Category Archives: Feminism

WHY I MARCHED (SINCE YOU ASKED)

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“When the sun came shining, then I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting as the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.”

— “This Land is Your Land,” Woody Guthrie

I marched in the Women’s March in Los Angeles on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration, because it was the most patriotic thing I could think of doing in response to the election of Donald Trump.

Flag-waving and excessive displays of nationalism are not my thing. I feel, like millions of other people in the world, that this is a time for global cooperation, and creative alliances. It’s a time for a change of consciousness. It’s a time to see ourselves as brothers and sisters, as Jesus called us to do (and every other sane and thoughtful person who ever lived on this planet).

Donald Trump’s America First campaign, which, notes Susan Dunn, “echoes the name of a 1940s anti-Semitic national organization that wanted to appease Hitler,” makes me cringe.

Still, I marched — for our democratic values; to protect our hard-won rights, including reproductive rights and voting rights; and to show my solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.

In the beginning, the Women’s March on Washington was criticized for being a white woman’s march. It was heartening, therefore, to hear the speeches by Tamara Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour that morning, three women of color who were brought in by the original organizers (as Mallory explained in a Breakfast Club interview), to lead the historic March, when the numbers reached 100,000.

Before leaving to catch the train going to downtown LA that morning, I wrote Carmen Perez’s words in my notebook:

“Injury to one is injury to all. We are not helpless. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are who we need.”

It was a sunny day. It was the only sunny day, in fact, we’d had for weeks. For one day, in the middle of weeks of rain, the sun came out, as if to wink at us, to let us know that Mother Nature was on our side.

The Metro Station at Universal City, where I went to catch the train, was jammed, with hundreds of people waiting in line to get tickets. However, moments after arriving, I heard a Metro employee shouting, “It’s free now! You can all ride the train for free!”

We took the unexpected gift, and moved together through the green turnstiles, and down the stairs, where we waited on the platform for the train going to Pershing Square.

We crowded as many of us as we could into the Metro, packing ourselves in like bits of styrofoam in a giant cardboard box, until not one more would fit, and we let the doors close.

A mother with an infant in a stroller, a six-year-old daughter, and an eleven -year-old son, stood next to me.

She told me she was taking all of her children to the March because she wanted them to know that during a dark time, she stood up for herself and her rights, and for them. “This is big,” I told the girl, “you’ll be able to say, ‘I was there!'” and she grinned.

It was touching to see how supportive the boy was of his mother. When she told him they should get off at the stop before Pershing Square because of the crowds there, he insisted, “No! Let’s go to Pershing Square. That’s what you wanted to do.”

“This is an adventure!” he shouted.

He was my new hero.

I opted to get off at the 7th Street Station, and walk to Pershing Square. Although I was too late to meet up with friends, I enjoyed talking to people there, marching, and taking pictures of the signs.

There were many men at the March, and I met several fathers who brought their daughters. “They feel empowered,” one of them told me.

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It was a festive atmosphere. The signs were great fun.

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It was an historic moment, “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history” reported The Washington Post.

In her article for the Nation, Joan Walsh noted that more bus tickets were sold for the Women’s March on Washington than for the inauguration.

According to recent estimates, as many as four-and-a-half million people marched in over 600 cities around the world. 700,00 to 1,000,000 marched in Washington.

People in Belgium, Ireland, and Antarctica made their presence known.

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Large numbers of the disabled community participated virtually.

On the train going home, I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces,  the upbeat conversations, and how everyone’s mood, including my own, had brightened from a day of being together.

“So, you marched. What’s next?” a friend asked me the following day.

“I’m writing thank you postcards to the congressmen and women who are resisting Trump’s policies —  people like Maxine Waters, and John Lewis,” I told her, and sent her the link to the Women’s March list of 100 actions.

I’m also being more conscious about supporting efforts to link movements so that we’re not divided between white and black, and gay and straight. As Tamiki Mallory said, “we need to respect each others’ justices. We can march for reproductive rights, and for racial justice.”

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote in a recent op-ed piece that, in spite of her initial cynicism, she decided to  participate in the March. “Cynicism will not build a movement,” she wrote,  “collaboration will.”

On the evening of the March in LA, I was inspired as I listened to the speeches from the March on Washington, including a speech by Gloria Steinem, who is as amazing at eighty-two as she was at twenty-two.

“This is a day that will change us forever,” she said, “because we are together. Each of us individually and collectively will never be the same again. When we elect a possible President, we too often go home.

We’ve elected an impossible President. We’re never going home. We’re staying together, and we’re taking over…and we’re never turning back.” .

Most definitely, we are never turning back.

I confess I had to laugh this week when Donald Trump told Fox News reporter, Bill O’Reilly, “California in many ways is out of control.”

As if that were a bad thing.

As if this were not a land that was made for you and me.

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Resist!

FOR DEVI LOCKWOOD

 

For Devi

I know the feeling
of floating down rivers
in inner tubes,
the feeling of rivers then
and rivers now—

We were always dancing
in the orange kitchen alongside women
who looked like light.

We lived on our own strength,
by our own kind rules,
caring for the whole of life,
standing alone in our wisdom,
always with a stream in sight.

Carolyn Studer, 2016

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photograph by Sabrina Walden, 2016

ABOUT THIS POEM/PHOTOGRAPH PAIRING:

Devi Lockwood is poet and environmental activist who is traveling around the world collecting stories about climate change and water. I wrote this poem after interviewing her and listening to some stories from her travels. Devi is writing blogs about her travels for the New York Times.  She’s on her way to Morroco.

Sabrina Walden is the daughter of my friend, photographer Beate Walden. Sabrina is a senior in High School in  Zug, Switzerland.  At the time she took this photograph, she was about 10.  It spoke to Beate of rivers and light.

ECOFEMINISM AND THE EXPANSION OF HUMAN EMPATHY: 1,000 Voices Speak for Compassion

 HEALING THE WOMEN, HEALING THE EARTH 

“…shake my future challenge our first world’s
capitalist consumerist criminal one
of perpetual purchasing
shake my future past the edges of the known…”

             Dorothea Smartt 

I first heard about ecofeminism at a wisdom-sharing conference I went to last October in New Mexico with Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Dr. Hyung Kyung Chung.

Dr. Chung, a Christian liberation theologian and Buddhist Dharma teacher from Korea, described herself, in one of her talks, as an “ecofeminist.”

Ecofeminism, I’ve since learned, was first coined by the French feminist Francoise d’Eaubonne in 1974. It has taken many forms, but all ecofeminists make a critical connection between the way we dominate and exploit the earth, and the way we dominate women.

“To heal the wounded earth,” Dr. Chung said, “we need to heal the women.”

As I listened to Dr. Chung’ and Gloria Steinem talk that week, I heard the echoes of Native American Indian writers I’d read over the years who regard the earth not as a resource to be exploited, but as a relative to be honored.

Beate Tsosie, a Tewa Indian poet and environmental justice activist from whom I took several poetry writing classes that week at Ghost Ranch, told me that Indian people still refer to the earth as their mother, and strive to live with the earth sensitively, respectfully, and harmoniously.

Native American Indians and ecofeminists alike are critical of patriarchal and hierarchical systems which have left those at the bottom broken, marginalized, and struggling for their very lives.

Both stress the importance of replacing those hierarchical systems with circles where dialogue and healing can take place, and decisions can be made democratically and collectively.

For the Native American Indians, it should be noted, healing is not only about the curing of disease, but the restoration of relationship — first with ourselves, then with the earth and with others.

At our last poetry class, Beate asked us all to go outside, listen to the earth for five minutes, and then write about it.

As I stood on the ground with the fall leaves under my feet in the vast space of Ghost Ranch with the beautiful friends I made there  — women with whom I shared many laughs and much joy — I listened.

I heard the earth’s gratitude for the witness of the women who were there that week.

I became aware, in a new way, of the earth’s life-giving abundance, and extraordinary and selfless grace.

I heard in the tall and stately cottonwood trees that grow there — trees more beautiful than any cathedral could be —  the healing music made by the wind and the leaves.

A balanced returned; and I felt restored.

You don’t have to be a feminist or a womanist (as Alice Walker calls herself), to understand the connection between our human well-being and the well-being of the earth, or to see how patriarchal/hierarchical systems of domination have harmed us, the earth, and our relationship with one another.

Endless wars, oppression, unspeakable suffering, and now the ecological crisis we are facing, have turned us toward healthier ways of living.

Some feminists, including Gloria Steinem, see the ecological crisis as the wake-up call we need to find new ways of living and relating to one another and the earth.

She wrote in A Revolution Within twenty years ago:

“Disasters like pollution, a new species extinction every few hours, biospheric degradation, and the threat of nuclear annihilation are all powerful reasons to overturn the centuries of the either/or, Man-against-Nature paradigm that got us here. To think about taking our place in nature instead of conquering it is a deep change in the way we see ourselves and the world. It means changing from binary and linear thinking to a cyclical paradigm that is a new declaration of interdependence.” 

Recently I listened to a talk about climate change by the scientist Jeremy Rifkin. He said the solution to the crisis is the expansion of our human empathy.

Empathy isn’t something we need to manufacture; scientific studies have shown we are wired for it. Without it, we would not have survived.

He said we need empathy not only for those in our religion, tribe, or nation, but for the human species as a whole.

Alice Walker said something similar in a talk she gave at the “Earth at Risk” conference in San Francisco in November of 2013.

“Friendship is the way we resist,” she said,

“for it is friendship, not only in one’s community, but especially with the people of other places in the world, that I believe must be the bedrock of our resistance to tyranny, brutalization, militarization, incarceration, as well as any other madness dreamed up by the sociopaths who would humiliate, eliminate or control us.”

The South African ecofeminist poet, Malika Ndlovu, wrote,

“ that howling wind
that crashing sea
that breaking earth
that starward tree
all revelations of where the treasures be.”

In nature and empathy is our survival.