"It's so simple, this ... has nothing to do with being an activist, but everything to do with being a mom."
- LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, founder of the Camp of the Sacred Stones, landowner along the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline route / WECAN @ ECOWATCH
"Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist"
- Winona LaDuke, founder Honor The Earth
Bioneers Conference 2016 was ripe with intersectional dialogue. Challenging, inspired messages came through the microphone. Healing Patriarchy addresses what I consider to be the overarching theme played at Bioneers 2016 and playing on the world stage.
In my experience, patriarchy is a system in which the mother's needs are always trumped by the father's desires and interests because this ensures that the mother will at least be sheltered and fed. The child is the ultimate loser in this scenario, since through the pregnancy and on, a mother can only meet her child's needs when her needs are met. Her needs include freedom from spiritual, emotional, and physical oppression and assault.
All human children, regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and material status, suffer in this authoritarian social dynamic. Thus, patriarchy serves men no more than women given the boy's suffering. In absence of the woman's collaborative motherly instinct guiding decisions, patriarchy burns itself out as men, women, and the larger community become exhausted of ruthless competition and forced, false authority. This is where it's at today.
Patriarchy can be perpetuated violently or ended peacefully.
Divided, women perpetuate patriarchy.
Together, women can heal patriarchy.
To heal patriarchy is to heal the relationship between mother and child by ensuring the mother receives all she requires to be of selfless service to the child during pregnancy and the child's critical first months and years outside her womb. Healing patriarchy is to be accomplished by healing individuals who may then prioritize the needs of mothers and children above their own desires and, in some instances, their own needs. Since men of patriarchy are children harboring wounds and are yet with advantage in the system, healthy women facilitate the healing process by standing in solidarity with and supporting women who are in transition and do not enjoy support from men in their immediate families and communities.
Having witnessed first and second-hand how women who are suffering traumatic loss can quite easily turn narcissistic and fall through the cracks in women's circles, I was grateful during Eve Ensler and Kimberle Crenshaw's intersectionality dialogue, to hear Eve say, "Do not to turn away from someone who is suffering. Do not close the door on someone who is "not spiritually evolved" or "not quite there yet".
Eve raised this point with concern for women and girls who will and do fall to isolation and alienation in the presence of judgment, or spiritual elitism, jealousy, and competition.
Generosity falls away readily in women's circles when individuals are competing to survive and/or gain recognition. The fear, righteous anger, and resentment fostered in women and girls through this age-old behavior pattern is precisely how patriarchy unintentionally divides to thrive.
Standing Rock - healing together
Sunday morning at Bioneers 2016 began with a report from Standing Rock front lines during which Kandi Mossett, a mother who has been living there with her toddler, expressed how surreal the auditorium felt compared to the reality of camp. I spent the rest of the day racing on the inside. At some point, I received word via Facebook that a woman praying in North Dakota was strip-searched and sent to a jail cell naked.
That evening, during Q&A of the "Women, Earth and Culture Change: A Systems Inquiry" program, I spoke immediately to and from sacred rage in response to another woman being so violated. I said, "I do not want to feel safe...I am racing with this...What do I do with this?...I do not know...I do not know." Afia Walking Tree, visionary percussionist and founder/Director of Spirit Drumz*, who was on stage as part of the women's panel, replied "You are not safe." And I agreed. "I am not safe. Nobody is safe so long as one body is threatened."
Afia suggested that the talking end at this point and the gathering move immediately to grieving / healing ritual. I noted my eagerness, then handed the prospect of healing ritual back to the women on stage. Talking resumed to close the panel discussion. Afia's wisdom to carry the sacred rage immediately all the way through to the ground for resolution was, in that moment, dismissed by other panel members. And I, having brought the passion forward from my place in the audience, did not have the courage to begin walking whether others walked with me or not.
Widely acknowledged is the power of collective prayer and healing ritual. Reviving group healing ritual is essential for personal and planetary peacemaking and peacekeeping. The hesitation and failure to practice in that moment at Bioneers conference is symptomatic of persons like me long separated from healing rituals and, thus, ourselves.
White women too carry the trauma of genocide and spiritual persecution in our bones. To not practice together when it is safe to do so, as was certainly the case at Bioneers, while others are being maced and jailed for praying, feels a grave misfortune.
The opportunity to transmute sacred rage was missed and was not.
The resting potential for wound healing through ritual went home with all who were gathered to hear the stories voiced and now carry the pain in their bodies. And everyone who was present with Eve Ensler as she invited a scream near the end of her keynote - and many did scream full blast - felt a release rarely experienced together if even in the privacy of our rooms.
Violence that's been happening and continues to happen is disturbing to a degree of insanity. The way to stop such disturbance at large is to clear the disturbance from individuals. No one is immune. To pretend that I am safe and peaceful if turning away as others are raped and murdered is to deny oneness and perpetrate violence.
Moving toxic energy out rather than at, fully prepares me to be generous, to help those in need, those who suffer wounds, and to protect those threatened by their own and/or another's suffering. When these energies have been long-held, as is the case for anyone reared in a culture that's forgotten how to grieve or dismissed grief all-together, imparting on a soul the trauma of both past and present violations, grief's expression can be quite disturbing.
I allow the expression to be so disturbing.
"Reach out a hand when you can, you know, to help anyone."
- said a woman on the path as she gave me a hug in passing
Prayer: Let there be support for those who are deep in process of healing from trauma lived and witnessed. Let all receive healthy food, shelter, and affection no matter what.
See the list of those offering and supporting grief practice along with readings on grief linked at bottom of the Extinction Witness Sanctify page.
*Bioneers 2016 - National Bioneers Conference - link
*Honor the Earth - "Power is in the earth." - link
*spiritual persecution - Songs for the Dead / keening - link