse to listen!) Again, the same false equivalency that underlies the deceptive notion that “masculinism” is co-equal with “feminism.”

    Thus, even though it doesn’t get anywhere near the press that the other factions of the “men’s movement” get, there is a “profeminist men’s movement” that doesn’t embrace “masculinism,” but instead generally embraces the egalitarian goals of feminism. Briefly, it emerged from the men’s liberation movement in the mid 1970s and was influenced by second-wave feminism and the radical Left politics of the Black Power movement, the student activism movement, the Anti-war movement, and LGBT social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Profeminist men have questioned and challenged the cultural ideal of traditional “masculinity.” Moreover, they have campaigned alongside feminists on a variety of issues, including sexism, discrimination, and sexual violence against women. They have also stood with feminists in fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment, affordable child care, and reproductive rights.

    For a “profeminist men’s movement” take on male gender, see: Mark Gerzon, A Choice of Heroes: The Changing Faces of American Manhood (1982), Arthur Evans, The God of Ecstasy: Sex Roles and the Madness of Dionysus (1988), Tom Absher, Men and the Goddess: Feminine Archetypes in Western Literature (1990), Robert Hopcke, Men’s Dreams, Men’s Healing (1990), Michael Sky, Sex and Peace: Beyond the Dominator Virus (1993).

    * The Oxford English Dictionary defines masculism as a synonym of masculinism which the OED regards as the “advocacy of the rights of men; adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men; (more generally) anti-feminism, machismo.” The OED cites the first recorded use of the synonym masculinism in a The Freewoman article in November 1911. The feminist case against the term “masculinism” as as synonym for “masculism” has a long history. The latter term was coined by Charlotte Perkins Gilman who used it a 1914 public lecture series titled “Studies in Masculism.” For Gilman, the term to referred to “androcentrism” and opposition to women’s rights and, more broadly, to describe men’s collective actions on behalf of their own sex.

    From Wikipedia:

    Masculism or masculinism may variously refer to advocacy of the rights or needs of men and boys; the adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, attitudes, etc. regarded as typical of men and boys.

    Philosopher Ferrell Christensen differentiates the words “masculism” and “masculinism”; he defines the latter as promoting the attributes of manliness.[2] Political scientist Georgia Duerst-Lahti also distinguishes between the two terms, with masculism being more associated with the early gender egalitarian days of men’s movement, while masculinism refers to patriarchy and its ideology.

    Christensen differentiates between “progressive masculism” and an “extremist version”. The former welcomes many of the societal changes promoted by feminists, while stating that many aimed at reducing sexism against women have had the effect of increasing it against men.[2] The latter promotes male supremacy to some degree and is generally based on a belief in women’s inferiority…. Gender theories, which have frequently focused on woman-based or feminist approaches, have come to include a “masculism” approach which seeks to examine oppression in a masculist society from the perspectives of men, most of whom do not benefit from that society.[9] From a feminist perspective to philosophy, masculinism seeks to value and include only male views, and claim “that anything that cannot be reduced or translated in men’s experience should be excluded from the subject-matter of philosophy.

    For an analysis of the male gender from a feminist point of view, see Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men (1983) and Rosalind Miles, Love, Sex, Death, and the Making of the Male (1991).

  • Gypsy Scholar

    Why the term “Feminism” should not be “thrown into the Cauldron” along with “Masculinism”

    This is an argument against the suggestion by the VA that as long as we are throwing “masculinism” into the Cauldron then why not “feminism” too. This is to say that such a move is based upon a false equivalency and, thus, misplaced.

    As much as some American men would like to believe, “masculinism” is not co-equal, on equal gender-liberating footing, with “feminism.” * It is rather a reactionary phenomenon that is for the most part against the ideals and agenda of “feminism.” The so-called “men’s movement” phenomenon of the 1970s and1980s (whether that of the anti-feminist militancy of Warren Farrell or that of the more subtly coded “mythopoetic men’s movement” of Robert Bly) is not the ideological complement to the “women’s movement,” but rather a fearful reaction to the second-wave feminist movement, with the stated goal of “liberating men from the constraints of the modern world which keep them from being in touch with their true masculine nature.”

    The problem here is twofold: (1) the term “true masculine nature,” which assumes that it is given and not socially constructed and (2) who or what is responsible for these anti-masculine “constraints.” Yet, despite the deep anti-feminist motivations, the leaders of the “men’s movement” (ranging from the conservative to the liberal: the “Christian men’s movement,” the “men’s rights movement,” the “men’s liberation movement,” the “mythopoetic men’s movement”) insist on mimicking the rhetoric of the “women’s movement”—“the masculine mystique”—, to gain legitimacy while refusing to recognize the positive contribution of “feminism” and join hands in mutual liberation. Instead the agenda seems to be to re-assert their damaged and waning “masculinity,” for which these “radical feminists” are somehow to blame (with all their bitchy “political correctness”). * To allow this idea of “masculinism” legitimacy as ontologically co-equal with “feminism” is to de-legitimate and distort, by its very presence, the latter. It not only institutionalizes the habitual misrepresentation in the general public’s mind that “feminism” is just about “women’s liberation” and not also the mutual liberation of men (indeed, it fosters the deep-seated male resentment that “radical feminism” is against men; i.e., “man hating”), but also the notion that “feminism” must of necessity be complemented by “masculinism,” which, while critiquing feminism’s excesses, would do for men what “feminism” has done for women. In other words, to believe that men need to be “empowered” (because historically oppressed) in the same way as women do is to be blind to the patriarchal power structure of American society. Thus a “masculinist” movement rests upon an ahistorical consciousness—a “false consciousness”—that would either deny the systematic oppression of women in European and American civilization or assert a “victimhood” status of men’s equal-but-opposite historical oppression that turns the real, historical record on its head and, thus, inverts the roles of who was doing most, if not all, the “oppression” and who was being “victimized” by it. (But, hey, you got to give it to the “masculinists” here—, I mean, it takes a lotta balls to pull this kind of socio-political sleight of hand trick, this Orwellian type deception, off!)

    As I understand it, the term “feminism” incorporates both a revolutionary tradition (informed by Marxism and neo-Marxism and its “capitalist-patriarchal” perspective) of a social activism based on feminist “critical theory” and the field of scholarship concerning the “patriarchy” (from cultural anthropological, archeological, historical, economic, ecological, and theological perspectives), which became well established with the overturning of the Neolithic and Bronze Age Goddess-worshipping cultures by about 1500 BCE. (For example, Raine Eisler [1987] argues for a replacement of “the dominator society world view” or “androcracy” on the model of the gender egalitarianism of these goddess-oriented cultures, which were “partnership” societies based upon “gylany,” a social system based on the equality of women and men. These ancient “matrifocal” cultures believed that spirituality and nature were one. Therefore, they did not treat earth as an object for exploitation and domination.)

    Thus, when we think of the term “feminism,” we should be cognizant of the fact that there is, on one end of its spectrum, could be called the “spiritual feminists” (e.g., “thealogians”) and, on the other end, the “social feminists.” Yet, I would argue, there is a context in which both ends of the spectrum of “feminism” would meet. And this would happen in terms of a later development of feminist concern, a fully-fledged school of its own—“eco-feminism,” which sees critical connections between the domination of nature and the exploitation of women and looks at both from a “capitalist-patriarchal” critical perspective. Given (a) the fact of Catastrophic Climate Change and the destruction of the planetary eco-system are our greatest threat (and therefore primary “socio-political” issues) and (b) that effectively addressing the sheer magnitude of the “issue”—and thus our survival as a species—, this will mean that it will, in the long run, take something more than strictly effective “environmental” (and related) legislation (informed by the “environmental” groups and movements and fueled by the population’s growing ecological awareness) and “conservation” to deal with the great challenge civilization, not to mention life on earth, that humankind has to positively deal with. That “something more” (more than civic “public policy” changes and even more than the average environmentalist-activist and their commitment to “saving the environment”) goes deeper in our collective psyche—at the level where a real “metanoia” or revolution in consciousness happens, one where the Western dualism of subject/object and self/other (and body/mind) is transcended. I’m talking about underpinning the eco-feminist agenda concerning saving the earth with a felt/bodily experience and not just an idea. It has to do with a new spiritual sensibility (that may or may not be institutionalized as a “religion.” (No, I’m not calling for neo-paganism to be the basis of “environmentalism” in a new civic religion in the same way that Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christianity became translated into a political movement, the “Religious Right”.) I’m rather suggesting that science-based “environmentalism” be informed by the kind a deep ecological sensibility and wisdom that is typical of, say, Native Americans and other “indigenous peoples.” (For the Europeans it would be known as an “animistic” view of nature called in the nineteenth century “neo-Vitalism.”) I think that it is only such a deep connection with the natural world that will be profound enough and authentic enough to guide our quest in the long haul for a healthy and supportive environment of a synergy of creature/earth. (I would add that even an “environmental/ecological aesthetic” based upon an mystico-erotic sensibility might get us through—as long as its psych-ology is polytheistic and imaginal—to the age where we come, as an old Dionysian professor of mine used to say—“to greet the return of the gods.”)

    I would then put this overdue meeting up of the “eco-feminism” and so-called “goddess-feminism” (in the same way that “feminism” and “environmentalism” came together in “eco-feminism”) in personalized terms of Vandana Shiva meets Starhawk, or Naomi Wolf meets Carol Christ. (Ah, the scientist/social activist meets the magician/mystic—and they “dance”!: “Yes, we are / dancing, oh yes, we are / dancing, oh yes, we / dance, whenever we / can. Now we / move together… / Now we move together. / Feeling dances through us. / We move our feet together. / We do this dance… / But now we / dance together We / dance with the trees, / we dance with the wind, / singing this is / our choice ….”)

    Therefore, considering this history of patriarchal oppression and the relationship of “woman and nature”—and speaking of the witchy “cauldron”—let no one forget that a good part of this history of oppression of the “feminine” manifested with great violence in the medieval and pre-modern “witch hunts” carried out by both church and state in Europe and America, in order to stamp out a perceived heretical or diabolical religion. Bridging the polarity of today’s spiritual feminism and a social-activist feminism, we should remember that women herbalists (keepers of plant lore), healers, midwives and abortionists were special targets of the European “witch-hunt” persecutions.

    Moreover, the European “witch-hunt” phenomenon wasn’t limited to the sphere of “religion.” It also profoundly effected the origins of it’s supposed arch-enemy—“science” (i.e., the Scientific Revolution), giving it an anti-feminist stamp in a negative woman-nature equivalency, which has led to (from a feminist critique) “the death of nature.” (For example, “the father of modern science,” Francis Bacon, under his sovereign James I, author of the book Daemonologie, was involved in the witch trails of the seventeenth century, and hence much of the imagery he employed in delineating his new scientific objectives and methods derived from the inquisitional courtroom. He compared the inquisition of nature to these courtroom interrogations. “Nature,” according to Bacon, was to be treated as a female to be interrogated and tortured with mechanical inventions—“put on the rack”—to extract her secrets. She must be “bound into service” and made a “slave.” She must be put “in constraint” and “molded” by science’s mechanical arts. Bacon’s strong sexual analogies are evident in his making the case for the male domination of nature: “Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole object ….” Indeed, he frequently described matter as a “common harlot.” This, then, is the origin of the time-honored “scientific method”—a legitimation of the rape and exploitation of nature for the human good and utopian progress!)

    In short, then, the reason that the term “feminism” should not be “thrown into the Cauldron” is that it represents the most revolutionary movement to come out of the late twentieth century. I say this because, unlike many other revolutionary movements of this time, it gets to the essence of domination; that is, it goes beyond the critique of the lessor dominator models of church, state, and capitalism to the overarching “dominator model” of patriarchy (or “androcracy”) upon which these are all based and from which they take their legitimacy and authority. “Feminism” then is the key; it opens doors into the inner sanctum of male dominance, going behind the interlocking systems of authoritarian control—back to their source. It’s like the “feminist” theorists, with their long view of the pre-patriarchal past, have tracked down the secret hiding place of totalitarian power, broken into its control tower, and are messing with the levers of power, exposing and pulling out the wires and short-circuiting Western Industrial Civilization (against Nature). You can’t get any more basic—more revolutionary—than this! Because once you pull out the deep underpinnings of the authoritarian power structure, it all comes tumbling down.

    Therefore, I would venture to argue that instead of “throwing feminism into the Cauldron” we should, on the contrary, throw the “Cauldron” into “Feminism”—putting it back where it belongs, since the “Cauldron” (the Celtic mythical “Cauldron of Rebirth”) properly belongs to the Witch’s (the Crone’s) Great Triple Goddess (“Cauldrons symbolize not only the Goddess but also represent the womb, because it holds something, and on an altar it represents earth”). The same “Cauldron” of the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend containing the magic potion that promised to heal and set free the prisoners of patriarchy, as they realize they are all of this earth-cauldron. This would truly issue from a “revaluation of all values,” turning the patriarchy (and much of its “new-age” spirituality of otherworldly transcendence) upside-down.

    “There is more mystery in the dirt and dung than there is in all the heavens.” —W.B. Yeats

    “… because I know I am made from this earth, as my mother’s hands were made from this earth, as her dreams came from this earth and all that I know, I know in this earth, the body of the bird, this pen, this paper, these hands, this tongue speaking, all that I know speaks to me through this earth and I long to tell you, you who are earth too, and listen as we speak to each other of what we know: the light is in us.” —Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature

    ______________________________________________________

    * For example, Andrew Kimbrell’s The Masculine Mystique: The Politics of Masculinity (1995). “Many women have of course challenged the prevalent stereotypes of modern gender consciousness. They launched a three-decade- long assault on the ‘feminine mystique’ …. Unfortunately few men or women have mounted a similar assault on the ‘masculine mystique’ of our times. There have been few ‘masculinists’ to defend masculinity from the onslaught of the current stereotypical view of the male gender.” The author presents a more balanced argument concerning the men’s movement from a “masculinist” position.

    However, both the conservative faction of the “men’s movement” and the more liberal faction (such as Bly’s “mythopoetic men’s movement”) share the same basic anti-feminist assumptions: (a) these “feminists” have gone to far,” (b) the paterfamilias is depicted on TV since the late 50s as either weak or a fool, (c) family courts discriminate against men in divorced child custody cases (hence the “fathers’ rights movement,” a subset of the men’s rights movement), and (d) the absence of a strong masculine presence in the single family headed by women leads to you know what in their boys—“feminization” and even “homosexuality.” Indeed, Bly is very explicit about this. Furthermore, Bly’s mythopoetic rhetoric often disguises an overt male chauvinism with language borrowed from depth-psychology. For instance, when discussing when impact of fatherlessness on men’s psychological development, he has routinely criticized “soft men” (read “effeminacy”—and potentially “homosexual”—men brought up in the 60s and 70s) and argued that boys must be initiated into manhood in order to possess “Zeus energy,” which according to Bly is “male authority.” For Bly, “masculinity” (undisturbed by any kind of “feminist” or general social science analysis) is seen to include deep unconscious patterns and archetypes that are revealed through myth, story and ritual. This displaced male chauvinism (or anti-feminist, mythopoetic machismo) comes through clearly in his addresses to gatherings of “wild men” (“unleashing the wild man archetype within”). The archetypal image of the wild paleolithic male (the cave man?) seeks to overcome this “feminization” of the male identity that has occurred since the late 50s and early 1960s. While most of this retrograde chest beating around the campfire by middle- and upper-class urban men may be therapeutic for some—when not downright silly—, the real unfortunate consequence of Bly’s “men’s movement” is that it has tinged the Western tradition of the “mythopoetic” with a male chauvinist color.

    I should point out here that I’m not arguing that all imitation by men’s movement activists are bad. By the mid-to late 1970s, the “men’s liberation movement” had split into two separate camps with opposing views: the profeminist men’s movement and the antifeminist men’s rights movement. Those men of the former camp, who were sympathetic to feminist standpoints, took a cue from the early feminist critiques of the traditional female gender role (“the feminist mystique”) and became concerned with deconstructing male identity and “masculinity.” They thus used the language of feminist “sex role theory” to argue that the male gender role was similarly restrictive and damaging to men. However, this deconstruction of rigid gender relations lead some men’s liberation theorists to mistakenly conclude that since these socially constructed sex roles were equally harmful to both sexes women and men were equally oppressed. (At best, this is both true and not true. And it’s certainly highly problematic an equation when feminist theorists have demonstrated again and again how male dominance—the “dominator model”—works its systematic oppression in our culture, and yet a significant number of males refuse to listen!) Again, the same false equivalency that underlies the deceptive notion that “masculinism” is co-equal with “feminism.”

    Thus, even though it doesn’t get anywhere near the press that the other factions of the “men’s movement” get, there is a “profeminist men’s movement” that doesn’t embrace “masculinism,” but instead generally embraces the egalitarian goals of feminism. Briefly, it emerged from the men’s liberation movement in the mid 1970s and was influenced by second-wave feminism and the radical Left politics of the Black Power movement, the student activism movement, the Anti-war movement, and LGBT social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Profeminist men have questioned and challenged the cultural ideal of traditional “masculinity.” Moreover, they have campaigned alongside feminists on a variety of issues, including sexism, discrimination, and sexual violence against women. They have also stood with feminists in fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment, affordable child care, and reproductive rights.

    For a “profeminist men’s movement” take on male gender, see: Mark Gerzon, A Choice of Heroes: The Changing Faces of American Manhood (1982), Arthur Evans, The God of Ecstasy: Sex Roles and the Madness of Dionysus (1988), Tom Absher, Men and the Goddess: Feminine Archetypes in Western Literature (1990), Robert Hopcke, Men’s Dreams, Men’s Healing (1990), Michael Sky, Sex and Peace: Beyond the Dominator Virus (1993).

    * The Oxford English Dictionary defines masculism as a synonym of masculinism which the OED regards as the “advocacy of the rights of men; adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men; (more generally) anti-feminism, machismo.” The OED cites the first recorded use of the synonym masculinism in a The Freewoman article in November 1911. The feminist case against the term “masculinism” as as synonym for “masculism” has a long history. The latter term was coined by Charlotte Perkins Gilman who used it a 1914 public lecture series titled “Studies in Masculism.” For Gilman, the term to referred to “androcentrism” and opposition to women’s rights and, more broadly, to describe men’s collective actions on behalf of their own sex.

    From Wikipedia:

    Masculism or masculinism may variously refer to advocacy of the rights or needs of men and boys; the adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, attitudes, etc. regarded as typical of men and boys.

    Philosopher Ferrell Christensen differentiates the words “masculism” and “masculinism”; he defines the latter as promoting the attributes of manliness.[2] Political scientist Georgia Duerst-Lahti also distinguishes between the two terms, with masculism being more associated with the early gender egalitarian days of men’s movement, while masculinism refers to patriarchy and its ideology.

    Christensen differentiates between “progressive masculism” and an “extremist version”. The former welcomes many of the societal changes promoted by feminists, while stating that many aimed at reducing sexism against women have had the effect of increasing it against men.[2] The latter promotes male supremacy to some degree and is generally based on a belief in women’s inferiority…. Gender theories, which have frequently focused on woman-based or feminist approaches, have come to include a “masculism” approach which seeks to examine oppression in a masculist society from the perspectives of men, most of whom do not benefit from that society.[9] From a feminist perspective to philosophy, masculinism seeks to value and include only male views, and claim “that anything that cannot be reduced or translated in men’s experience should be excluded from the subject-matter of philosophy.

    For an analysis of the male gender from a feminist point of view, see Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men (1983) and Rosalind Miles, Love, Sex, Death, and the Making of the Male (1991).

  • Gypsy Scholar

    Why the term “Feminism” should not be “thrown into the Cauldron” along with “Masculinism”

    This is an argument against the suggestion by the Visionary Activist (5/11/17) that as long as we are throwing “masculinism” into the Cauldron then why not “feminism” too. This is to say that such a move is based upon a false equivalency and, thus, misplaced.

    As much as some American men would like to believe, “masculinism” is not co-equal, on equal gender-liberating footing, with “feminism.” It is rather a reactionary phenomenon that is for the most part against the ideals and agenda of “feminism.” The so-called “men’s movement” phenomenon of the 1970s and1980s (whether that of the anti-feminist militancy of Warren Farrell or that of the more subtly coded “mythopoetic men’s movement” of Robert Bly) is not the ideological complement to the “women’s movement,” but rather a fearful reaction to the second-wave feminist movement, with the stated goal of “liberating men from the constraints of the modern world which keep them from being in touch with their true masculine nature.”

    The problem here is twofold: (1) the term “true masculine nature,” which assumes that it is given and not socially constructed and (2) who or what is responsible for these anti-masculine “constraints.” Yet, despite the deep anti-feminist motivations, the leaders of the “men’s movement” (ranging from the conservative to the liberal: the “Christian men’s movement,” the “men’s rights movement,” the “men’s liberation movement,” the “mythopoetic men’s movement”) insist on mimicking the rhetoric of the “women’s movement”—“the masculine mystique”—, to gain legitimacy while refusing to recognize the positive contribution of “feminism” and join hands in mutual liberation. Instead the agenda seems to be to re-assert their damaged and waning “masculinity,” for which these “radical feminists” are somehow to blame (with all their bitchy “political correctness”). To allow this idea of “masculinism” legitimacy as ontologically co-equal with “feminism” is to de-legitimate and distort, by its very presence, the latter. It not only institutionalizes the habitual misrepresentation in the general public’s mind that “feminism” is just about “women’s liberation” and not the mutual liberation of men (indeed, it fosters the deep-seated male resentment that “radical feminism” is against men; i.e., “man hating”), but also the notion that “feminism” must of necessity be complemented by “masculinism,” which, while critiquing feminism’s excesses, would do for men what “feminism” has done for women. In other words, to believe that men need to be “empowered” (because historically oppressed) in the same way as women do is to be blind to the patriarchal power structure of American society. Thus a “masculinist” movement rests upon an ahistorical consciousness—a “false consciousness”—that would either deny the systematic oppression of women in European and American civilization or assert a “victimhood” status of men’s equal-but-opposite historical oppression that turns the real, historical record on its head and, thus, inverts the roles of who was doing most, if not all, the “oppression” and who was being “victimized” by it. (But, hey, you got to give it to the “masculinists” here—, I mean, it takes a lotta balls to pull this kind of socio-political sleight of hand trick, this Orwellian type deception, off!)

    As I understand it, the term “feminism” incorporates both a revolutionary tradition (informed by Marxism and neo-Marxism) of a social activism based on feminist “critical theory” and the field of scholarship concerning the “patriarchy” (from cultural anthropological, archeological, historical, economic, ecological, and theological perspectives), which became well established with the overturning of the Neolithic and Bronze Age Goddess-worshipping cultures by about 1500 BCE. (For example, Raine Eisler [1987] argues for a replacement of “the dominator society world view” or “androcracy” on the model of the gender egalitarianism of these goddess-oriented cultures, which were “partnership” societies based upon “gylany,” a social system based on the equality of women and men. These ancient “matrifocal” cultures believed that spirituality and nature were one. Therefore, they did not treat earth as an object for exploitation and domination.)

    Thus, when we think of the term “feminism,” we should be cognizant of the fact that there is, on one end of its spectrum, what could be called the “spiritual feminists” (e.g., “thealogians”) and, on the other end, the “social feminists.” Yet, I would argue, there is a context in which both ends of the spectrum of “feminism” would meet. And this would happen in terms of a later development of feminist concern, a fully-fledged school of its own—“eco-feminism,” which sees critical connections between the domination of nature and the exploitation of women and looks at both from a “capitalist-patriarchal” critical perspective. Given (a) the fact of Catastrophic Climate Change and the destruction of the planetary eco-system are our greatest threat (and therefore primary “socio-political” issues) and (b) that effectively addressing the sheer magnitude of the “issue”—and thus our survival as a species—, this will mean that it will, in the long run, take something more than strictly effective “environmental” (and related) legislation (informed by the “environmental” groups and movements and fueled by the population’s growing ecological awareness) and “conservation” to deal with the great challenge civilization, not to mention life on earth, that humankind has to positively deal with. That “something more” (more than civic “public policy” changes and even more than the average environmentalist-activist and their commitment to “saving the environment”) goes deeper into our collective psyche—at the level where a real metanoia or revolution in consciousness happens, one where the Western dualism of subject/object and self/other (and body/mind) is transcended. I’m talking about underpinning the “eco-feminist” agenda concerning saving the earth with a felt/bodily experience and not just an idea. It has to do with a new spiritual sensibility (that may or may not be institutionalized as a “religion.” (No, I’m not calling for neo-paganism to be the basis of “environmentalism” in a new civic religion in the same way that Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christianity became translated into a political movement, the “Religious Right”.) I’m rather suggesting that science-based “environmentalism” be informed by the kind a deep ecological sensibility and earth- wisdom that is typical of, say, Native Americans and other “indigenous peoples.” (For the Europeans it would be known as an “animistic” view of nature called in the nineteenth century “neo-Vitalism.” Or, as in the old Goddess cultures, “spirituality and nature were one.”) I think that it is only such a deep connection with the natural world that will be profound enough and authentic enough to guide our quest in the long haul for a healthy and supportive environment of a synergy of creature/earth. (I would add that even an “environmental/ecological aesthetic” based upon an mystico-erotic sensibility might get us through—as long as its psych-ology is polytheistic and imaginal—to the age where we come, as an old Dionysian professor of mine used to say—“to greet the return of the gods.”)

    I would then put this overdue meeting up of the “eco-feminism” and so-called “goddess-feminism” (in the same way that “feminism” and “environmentalism” came together in “eco-feminism”) in personalized terms of Vandana Shiva meets Starhawk, or Naomi Wolf meets Carol Christ. (Ah, the scientist/social activist meets the magician/mystic—and they “dance”! “Yes, we are / dancing, oh yes, we are / dancing, oh yes, we / dance, whenever we / can. Now we / move together… / Now we move together. / Feeling dances through us. / We move our feet together. / We do this dance… / But now we / dance together We / dance with the trees, / we dance with the wind, / singing this is / our choice ….”)

    Therefore, considering this history of patriarchal oppression and the relationship of “woman and nature”—and speaking of the witchy “cauldron”—let no one forget that a good part of this history of oppression of the “feminine” manifested with great violence in the medieval and pre-modern “witch hunts” carried out by both church and state in Europe and America, in order to stamp out a perceived heretical or diabolical religion. Bridging the polarity of today’s spiritual feminism and a social-activist feminism, we should remember that women herbalists (keepers of plant lore), healers, midwives and abortionists were special targets of the European “witch-hunt” persecutions.

    Moreover, the European “witch-hunt” phenomenon wasn’t limited to the sphere of “religion.” It also profoundly effected the origins of it’s supposed arch-enemy—“science” (i.e., the Scientific Revolution), giving it an anti-feminist stamp in a negative woman-nature equivalency, which has led to (from a feminist critique) “the death of nature.” (For example, “the father of modern science,” Francis Bacon, under his sovereign James I, author of the book Daemonologie, was involved in the witch trails of the seventeenth century, and hence much of the imagery he employed in delineating his new scientific objectives and methods derived from the inquisitional courtroom. He compared the inquisition of nature to these courtroom interrogations. “Nature,” according to Bacon, was to be treated as a female to be interrogated and tortured with mechanical inventions—“put on the rack”—to extract her secrets. She must be “bound into service” and made a “slave.” She must be put “in constraint” and “molded” by science’s mechanical arts. Bacon’s strong sexual analogies are evident in his making the case for the male domination of nature: “Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole object ….” Indeed, he frequently described matter as a “common harlot.” This, then, is the origin of the time-honored “scientific method”—a legitimation of the rape and exploitation of nature for the human good and utopian progress!)

    In short, then, the reason that the term “feminism” should not be “thrown into the Cauldron” is that it represents the most revolutionary movement to come out of the late twentieth century. I say this because, unlike many other revolutionary movements of this time, it gets to the essence of domination; that is, it goes beyond the critique of the lessor dominator models of church, state, and capitalism to the overarching “dominator model” of patriarchy (or “androcracy”) upon which these are all based and from which they take their legitimacy and authority. “Feminism” then is the key; it opens doors into the inner sanctum of male dominance, going behind the interlocking systems of authoritarian control—back to their source. It’s like the “feminist” theorists, with their long view of the pre-patriarchal past, have tracked down the secret hiding place of totalitarian power, broken into its control tower, and are messing with the levers of power, exposing and pulling out the wires and short-circuiting Western Industrial Civilization (against Nature). You can’t get any more basic—more revolutionary—than this! Because once you pull out the deep underpinnings of the authoritarian power structure, it all comes tumbling down.

    Therefore, I would venture to argue that instead of “throwing feminism into the Cauldron” we should, on the contrary, throw the “Cauldron” into “Feminism”—putting it back where it belongs, since the “Cauldron” (the Celtic mythical “Cauldron of Rebirth”) properly belongs to the Witch’s (the Crone’s) Great Triple Goddess (“Cauldrons symbolize not only the Goddess but also represent the womb, because it holds something, and on an altar it represents earth”). The Witch’s Cauldron. The Alchemist’s Retort. The same “Cauldron” of the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend containing the magic potion that promised to heal and set free the prisoners of patriarchy, as they realize they are all of this earth-cauldron. This would truly issue from a “revaluation of all values,” turning the patriarchy (and much of its “new-age” spirituality of otherworldly transcendence) upside-down.

    “There is more mystery in the dirt and dung than there is in all of heaven.” —W.B. Yeats

    “… because I know I am made from this earth, as my mother’s hands were made from this earth, as her dreams came from this earth and all that I know, I know in this earth, the body of the bird, this pen, this paper, these hands, this tongue speaking, all that I know speaks to me through this earth and I long to tell you, you who are earth too, and listen as we speak to each other of what we know: the light is in us.” —Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature

  • Gypsy Scholar

    To the suggestion by the VA that as long as we are throwing “masculinism” into the Cauldron then why not “feminism” too, I would council against it since such a move is based upon a false equivalency and, thus, misplaced.

    As much as some American men would like to believe, “masculinism” is not co-equal, on equal gender-liberating footing, with “feminism.” It is rather a *reactionary* phenomenon that is for the most part against the ideals and agenda of “feminism.” The so-called “men’s movement” phenomenon of the 1970s and1980s (whether that of the anti-feminist militancy of Warren Farrell or that of the more subtly coded “mythopoetic men’s movement” of Robert Bly) is not the ideological complement to the “women’s movement,” but rather a fearful reaction to the second-wave feminist movement.

    Therefore, I would venture to argue that instead of “throwing feminism into the Cauldron” we should, on the contrary, throw the “Cauldron” into “Feminism”—putting it back where it belongs, since the “Cauldron” (the Celtic mythical “Cauldron of Rebirth”) properly belongs to the Witch’s (the Crone’s) Great Triple Goddess (“Cauldrons symbolize not only the Goddess but also represent the womb, because it holds something, and on an altar it represents earth”). The Witch’s Cauldron, then, and the Alchemist’s Retort. The same “Cauldron” of the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend containing the magic potion that promised to heal and set free the prisoners of patriarchy, as they realize they are all one with this Great Goddess earth-cauldron.

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