The following is excerpted from one of my lessons in my recently finished Ecofeminism course.
In Mara Keller’s essay in the ecofeminist anthology Reweaving the World, she explains that in our cells remember an ancient era of mother-centered life. As I observe in my own children’s relationship to me as their mother, this seems extremely logical to me. Keller writes: “The renewal I long for is a return of a reverence for Mother Earth and her abundant forces of creations; an affirmation of the sacredness of sexuality and enduring human love; and the belief in the inevitability of death and the immortality of the soul” (p. 51). Mother Earth is abundant and fertile and awe-inspiring, she can also be wild and unpredictable and dangerous and is deserving of reverence and respect.
Chellis Glendinning in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality sums up the consequences of patriarchy perfectly:
“When women are faced each day with enforced cesarean deliveries, birth control that maims and kills them, and doctors who think them dirty, when we encounter rape, violence in the streets, job discrimination, sexual slavery around the world, pollution and nuclear madness, we realize that reclaiming the integrative ways of our ancestors must involve our healing powers on all fronts—from the medical to the social to the environmental to the political to the psychological to the spiritual. Healing the divisions that were imposed during the patriarchal era is the survival issue of our time and our planet. A world that systematically sickens its women cannot survive.” [emphasis mine]
Returning to Reweaving the World, in a similar line of thought, Paula Allen states that “a society based on body hate destroys itself and causes harm to all of Grandmother’s grandchildren” (p. 53). I honestly think that many, many children enter the world in an atmosphere of body hate (this can be true regardless of birthing environment). I read an article recently by the famous French obstetrician Michel Odent who explains that the human species may actually be losing the capacity to give birth on its own. Odent sums up the sobering conclusion of current research with this chilling observation: “after just 3 or 4 generations of highly technological childbirth, it seems very possible that our human oxytocin system is weakening. In other words, our capacity to give birth is weakening…” What will it mean for society if our human women can no longer successfully carry and bear new members of the species without significant technological assistance?!
So, planetary healing may actually rest in body respect and love. Allen explains that rejoicing in our bodies is how we show our respect to the planet. We can heal our bodies…”our own dear body, our own dear flesh. For the body is not the dwelling place of the spirit, it is the spirit. It is not a tomb, it is life itself” (p. 56). Allen asks the reader to consider how often we deny the urgings of our bodies. I ask this of women also—how often do you respond to the first cue from your body to use the bathroom? Usually, we resist several times—sometimes even hours—before finally going. If this basic, daily function we each experience multiple times a day is a time in which to deny and ignore our bodies’ messages, how do we expect women to then speak up for themselves in birth? To ask for what they need and to follow the instinctive dance of their birthing bodies? These same questions can be expanded to other areas of our lives as well of course…
Allen also has a refreshing perspective that now is not the time for tranquility. So often in New Age writings and Western-adapted Buddhist and Zen types of thought we see admonishments towards calmness, serenity, peace, and so forth and in the non-attachment and “I create my own reality” and “there is no reality but the present moment.” I appreciate this call for action and for passion, rather than a stilling of the emotions.
And, finally, returning to the body theme, during a recent women’s retreat one of the guests brought us each a card that reads: “Trust yourself. Take it to the body. She always knows.” I loved this and will explain more in part 2…