As I picked my jaw up off the floor after hearing Rep. Todd Akin’s now infamous statement that women’s uteruses have the magical power to resist impregnation in the case of rape, I wondered, “Where could he have gotten that idea?” Laura Helmuth, writing for Salon.com’s XXfactor, noted that his “statement was a crystallization of Akin’s worldview: sexist, blame-shifting, and profoundly ignorant.”
Then it clicked for me — yes, it’s a worldview but in a much deeper way than Helmuth realizes. The Onion hit the nail on the head when one of their “experts” noted that “It’s almost as if these people are unaware that the Enlightenment, the scientific revolution, various civil rights movements, and the entirety of social progress over the previous several centuries even occurred.”
That’s right. Akin’s views are positively medieval. I mean this literally. Medieval means prerational. And the problem is that rationality, the capacity to … Read More »
Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s recent article in the Atlantic,“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” has once again raised in public a question that has been privately vexing women for the past several decades (…or longer): How can we pursue our talents and contribute to culture significantly and be the devoted mothers that so many educated women want to be?
How do we slay this dragon? Slaughter, who should get many kudos for her frank presentation of the whole megillah of this dilemma for women at the highest echelons, falters here. Sure, I agree when she says that we need new values to make this work. But which values? The tricky thing is that there are two competing value sets from the two spheres of modern life: public (business and politics) for men and private (children and home) for women. The private sphere’s system … Read More »
O.M.G… Hillary Clinton in public without makeup. That this is news or newsworthy is bananas, and once again points to the bizarreobsession with women’s appearance in contexts where one should just, as Jezebel’s caption read, “give zero fuc*s.” But it does count as more evidence of just how smokin’ she is.
Oh yeah, this is the woman who has the distinct honor of having a nutcracker created in her likeness during the 2008 primary season. Her relentless commitment to a higher goal enabled her to endure during the campaign and, now, thrive as a Secretary of State who has placed girls (child marriage, education, sex slavery) and women (domestic abuse, rape, economic rights) in the center of diplomatic relations around the world. The“Texts from Hillary” mini-meme that was such a sensation a few weeks back cemented the growing recognition that Hillz is cool. But I’d like to suggest that … Read More »
The War on Women has many fronts — here in the U.S.,abroad, and across forums on the Internet. In the U.S., the range of hostilities spans the gamut from lewd(Limbaugh) to degrading (state-sanctioned vaginal penetration) to downright dangerous (making the murder of abortion providers “justifiable homicide”). This year has been quite a wake-up call for any woman who has thought that women’s rights and sexual freedom are guaranteed in this country. (It still blows my mind that, although this country was founded on the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal,” the truth is that it’s still only men who are given the right to equal treatment under the law by the Constitution. Suffragists spent more than 70 years to get the right to vote in the U.S., and a Constitutional amendment that would give women equal rights under the law was first introduced in 1923… … Read More »
In last week’s Newsweek cover story, “Spanking Goes Mainstream,” author Katie Roiphe set the blogosphere atwitter with her commentary on the cultural trend of bright young women willingly engaged in BDSM relationships: 50 Shades of Grey, Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls —even the wedding night of teen heart throbs Bella and Edward in the third Twilight movie. Roiphe pointed to the paradox that our postmodern freedoms are leading to an embrace of sexual subordination. Because Roiphe’s modernist assertions of individual responsibility often clash with postmodern feminists’ more nuanced understanding of how cultural and social forces shape us, her analysis was largely dismissed as just another of her potshots against contemporary feminism. But she’s picking up something about female agency that I’ve had on my radar for a while, something women need to think about deeply: Why, when the women’s movement aimed to liberate us from being sexually objectified and degraded in a … Read More »
Last month — Women’s History Month- – I was struck by an exchange between Sheryl Sandberg and Gloria Steinem at the Women in the World Conference because I felt it captured important generational difference among feminists. Business Insider reported that Sandberg asked Steinem if we’re in the midst of a stalled revolution for women. In other words, since the late-1960’s, women have seized opportunities and moved into all arenas of public life, but the percentage of women at the top has stayed between 15-18% for years. In no sector of public life — including the nonprofit arena — have women reached even 20% of the top positions consistently. To Sandberg, that was a sign of being stuck. But not to Steinem. Steinem argued that women are “at a critical mass stage” and getting more resistance. She further argued that revolutions create new kinds of work … Read More »
March is Women’s History Month. Doesn’t that sound dreadfully boring, like some required course from college? These thirty-one days actually commemorate women’s courageous struggles for self-determination and justice but with that almost academic label on it, it all seems rather, well, passé. History, obviously, is all in the past. So, what if we re-named March “Women Making History Month”? Because this month in 2012, we certainly have some history-making to do.
These placid and well-intentioned commemorations blunt the restless spirit that we are supposed to be celebrating. It’s the same with International Women’s Day, March 8. We note this day in history because of a series of revolts in the first decade of the 20th century by women garment workers who went on strike against brutal working conditions. In the former Soviet bloc countries, this day morphed from being a rallying … Read More »
When you think about women and spiritual practice, what pops into your mind? Leggy ladies in tights doing a downward dog? Wafty women in white flowing robes dancing among flickering candles? Pop cultural images of women interested in spirituality often imply that the goal of spiritual practice for women is to become hyperfeminine. (Click for a send up of the “Yoga Girl” image.) Yoga or sacred dance are beautiful, and we certainly need more beauty in the world. And yoga can lead to significant transformation—the inspiring story of Ana Forrest is just one testament to that—but too few of us set our sights on real, tangible, spiritual evolution as the goal of our practice. Becoming more fit and calm and lovely is fine. But becoming more femme is hardly a transformation that’s going to rock the world. As Ken Wilber … Read More »
In January, Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti made a gaffe that has sparked a worldwide protest among young women and their supporters. Sanguinetti was speaking about women’s safety at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School when he suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” There you have it: that old canard that women provoke rape and sexual assault. (A colleague told me that overalls happen to be the garment that attracts rapists most often–I don’t know if it’s true or where she heard that but apparently it’s because they are easy to get off quickly. Not because they are so alluring…) Two women in Toronto responded immediately–calling for a “SlutWalk” to protest the prevalence of blame-the-victim attitudes that make women’s sexuality such an area of inner and outer conflict. The idea has caught … Read More »
This past weekend, I had the pleasure to meet two teen girls adopted from China by friends of mine. The girls are poised between childhood and adulthood where the big questions—who am I? What am I going to make of my life?—are looming. During a conversation, someone mentioned something about “girl brains.” The phrase went by quickly, and I almost didn’t notice it. Then one of the girls asked directly: “Are the differences between the sexes biological or cultural?”
After our conversation, I began to wonder: how does this popular notion that women and men have different brains affect these girls’ ambitions, hopes, and dreams? Despite all of the celebration of how great the female brain is—how it will be much more useful in the world of the future—it seemed that she had already begun to wonder if she had gotten … Read More »
A few news events have caught my eye this past week—particularly, the Orthodox Jewish newspaper that photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of the iconic Situation Room photo and The Atlantic Monthly’s report “Danger: Falling Tyrants” by Jeffrey Goldberg on the move toward democracy in the Middle East. But it was an email exchange with one of our former editors/writers, Maura O’Connor, who is reporting from Afghanistan where she’s embedded among US troops, that made me think about these events in the context of our responsibility, as sophisticated postmodern individuals who are living in a pluralistic global society. We often literally brush up against those who have very different worldviews—radically different ways of understanding reality and human relationship.
Maura told me that she and a friend, another young American female journalist, were talking about whether to wear headscarves in … Read More »
“My generation, really sadly, is not going to change the numbers at the top. They are just not moving. We are 50% of the population, in my generation there will not be 50% of women at the top of any industry,” said Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg at TEDWomen. I felt a kind of cold chill hearing that. Sandberg is in her early forties–the generation that grew up believing that the world was wide open to women and that nothing could stop us. Now, as she notes, it’s pretty obvious that we’re a long way off from achieving parity at the top in business, politics, law, science, or academics. Estimates say that it will be at least another hundred years before the U.S. Congress is half women and half men. Moreover, in terms of equality at home, Sandberg notes that there has been even … Read More »
Thomas de Zengotita’s 2005 stealth bomb Mediated: How the Media Shapes Our World and the Way We Live in It leaves a permanent crater in your consciousness–after reading it, you awaken to a haunting perspective on the narcissistic self-referentiality of postmodern media culture. You know what I mean: the world where reality TV isn’t and yet is creating reality at the same time; or where authenticity is a brand for those who dare to be real… We pegged the book as an instant classic–time will tell, but at this point it is far too underappreciated. We have considered ourselves very fortunate to have Tom write for us on occasion (check here or read a review of Mediated.) We had followed his writing since the days that he wrote–crafted?–lengthy breakthrough pieces for Harper’s magazine before it joined the Political … Read More »
Today, the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, women in Egypt stepped into history by marching in Tahrir Square by the hundreds. They had optimistically called their action “The Million Women March” and although they were not joined on the streets by millions of women, the entire world watched as they moved forward for millions of their sisters in Egypt and across this awakening region. Men met them with abuse and violence, which only made the courage of their actions more apparent.
It’s extraordinary to see women rising up, being the instigators in the Revolutions that are toppling entrenched regimes. Young women are shaming their male peers by daring to speak out and take to the streets.
And while this is a wholly different reality from the one that those of us privileged postmoderns in the West live in, women … Read More »
As our sisters in Egypt risked their lives by marching in Tahrir Square today, it made me think about those of us in the West who have already won the right to walk where we please, say what we want, and pretty much do want we want with our lives. Even so, the changes here have been relatively recent, and the patterns in our psyches to take the subordinate position and to hold onto our sense of having been wronged, victimized, are still so strong. Somehow I can’t help but think that our sisters in Egypt would want us to step beyond these patterns and take up the responsibility that comes with opportunity. We are very much missing at the top.
So, while I find the video below very powerful–and realize that many women even in the West are struggling for … Read More »
“I do think there is an awakening happening among women,” Marianne Schnall, founder of feminist.com, said to me, “and it needs help and we need to support each other. We have so many choices now but if we don’t know who we are then we won’t know how to make those choices count.” I agree with Marianne. In the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewing a lot of women in preparation for the two seminars for women that I’m leading on November 13 & 14. Some women, like Marianne, think deeply about what’s going on with women; others are your average great women negotiating the complexity of their lives. Every one of them spoke about this deep longing for more–and simultaneously, a struggle to figure out how to make choices that will enable them to release the greater potential … Read More »
I’m writing a post on the spiritual awakening that seems to be stirring women today, and came across this cartoon–from 1915, when only the Western states of the US granted women the right to vote. I thought it would be great to post. The US elections are coming up very soon, and women are going to play a very significant role in the outcome. For decades women didn’t use their right to vote independently, and simply followed their husbands’ opinions. Today, the loudest voices of women in politics are not progressive, but those who call for a return to…well, what exactly isn’t clear. A throwback traditionalism cross dressing as a new, edgy feminism.
AND–women are awakening and have the potential to change culture at the roots…more on that in my next post. If you want to be part of the leading … Read More »
With the “new” atheism getting more and more publicity by the day, it seems important to amplify voices that recognize just how dangerous it is to lose touch with Spirit given the materialism and secularism of our postmodern era. Perhaps few have made this point more strongly or eloquently than Huston Smith in his epic 2001 book, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief. I reviewed this book for a special EnlightenNext magazine supplement called WIE Extra (WIE for our former name What Is Enlightenment?). Since it was only distributed to a few thousand subscribers back then, I thought that it would make a good read for our online readers. I’m sure you’ll find that Smith’s message is as relevant today as it was when it was published. Enjoy!
Fourteen years ago, I was forty years old, had recently received my doctorate from Harvard where I’d worked with Carol Gilligan in a small research collective that was charting new developmental pathways for girls and women, and had co-authored a bestselling book about how to transform the mother-daughter relationship in the hopes that the next generations of women could grow into fullness and power. While I couldn’t say that it was consciously intentional, my life was an almost systematic search for the keys that would unleash new potentials in women, and between women and men, that would transform our culture. I started with feminist activism and consciousness raising, moved to psychotherapy, tried assertiveness and other forms of skill-building training, and then to the dynamics of human development. Where was the lynchpin? I asked. How could true partnership and equality between the sexes become a living reality? … Read More »
I just read a fascinating interview with Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Apparently, just the title–and the suggestion of “settling” in a relationship–has made women go bonkers. Gottlieb says that women are angrily buzzing in the blogosphere about the book, even though many haven’t read it. It goes right up against the romantic fantasy that we women have been spoonfed since Disney’s The Little Mermaid: look, there’s a REAL PRINCE out there who will take one look at you and sweep you off your feet so that you will live in a castle happily ever after. Oh sure, we’re now too old and sophisticated to believe in that stuff…or are we?
Gottlieb mentions a study in which men and women were asked: if you could get 80% of the things that you want most … Read More »
The Super Bowl isn’t just the annual playoff of pro football’s league champions–a day of beer, betting, whistling, cheers, and potato chips. Every year, the commercials that run during football’s most frenzied fan space provide a glimpse into the current status of the war between the sexes. Years ago, in fact, rumors that Super Bowl Sunday caused the highest incidences of domestic violence of any day in the year led to commericals for women’s shelters and hotlines to be advertised during game time. The truth is that there is no such correlation. But the myth persisted for years because it simply fit neatly into our ideas of men who watch football and the women who serve them their beer and snacks. Super Bowl Sunday, we seem to say as a culture, doesn’t belong to God but to King Testosterone. While advertisers seem to forget that women watch … Read More »
I’ve been very remiss in not noting Mary Daly’s passing on January 6, 2009. The New York Times did a very respectful obituary, noting the significance of her contribution to feminist and religious thought. Daly, in case you don’t know her, was a powerful theologian. One of the first women to study theology and, from the inside of a Roman Catholic institution, to take apart the dominant idea of God as male. Her 1973 classic, “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation,” blew the Church doors off and sent a fresh wind through the old sacraments. I was actually surprised at the respect that the Times showed to her–because Daly, a radical lesbian feminist, pushed her points so far that she made it easy to be dismissed by the status quo. But that would be a mistake–anyone … Read More »
Quick: “masculine”–take ten seconds and say the words that come to mind that describe masculine. Next, do the same with “feminine.” That was the first exercise that my friend and colleague Cindy Wigglesworth and I asked participants to do in the breakout session that we led at the Integral Leadership in Action conference (October 15-18). What did the participants say?
Imagine what it must be like for Caster Semenya, the top South African female runner who was in the news recently because her sex has recently been challenged. By “sex” I am not referring to her sexuality, but to the physical, biological characteristics that determine whether one is male or female. That basically comes down to whether one has testes or ovaries. Her fantastically impressive victory in the 800 meters in Berlin recently raised questions about her sex—questions that she herself shrugged off as “a joke.” Semenya has no penis; all of her life, she has thought she is a girl—a very athletic girl who loves to run and compete. Actually, to say that she “thinks she is a girl” probably misrepresents that unthinking sense of simply being who you are, living the life that you have, in the context … Read More »
NOTE: I am addressing this post to Andrew Cohen in response to his “Open letter to all my former students upon return from my sabbatical,” but I am also hoping to reach women who were once students of his. I am speaking for myself, from my own experience and understanding—this isn’t an “official” view, because there isn’t such a thing. I found great and deep value in the work we all did together at EnlightenNext, and while this could not have happened without Andrew, much of what I have valued most came from what I learned in close connection with my peers. Some may find this difficult to understand. So, my intention is to write more in later posts about my experience, specifically about why I became involved, why I stayed, and my responsibility as someone who, in the last … Read More »
We are in the throes of completing the next issue of EnlightenNext. (Doesn’t it seem like you just got the last one??) I’m currently editing an interview that we did with the spiritual teacher, Aliya Haeri, a Western convert to Sufism, which is Islam’s mystical side.
Recently, Haeri was interviewed by Chris Parish and Kyrsten Perry, from the EnlightenNext Center (or should I say “Centre”?) in London.
Well, a young feminist friend, Vanessa Fisher, sent me the link to this article from the BBC and I had to post it here. She commented that it was reverse sexism, taken to the extreme. It sure is. While it seems to be part of the evolutionary process that each stage of development pushes against the last, we sure need to move beyond the way postmodern culture villifies men (and “the masculine”) and idealizes women (and “the feminine”). As some of the comments here show, male bashing has too often become a postmodern sport among women.
Life without men
Scientists claim to have grown human sperm in a lab, and columnists and bloggers are musing on the possibility of a world where men are no longer needed.
Michael Hanlon in the Daily Mail
is not looking forward to the prospect of a world that doesn’t … Read More »
This is a manifesto, or you could call it a manifesta, or, better yet, a (wo)manifesto for all women who want to shoulder the responsibility to evolve culture and consciousness. Who sense the possibility of a new way of living, free of the roles and limitations that have held us in ways of being that stretch back to the beginning of time. Who have a growing hunger for something far deeper, freer, more dignified than anything that our culture has offered in the last many millennia. This is a (wo)manifesto for the future that is ours to create.
Creation is the realm of Eros. No, I don’t mean eros as in erotic. That is nothing new for women–being erotified, objectified, by men and, increasingly, by ourselves. Using our bodies as our selves, too much the measure of who we think we … Read More »
I was just sitting down to write a memorial for Jacqueline Péry D’Alincourt (1919-2009), whose courage during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II was beyond measure, when I read Carter Phipp’s most recent blog post that contained a quote from a young Iranian woman on the eve of the June 20 protests against the election of Ahmadinejad: “I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs…. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our … Read More »
Sorry about using that tired question “what do women want?” to start off this post. Freud asked it–likening women’s consicousness to a dark continent both unexplored and presumably unknowable–and every exasperated male writer and far too many marketers have used it since. But the question is popping up again. In a recent New York Times op-ed column entitled “Liberated and Unhappy,” Ross Douthat reports on an analysis by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers that indicates that across race, marriage status, economic bracket, and even country, women’s subjective experience of being happy has declined both absolutely and in relation to men. Interestingly, in 1970–before the women’s movement so dramatically opened so many women’s life options–women were generally more happy than men. So, in the forty years since women in the West won their freedom to choose the lives that they want, they have become … Read More »
Have you ever heard of the Turing test? Years ago, I encountered it in Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter’s 1981 book The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul. It’s bugged me ever since. Put forth by Alan Turing in a 1950 paper on computing and intelligence, Turing proposed a simple and apparently straightforward way to assess whether computers could actually think. Since defining “thinking” is tricky–because immediately we find ourselves grappling with questions about the nature of consciousness or intelligence–Turing suggested that we skip all of the deeper philosophical questions with an empirical test: if a human interviewer was to receive written answers to questions posed to two entities hidden from view, a computer and a person, would it be possible for the computer to “trick” the interviewer into believing that it was the human? If so, if the computer was able to convince someone that it is capable of doing what we (thinking … Read More »
I’ve decided to create an ongoing series of posts to challenge one of the most popular beliefs of our era: that women have a profoundly different value set than men, and that embracing these particularly feminine values will change the world. Men, and masculine thinking, have dominated the world and made a mess, so now women, and the feminine, are desperately needed to clean it all up. That’s how the story goes. And in postmodern spiritual circles, these traditional qualities of women that are associated with our roles as mothers, wives, and caretakers are often raised to, well, divine status. That’s why I call this the myth of the Divine Feminine.
This isn’t problematic simply because women end up once again with the thankless task of cleaning up after everyone! As I have written before, this way of looking at the world polarizes the masculine and feminine, and men and women, in ways … Read More »
Today Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber did their first audio internet-based seminar—bringing the much loved Guru and Pandit dialogues from EnlightenNext magazine live into homes around the world. (There were over 600 who signed up for the seminar, hailing from all over the globe—including New Zealand, Dubai, India, and China.) These two pioneering thinkers worked seamlessly together to open up our understanding of Spirit in the four quadrants of Integral Theory, as the three faces of God, from the ground of Being to the creative thrust of Eros, and across the evolutionary trajectory. It was quite a ride!
One of the points that Ken made at the end of the day really struck me. He said that mainstream liberals (those folks who are reviled by the Right for highjacking our media, among other dastardly deeds) make no distinctions about anything that … Read More »
Why don’t we know more about Vimala Thakar? I’ve just written a memoriam for our next issue about Vimala, a fiercely independent enlightened sage who pioneered a truly integrated form of inner and outer transformation, and the more I think about who she was and what she stands for, the more strange it becomes that she is so little known. There was almost no mention in the Western press that Vimala had passed away at her home in Rajasthan in March. In fact, even in her native India, the details of her passing were scarce. How could the world have missed the fact that perhaps the most spiritually enlightened woman on the planet had passed away? You would think, given the popularity of women’s spirituality, that she would be a well-known and widely revered figure, particularly among women. But she … Read More »