I begin this article with a personal story which demonstrates the role that synchronicity can play in our lives if we are aware of what’s happening. While browsing in the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver I caught sight of a book with a title meant to hook the meandering eye. It was Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven by Uta Ranke-Heinemann. A German, Ranke-Heinemann was a professor of Catholic theology at the University of Essen in Germany. She had, according to the New York Times, written “the most controversial religious best-seller of the 90s.” She apparently had been a divergent thinker before this because in 1987 the Catholic Church declared her ineligible to teach theology and transferred her to a history of religion professorship.
Her ideas seemed compelling to me but I did not yet realize how they would connect with where my life was headed at the time. Nevertheless, the synchronicity had started and my True self had plans for me. Eunuchs and another book of Ranke-Heinemann’s had disturbed me and I continued the process I had begun years before of awakening to the madness of the paradigm that I had so long taken for granted.
As my wife and I were flying to London for our summer vacation,[i] I put down my book on metaphysics and opted for some relaxing music. The narrator on the classical music station was saying:
“Did you know that the sister of Felix Mendelsohn, Fannie Mendelsohn, composed over 400 classical works?”
“No I did not,” I said to myself.
“Why not,” I thought.
The narrator went on to say, “and now we will hear one of her compositions performed by the San Francisco Orchestra conducted by Joanne Falleta.”
I began to cry. That made three women now, that I had recently become aware of, who had suffered such painful unfairness in our male-dominated Western world.
Why was I crying? Because I must have sensed that I was being presented with a challenge. What could I do, if anything, to speak out against the injustices of misogyny? Before Joanne Falleta became the first successful female conductor in the U.S., Antonia Brico had tried for years to conduct classical music and had only token success. Only after Judy Collins, who had been one of Brico’s students, created a film about her did this talented female conductor have the opportunity to conduct a few concerts in her 80’s.
My True self, unsatisfied with my level of commitment, had other heart-rending insights to shock me into a slow burning outrage. While browsing in the rare book room of the British Museum looking for the Magna Carta I was “led” to a couple of books. Keep in mind that I am skipping over dozens of rare books because we had been in the museum for six hours. We were both exhausted by this time and the library rooms were our last stop. The Magna Carta (1215) demanded that King John give concessions to the English nobility, but my eyes were drawn to one provision which said “no widow shall be compelled to marry so long as she prefers to live without a husband.” You’re kidding! In the year 1215? There was an unexpected precedent, especially in Medieval England, a sensibility that women deserved some consideration. It seemed like a beginning with admittedly a long way to go.
Further along in the final bookcase was a book written in 1601 by Lucrezia Marinella of Venice. It seemed that a man named Guiseppe Passi had written an invective against women pointing out their “defects.” Lucrezia in her book entitled La Nobilta, had achieved a “brilliant and formal” (according to the book’s case label) refutation of Passi’s book and she “praises women’s excellence and attacks men.” Okay! Enough already True self, I’ll see what I can do.
Men and women are seeking consciousness but most are not conscious that they are doing so. Although that process is fundamentally the same for both sexes, there are relative differences which we will briefly examine in this article. The chief obstacle to awakening as indicated in the first sentence is that humankind is unconscious and most of us cannot distinguish illusion from reality. Let’s examine some of those illusions that are unique to women or are different for women than they are for men.
Women are having a struggle to wake up, as are men, and we will weave the influence men have had into this tapestry because indeed, both sexes are inextricably entangled. The tragedy is that unconscious men and women cause suffering for themselves as individuals and compound their pain by projecting on one another. Such is the tangled web the sleepwalker spins.
We begin with some background for the aforementioned struggle revealed by that aspect of the P-B illusion grounded in time sometimes known as history. “Rosemary Ruether sees the disjunction that occurred in man’s perception of woman as a split between spiritualized femininity and carnal femaleness. She points out that this split is analogous to the one between body and mind.”[ii] In Simple Reality we traced this split between body and mind as part of the shattering of Oneness back to the myth of the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve experienced “the Fall” into unconsciousness. When the various “splits” plaguing humanity occurred in our history is less important than understanding their causes and remedies.
Historian Barbara Tuchman saw the plague of the 14th century, which by 1361 had killed up to one-half of the population of Europe, as the catalyst of a paradigm shift. This catastrophe, in her view, radically changed the “fixed order” and the relationship of men to women. The fixed order Tuchman refers to is the hierarchical order of the feudal system: king, prince, dukes, all the way down to the serfs. Equally rigid was the hierarchy of the Church: pope, bishops, clerics, laity, all fixed in their place by divine decree—which was really the “dictate” of the power and control energy center of the false-self survival strategy, by the way. However, as some of us have come to realize, the false self, the real villain of our story was there from the beginning.
The split between body and mind, and between man and woman, had been preceded by the split between the individual and nature even though Tuchman places it historically following the Black Death. “Man turned increasingly to his own rational power and began to look upon death, nature, woman, his own body, and sexuality as being irrational, and therefore as something to be subdued and brought under more rigorous control.”[iii] And here again we have an example of the power and control energy center of the false self. Women of course have this survival trait but it is expressed in a relatively different manner. The details of that expression will be among the behavioral traits we will focus on.
The shift in worldview described above relieved the anxiety of the male by giving them more power but created a less friendly environment for women to express their unique identities. For example, as E. F. Schumacher observed: “The old science looked upon nature as God’s handiwork and man’s mother; the new science tends to look upon nature as an adversary to be conquered or a resource to be quarried and exploited.”[iv] In the mind of the male, beginning after the Black Death and especially after the Age of Enlightenment (an ironic label), the female began to be one aspect of nature that the male viewed as an adversary.
Wolfgang Lederer in his book The Fear of Women describes the experience common to therapists. “In the unashamed privacy of our consulting rooms we do from time to time see strong men fret, and hear them talk of women with dread and horror and awe, as if women, far from being timid creatures to be patronized, were powerful as the sea and inescapable as fate.”[v]
The anxiety that men experience was created in part by the association of women with death and erotic love. “He began to project his own guilt about his sexual impulses onto woman. An example of this reenactment of Adam’s blaming Eve can be found in a 1486 report by Dominican inquisitors.”[vi]
“Not only did woman carry the burden of man’s guilt and responses to death, but she also became the scapegoat [the other] for the economic instability that came in the wake of the plague.”[vii]
The paranoia expressed by men reached its historic apex during the late Middle Ages (1300-1600). The witch hunts in Europe and America resulted in the execution of as many as one million women. One Inquisitor concluded, “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.”[viii]
Witchcraft paranoia is alive and well today because the P-B worldview still prevails. In the village of Gambaga in Ghana the nephew of a woman called Banga became sick and died. She was blamed for his death, accused of witchcraft, attacked by former friends and neighbors and banished to a “witch village.” Bewildered, she explains, “Only God can tell. I don’t know how I did it.”[ix] The witch village offers protection for the accused witches in Ghana but not from their own imaginations because most of the women sent here come to believe that they are really witches. What is really happening when we project our fears onto the other is an attempt to banish elements of our shadow or to gain some advantage in our pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power by destroying or banishing a competitor.
Do men in the first-world nations still have this “medieval” fear of women? Take the U.S. for instance. In a 1994 issue of U.S. News & World Report, the themes printed on the cover answer our question:
- Violence, Poverty, Abuse: The War Against Women.
- Women are falling further behind in country after country—and their men like it that way.
“A measure of this extreme prejudice is the number of missing women. China and India together have 75 million fewer women than they should have, according to calculations by Harvard scholar Stephan Klasen. Premature death from neglect is the main cause but there are others. Both Asian giants have traditions of female infanticide, which continues in small pockets.”[x] The war against women continues today in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It is not a figurative war, it is literal.
Susan Faludi’s book entitled Backlash—The Undeclared War Against American Women, asks relevant questions. “If American women are so equal, why do they represent two-thirds of all poor adults? Why are more than 80 percent still making less than $20,000 a year , nearly double the male rate? Why are they still far more likely than men to live in poor housing, receive no health insurance and draw no pension.”[xi]
It is the “literal” war on women that brings our picture into tragic focus. “The spectacular rise in violence against women is well-documented. Reported rapes more than doubled from the early ‘70s. Sex-related murders rose 160 percent between 1976 and 1984. At least one-third of female victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and 60 percent of that group were murdered just after declaring their independence in the most intimate manner—by filing for divorce and leaving home.”[xii] Although our statistics are outdated, it doesn’t matter because as our brief romp through history has indicated, the more history changes, the more it remains the same. Now we segue from the flow of history to the equally frightening content of both the male and the female mind.
Whenever humanity lost its identification with and closeness to nature we began moving in the wrong direction and began failing in our search for Oneness and our True-self identity. “Someone said that when religion lost the cosmos in the West, society became neurotic. We had to invent psychology to deal with the neurosis.”[xiii]
Tragically, women also wage war on themselves with their own false-self enabled mind. What psychiatrists call body dysmorphic disorder, or imagined ugliness, is on the rise. “Distorted views of the body are due in part to ‘insidious contrast effect,’ in which people compare themselves with the models in advertisements, said Dr. Rita Freedman, a psychologist in Scarsdale, N.Y.”[xiv]
Depth psychology reveals much that is unique to women in their awakening process. Freud might have agreed with the Inquisitor above since he identified sexuality as the cause of underlying anxiety in the psyche. Depth psychology would bring Freud up to date by identifying the dread of death as the root of patriarchal pathology. This has brought about another relative paradigm shift within P-B. Mass death in modern times with the holocaust, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ethnic cleansing and sectarian wars has changed the belief that death was due to unknown forces of nature or God punishing man for his sins to “man’s inhumanity to man” as the cause for existential anxiety. Speaking of his clients, therapist Michael Beldoch found that his patients suffer from “pervasive feelings of emptiness and a deep disturbance of self-esteem.”[xv]
Having become alienated from nature, each other and our inner wisdom, how do men and women seeking relationships today behave? Most of us are attempting to deny our suffering or try various strategies to distract ourselves from the reality of our experience. “Many people in our crumbling society seek to establish relationships based on participation mystique through sharing drugs, alcohol, sex, or other addictive behaviors.”[xvi] This behavior, when profoundly understood is an expression of the fundamental need for affection, esteem and sensation, or the “pleasure” energy center of the false-self survival strategy. “All addiction is an infinite quest for the spirit [the True self]. It can only be healed and satisfied by the spirit.”[xvii]
More than men, women tend to have an identity which expresses itself as compassion. This is good right? We have all seen it. Many women are so good at responding to the needs of others that those who are in relationship to her come to expect and in some cases even demand that nurturing. This often results in stressful and unbalanced relationships where women do most of the giving while others do most of the receiving.
We have warned in essays, articles and on the Simple Reality blog about the self-destructive nature of the current prevailing worldview and the associated identities; women exemplify this threat in alarming ways. Looking up to male role models, supermen, many women attempt to become superwomen. She adds those expectations to her already overloaded schedule. The result is often stress, lack of sleep and serious physical and mental health problems.
All of us are contained in a toxic narrative, but as we are seeing, that context poisons women in a particularly insidious way: yes, even modern American women. “Although Americans take for granted that scientists are geeks, in other cultures a gift for math is often seen as demonstrating that a person is intuitive and creative.”[xviii]
American professors of science Jo Handelsman and Corinne Moss-Racusine published a study that documented gender bias in American faculty members in three scientific fields—physics, chemistry and biology—at six major research institutions in the U.S. Their results agree with findings of similar studies that have found that people’s biases stem from “repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent by simultaneously emphasizing their warmth and likability compared to men.”[xix]
The cultural “story bias” poses an almost insurmountable obstacle to all but the most persistent of women. “As so many studies have demonstrated, success in math and the hard sciences, far from being a matter of gender, is almost entirely dependent on culture—a culture that teaches girls math isn’t cool and no one will date them if they excel in physics; a culture in which professors rarely encourage their female students to continue on for advanced degrees; a culture in which success in graduate school is a matter of isolation, competition and ridiculously long hours in the lab; a culture in which female scientists are hired less frequently than men, earn less money and are allotted fewer resources.[xx]
The ultimate and only true identity that any of us has is that of the True self which transcends sexual identity. Sex when taken as our primary identity can be very fluid and even confusing as the following two stories indicate. The two stories were heard on National Public Radio on the program called This American Life narrated by Ira Glass on May 1, 2004.
Two young people related their experiences related to their levels of testosterone, the male hormone. The first story deals with a young man accidentally deprived of testosterone. He described his experience as one of having no desire to do anything. He said his life had no desire content and he could stare at a wall for three hours in perfect contentment. He had no desire to watch TV. He had no judgment of anything. And finally, everything he looked at whatever it was, a car or a chrysanthemum was beautiful.
The second story was told by a young lesbian who described herself as a “butch-dyke.” She had been a student at Bryn Mawr when she decided to take injections of testosterone as part of the process of undergoing a sex change. Within two days she had reactions of being strongly attracted to women with the slightest sensual (visual) stimulation. “Even things like red sports cars and purring copy machines stimulate me. I felt like a monster. I was turned into this beast. I was looking at her ass and as I passed her a voice said ‘Don’t turn around and look at her breasts.’ I was a butch-dyke and now I’m just a jerk.”
As she completed her transition to becoming a man and went into the corporate world “he” now had to learn to behave like a man. The employees at his new job did not know of his past life as a woman. Women “he” had conversations with called him a misogynist. He had to learn how to talk to women and lie about where he had gone to college. “I was turning into Rush Limbaugh. I became interested in science and I wasn’t before. I began to understand physics in a way I never did before—it’s true! I have a hard time crying—before I had a good cry and would feel better. [Now] I have to force myself to cry—but very few tears come—it’s very dry.”
“I ask people ‘what kind of guy do you see? They see a nerd. I’m small, short with glasses—a sensitive guy. There’s a lot to learn to be a man. It’s a constant contest. I have to puff myself up so that other men will keep their distance.” [Men would shove him, “check” him on the street and generally be very aggressive.] [xxi]
The ultimate and only authentic identity that any of us has is that of the True self which transcends sexual identity. We can choose from a menu of thousands of personas or roles to play and even shift the P-B stories that we are contained in or even change our sexual identity but we will remain trapped in behavioral patterns inimical to our ability to live in the present moment.
Chemistry definitely has a role in identity but we must keep our focus in realizing that it is always the false-self identity, it is delusional. The True self transcends the influence of the world of form. The illusion of romantic love, for example, wreaks havoc in the Global Village particularly in the West.
Scientists studying the human brain of people in love, especially in the early obsessive stages, have observed almost psychotic behavior found in the most dysfunctional expression of the sensation energy center of the false-self survival strategy. Emotions can become intense ranging from euphoria to anger to anxiety. When Buddha linked suffering to craving we can see that “being in love” will most certainly not be a desirable state.
The “in love” state can produce some of the most irrational behaviors especially among males when they are rejected. The newspaper headlines are full of stories related to stalking, homicide, and suicide. The behaviors related to being in love can resemble the addictive behaviors common in the pleasure energy center. “There are the serial daters, those who stay long enough to get that dopamine high, and when that fades, they look for the next high.”[xxii]
Psychologist Robert Epstein notes that the context or story has a huge influence on male-female relationships especially the institution of marriage. “Epstein points to studies of arranged marriages [occurring mostly in the East] as proof. He said sociologists have measured happiness among couples in arranged marriages. They start with low levels of passion, he said. Within five years, those in arranged marriages surpass the levels of love, passion and bonding of people in so-called ‘love marriages.’”[xxiii]
Marriage is a commitment similar to that of those of us who seek a paradigm and identity shift. Both partners must have a strong intention to do the work, exercise the discipline and embrace the sacrifices that are the prerequisites of Self transformation.
We will continue our examination of the distaff side of humankind from the inside out, that is to say, from the psyche to transcendence. The myth of Psyche and Eros deals with the challenge women face which is integrating her inner feminine and masculine identities. The story begins with Psyche losing her masculine partner, Eros, through disobedience and must perform a series of tasks to regain him. Eros represents both the outer man and the inner masculine of a woman. By integrating her inner masculine with her inner feminine, Psyche seeks to awaken to her True-self identity.
Venus assigns Psyche her first task which is to sort out a huge pile of seeds—beans, corn, peas, etc. This must be completed by morning or she will die. Psyche becomes overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task and collapses into unconsciousness. When she wakes up in the morning she finds the task has been completed by ants which symbolize her intuition and feelings.
In a contemporary interpretation of the myth, the seeds represent the overwhelming number of tasks faced by women. They have responsibilities which include household tasks, family relationships, career, education, community involvement, spiritual and intellectual development and the always-present needs and expectations of all of the people in her life. (They even apologize if it rains at a picnic.) The sorting process in the myth represents the yearning for integration and wholeness, the searching for the Great Insight of Oneness or what Buddha called Right View.
Psyche’s second task is to get the golden fleece from the dangerous solar rams. Initially she is overwhelmed and sinks into a suicidal despair. The environment of the rams symbolizes the male-dominated world which is alien to her female identity. She gathers advice from nature (rely on your inner wisdom and “be patient” whisper the brambles and reeds) again symbolizing her natural feminine insights. She learns she cannot use direct, confrontive competition attacking the rams head-on but to use her intuition rather than her intellect and a controlled, patient response rather than a fight or flight reaction.
It is not that Psyche has no false self seeking power and control, it is that she does so with more guile. She has a full plate in keeping others, especially males from dominating her life. She has learned she can accomplish more by cooperation, consensus and mediation than overt competition, intimidation and violence.
Eventually succeeding obtaining the golden fleece, Psyche emerges from a dark pit (her personal unconscious) having learned what she needs to prepare for the next task. She must go to the center of the waterfall of the River Styx which is guarded by monsters. Upon reaching this point, symbolizing the unconscious she is to fill a crystal goblet. Again, an eagle representing her intuition takes the goblet and dives into the waterfall obtaining the water for her.
Completing this task results in a shift in identity—a transformation—the attainment of Self-reliance. This newly empowered identity can threaten former relationships as the independent and self-assertive female requires old associations to be re-negotiated. This is also a good time for a woman to honor her body with such physical disciplines as pilates. Body work facilitates grounding and connection with sexual and spiritual energies, and releases painful memories stored in the body. With this grounding she can learn to speak from her own feminine reality while at the same time being aware of the masculine perspective.
The last task requires Psyche to enter the underworld where she meets a beggar man in need at which time her old identity would have required her to offer assistance. Here she must prove that she has learned Jesus’ first imperative—love thyself. She encounters others in need but keeps her focus on the larger more transcendent goal. Her task is to retrieve a cask of healing ointments. Here we recognize the classic hero’s journey where she will succeed in returning with a “boon” for humankind.
Psyche returns with the ointments which are to be used to heal the wounds of a world shattered by humanity’s dualistic worldview. The integration of the feminine and masculine energies symbolizes the healing of the splits between humanity and nature, the True self and the other, the True self with the personal shadow, and the collective unconscious with the shadow of the collective unconscious. Psyche’s boon or gift to humanity is consciousness itself.[xxiv]
Be ye compassionate as your creator in Heaven is compassionate.
Consciousness can be expressed as compassion. “[Meister] Eckhart says that until we become instruments of compassion, we don’t have a soul yet. Because all of us are here for a purpose, and all of that purpose adds up in some way to compassion.”[xxv]
It could be said that the myth of Psyche foreshadowed the SHE future that James Robertson saw happening in his book The Sane Alternative. He advocated a Sane, Humane and Ecological paradigm. “When an individual or group first provides a synthesis able to attract most of the next generation, the older schools gradually disappear. In general, the paradigm shifts associated with the transition to the SHE future will reflect a shift of emphasis away from the overdeveloped, structured, exterior aspects of life towards the underdeveloped, unstructured, interior aspects.”[xxvi]
The former Episcopal bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong, begins with the first of the “religions of the book,” Judaism and the Old Testament. “Womanhood was insulted in verse after verse of the Torah. The woman was thought to be incompetent to make a vow, so her father was given veto power (Num. 30:1-5). Later in her life her husband had to approve of her utterances if they were to have any force (Num. 30:8).”[xxvii]
Not an auspicious beginning for Jewish women but the New Testament or the Koran didn’t honor women either. Nor did other religious institutions worldwide. “Whether they call it soul, spirit, atman, or buddha nature, all the major religions say that men and women are often not held as equals.”[xxviii] That is something of an understatement as we shall see in this brief segment on women.
Fast forward to today with a look at the three religions, Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism and the experience of women in those institutions. In 2012 the Vatican when Benedict was Pope issued a reprimand to an organization that represented 80 percent of Catholic nuns. “In effect, the Vatican accused the nuns of worrying too much about the poor and not enough about abortion and gay marriage.”[xxix]
Columnist Nicholas Kristof quickly arrived at the heart of the matter in one of his pieces. “If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’s life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.”[xxx]
The often-irreverent Maureen Down, disrespecting both male religious leaders and politicians, saw the whole incident this way: “Even as Republicans try to wrestle women into chastity belts, the Vatican is trying to muzzle American nuns. Instead of looking deep into its own heart and soul, the church is going after the women who are the heart and soul of parishes, schools and hospitals.”[xxxi]
“The Vatican accused the nuns of pushing ‘radical feminist themes,’ and said they were not vocal enough in parroting church policy against the ordination of women as priests and against abortion, contraception and homosexual relationships.”[xxxii] How would a self-reliant Catholic woman respond to the leadership of her church? Raised Catholic herself Dowd knows: “The pope needs what the rest of us got from the nuns: a good rap across the knuckles.”[xxxiii]
Sister Patricia Wittberg, author of God’s Work, God’s Workers, gives us the broader perspective of what’s happening with Catholic nuns. “I will speak largely about Catholic women in the North American context. Women who are sixty or older are the pillars of the parish. They get everything done, and they appear to be moderately content. But there is an undercurrent of discontent you see when a woman rolls her eyes when we’re talking about men: ‘Oh there they go again.’ But it never rises to the level that inhibits them from taking an extremely active role in their church. Many women who are forty to sixty, roughly speaking, are ‘defecting in place,’ and I find this very ominous for Catholicism. They go their own way. Many women younger than forty are simply leaving.”[xxxiv]
Albert Hirschman wrote a little book with a long title, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. “Hirschman points out that the powers-that-be in any group prefer that its most dissatisfied members exit, and get out of their hair, rather than stay and exercise their voice.”[xxxv]
A Catholic and a nun since 1966 Patricia Wittberg will remain in the church for reasons that have little to do with church hierarchy. “In fact, I’ve heard some nuns say if they could, they’d much rather be a Sister of Charity without being a Catholic. The Catholic part they’re not too keen on, but the religious order part they are strongly attracted to.”[xxxvi]
The author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, Irshad Manji finds two groups of women in Islam today, one group is angry and the other fearful. The angry women defend Islam and are hostile to criticism of their faith. “The second group is much less loud than the first group, much more fearful of persecution. They recognize that something is askew, that something is not quite right in the Islam that they have been told they must practice. They tell me they are sickened by the human rights violations—particularly against women—happening in the name of Allah. They are tired of sitting back, of being told that women cannot lead prayer, of being lectured to by the men in their lives about why they must wear the hijab.”[xxxvii]
However, younger Muslim women are not defecting or going their own way. Manji takes the long view. “But as a result of the presence of someone like me and the fact that I’m not going to shut up, those who are regarded as more legitimate can lead the charge for liberal reform within Islam.”[xxxviii]
“Honor in the Arab cultural tradition requires women to give up their individuality in order to maintain the reputation and prospects of the men in their lives. This turns women into communal property, so that their lives don’t actually belong to them but to their families, their tribes, and sometimes even their nations.”[xxxix]
An editor of a number of books on Buddhist women and monasticism, Karma Lekshe Tsomo teaches at the University of San Diego. “Although there are differences depending on what part of the world you are talking about, in my experience most Buddhist women are content, even though most are largely disempowered and disenfranchised.”[xl]
“In theory, then, Buddhism has at its foundation an egalitarian framework. In practice, however, most Buddhist women do not have equal opportunity. Of the estimated three hundred million Buddhist women internationally, 99 percent do not have equal opportunities for Buddhist education, meditation training, or ordination. Most are not encouraged to practice intensively or to develop as teachers of buddha dharma. In fact, many are struggling even to get adequate nutrition, education, and health care for themselves and their families.”[xli]
“The purpose of Buddhist practice—whether in the form of meditation, study, or ritual—is transformation of consciousness, and consciousness has no gender. In theory, at least, women have equal opportunities to reach the highest goals of the Buddhist tradition.”[xlii]
“But at the same time there are still thousands of Buddhist women being sold into sexual slavery, and very little is being done about it. In many Buddhist societies, women don’t have opportunities for education and training. Many Buddhist traditions still do not have full ordination for women. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure that Buddhist women emerge as teachers and leaders, equal to the number of men. Only then can we say that Buddhism is truly egalitarian.”[xliii]
On the other hand, different societies have different threats and types of discrimination as Patricia Wittberg points out. “So while we might look at oppression of women in South Asia and say, ‘Look at the terrible way you are treated,’ South Asian women look at the women in the United States and say, ‘You’re oppressed by lookism. You become, basically, a piece of meat for men to look at and rate.’ Women are oppressed in all sorts of different ways in different countries, and all of these forms of oppression, gross and subtle, should be challenged.”[xliv]
Dominican scholar, Matthew Fox speculates on what might have been. “I do not know of a single woman theologian who could be termed fall/redemption [P-B] in her theology or spirituality. One wonders whether, if women had been allowed to teach in the churches in the patristic tradition, creation spirituality [P-A] might have been far better known and held much greater influence.”[xlv] Fox’s “creation spirituality” is his term for responding to life in the present moment.
Both myth and depth psychology reveal much that is unique to women in their awakening process which begs the question: What is happening today? What is the actual experience of women in, say, the last decade? We close this article with two perspectives with the caveat that both reveal relative truths, that is to say, they are the “facts” as they appear in P-B.
First, the no-nonsense columnist Molly Ivins gives us the record of the Department of Labor during the Bush (W) administration. Here is what she found—just the “facts:”
- The Labor Department refused to use tools at its disposal to identify violations of equal pay laws.
- Labor repealed regulations that allowed paid family leave to be made available through state unemployment funds. Now it’s unpaid leave only.
- Labor has proposed new regulations that deprive millions of workers the right to overtime pay—and even gives tips to employers on how to avoid paying overtime when law requires it.
- The Department of Justice has weakened the enforcement of law against job discrimination and abandoned pending sex discrimination cases.
- Among the Bush budget cuts affecting the lives of millions of women are cuts in Head Start, after-school programs, K-12 education, housing subsidies, child care, services for victims of domestic violence, (WIC) the nutrition program for women, infants and children and Pell grants to help pay for college.[xlvi]
Two years after Ivin’s portrayal of a sad state of affairs for women, columnist Cindy Rodriguez paints a picture of powerful women dominating the American narrative. “In short, women are on the verge of ruling America.”[xlvii] An overstatement?
“Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the renowned Harvard Business School professor who has written 16 books on management and leadership including the classic “Men and Women of the Corporation,” says women are adept at skills needed in a global information age: teamwork, partnership and nurturing. By many accounts—labor economists, college projections, spending trends—seismic shifts are occurring in the power paradigms, though many Americans are unaware of it.”[xlviii]
Patricia Barela Rivera, Denver district director of the Small Business Administration continued to describe how differently women behave in the workplace and outside of it. “‘Women do have a different take on how we view workplaces. It’s a more thoughtful, more caring dynamic,’ she said. ‘Women entrepreneurs also tend to be more involved in the community.’”[xlix]
“The most telling shift is that women represent 57 percent of college undergraduates and 58 percent of graduate students according to the American Council on Education. Women already make decisions on 80 percent of all household purchases.”[l]
Ivins paints a dark picture with the facts she selected and Rodrigues’ selected facts that foreshadow a hopeful future for women in America. Is it a matter of choosing which woman to believe? Are things getting better for women or is it the same story of misogyny with updated details?
It is neither, in that the story of humankind is not about women or men but the expression of a worldview that is fundamentally an illusion that all of us regardless of our sexual orientation are caught up in. Most of us cannot distinguish illusion from reality so we will continue reacting to the fears of the moment and it will not be a pleasant experience no matter what the details are. On the other hand, those of us who discover the difference between response and reaction will be just fine.
[i] Henry, Roy Charles. “Synchronicity in London.” Mid-90’s.
[ii] Woodman, Marion and Dickson, Elinor. “The Black Goddess: Liberated Image of the Feminine.” Venture Inward. January/February 1999, p. 18.
[iii] Ibid., p. 17.
[v] Thompson, Keith [ed.]. To Be a Man. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1991, p. 150.
[vi] Woodman, op. cit., p. 18.
[vii] Ibid., p. 19.
[ix] Sullivan, Tim. “‘Witch villages’ haven for women accused of sorcery.” The Denver Post. January 5, 1998, no page.
[x] MacFarquhar, Emily. “The War Against Women.” U.S. News & World Report. March 28, 1994, p. 48. War
[xi] Ivins, Molly. “Women ain’t equal yet, baby.” The Denver Post. July 1, 1991, no page.
[xiii] Woodman, op. cit., p. 27.
[xiv] Goleman, Daniel. “Body not beautiful plays on the mind.” The Denver Post. October 16, 1991, p. 2F.
[xv] Woodman, op. cit., p. 19.
[xvii] Ibid., p. 27.
[xviii] Pollack, Eileen. “Can You Spot the Real Outlier?” The New York Times Magazine. October 6, 2013, p. 34.
[xix] Ibid., p. 45.
[xx] Ibid., p. 46.
[xxi] “This American Life,” narrated by Ira Glass. National Public Radio, May 1, 2004.
[xxii] Rodriguez, Cindy. “‘Contract puts heart in writing.” The Denver Post. February 1, 2005, p. 1F.
[xxiv] Woodman, Marion. The Pregnant Virgin. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1985, no page.
[xxv] Woodman, op. cit., p. 27.
[xxvi] Robertson, James. The Sane Alternative: A Choice of Futures. St Paul: River Basin Publishers, 1978, p. 8.
[xxvii] Spong, John Shelby. Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991, p. 19.
[xxviii] “Women’s Liberation.” Shambhala Sun. July 2005, p. 37.
[xxix] Kristof, Nicholas D. “We Are All Nuns.” The New York Times. April 29, 2012, p. 11.
[xxxi] Dowd, Maureen. “Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns.” The New York Times. April 29, 2012, p. 11.
[xxxiv] “Women’s Liberation,” op. cit., p. 38.
[xxxv] Ibid., p. 41.
[xxxvi] Ibid., p. 95.
[xxxvii] Ibid., p. 37.
[xxxviii] Ibid., p. 41.
[xxxix] Ibid., p. 96.
[xl] Ibid., p. 38.
[xli] Ibid., p. 39.
[xlii] Ibid., p. 38.
[xliii] Ibid., pp. 95-96.
[xliv] Ibid., p. 96.
[xlv] Fox, Matthew. Original Blessings. Santa Fe: Bear and Company, 1983, p. 314.
[xlvi] Ivins, Molly. “A picture no frame can make pleasing.” The Rocky Mountain News. July 7, 2004, p. 7E.
[xlvii] Rodriguez, Cindy. “Women nurture a world of change.” The Denver Post. November 11, 2006, p. 1L.
[xlix] Ibid., p. 5L.
[l] Ibid., p. 1L.