This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. It is acknowledged that the distinction between the secular and religious dimensions is an artificial one, often blurred in real life situations. In those cases, if the material is predominantly secular it is included here; else it is included in Supplement 6. The selected items are the editor's choice. Suggestions by readers are welcomed. Reporting on good role models is a high priority. The following sections are included this month:
The promotion of gender equality in society is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world cultures. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box - which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported - by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.
If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.
Definition of Gender Balance
Gender balance is 50/50 male/female presence in a group. So it is a matter of numbers, but it is more than just a matter of numbers. Gender balance is required in both responsibility and authority, in the family and in all human institutions. It must become internalized to the point in which patriarchal individualism and male hegemony are neutralized by a new sense of communion between men and women, and between humanity and nature. It must be a fully inclusive sense of communion that overcomes any exclusivism on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other reason. It must be a communion that seeks the integral development of each and every human person, from conception to natural death. And it must be a communion in which all humans endeavor to take care of each other while also taking care of natural resources. Nothing in this world is perfect, and this new order of things will not be perfect but, far from being utopian, it is in fact inevitable if humanity is to survive in the long term.
Futurist, behaviorist, and evolutionary biologist Dr. Judith Hand presents a compelling argument in her film “No More War” that if we chose to do it, we can achieve what no people before us could: a future without war. She introduces cutting edge hypotheses on the origins of cooperation, altruism and morality, indicating how they relate to the human potential for peace. The origins of war are explored, including a consideration of why men and women, in general, differ when it comes to using physical aggression to resolve conflicts. A proposal is offered that the time is right for us to mount a global, social transformation movement to abolish war and reasons are given for why we can, at this time, embrace the goal of ending war with confidence. Why participation of women as full partners with men in decision-making positions is a necessary condition, not an option, is stressed. Two complementary elements of a nonviolence campaign to end war are introduced: Constructive Program and Obstructive Program. Suggestions are offered for ways viewers can be involved in this great cause. Learn more.
A Future Without War is Judith Hand's website, where most of her writings can be readily accessed. The following are some links to material that should be of interest to readers of this journal:
Excerpt: "So long as men and women are estranged from each other, so long as they are unequal and one is considered subservient, so long as men continue to be estranged from satisfying, joy-giving, connections to their children, so long as humans are alienated from the natural world and instead consider themselves its masters and dominators, the need for deep connectedness will remain unmet." (page 129)
Violence (war in particular) is the greatest obstacle to sustainable human development. Judith Hand is making a significant contribution to peace by pointing the way to a culture of global solidarity and nonviolence. The reader is cordially invited to visit A Future Without War for more information on this important piece of work. For some key excerpts from several authors on the general theme of "men, women, and cross-gender solidarity," click here.
Gender Balance in Marriage and the Family
In the post-patriarchal era, marriage is to be seen as a covenant of mutual submission between husband and wife. The patriarchal model of male hegemony will be seen as a forgettable aberration in human history. Marriage is about responsibly sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, not about one-sided domination and control. Fathers are called to be fathers. Mothers are called to be mothers. Both authority and responsibilities are to be fully shared. This will not cancel the natural differences between men and women. It will make husband and wife more accountable to each other. It will allow fathers to continue their personal development to become more nurturing without loss of masculinity, and will allow mothers to continue their personal development to become more assertive without loss of femininity. The family will then become a "domestic school" in which children, boys and girls, learn by osmosis that things are better when authoritarian violence is replaced by just and merciful authority and, at the same time, loving care is not confused with permissive abuse of family resources. It should be possible to advance further in this direction, because this was the natural order of things before male domination became institutionalized (Cf. Genesis 1-3).
Innovation: a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions
UNICEF Statement: "The fulfilment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization." READ MORE
"Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.
"Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Patriarchy also has a strong influence on modern civilization, although many cultures have moved towards a more egalitarian social system over the past century.
"Patriarchy literally means "rule of fathers" (Greek patriarkhes), "father" or "chief of a race, patriarch". Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.
"Anthropological and historical evidence indicates that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were generally relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication. However, according to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found a specific "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE), when the concept of fatherhood took root, as the beginning of the spread of patriarchy."
The patriarchal mindset of rivalry and domination is pervasive and induces a culture of "command and control" and transcends family relations and contaminates all human relations as well as the human attitude toward the natural habitat. An excellent exposition of the need for a good dosage of "ecofeminism" to overcome patriarchy is provided by Patrick Curry in Chapter 9 of his book, Ecological Ethics. Following are some excerpts:
"Insofar as patriarchy identifies women with nature and dominates both, they are internally linked, so the struggle to resist or overturn either must address both."
"Ecofeminism is a meeting of two strands. One is feminism itself: the awareness of the pathological effects of dominant patriarchal or (to use a more recent term) masculinist structures, both 'inner' and 'outer' -- particularly, of course, on women but also, ultimately, on their oppressors -- and the attempt to replace them with ones that also value the feminine."
"The other element is a recognition of, and deep concern about, the equally masculinist domination and exploitation of nature through the very same habitual structures of though, feeling and action that devalue and harm women."
Curry goes on to analyze the master mentality, both dualist and hierarchical: "humanity versus nature; male versus female; and reason versus emotion... the domination and exploitation of nature and women proceed by the same logic, the same processes and, by and large, the same people... only ecofeminism brings a critical awareness of the extent and ways in which the subordination of women and ecological destruction are integrally linked."
The chapter unfolds with a review of work by ecofeminist leaders such as Vandana Shiva (India) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and proceeds to deconstruct the androcentric (male-centered) mentality while, at the same time, making it crystal clear that ecofeminism is definitely not a matter of demonizing men. In fact, men are victims of patriarchal practices as much as women; in one way or another, domination that goes around comes around. Only an ethics of care, as in a mother holding her child, can break the vicious circle of patriarchal command and control whereby humans abuse the human habitat at their own peril. Indeed, as Lynn White proposed years ago, St. Francis of Assisi should be recognized as the patron saint of ecologists.
"A celebration of women around the world actively transforming and healing our global society. Sharon Stone and leading experts in religion, science, history, politics and entertainment, discuss solutions to the multiple crisis’ we are faced with. Femme focuses on utilizing a feminine approach with nurturing energy to inspire a new hope for the future." Director: Emmanuel Itier.
Starring: Sharon Stone, Maria Bello, Maria Conchita Alonso, Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire, Gloria Steinem, Marianne Williamson, Jean Houston, Angela Davis.
Actress Sharon Stone co-produced “Femme: Women Healing the World”, Santa Barbara director Emmanuel Itier’s documentary that features more than 100 women, both famous and unsung, from around the world who are working to transform the planet through a number of fields, from politics and philosophy to spirituality, science and entertainment. Stone – whose leg-crossing scene in the original 1992 “Basic Instinct” is one of modern film’s most iconic moments, which also happens to represent a women using her sexual power to manipulate men, for better or worse – has said about FEMME:
Film is a powerful medium for inciting change: “We’re using the documentary format to reach out and talk about issues are relevant and important. Allowing this beautiful point of view to be expressed in a powerful way is intelligent, thoughtful, mindful and compassionate…. The more we have sympathetic communication the better that we do with one another.”
This is an important moment for women in the world: “We’re (in) Year 11 of a world war, and we have to think about that women are less invested in conflict and more interested in creativity and the development of nurturing and conflict resolution….It’s just a practical matter in many ways. When we look at the stress that all of those things have put on our economic climate, we can see that if we don’t (address this issues) from a more creative and nurturing perspective, the global economy cannot hold this continue desire for conflict and the negative impact of not caring for one another. There’s no logic in that math equation.
You can do something about it: “We can look at peace as something we expect our leaders to accomplish, and something that we understand as a verb, as an action. There are simple, seemingly small things we can do each day with more peaceful intentions, and create a climate of peace in action. Then we habituate ourselves to a different kind of sensibility and peace begins to flower from these small actions that become a state of mind.”
It’s not just for women: “I think that old saying ‘Behind every great man…’ is not an untrue sentiment. We were meant to partner – in our jobs, in our schools, in the world. We bring different elements to play. But it’s not ‘just’ women – it’s ‘with’, ‘together’, ‘partners’…. We are in a paradigm shift where we can partner in our mate in a non-gender specific way, any age, ethnicity. But in the world, we as women in our intuitive nature, bring something woman to man.”
GLOBAL GENDER GAP 2012 (World Economic Forum, November 2012)
"The Global Gender Gap Report 2012 emphasizes persisting gender gap divides across and within regions. Based on the seven years of data available for the 111 countries that have been part of the report since its inception, it finds that the majority of countries covered have made slow progress on closing gender gaps... The index continues to track the strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its national competitiveness. Because women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its women."
"As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.
"The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.
"Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.
"For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."
For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.
"Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."
Gender Balance in Society and Secular Governance
What children learn in the family (the "domestic school") defines their way of thinking and acting for a lifetime. Gender balance in marriage and the family is then lived out in all dimensions of social relations, including secular governance. However, persisting gender imbalance in social relations and institutions of governance is a serious obstacle to the advent of post-patriarchal families. Nowhere is this more evident than in the objectification of human bodies (mostly female) for business purposes. There is of course the pay gap between men and women with comparable qualifications. More nefarious symptoms include the persisting double standard on the value of virginity for boys and girls; the increasing number of "single parents" (mostly mothers) resulting from seeking gratification without accepting responsibility; and the millions of unborn children (mostly girls) killed for reasons of expediency or simply to avoid the "inconvenience" of raising a child. It must be recognized that, when there is gender inequality and imbalance in human relations, the entire fabric of society is corrupted. It is well known that "what goes around comes around," and this is also true in gender relations, even though male and female violence may tend to exhibit different modes of expression. The mindset of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" manifests itself in an endless number of ways across the entire gender spectrum. It is no coincidence that, in the Book of Genesis, gender violence is the first and most universal outcome of corrupting the original communion between man and woman.
Myanmar News: Aang San Suu Kyi Wants to Be President, But Will the Country's Generals Stop Her?
Dev Lewis, PolicyMic, 11 June 2013
Reprinter with permission from PolicyMic
One of the biggest developments in South Asia over the past 18 months has been the gradual political reform in Myanmar, opening the country to the rest of the world. A key leader to re-emerge during this process to become leader of the opposition and chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) is Aung San Suu Kyi. In a country deeply divided by distinct ethnic groups, taped together by an autocratic military that has maintained its rule using brutal means, Suu Kyi is a figure that transcends all, representing the important ideals of tolerance, secularism, human rights, and democracy. Recently Suu Kyi formally spoke of her intent to become president of Myanmar. But the question is not her popularity or her ability to lead, but whether the military will allow her to do so.
In 2015 Myanmar is due to hold its next election. Presently the constitution blocks anyone whose spouses or children are overseas citizens from becoming president or vice-president. Suu Kyi’s two sons and her late husband are British citizens, automatically disqualifying her. The constitution can be amended, but in order to pass, an amendment requires at least 75% parliamentary approval. But 25% of the body’s seats are reserved for the military, while the majority of those seats remaining are held by former soldiers and their business associates. Even if the amendment were to pass successfully, procedure dictates that the change still requires majority approval in a nationwide referendum. To put it plainly, amending the constitution is an extremely time-consuming process and cannot be amended without the military deciding to do so.
A Nobel laureate, Suu Kyi is easily Myanmar’s most internationally recognized leader and has been asked about her intent to become president on many occasions, but she has consistently remained coy with her answer. Addressing world leaders and heads of business on June 6 at the World Economic Forum in Naypyidaw she declared her intent to become president: "I want to run for president and I'm quite frank about it…. If I pretended that I didn't want to be president I wouldn't be honest”. According to a New York Times article Suu Kyi also expressed her desire in the Burmese language, which Burmese journalists say is a first.
According to some experts, it will be almost impossible for her to amend the constitution and become an eligible candidate. Tint Swe, a former member of the NLD and chairman of the Burma Center, said, “The regime in power before 2008 did this intentionally, making it almost impossible to amend the constitution”. Remember also that Suu Kyi was imprisoned for over a decade by the military.
Making any definite prediction or ruling out Suu Kyi would be naïve because Myanmar itself is evolving and its political climate is far from stable. Since the gradual series of reforms instituted by General Thein Sein in 2010, thousands of political prisoners have been released, censorship has been scaled back, trade unions have been legalized, and Suu Kyi herself was released from house arrest. President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have made official visits as Myanmar has begun shedding its pariah state status, opening itself to an international system of political and financial networks. But this change has neither been enough nor all-encompassing. During this time the military has been in a civil war against the Kachin Independence group, Rohingya Muslims, and groups from the Arakan state. Decades of oppressive rule have made it very difficult to achieve trust, and without trust lasting peace is unattainable.
In the same address at the World Economic Forum, Suu Kyi said she refuses to indulge in optimism in regards to amending the constitution. Instead she said, “Hope has to be backed up by endeavor and rather than hope and be optimistic for the constitution to be amended, we are going to work for the constitution to be amended”. Clearly Suu Kyi already began this endeavor much before her speech, because in March the Myanmar parliament approved the formation of a committee for constitutional amendment. After decades of political struggle Suu Kyi's intent to run for president has now emerged very clearly. Naturally the military will be unwilling to give up further power and allow an individual whom it had imprisoned for decades to become president. However, Myanmar has changed rapidly over the past 18 months and Suu Kyi, who has fought a host of obstacles already, could well ascend to the top in what would be a Mandela-type moment for the country.
While Ivy League schools marvel at India’s economic growth, Vandana Shiva’s University of the Seed looks to the earth—and Gandhi—for guidance.
Gandhi once burned British cloth imported from the mills of Manchester to reveal the power of the indigenous spinning wheel; and led the famous Salt March to underscore the capacities of all Indians (in fact, all human beings) to live autonomously, depending on the support of themselves and each other while throwing off the shackles of global empire.
Renowned food and anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva’s Bija Vidyapeeth (University of the Seed), co-founded with Satish Kumar in 2001, is grounded on the four Gandhian principles of non-violence: swaraj (self-rule), swadeshi (home-spun), satyagraha (truth force), and savodaya (the uplifting of all).
Inspired by these principles, this university grown on a farm preserves a wild diversity of indigenous seeds in cooperation with thousands of farmers across India and the world, committed to the organic principles of working with Mother Earth—rather than waging war on her with chemicals.
“Gandhi and Globalization” is a course co-taught annually at Bija Vidyapeeth for ten short, intense days in November and December. Vandana Shiva, Satish Kumar (founder of Schumacher College in England), and Samdhong Rimpoche (the first Prime Minister of Independent Tibet) designed this course for students coming from all continents, speaking in multiple tongues, and joined by a shared passion for both Gandhi and the end of the era of globalization or neo-colonialism.
During the last three years, I have had the privilege of joining these three great teachers in the fabulous intellectual and moral adventure of co-teaching this course with them. “Gandhi and Globalization” is one among a range of courses offered by Bija Vidyapeeth to demonstrate that Gandhi’s relevance grows even as globalization strangulates indigenous traditions of teaching, learning, living, and celebrating life and death.
Madhu Suri Prakash interviewed Vandana Shiva for YES! Magazine, a national nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Madhu is a contributing editor to YES! Magazine.
The patriarchal culture of control and domination is the root of all social and ecological violence. It corrupted the original unity of man and woman (cf. Genesis 3:16) and is now corrupting the unity between humanity and the human habitat. Just as we are now aware that slavery and racism are moral evils, we must become aware that all manner of gender discrimination is a moral evil that must be overcome and eradicated if social solidarity and ecological sustainability are to be attained.
The need to reform obsolete patriarchal structures applies to both secular and religious institutions. Feminism is clearly a "sign of the times" to the extent that it fosters authentic gender solidarity and nonviolence for the good of humanity and the glory of God. Given the enormous influence of religious traditions, it is especially critical for religious institutions to overcome and eradicate any semblance of male hegemony in matters of doctrine and religious practices.
The book, The Three D's: Democracy, Divinity and Drama: An Essay on Gender and Destiny, by Bruce A. Burton, is an integrated analysis of the need for gender balance in both the secular and religious dimensions of human development. This book, initially published in 2007 and reprinted in 2013, should be a point of reference for scholars and other professionals seeking renewed progress toward a better world of solidarity and sustainability.
FROM THE BOOK COVER
"An indexed essay and reference text that spans 10,000 years in its study of Gender Balance and the Natural Law origins of Democracy, including the origins of language, writing, and the alphabet, Abraham's Bronze Age influence on the meaning of Divinity and THE BIBLE, the evolution of Dionysus, the naming of Greek Tragic Drama, and the Neolithic influences on Homer which underlay the rebirth of Democracy in Greece after its disappearance from Neolithic Mesopotamia 2,600 years earlier. Similarly, in terms of Natural Law, the Epilogue reveals how the death of Jane McCrea, in a Homeric repetition of history, influenced the American Struggle for Independence and the rebirth of Democracy in America after its disappearance from Athens some 2,000 years earlier."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: "After early years in Westport CT and attending Green Farms Elementary School, then raised on a Vermont dairy farm and attending one-room schools, Professor Bruce A. Burton (WGAw) graduated from Deerfield Academy, Bowdoin College (BA), and, as student of the late K.J. Fielding*, the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, writing his thesis on Thomas Hardy for his Masters of Letters in The Nineteenth Century English Novel. Returning to the US with his wife Jamie and joining the English Department at Castleton State College, Professor Burton taught American, English, and Continental Literature, Greek Tragic Poetry, Native Studies, Speech and Writing for 26 years. In addition to novels and screen works, Professor Burton has written and published essays on Literature, and as Eastern Bureau Editor of The Turtle Quarterly of The Native American Center for the Living Arts (Niagara Falls, NY) essays on Native American Issues, Government, History, and, as contributor to THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NATIVE AMERICAN LEGAL TRADITION (Greenwood Press. 1998), Natural Law (Natural Man and Woman). *K..J. Fielding, Saintsbury Professor of English Literature; student of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Oxford University."