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In Search of the Lost Feminine



I love cleaning house. It is important “think” time for me. Recently, my mind traveled to sex as I worked.

As I was wet-mopping my tile floors, I thought about a quote from the book, Coyote America by Dan Flores. A scientist studying coyotes in Yellowstone had reached the conclusion, as Flores wrote, that “when unmolested, their populations stabilize at the carrying capacity of the landscape.” Very impressive, don’t you think? And indicative of an innate intelligence superior to our own. We have way over-bred, and a reckoning may be coming.

And how very odd that at this moment in time, the debate is also “up” again about how much control females should have over our reproduction–and what types of healthcare we should be allowed. A representative photo went viral. It showed two dozen Republican congressmen deciding whether maternity and newborn care should be excluded in a proposed new healthcare bill. I reacted with a fantasy of a future congressional conference table surrounded by a majority of women. Should vasectomies be covered? “Yep.” How about prescriptions for Viagra? “Definitely not.”

Ah, but we have a long way to go. I say that even as thousands of women, inspired one way or the other by the Trump election, are signing up all over the country with groups like Emily’s List (Democratic) and She Should Run (nonpartisan) to prepare for a career in politics. Unfortunately, we’re lagging not only in representation nationally but also internationally.

Although women make up 50.8% of the population in the US versus 49.2% for men, our representation in all levels of government is only about 20%. And in this matter internationally, the US has dropped from 52nd about 20 years ago to 104th today. In fact, just in the last year, we dropped nine places–from 95th to 104th. What in the world is going on?

What’s Going On

Actually, there seems to be a tidal wave of change moving across the entire world that expresses in conservative, regressive, and fundamentalist ways. One detects a yearning in some quarters for the good old days when the subordinate status of women was taken for granted. And in the White House are now seated two beautiful women who may serve to reestablish the demeaning importance of our decorative role. We’ll see.

Among my women friends, however, I am seeing a rise in passion and determination unlike anything I remember in the feminist era of the 60s and 70s. So if we have been losing ground, perhaps it will be not only reclaimed but also substantially enlarged. The Law of Unintended Consequences may be afoot. But I wonder: Is there something that needs to be healed in the psyche of the American woman to really get this rolling?

This question came up as the result of a recent article in the newspaper about the women who helped secure for us the right to vote. It’s an interesting coincidence that at this moment in time a new trove of correspondence among historic feminist activists has been discovered.

I was amazed to learn that black men were given the right to vote (1870) when women would not be allowed to do so until 1920. This is not about black rights vs. white. This is about male rights vs. feminine rights. At the time that the Fifteenth Amendment was passed and in the matter of voting rights, the standing of men who had formerly been seen as property transcended that of wives and mothers who had always been free. The amendment refers to rights despite a “previous condition of servitude.” Perhaps women were perceived to be still in a condition of servitude.

 Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

It’s ironic that working with a blank slate, our revered Founding Fathers did not think about rights for the women who were standing with them shoulder to shoulder in creating a new nation. Nevertheless, a consciousness of that obligation was in early residency in the White House through Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams. She warned that: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”

I guess John didn’t pick up on that, and one wonders if the feminine American psyche has been imprinted by the intense resistance to the idea. Does that show up today in subtle ways, like inner conflict over pursuing a career as opposed to having a family? With conservative thought currently dominating in Congress, a big finger seems to be wagging in the face of those women who might be inclined to go “uppity.”

What Needs to Go On

But isn’t it also urgent that we get over barriers to equality for not only our own sake but also the sake of humanity? It looks like civilization is facing a dead end as things are. We are clearly cycling toward yet another world war; and with men in charge, the weapons will just get more deadly until the consequence will be apocalyptic. The feminine presence and our innate gifts for communication, relationship, and solving problems short of violence may need to hit the big-time if we are to survive.

Well, that was a mouthful, wasn’t it? I should be sent to my room.

 Craig S. Barnes

Craig S. Barnes

And maybe we should all take a time-out and go to our rooms with a book. Before we really launch, perhaps we need to learn about “our story” from the beginning. Ironically, this book was written by a man, the late Craig Barnes of Santa Fe, and the title is In Search of the Lost Feminine. Craig was a brilliant attorney who fought for women’s rights and the environment, who negotiated for rights internationally, and who was also a wonderful writer.

This book, first published in 2006, is the most sweeping history I’ve ever seen of how women and the environment lost our status at the center of peaceful cultures. The result is that ours is now shaped, as Craig put it, by “misogyny and the glorification of war.” It will amaze, anger, and inspire, I think; and if feminism is to reboot for the long haul, this history of the foundation of our problem is a great place to begin.

I will probably write more about this later, but I will leave it for now. Time to go iron napkins.

2 Responses to “In Search of the Lost Feminine”

  1. margaret walsh

    Excellent, Ellen. I’ve met Craig Barnes numerous times…good, intelligent man.
    Thank you for this essay.