There has been significant debate lately in the media about what Feminism is and isn’t, and who claims to be a Feminist and why. The old school misogynists fear “women are taking over the world” while conscientious men like Canada’s Prime Minister teach how Feminism benefits all of humanity, not just us girls.
As a mental health professional, Feminism is central to the services I provide. Healing the soul requires inquiring deeply into the social conditions that influence and in some instances dictate women’s lives.
Locating Yourself in the World
“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is
interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home.
Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice,
to see our own light.”
Sybil of the Rhine, 1100 AD
When I was a young college student, I attended a reading given by Adrienne Rich. Her writing and poetry put language to what I was unable to name and animated what was once hidden to me. Through her teachings and writing, I heard my voice as a woman for the first time. Adrienne passed away last month taking with her one of the most prolific, scholarly, and celebrated voices of the feminist movement. Her work began my journey to use my own voice and to see my own light.
Change Over Time
Historically, Feminism has been described as the economic, political, social and personal empowerment of women that has occurred in waves. The first wave took place in the late 1800s-1900s with the women’s suffragists movement resulting in women’s right to vote and the yet to be ratified Equal Rights Amendment written in 1923.
During the 1960s-1990s, the second wave shed light on women’s narratives of oppression and its consequences on health, economic power, and violence against women. A proliferation of thought leaders and activists emerged like Gloria Steinem, a journalist who founded Ms Magazine, and Betty Friedan, an author who began the National Organization of Women (NOW). During this phase, Title IX passed, enabling women’s equal access to education.
Social scientists say that we are presently in the third wave where Generations X and Y (Millennials) are building meaningful identities through popular culture by re-imagining symbols, language, and story. Historically “unfeminine” behaviors like asserting oneself are now a sign of personal expression and autonomy. Sexist language once used to oppress women is used by women to self-liberate, like naming your band “Pussy Riot.” Social media offers public platforms for women to express how they are doing it “their way.”
Fourth Wave Feminism
I believe we are merging into a Fourth Wave, a reclamation of the marginalized subtle, sensing, intuiting, feeling, quantum self that both genders possess that has been living like a refuge as a result of patriarchal rule. In this wave, gender is one more expression of an individual’s spiritual identity.
This wave seeks to liberate the subtle ephemeral body as the co-creative force of your quantum nature where you recognize that you’re made of the same stuff as stars and that you inhabit an animate universe. The subtle body is experienced as synchronicity or borderland crossing, constantly changing identity formations where the dream is always true.
Feminism then is not the girls against the boys; rather, it’s the girls and boys standing for the holy in all life and acting as stewards of the world’s “aliveness,” whether that means protecting the oceans, replacing racial and sexual violence with tolerance and decency, or organizing community gardens.
Just as Joanna Macy writes, “Grace happens when we stand with another on behalf of our world.”
How will you stand with another on behalf of our world today?
In psyche and spirit,