Monday's Vital Conversation

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT

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We are delighted to welcome back Stephanie Van Hook, executive director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, for this conversation on the intersections of feminism, Occupy and non-violence.

Please post your thoughts here in advance of, during and after our Cafe Call.  

In her recent piece "Waging Feminism,"  Stephanie quotes Betty Reardon:

"There is still insufficient understanding of the depth of both the psycho-social and structural holds that patriarchy has on our culture and politics. " 

What do YOU think might be one leverage point for addressing the challenge of patriarchy in our culture and politics? 

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Yes, that sounds very useful, David. There is no part of ourselves that is inauthentic. It is cruelty to tell little boys that boys don't cry, as if a boy's tears are inauthentic, or to tell a little girl that girls don't fight, as if a girl's survival instinct is inauthentic. Nothing human is alien to us and we have to support and authenticate that which furthers our goals.

For that reason, I feel that demanding that Congress, a patriarchal institution, protect women, serves only to empower and authenticate Congress, which may or may not use part of that power to protect women, but WILL continue to fund wars of aggression that kill innocent women and children. It's sort of like an abused women trying to find a men stronger that their abusers to protect them from their abuser. But who will protect them from the stronger men who might also be abusive? When the CIA-funded traitors in Libya were calling for NATO intervention to overthrow Gaddafi, many of us pointed to what NATO had done to Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and asked if that was really what they wanted to happen to Libya. They said that they needed help from NATO to get rid of Gaddafi, but that once he was gone, they would get rid of NATO themselves. That told those of us who were concerned about the situation that they were either CIA/NATO stooges, stupid, or insane. If you can't get rid of a weaker force by yourself, you certainly won't be able to get rid of a stronger force by yourself. So appeals to authority to protect you only serve to enslave you to that authority.

Similarly, it always seems counterproductive when feminists try to vote for people to protect reproductive rights through legislation or by appointing more supportive Supreme Court justices. If you care about reproductive rights, why would you delegate the power to make decisions about reproductive rights to legislators or courts? If they got good legislators and justices who supported reproductive rights, a few elections later they might get bad ones who would repeal that legislation and overturn those rulings. Delegating power to others is a sign of apathy. If you care about your rights, you don't delegate the power to grant or take away your rights to others, you know that your rights are inalienable and you defend your rights to the extent you can.

Your frame is good for individuals, and I think that people should act as and empower ourselves as individuals rather than delegating power over us to any state. It is systems that shape behavior and in order to nurture ourselves and restore our authentic human wholeness, we have to free ourselves from systemic institutions that limit our freedoms or try to force us to conform to less than fully human roles.

You raised some excellent points Mark, I totally agree. I acknowledge on the whole men are physically stronger, but that does not mean they cannot be gentle and compassionate. Women might generally be physically less strong but that does not mean they cannot fight like a tiger to survive or protect their young. I once squared up to a man who raised his hand to me, before he actually struck me - I drew myself up to my full height,all five feet of me, looked him squarely in the eye and said If you ever do that I will walk out of your life and you will never see me or the children again. He was six foot very strong and muscular - but he backed down never dd it again and we remained happily married for twenty years, No way would I allow him to use his temper against me or the children. If I had cowered or shown fear who knows what might have transpired. As individuals both sexes can stand against injustice when there is any threatened control or injustice and fight for our rights and freedoms, never give them permission!  We have allowed government too much power in the past. Make no mistake though hand in hand with rights and freedoms comes responsibility and developing a personal conscience, for the good of all that we do no harm to others..If we are responsible we choose to cause no harm, for me personally, that includes an unborn foetus, We all have to live with our own personal choice and that is someething for each individual to decide.

"We have allowed government too much power in the past. Make no mistake though hand in hand with rights and freedoms comes responsibility and developing a personal conscience, for the good of all that we do no harm to others."

Thank you, Gael. I couldn't agree more.

I've participated in discussions with you before here on Occupy Cafe, so I was aware that you are female. But since you hadn't explicitly stated so in the other patriarchy discussion, I decided to say nothing and wait to see if Kelly would notice your presence there. I'm almost sorry that you spoiled the game, as according to some theories it should have been easy to spot your comments as coming from a female, due to the assumed innate and inherent differences between males and females.

Speaking of the foetus, when I took biology they told me that they all start out the same and only begin to sexually differentiate later on. So I figured that we must be basically the same. ;)

That is very true Mark we do all start off the same and then develop male or female characteristics,. some people actually have the properties of male and female who knows that might spread through the genes to us all one day  !    I think it all boils down to love and respect for others, and what we have in common, not in looking at differences and divisions.  I love and respect he company of both sexes though my sexual orientation is to a male partner. Equally each to his own choice, who am I to presume to influence anothers choice?  Male and female characteristics are interchangeable and interdependent, and as already mentioned some lucky folk have both so lets think of them as benefitting from both. Gender characteristics are complementary and not exclusive and we should all take the best from both and think positively for the good of humanity in general.


I don't think the fact(?) that Gael is female changes my position to a significant degree, nor do I disagree with Gael in any way, from what I've read so far.

As I've said, I do disagree with Mark, and plan to continue to engage around the topics to tease out import points of view on all sides of these issues as long as it feels productive to do so.  Peace!

The fact that Gael is female and was part of the discussion in the topic "Some Thoughts on Patriarchy" doesn't change your position that it was a topic that didn't have any females?

You didn't notice that Gael was there because Gael had not explicitly requested to be treated on the basis of sex, and was perfectly happy to participate in the discussion on the basis of issues and ideas.

Now you're challenging the fact that Gael is female? What would Gael have to do to prove it to your satisfaction, since you think it really matters?

Personally, I don't feel comfortable with everyone having to explicitly state their sex and their preferred gender role so that you can communicate with them. I was much happier when those who wished to publicly advertise their genital status did so, and those who did not, were not required to.

I'm sure there are online groups where everyone is required to advertise their skin color, ethnicity, age, weight, religious belief or lack thereof, etc., before they can be allowed to post their opinions without being attacked, but I would never join a forum where people were judged on any discriminatory basis rather than solely on their opinions and ideas.

Of course if there are basic differences between males and females, you wouldn't need people to prove anything, because the moment they started to type you'd know if they were male or female. That doesn't seem to be the case. ;)

Here's your quote from the "some thoughts on patriarchy" topic:

Genrally speaking I support self-identification & choose to take people at their word.  If you say you are a woman or man or non-gender identified I will seek to engage on that premise, particularly over the internet, but in the flesh as well, in most circumstances.  I don't have the time or interest in being suspicious or telling other people who they are.

Above you wrote:

I don't think the fact(?) that Gael is female changes my position to a significant degree, nor do I disagree with Gael in any way, from what I've read so far.

So you seem to have changed your position on taking people at their word and not having time or interest in being suspicious.

Questions for today's call: 

  • Where do you see alternatives to patriarchy showing up most powerfully in the communities in which you are engaged?  What term(s) do use to describe these alternatives?
  • How might feminism and feminist organizing serve the emergence of new paradigms more generally?

Hello everyone, I am "logging in" this way, and plan to be on the call in a few.  

I am having troubling finding the proper call in number and pass code and would appreciate any support available!

I'm excited to be focusing energy on this topic.  please inform me if I should be putting my comments elsewhere!

Here's a GroupWorks card, drawn at random (really!) to inspire today's conversation:

Lovely.  was this really "random"?

Yes, it was! (I'm listening to the podcast of this call now, almost a year later). It was a good one, thanks in no small part to your efforts, Kelly.

I brought the issue of the commons to the group conversation.  A major movement by patriarchy historically was to end the whole practice and tradition of the commons that had existed from time immemorial.  This historical movement so destroyed the commons so thoroughly that the memory of the suffering and the tragedy of those times does not consciously exist in our current mythos story.  The commons was brought to an end by the gradual enclosure of land that had been treated as commons, fields and forests.  The enclosures were for the purpose of exerting the power of private ownership, control and exclusive use of the lands that used to be shared.  

The most telling characteristic aspect of the historical commons relevant to this conversation is that women and children had a very role to play in managing the use of the commons.  This meant that women had a very real practical role in the dy to day affairs of the community which mean they had real grounded (literally) power. Women were subservient as a general principle given the cultural reality but the fact that they had a real economic function made a huge difference in mitigating the oppressiveness they experienced.  I won't go into the details of what that meant here but the point is that when the commons were enclosed and ordinary people were evicted from the lands they lived on and had common use of the economic role of women they lost this role and this power.

During the height of the enclosures masses of people were forced out of their homes and off land they had access to for survival and many of them made their way into cities where work started to be available as industrialism started to emerge.  Since only men could find work in these new arrangements women were left out completely and the only thing they had left to sell was their bodies. This of course meant that there was absolutely nothing to give women any protection as a valued member of community other than as virtual slaves to be exploited without mercy.

Only when North America was opened up for settlement was land generally available to people and in the beginning of the process of settling North America women again had real economic roles since it was necessary for everyone to participate in all aspects of producing enough to live on.  Of course women continued to be excluded from the work only men were allowed to do.  But even now that women have the vote and are participating in he workplace women and everyone else all of us, men and women, are at the effect of centuries of monopolization and privatization of the earth by a small percentage of people a the top of the economic heap.  

I appreciate the abstract discussion about feminism and how to break out of the patriarchy but it is my opinion that until this very most fundamental of issues about who owns the earth and for whose benefit nothing will be accomplished as a practical matter.

If there was anything that patriarchy imposed on our culture and our psychology it is this and to this day non of this is clearly questioned.


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Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

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