"If we choose every day to do the best we can, to overcome these crazy categories based on the fiction of race and gender and ethnicity and so on, and if we do it with joy and poetry and music and sex and humor, then we will have joy and poetry and music and sex at the end of the revolution."
World-renowned feminist, writer and change-maker Gloria Steinem connects the dots among disparate social movements to reveal the common patterns of oppression that underlie them all. From gender and race to democracy and universal spirituality, she applies her razor intellect, compassionate heart and nuanced eye to weave a unifying vision of a richly human and humane world where all people are valued for their uniqueness and full humanity - neither treated as property, nor defined by labels or stereotypes.
Bioneers Series XII - Program 02-12
Escaping Control: Linking Gender, Social Movements and Democracy
00:00 Opening underwriting narration (00:26)
The following program is made possible in part by Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.coop
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00:26 Welcome (00:04)
Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature,
00:30 Steinem Teaser (00:26)
If we choose every day to do the best we can, to overcome these crazy categories based on the fiction of race and gender and ethnicity and so on, and if we do it with joy and poetry and music and sex and humor, then we will have joy and poetry and music and sex at the end of the revolution. [APPLAUSE]
00:57 Macy (00:09)
It's all alive, it's all connected, it's all intelligent, it's all relatives…
01:06 Bioneers Teaser (00:28)
We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart. In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.
01:35 Theme music fade out (00:06)
01:41 NARR 1 (1:20)
Gloria Steinem is among the most influential public figures of the last 100 years. She is best known as a world-renowned feminist, writer and change-maker. She became one of the most influential voices in the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 70s, and co-founded New York Magazine and Ms. Magazine. She has written numerous groundbreaking books, and founded or co-founded countless social change groups.
But in truth, for over four decades, Gloria Steinem’s deeper work has focused on connecting the dots among seemingly disparate social movements in order to end the common patterns of oppression that underlie all of them. From gender and race to democracy and universal spirituality, she has applied her razor intellect, compassionate heart and deeply curious and nuanced eye to create a unifying vision of a truly human and humane world. It’s a world where all people are valued for their uniqueness and full humanity - neither treated as property, nor defined by labels or stereotypes.
This is Escaping Control: Linking Gender, Social Movements and Democracy, with the path-finding journalist, feminist and visionary activist Gloria Steinem.
My name is Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.
03:02 Music fade (00:14)
03:15 Steinem plen 1a (01:08)
I want to talk to you today about an imbalance that affects pretty much everything. It has led to division, hierarchy and alienation from nature, to which obviously humans are a part. It has led to governance by ranking rather than linking. It has led to worshipping various gods who look suspiciously like the ruling class.
Now it has led to an Earth overloaded with seven billion human beings who are rapidly using up resources and killing other species, and I'm afraid it's still enforced by religions that present life after death as better than life itself. A worship of doomsday that has now finally coincided with doomsday weapons in a very dangerous way. I'm talking about the division of human beings into the cults of masculinity and femininity, into false divisions that conceal both our shared humanity and our individual uniqueness.
04:23 NARR 2 (00:23)
In Steinem’s view, ranking rather than linking has created deep, underlying imbalances in our societies and in our relationships with nature. She suggests that perhaps the single deepest source feeding this “divide-and-conquer” paradigm originates with gender roles – in our families. And then those family values radiate outward. Gloria Steinem spoke at a recent Bioneers conference.
04:49 Steinem plen 2a (02:57)
We are trained in this division very young, usually in our own families, and it normalizes later divisions into leader-and-led, subject-and-object, rich-and-poor, even conqueror-and-conquered. After all, if we will accept in our own families the idea that there are some who eat and some who cook, some whose education or words or acts are more important, even some who control by right and by violence, then how much easier is it to accept ideas of birth-based differences of race and class and ethnicity that are just as invented? There's no competition of tears here, only the individual knows what's hurting and why and in what combination. But it is very often gender, which offers the first pattern.
In fact, you can see from looking around the world that the countries with the least democracy in public life have the least democracy between males and females in so-called private life. And the countries with the most autocratic and violent systems of governance have them from birth. Yet few people tell us the simple truth: You can't have a democracy without democratic families. Or even you can't have a democracy without the female half of a country. That's because our educational and intellectual life is also divided into so-called feminine and so-called masculine; courses on child-rearing and family forms are somehow feminine, and courses on politics and foreign policy are definitely masculine. We rarely discover the truth that inequality in the family makes it feel like home in public life, and that violence in the home normalizes it everywhere else.
Of course, yes, it's possible to change. We need not be childhood determinists, but it's very difficult, because we are like Russian dolls with all of our earlier selves still nested within us. On the upside, that means that we also have no idea what might be possible if we raised even one generation of children without violence, and with faith in both that child's individual uniqueness and our shared humanity.
Ranking instead of linking, a ranking for which gender prepares the ground for race and class and everything else is literally killing us. It's certainly killing females, since femicide is the most common crime on this spaceship Earth, but it is also killing men with ideas of masculinity, which literally shorten their lives, even in the absence of war, and certainly in the presence of it.
07:48 NARR 3 (00:12)
Where might this ranking have arisen? And could it be masking far greater commonalities between men and women – and between other illusory divisions that are smashing the world to pieces?
08:00 Steinem plen 2AA (02:09)
Well, it arose when some men began to take reproduction out of the control of women, whose bodies, of course, are the means of reproduction and who are the natural controllers of it. And so these cults of masculinity and femininity grew. As Olaf Palma, the former chief of state of Sweden said, gender roles are the deepest cause of violence on Earth, and therefore, it is the duty of every government to humanize them.
Nonetheless, we are still—these gender roles are still confused with nature, just as racial differences were once falsified by science and sometimes still are. We all come, after all, from a common embryo. How come that doesn't get more publicity? Why don't people emphasize that males have nipples. I believe there's a book called why men have nipples, right? Why don't we know that clitorises have the same nerve endings as penises? Hello? We can donate blood types to each other; we can donate organs to each other. Of course, we have become crazed on the subject of hormones, but behavior changes hormones as hormones change behavior. As you may have read recently, the so-called male hormone of testosterone, which females also have some of, is at a lower level in men when they are nurturing children. I so wish Dorothy Dinnerstein who wrote The Mermaid and the Minotaur, a book I commend to you, were here to see her work confirmed, as she always said that men raising children as much as women, and becoming whole people was the key to world peace.
In any case, the sex differences are focused during the central reproductive years. Very young males and females and very old females and males tend to be more similar to each other and to have similar degrees of physical strength.
10:11 NARR 4 (00:24)
Gloria Steinem likes to say that if “God is in the details, Goddess is in the connections.”
Her research and personal experience have shown powerful yet largely unrecognized connections between the women’s movement and the civil rights, peace and democracy movements that permanently altered the US and global political landscape in the 1960s and 70s.
10:34 Steinem plen 2B (02:03)
Those of us in social justice movements also have to take responsibility for failing to emphasize the connections between and among our movements. We know that they're there, but do we act on them? Yes, we need names; we need labels to make the invisible visible. It's very precious for a group that has not been seen to be seen and to self-name. It cannot be neglected. But labels can become the enemies of connection. For instance, it's simply not possible to be a feminist without also being an anti-racist – not only because most women in the world are limited by both genderism and racism, but also because females of the supposedly superior group are restricted in order to keep that group so-called “pure”. Wherever one group of women is sexually restricted in order to reproduce whatever the ruling class may be, others are sexually exploited in order to produce workers and cheap labor.
If women are imprisoned by ideas of race, it is all women, not just women who are directly affected by race. Every single woman here, like every single man, has a self-interest in fighting and denying racism and understanding that it's a fiction. Our freedom is restricted as women, so we will reproduce race, literally, and that is what is the feminist movement is directed at changing. It is directed at reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right, like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, [applause] and all movements are damaged when they are seen as disconnected.
12:38 NARR 5 (00:14)
To move beyond a “competition of tears” among oppressed groups and peoples, Gloria Steinem suggests we have to look for the deeper connections among movements -- they are as thick as they have been unseen.
12:53 Steinem int 2 (01:23)
It's very painful in a lot of ways because academia seems to have accepted, for instance, the idea that the women's movement was a white, middle-class movement then, when, in fact, women of color were the pioneers. I mean, that's where I learned feminism, from the National Welfare Rights organization, from Eleanor Holmes Norton, from Flo Kennedy – way disproportionately women of color. But it's a divisive tactic, which unfortunately we've fallen into out of some kind of notion that we're being morally superior if we say that, but actually we're just rendering women of color invisible if we say that. It's just not historically accurate.
So it's going on, this process of disappearing, going on as we speak – and also in current issues. Take the great immigrant rights movement. I think people would feel differently about undocumented immigrants if they understood they're overwhelmingly women and children. But we get a public image of male migrant workers at best, and gun toting drug dealers at worst. You know, it's a manipulation. It's just a manipulation.
And the environmental movement has always been at least 80% women, and the prophets of environmental disaster have mostly been women.
14:16 NARR 6 (00:39) LEAD TO MID BREAK
It’s all connected, says Gloria Steinem. Once we shine a new light on history the picture looks radically different. The invisible becomes visible – that is inclusive of the stories of women, of people of color, of democracy movements.
When we return, Gloria Steinem explores the indigenous roots of the women’s movement, and the revolution of connection and kindness that is coming full circle to restore the circle of life.
This is Escaping Control: Linking Gender, Social Movements and Democracy. I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.
14:55 MID BREAK (00:20)
15:15 Underwriter #3 mention #1 (00:17)
Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is made possible in part by John Masters Organics. Feel good about looking good. Learn more at johnmasters.com. Free distribution of this program is made possible in part by support from listeners like you.
15:32 NARR 7 (00:51)
To explore more Bioneers radio shows and conference videos, for free, visit bioneers.org.
When you think about the origins of the women’s movement in the U.S., perhaps you think of the 19th century suffragists. But how did they develop their ideas? Where did they find models to learn from and emulate?
Gloria Steinem reminds us that their origins trace back to the indigenous cultures of North America, in particular to the Iroquois Six Nations of New York State where many of the early feminists were living. The Iroquois civilization had created a deeply egalitarian society and political system that valued and upheld the power of women. For instance, the women chose the male chiefs, and could revoke their authority. Only women could declare war.
16:23 Steinem int 1 (02:20)
I have a deep suspicion that what is called prehistory is just called prehistory so we won't study it. So we don't know, and I have yet to find actually a women's studies course that really starts with the native cultures, the indigenous cultures, the original cultures that were here before Europeans showed up. Because it's more and more clear, and now more scholars—Sally Roesch Wagner is outstanding in this regard—our understanding that European women who were brought here as chattel at a low point of, you know, out of the six million witches having been murdered over centuries in order to do away with women's ability to control their own fertility.
So where did they get the idea that they didn't have to be possessions, that there were cultures where women lived in balance with nature, with men, controlled agriculture, definitely controlled their own fertility? Because they had neighbors who were from various Indian tribes or nations or groups or language groups and there weren't yet reservations. That didn't happen until about 1900, so even though they were conquered and suffering, they were still neighbors. And you can read about the suffragists-to-be having dinner every Sunday night with Seneca women in upstate New York, and there are the suffragists in their tight corsets and ridiculous skirts, and there are the Seneca women in these nice chamois tunics and trousers with beautiful beads and so on, which is where the bloomer costume came from, no doubt.
It just is so obvious, so obvious, and women's first property right law was passed in an unlikely southern state because even that legislature was embarrassed that native women had property rights and white women didn't. You know, there's so much evidence of this. But we’re just beginning to discover it. Indeed, we're just discovering a lot of our own authors who have fallen out of print. The characteristic of women's history or the history of any less-than-ruling group is that it's lost and found again, and lost again and refound, and lost and re-refound. You know? So, there could be nothing more important.
18:43 NARR 8 (00:16)
Lost and re-found again. As the leadership of women is ascendant today in the U.S. and in many parts of the world, we’re unearthing the historical roots that have allowed prior societies to create gender equality and justice.
18:59 Steinem plen 5A (01:18)
We're discovering that many original languages had no gender, that women controlled their own fertility with herbs and abortifacients, and were clearly part of decision-making circles. Indeed, the circle was the paradigm, not the pyramid or the hierarchy.
I have a Cherokee friend who spoke Cherokee until he was 12, and he still gets his pronouns mixed up because it does not have he or she. So exactly how did we get so bananas as to be giving gender to tables and chairs? When they call it romance language, they're not kidding.
I have also sat in meetings with Iroquois men here or with San and Kwei, the so-called Bush people of the Kalahari, who actually sat through hours and hours of meetings only speaking when they had something to say. They didn't try to control anything. I almost fell of my chair.
20:16 NARR 9 (00:21)
In reality, as many traditional societies have long known and as Steinem points out, gender roles are far more fluid than our current societies allow for. Each of us contains a unique blend of both masculine and feminine qualities, yet society offers very limited options for how to express that complexity.
20:37 Steinem plen 5B (01:28)
We have to work in patterns not made for parents, whether those parents are male or female, because this is the only country in the world without a national policy of adjusting work patterns for families and for parents, the only advanced country in the world. Or the only other choice is will we try to do two jobs, which is, of course, impossible.
Just as women in this country have more unplanned births than in any advanced country in the world, because of taking away sex education, prescription birth control, safe and legal abortion, which one in three American women needs. Because of that, we know with sadness that whether a woman can decide when and if to give birth is the single biggest determinant of whether she is healthy or not, educated or not, influential outside the home or not, and how long she's going to live.
Yes, we have learned finally, and the majority of the country knows, that women can do what men can do. But many of us have not learned ourselves that men can do what women can do. And until that happens, children will be deprived of a model of a loving and nurturing male human being, and men will be deprived of the pleasure and satisfaction of parenthood.
22:06 NARR 10 (00:20)
Gloria Steinem believes the world is reaching a turning point. It’s a moment pregnant with both promise and peril - where the circle is supplanting the pyramid - where linking is overcoming ranking - where a better world is not only possible, it’s being born right before our eyes. Again, Gloria Steinem.
22:26 Steinem plen 4 (03:42)
We have to face some of the other things that are happening that have not been named. For instance, in this country, we're all worried, I think, about the degree of violent rhetoric in the air about the record number of gun sales, even with permits; about the great rise in the number of people joining neo-fascist and racist groups; about the backlash against reproductive freedom, which even proposes legislation saying it's OK to murder an abortion doctor because you're killing him in self-defense. This did not pass, but this was seriously proposed. So you know, I think we're all worried about this, right?
But with the understanding that the model of what happens in violent situations is the family, it suddenly dawned on me that when a woman—it's usually, not always a woman—is escaping a violent home, it's the time when she is most likely to be injured or murdered, because she is escaping control, right? Well, you know, I think that's what's happening in this country; we're escaping control. [APPLAUSE] We've turned against two wars faster than we did in the case of Vietnam, we've turned against exploitive financial institutions in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime, we have a proud African-American family in the Whitehouse, [APPLAUSE], in about 20 minutes we're not going to be a majority European American country anymore, right? We're going to actually look more like the world. This'll be good.
But the people's whose paradigm is not the circle but is the pyramid, the people who believe in ranking not linking are losing control. So I think there are two things that we must keep in mind. It's never just one, right? Nothing is inevitable. It depends what you and I do, but there are two things that we must keep in mind: One is that it is a time of maximum danger, and we have to look after each other and be aware of the danger, and the other is that we're not going to turn back. We would never tell a woman to stay, or anyone to stay in a violent home, and we will not stay in the old way of control and hierarchy and ranking and suffering and injustice. [APPLAUSE] And I hope that we also know that it isn't true that the ends justify the means, the means are the ends.
If we choose every day to do the best we can, to act with kindness, to say I am not more important than anyone else, but I'm not less important either, to overcome these crazy categories based on the fiction of race and gender and ethnicity and so on, and if we do with joy and poetry and music and sex and humor, then we will have joy and poetry and music and sex at the end of the revolution. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
25:56 NARRATION 11 (00:24)
Nothing is inevitable, says Gloria Steinem. It depends on creating a revolution that dissolves false divisions, recovers our shared humanity and reveals individual uniqueness. Coming full circle to restore the circle of life. Escaping Control: Linking Gender, Social Movements and Democracy .
26:17 Music fade (00:12)
26:14 Bioneers BXII - Program Close/Credits (1:40)
You can listen to a variety of Bioneers radio shows, view conference videos online— at www.bioneers.org — where you can also learn about attending the national Bioneers conference or a local satellite conference near you.
The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature is a production of Collective Heritage Institute.
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management: Aaron Leventman and Nicole Spangenburg
Station Relations by Creative PR
Distribution is by WFMT Radio Network
Original Recordings provided by Focus Audio Visual
Interview recording engineer: Matt Fidler
Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by
Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label.
Additional music was made available by Lori Ann Speed,
For more music information, please visit Bioneers.org
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
This is program number 02-12.
28:03 Closing underwriting narration (00:27)
This series is made possible by Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.coop
And by Park Foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues.
For more information, visit www.bioneers.org — or call 1-877-BIONEER.