Sunday, March 12, 2006


I couldn't blog against sexism yesterday--I had a massive headache and was working. I wanted to in the evening and my kids needed to be tucked in. What kind of an international womens' day was that? So, it occurred to me to write the blog and be cool and back date it to March 8. But I don't do lies well. (okay okay so I'll backdate it but I told ya!)

This is difficult to write about. I wanted at first to write about the cause of sexism. How does it start? I wanted to remind everyone what happens to little baby boys--circumcision for one. And outline all their pressures from their earliest days--the kind of pressures such as to grow up to be a soldier and kill people, to be a real man and provide for women and children, the pressure to be a real man and not cry, not get close to other men etc, etc. Men are brutally forced to numb out and they are trained that they are superior to women. I wanted to talk about how we as women are in a powerful role to end all oppression of male babies. But first we need to take a good look at how conditioned we are to raise a "macho" man. We don't have to do this, but learning to counsel men rather than blame and attack them is a way to give them a hand. They never asked to be born into this system. They, like us, never in a million years would hurt another human in any way shape or form if they had not first been brutally trained against their will.

Incidentally, sexism is perpetuated in two ways--the way we as women have been hurt by it coming in at us from the outside and the way we've believed those hurts and put them in on ourselves and each other.

So there is sexism and there is internalized sexism.

But just bringing that up leads me to what I really wanted to talk about. Well, the way sexism gets laid in is virtually identical to the way racism gets laid in.

And here is where it gets tough. We need to learn to counsel and play with our young ones. We need to learn to be thoughtful of and close to, acknowledge our baby in the womb and to stay connected from the early moments of birth onward. (That is once you've chosen to be a parent. No, I'm not anti-choice.)

This of course is also political because things aren't set up real well right now for parents in this society, indeed in this world. Although a few European countries I understand have better maternity and paternity leave and that sort of thing.

But despite the crunch where we have no money for childcare or schools, we do have some freedom of time in our frantic busy workaday world. It takes two seconds to put your arms around a child and tenderly say, "I'm so glad you're telling me about how hard something is for you right now." Even if we then have to say, "But I need to finish my work sweetie, I'll have to listen to you from across the room." But mostly we each can give our young one at least five minutes before our own stack is about to blow. When they say, "Leave me alone!" to actually not believe that or take it personally. I teach how to reach for your angry child as well--just another way they are asking for your attention.

Overall, our collective understanding of infants and young people are unfortunate because this is precisely where we ourselves were hammered with oppressive patterns. We learned to use oppression as a way of life. And I'm writing this to both black and white folks and I mean I'm writing this to everyone basically. Those hurt by racism do turn it in on their young ones as well. And when I respect people I don't have to respect the oppression within a culture.

The other day I visited an African heritage friend of mine who just had a new baby girl. It was her first child. We are fairly new friends but I've been close to her sister for several years. We'd done a brief listening exchange together way before the baby was born. I held the baby and as soon as the baby caught a glimpse of my attention she began to cry. I asked her, "How are things going for you? How was your birth, for you?" and she began to tell me a story by crying. I smiled and tenderly held her near as she began working into a deeper kind of cry. "Good" I said, gently. "I'm so glad you're getting to tell me about that." I said, "I'm sorry something was hard." To my right sat her mother who soon reported feeling the need to stop her baby from crying. I gave her her baby and she began shaking the baby in an upright position on her shoulder so the baby would stop. After we had visited for a little while I asked my friend, "What if I told you that letting your daughter cry would help her grow up to be powerful and think for herself?" She said, "I just can't do that right now, maybe later."

This is a good example of how bad it typically feels as a parent--white or black-- to let your young one have their feelings when NO ONE EVER DID THAT FOR YOU. No one ever gave you the favor of sitting with you, warm and relaxed and confident as you reached to your toenails and had the cry of your life--sometimes for hours and hours--until you were done.

This is why I teach the process of listening to each other unravel our stories, off-load our hurts through laughing crying trembling raging yawning perspiring and sometimes screaming. Sometimes people need to talk for a year and then the tears come. We've been brutally shut down. And when we shut down and we're white among other things, it looks like racism. When we shut down and we're black we get health issues, shorter life and we turn the oppression onto ourselves.

We can unlearn isolation and use the listening tools to end racism (and sexism). Even if we ended all forms of racism (and sexism) this very minute, we'd still need to heal from what that racism (and sexism :-)) did to us all. These tools which use our natural healing process do both.

I am so impatient right now. I still have a splitting headache. I want to see the fruits of my labor in my own lifetime. I see it one on one. I see it and it's miraculous. But the whole world? It is happening. There is international movement. But in general, I am setting things in motion for our children's children to enjoy. If I'm lucky (and courageous) and don't oppress the heck out of my children, they will pick up the fight wherever I leave off.

We are living in difficult times. It behooves us to join hands and take the time to listen to one another. I have some tools that I think will move us forward and make us more powerful as a group. By group I mean all of us, white black, brown, yellow, red and in between. The stuff between men and women is very hard stuff. But it will unravel. We will end racism. And while ending racism, sexism will fall apart. It cannot exist without racism.

And, friend, this reclaiming of our world--the world we want? It begins with the first tear trickling down your cheek ...


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