Feminism as a Path to Healing: Part 2 ll Mary Coday Edwards

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.
September 12, 2017

“I decided you didn’t need it,” said a retired, older white man (OWM) to me in my not too distant past.

“Whoa,” I thought, while simultaneously, “Warning! Warning! Danger ahead!” clanged my internal alarm systems.

And then I razzed this potential colleague mercilessly about his god-like powers enabling him to know my truth.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get it.

Normally I avoid collaborative ventures with OWM, but this one has a good heart, and the nonprofit I was tip-toeing into had the potential for increasing the planet’s greater good, so I risked it. However, my somewhat mature and somewhat wiser self now enters into such endeavors consciously. Life is short, so I choose to divert my limited energy into life-flourishing undertakings and I needed to research his organization.

Over a span of three weeks – again, and again, and again – I asked for the Articles of Incorporation. These are legal documents and available to the public.  During those weeks, the OWM wanted commitments from me, but as I humorously explained to him many times, “how can I commit until I know what I am committing TO?”

The Articles were the documents he had “decided” I “didn’t need,” a comment he eventually made in passing, as if it was perfectly normal and acceptable for him to decide for me.

ENTITLEMENT, CONTROL, & COMMAND: CHARACTERISTICS OF A PATRIARCHAL SYSTEM

Patriarchy commonly means social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men – and in Western culture, that would be predominantly white adult men.

Author Sue Monk Kidd says the characteristics of a patriarchal system include (1):

Entitlement: the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

Control: the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Command: give an authoritative order; have authority over, be in charge of; dominate from a superior height

Strongly influenced by feminist thinking in both science and theology, physicist-turned-theologian Ian Barbour speaks of patriarchal assumptions underlying scientific research and discovery.

“Control and domination of nature express attitudes associated more often with men than women in Western culture”, he says. And, that “in a patriarchal society, the exploitation of women and nature have a common ideological root …. Scientists participate in these manipulating attitudes when they make control and prediction, rather than understanding, their goal.” (2, pgs 24, 149.)

Patriarchal values (which are not necessarily male values) include the belief that one is entitled to control, command, and dominate. This always implies a one-way relationship, whether it be political, personal, or religious: someone has to dominate and someone has to submit; someone has to be right, someone has to be wrong; someone has to control, someone is the controllee.

This OWM did eventually send me the documents.  But at an unconscious level, he believed he was entitled to tell me, an adult woman, that he knew what was best for me, thus revealing that his worldview still included the erroneous right of control and command – as if I was a small child.

LOVINGKINDNESS: IT DOESN’T MEAN APPROVAL

My younger self faithfully served as a handmaiden to the dominant male culture for far too many years (3). In some cases, I actually believed patriarchy’s ardent male and female supporters would see, like a parasite, how the system drained life out of the very ones it depended upon for its existence.

I could have been the poster child for Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This OWM’s words revealed his unconscious bias.  A successful businessman before he retired, he is a product of a 3,000-year-old patriarchy system; it’s in his DNA.

I get this – and I can extend lovingkindness to him without approving of his life-denigrating actions toward me – or feeling compelled to be “nice”.

That’s why, and because of his good heart, I stuck with it for three weeks, even while he lightly dismissed my requests as trivial. If this had been part of a patriarchal system, I wouldn’t have had a choice, and it would have been institutionalized oppression, pervasive in the United States until woman’s suffrage in 1920 (it’s still prevalent – just not so obvious).

In my last blog, I spoke of how the patriarchy sends both women AND men to my office, seeking healing from their woundings.  Feminism means being able to make the choices that are right for you.

In addition, as adults we carry this bossy and demanding patriarchal authority unconsciously within us, long past its expiration date. While reading this blog, if any feelings or emotions surfaced or wiggled around in your body, such as sadness, anger, tears, a fight or flight reaction, I suggest you mindfully reflect on those emotions, waiting for any truth or memory that may be seeking to surface. Emotions are our teachers – they are not good or bad.

Whatever you experience, don’t push it away but stay with it, welcoming this wisdom of transforming power and energy. And practice mindfulness, as Jon Kabat-Zinn taught (4):

Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose,
in the present moment,
and nonjudgmentally,
to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.

______

Notes & Sources: Kidd, Sue Monk. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. HarperCollins; 1996. Pg. 199.

1.) Kidd, Sue Monk. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. HarperCollins; 1996. Pg. 199.

2.) Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science; Historical and Contemporary Issues. HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.

3.) Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey, pg 2. Shambhala Publications, 1990.

4.) Kabat-Zinn, Jon. The founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, calls this practice mindfulness.


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth