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Women Are Going To Have To Learn To Stay True To Themselves

Jan 20, 2008
From Chapter XI:

Barbara: I think that each of us senses that our culture is going through a breakdown that is also an emerging breakthrough. That breakthrough has many dimensions, and there is as yet no clearly defined image. It's very exciting because of that. Let's talk a bit about the emerging set of possibilities.

Hazel: Can I start the ball rolling by saying that I think one of the new images that I feel is very pregnant with possibility is the idea that there will be a new paradigm of public order, and that women will be very much a part of it. It's not going to replay all of the dominance-submission games of history, potentially anyway.

Every revolution in history has been a tragic inversion, and the most graphic and tragic inversion in recent history was the revolt of the Hutu against the Watutsi: the oppressors were actually cut off at the knees by the revolting tribe in order to bring them down to their physically smaller size. There never have been any kinds of games, basically, that have not been patriarchal dominance-submission games of one type or another.

The women that I have been dealing with in all kinds of areas, and particularly in the political sphere, have this sense that many of the women who first got into the women's liberation movement were strongly into the mode of "being against." This is of course typical of liberation movements. And immediately it began to move into the imitative phase, just like the black revolution -- black corporate executives were wearing Brooks Brothers suits with vests; so women, too, began to parody the male corporate executive and chomp on cigars, knock back scotches, talk about the deals they had made, and so on. But I think we're getting beyond the imitative stage. What I think is exciting is that there is now a new generation of women coming into the movement that are saying No! to all of that.

I think that this new image has to do with nonhierarchical forms of communication based on activating people's self-organizing capabilities. The hologram for me is a very pregnant image, even though when you examine it closely the technology doesn't really fit the image. It's the endeavor to build societies of voluntary restraint based on the fact that people share the same vision of reality -- the little blue planet, or whatever.

What this allows is a new calculus of self-interest. The old economic calculus of self-interest, when married to American compulsive individuality, led us to believe that we were all separate little atoms. We are now coming to the true understanding of self-interest: that self-interest is coterminus with community interest, with species interest, and with planetary interest.

I think that women in particular are really playing around with these sorts of images. The female style, of course, is the metaphysical division of labor, voluntary autonomy based on a better program of mapping the system in your head, and networking.

Jean: Very good.

Hazel: I think that females are all networkers by instinct. One of the joys of being at the sort of conference where you run into people like Margaret Mead -- she's always been a very high-level networker -- is that you realize that many of us are networkers -- you're a networker, Jean; you're a networker, Barbara; I'm a networker. This is a marvelous lateral form of communication. We're getting away from the "iron filings all attracted to the dictator" mode; instead we're doing the nucleating.

Jean: Breadth rather than vertical models.

Hazel: Yes.

Jean: You know, I've done some rather intensive research on the nature of the female mind, the nature of female psychology, and also brain function. In extraordinary ways my research confirms what you are projecting here.

It began because I was teaching at Marymount College, and I was also teaching at Columbia. I began to notice that if I was teaching, for example, L'Etre et Le Neant (Being and Nothingness) of Sartre to the boys, I would do it in a very masculine way with didactic analysis: A, B, C, D; subpoint 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . and the boys would eat it up. I would go to Marymount the next afternoon and do the same thing and the girls would say: "Oh go away, go away! Not relevant!" "What do you mean it's not relevant? You used to like the way I teach" "It's not relevant!" "Why?" "We don't know."

It began to dawn on me that perhaps phylogeny was rising. Because for the past four hundred thousand years by the time they were twenty they'd had two husbands killed, three babies, six miscarriages. . . . It was as if they were saying, "Not relevant; there is no context in this education; there is no networking. . . ."

So I said, "It's evolution; it's four hundred thousand years of a different kind of context. Maybe we can do something about it and relate this to your personal lives. Let's start with Being and Nothingness. What is it you're objecting to?" They said, 'It doesn't relate." So I said: "All right, let's try a different way of teaching. Everybody close your eyes, and in a moment you're going to look at your hand. And it's going to be . . . not a hand, but a thing -- an alien entity attached to your wrist." Then I would extend this "thingness" throughout their whole bodies. What I was doing was creating the mind and soul of Jean-Paul Sartre -- his psychopathology before matter. All his philosophy is, is an extended psychopathology. Once they had gotten into that they knew it from the inside; they dove into the text and began to come up with brilliant, brilliant insights.

I began to ask: Why is it that good female education has existed for perhaps seventy-five years now, and yet so few women have gone into professional circles? It dawned on me, in observing the way that women learned compared to the way that men learned, that all we were doing was providing second-rate male education based on the paradigms of the male nervous system.

Hazel: That's fantastic!

(Reprinted with permission from The Power of Yin).

(Note to editor: We have permission from the three co-authors, Hazel Henderson, Jean Houston and Barbara Marx Hubbard, to run excerpts from their book with the byline The Power of Yin - they are all referenced in the about the author box).
About the Author
The Power of Yin by evolutionary economist Hazel Henderson; Human Potential Movement founder Jean Houston; and social innovator Barbara Marx Hubbard, is an empowering invitation to help evolve the human community. Visit The Power of Yin
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