Was There a “Golden Age” before Patriarchy and War? by Carol P. Christ

I’ve been hunting for information about life before patriarchy took over, and here are some clues from Carol P Christ.

Marija Gimbutas coined the term “Old Europe” c.6500-3500 BCE to describe peaceful, sedentary, artistic, matrifocal, matrilineal and probably matrilocal agricultural societies that worshipped the Goddess as the power of birth, death, and regeneration in all of life. Gimbutas argued that Old Europe was overthrown by Indo-European speaking invaders who began to enter Europe from the steppes north of the Black Sea beginning about 4400 BCE.  The Indo-Europeans were patrilineal and patriarchal, mobile and warlike, having domesticated the horse, were not highly artistic and worshiped the shining Gods of the sky reflected in their bronze weapons.

In the fields of classics and archaeology, Gimbutas’s work is often dismissed as nothing more than a fantasy of a “golden age.” In contrast, scholars of Indo-European languages, Gimbutas’s original specialty, are much more likely to accept the general outlines of her hypothesis. The German linguist and cultural scientist Harald Haarmann is one of them.

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Finbar: the child not born

 

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One in four women experiences domestic abuse or domestic violence at some point in their lives. This may be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse. More than 30% of this abuse starts in pregnancy, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Domestic abuse during pregnancy puts you and your unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, and injury or death to the baby.  NHS website

 

In my book WITNESS  Sarah shares her experience of early miscarriage, and a missed abortion at 16 weeks, which was most devastating of all. I wrote this poem hoping to describe Sarah’s thoughts and feelings about this great loss.

Finbar
I called you Finbar from the very beginning, not knowing if you were a boy or a girl, and Finbar you remain to this day. Your sister was eleven weeks old when you planted yourself in my womb. Around that time, she began sleeping right through the night. You’d like your sister and sometimes you wouldn’t. She is beautiful, bright, intelligent, articulate;
she always has the last word! She writes evocative stories and loves to draw and paint.
Then after you came your brother. You’d be great friends. He is funny and loyal, compassionate and protective. He is wise and messy, tells jokes, sings songs, plays music, and climbs mountains.

But your dad, he’s not safe. He hurts with words and fists. Like all mums to be, when you planted yourself in me, I was tired, but weary too, and worried.
He’d punched me before, but now his anger was ever present. He loved being with your sister but didn’t like me. Did you know? Is that why you didn’t stay?

At twelve weeks, I felt you begin to fade. At sixteen weeks, no heartbeat. The scan showed no movement, but still you stayed. Was I keeping you here? 

Then came the blood and the surgeon and the
long cold silence. Your dad hugged me in the hospital and then didn’t speak to me for days.
I was alone in my grief, empty.

 

Your sister kept me going and then your brother. When he planted himself in me, he clung on despite the blows and the anger and my fear.

Have I been angry at you for leaving? Yes. Should you have left? Yes. You are safer where you are. You began a journey into this world and chose to leave for a better one. Our world is better now, too. Your dad has gone. Your sister and brother have grown. Maybe from the place where you are, you can help them move on – forgive but not forget. You have moved on but will never be forgotten,

Finbar.

©  Kitty Nolan

 

Despair and Hope

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On Easter Sunday this year (2017) I was one of three women discussing with Richard Holloway life events where despair and hope arise .  The link to the programme is below and our segment begins at 1:05.

Easter Sunday Morning with Richard Holloway

I shared some of Sarah’s life experience of Intimate Partner Violence, and how she felt.  Read more in my book WITNESS available from my website and from Amazon.

 

 

 

Patriarchy and the eye roll

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I’ve been thinking a lot about words we use habitually when we discuss equality for women and girls.  The word that has most eye rolls, and ‘not again’ complaints when I discuss equality and violence against women and girls is PATRIARCHY.  A quick google search defines PATRIARCHY

  1. Definition: A patriarchy is a social system in which family systems or entire societies are organized around the idea of father-rule, where males are the primary authority figures

     

     

You probably already know the meaning, but do you know how we as a culture adopted patriarchy, as opposed to a matriarchy (of which there are many examples) or, better yet, an equal society?  The answer lies with the ancient Greeks.

 

In the political philosophy of Aristotle patriarchy is the natural rule of men over women, but includes the absolute rule of the freeborn male head of household over wives, children, male and female slaves, and material property as the foundation of the state.  The Greeks believed that the male seed – sperm – carried all the potency required for new life.  Under the most favourable conditions men, who were regarded as the pinnacle of creation, would reproduce their own perfection, and produce sons.  However, as we know, at least half of human population is female; daughters were explained as something defective.

After the Greeks and Romans came the Christian world in the west, and Thomas Aquinas, one of the most important thinkers in the Catholic tradition.  He shaped the thinking of the Greeks into Christian language, continuing the Greek understanding of male and female biology.  Aquinas continued the belief that daughters fall short of the perfection of the male sex.

In Aquinas’s own words:

Only as regards nature in the individual is the female something defective and misbegotten.  For the active power in the seed of the male tends to produce something like itself, perfect in masculinity; but the procreation of a female is the result either of the debility of the active power of some unsuitability  of the material, or of some change effected by external influences, like the south wind, for example, which is damp, as we are told by Aristotle.

So, for the Greeks and in subsequent Christian teaching, female children were a result of some defect in the sperm, not naturally formed creatures entitled to take up their own space in the world, and androcentricism continued to define the sexes for centuries to come.

Androcentricism  is the term commonly given to the personal pattern of thinking and acting that takes the characteristics of ruling men to be normative for all humanity.
A male child was cause for celebration; a female child a cause for shame, which continued down the centuries until women started stirring in the 20th Century.
Now, I often hear that women have equality in 2017, and to be sure we are more equal than before.  We’ve started the race, but by no means finished it.  For one thing, patriarchy is still alive and well in 2017 despite our advances in science; our understanding of human biology, and increased education for all.
With our current knowledge of human biology, it is widely accepted that an embryo is female until around 7 weeks when the embryo decides which sex it will finally become.  This puts paid to the Greek/Early Christian belief that true humans should be male, and women basically incubators.  We’ve known about these errors in understanding from the 19th Century when we discovered ovum and sperm came together to form the embryo, and as far back as the 17th Century we knew sperm did not contain all the material necessary to reproduce humans. Yet, patriarchy continued, because by then it was ingrained in our culture and in our psyches, and understanding how we work as human beings, individually and collectively, I can see this being a difficult mold to break.  Break it, though, we should!
Patriarchy harms women and men physically, emotionally, psychologically.
Physically:  We live in a world where might is right; domination and coercive control can give us what we want.  If we are rich enough, physically strong enough, intimidating enough, we can take from others what they don’t want to give, and  get away with it through fear and favour.  Traditionally, men deal with their differences in a punch up, which, for some, is often taken home to their wives and children, especially if they lost the fight.
Emotionally: As long as a powerful elite decide how or lives should be, it limits our capacity to develop our relationship with ourselves and understand our emotions.  If  society says it’s normal to punch it out in an argument, we don’t mature into  walking away, calming down, and thinking about the cause of the argument.  As long as our neighbours tolerate partners returning home and punching their wives and children, the abuser does not mature, and he inflicts emotional damage on his wife and children.
Psychologically: Where only men have power, and masculine thinking dominates, we cannot mature psychologically as individuals or as a society, because only half of humanity can speak to offer solutions to issues at hand or to demand protections in law, and decide where limited resources should be spent.  How each sex speaks, the focus of our thinking, and the way we achieve our aims do seem to vary according to sex, therefore pooling our resources and our approaches to problem solving can only be a good thing. Many of these differences have been acculturated into us, but we need to start where we are.  We must envisage a better way for all.
With patriarchal norms, women and men will always have war; women and men will always have a limited say in how we govern ourselves, and combined, we are now on the verge of a nuclear war between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong -un; we also have  Donald Trump’s America and Putin’s Russia fighting over who gets the oil left in the Middle East, while thousands of civilians die daily, and anti war campaigners are told they are unpatriotic, ( from Greek patriōtēs, from patrios ‘of one’s fathers’).
I don’t want this!  Do you?