When I went to college in the 1970's, the Women's Liberation movement was all the buzz. Women's "consciousness raising groups" were growing up everywhere, as women shared with each other their secrets -- and anger -- that they, their mothers and their great, great grandmothers had held tight to their chests for centuries.
Feminists of the time were right about some things,
but wrong about others. On one hand, there's no
underestimating the explosion of formerly unavailable
choices that became ours at last as a consequence
of the Women's Movement. Sisterhood truly meant
something then; we realized that none of us would
succeed in life unless all of us were allowed to. And
it became unequivocally clear that women could think
as well as men, work as well as men, and deserved the
opportunity to do whatever it was that we wanted to do. It's
almost hard to believe that that was still somewhat of
a radical proposition only 40 years ago, but it was.
As with any movement, however -- whether a
person's individual journey or the collective journey of
a culture -- there were sometimes two steps forward
and one step back. While women were powerfully
liberated both externally as well as internally by
the feminism of the 1970's, we made some serious mistakes as well.
Looking back on it now, it's clear
that in some ways we denigrated the feminine in
the name of feminism. Too often we took liberation
to mean simply that we were free now to behave
just like men. In the name of feminism, we denied
some essential aspects of our authentic selves.
While feminism should have been nothing if not a
celebration of our own unique characteristics, we
insisted that we had no unique characteristics... that
gender differences were hogwash, and a feminine
woman was nothing more than a plaything for men.
Calling a woman "feminine" was practically an insult!
Words like nurturing and maternal weren't viewed
as feminine and therefore feminist; rather, they were
viewed as weak. If men could be tough as nails in
the corporate boardroom, then so could we. If men
could have sex and not get emotionally involved,
then so could we. If men could make business their
bottom line and not factor in the welfare of children
in formulating social and economic policy, then so
could we. Yippee. We were liberated to become their
The last thing the world needed, of course, was twice
as many paternalistic thinkers as there were before.
But you live and you learn. In the last two or three
decades, a great correction has been underway,
as women of my generation have recognized the
psychic scars left by our self-inflicted wounding of
the feminine self. Too often, having become men, we
then had a harder time with men. And having denied
the importance (even the reality) of our feminine
yearnings, we too often lay havoc to what is for
many women a natural yearning of the heart, born
of millions of years of evolution, to make a home
and raise a family. Choosing to be a "traditional
housewife" was seen as relatively unimportant at that
time: so much less important, say, than having a real
I looked at my own mother -- at her passionate
devotion to husband, children, home and extended
family -- and I thought I could improve on that! I
would go out into the world, you see -- out where the
important things were happening. It took me -- as I
think of took millions of other women, as well -- a few
decades to see how very wrong I was.
In time, I came to understand that spiritual, mythical
and archetypal forces are just as powerful and
influential as are political, cultural and social ones.
Indeed, we overemphasize either category at the
expense of something precious that the other has
to offer. And in a metaphysical sense -- given that
as Einstein said, "time and space are illusions of
consciousness" -- you come to realize that as far as a
difference between being "out in the world" and "being
at home" is concerned, there actually is no difference.
The concept of "out there" or "in here" becomes pretty
meaningless once you realize that everything out
there is simply a reflection of one's consciousness.
If anything, if we tended to the within better, there
wouldn't be so many problems without: if we raised
our children better and tended to our own psyches
more effectively, then we wouldn't have so many
political and social problems to begin with.
I ultimately realized that my mother's very traditional
role was far from meaningless. I now see that is a
woman's God-given role to tend to the home and take
care of the children: it's just that the entire planet is
our home and every child on it is one of our children.
Hell yes, women need to be out in the world if that's
where we feel led to be, but not at the expense of
our spiritual mission. Rather, we're in the world to
fulfill that mission, by proclaiming that the world is our
home and that we're responsible for all of its children.
And that would change the world.
Just as we wouldn't tolerate elements to enter our
home that needlessly endanger our own children,
so we shouldn't tolerate elements in the world that
needlessly endanger anyone's children. Homemaker
and motherhood are not just material conditions that
belong to a few; they are states of consciousness that
belong to any woman who assumes them. Women
should be the keepers of the conscience of the world.
We are keepers of the internal flame -- the light of
humanitarian values and the primacy of love -- and
our greatest power lies in keeping it lit.
Corporate profits should not be our economic
bottom line; the safety and welfare of this planet, our
collective habitat, should be our bottom line. On this,
we should insist. For we are the homemakers of the
Money should not be our societal bottom line; the
welfare of our children should be our bottom line. On
this, we should insist. For we are the mothers of the
Any mother, should she see something dangerous
in her home, would say, "No, not in this house! No
way! Not here!" And as women of the world become
the strong moral force that in our collective state we
are capable of being, then when dangerous elements
born of unrestrained greed and aggression enter the
world, it is we who should lead the cry, "No, not on
this planet! No way! Not here."
A common anthropological characteristic of every
advanced mammalian species that survives and
thrives is the fierce behavior of the adult female of
the species when she senses a threat to her cubs.
From the lioness to the tigress to the mama bear, any
threat to her cubs is met with the fiercest response.
The adult female hyenas even encircle their cubs
while they're feeding, not letting the adult males get
anywhere near the food until the babies have been
Surely the women of America could do better than the
Imagine if we were to insist -- as with our collective
political and financial power we could insist -- that the
amelioration of unnecessary human suffering become
society's new bottom line. From the 17,000 children
on this planet who starve to death each day to the
millions who lack a basic elementary education, from
the relative complacency of the industrialized nations
to the brutalization of women through the world to
the billion souls among us living as best they can
on less than $1.25 a day, it is the sleeping giant of
a conscious and awakened womanhood that can
provide the only sustainable solution: putting human
civilization back on the track to probable survival by
giving back to it its heart.
Women worked hard, and many at great personal
sacrifice, to provide for the modern Western woman
the extraordinary opportunities and powers that we
now enjoy. While not all our battles for equality have
been won, still enough of them have been won that
our focus should not be solely on getting more power,
but on how to use most effectively the power that we
now have. We have not only the right but also the
moral responsibility to speak out loudly for
our planet and our children, and for the millions
of sisters around the world who cannot speak up
for themselves. Not centuries ago but weeks ago,
a 14-year-old girl in Bangladesh was raped,
then caned as her "punishment," and then died of her
wounds. Let us speak, and act, for her.
The last thing we should do, in honor of International
Women's Day, is to celebrate it in some ultimately
meaningless way. Rather, in honor of our
foremothers, for the sake of our oppressed sisters
around the world, and for the love of all of our children
both born and not yet born, we should wake up now... kick ass now... and change this world before it is too
That kind of thing is woman's work. Twas always thus, and will always be....