Stars and a sliver of moon beckon me from the vastness above as I gaze outward to the dark horizon from my screened-in porch. Instantly, I’m transported to an imagined time when city lights were non-existent and utter darkness enveloped this area of the earth. My mind races through periods of history in stealth-mode — quiet and hyper-fast. I see images of people across the globe and in various cultures, from our earliest cave dwellers until our present time.
Our ancestors amaze me. In fact, humans amaze me – both in our primal urge for survival and in our ever-morphing pursuit of advancement. We are unique, that is certain. As we hasten to improve the sustainability of our species, our knowledge, and our far-reaching future, we have paradoxically caged ourselves in, through many thousands of years of missteps, misjudgments, and misunderstandings. Throughout history, most people, unknowingly driven by the primal urge to survive, have become compliant with these miscalculations.
Within a nano-second of that thought, my attention is drawn back to the wee morning hours of the pre-dawn sky. The twinkling of celestial bodies reminds me that hope is always there, even in times when the sky seems gloomy or empty due to the pollution of human pursuits, regardless of cost.
Almost imperceptibly, the magic begins. The darkness shifts ever-so-slightly to a deep shade of grey. The first sounds of the morning begin – a chirp here, a random car heard on the highway less than a mile from me and, the scurrying of some nocturnal creature back to its home. A lighter shade of grey emerges in the heavens, and with it, begins the appearance of faintly seen pastel colors, softly painting the sky at the dawning of a new day. Fluidly my thoughts continue, as my senses are heightened.
I imagine a medicine woman, a medicine man, both out and about, walking the forest, or reading scrolls, talking with someone, building something, or caring for a little one, an elder, or a person requiring special attention. Spiritually and physically attuned to the world and her people, these healers recognize each other. They “get” that the other has wisdom, power, and an unending desire to promote health and balance in all realms of life.
These two, a man and a woman, share with each other, learn from each other, and aid each other. Knowing that each is necessary and that each is worthy. One, not more important than the other. The power of their fused energy, one with the other, is far greater than the energy of each alone. In fact, both know these truths are the only way for our species to survive through an unknown future. I imagine this is how our ancient of ancient ancestor medicine people viewed each other. I witness modern “medicine people” believing, as well as acting, this way today – bringing voice and hope for a balanced and healthy world.
I’m encouraged as the International Day of Women (IDW) approaches on Sunday, March 8th. In fact, I’m more encouraged than I’ve been in a long time about gender issues on a national and worldwide scale. In my estimation, it’s still early dawn – it will take more time before the full light of day is upon us. The night has been long and restless as storms of inequality, injustice, subhuman standing, sexual misconduct, and violence against women rain down upon our species. I hear these storms still thundering not too far off from my lanai.
It’s still too soon to know for certain if the morning sky will settle into red, providing a sailor’s warning, or if its display will be a beautiful blue hue signaling fresh air and sunshine. Personally, I sense and feel the approach of a calmer and a brighter day than those days of centuries past. The people of the world are ready for a new, sunny day. Through the darkness of night and the various storms, difficult and often costly work has been done.
Activism for women’s rights began in earnest during the late 1800s and early 1900s as women rallied and fought for the right to vote and receive equal pay for equal work. Though much progress has been made, this is still an issue worldwide.
The feminist movement of the 1970s brought women out in droves to champion inclusion, exert their influence, and forge forward with the message for equality on all levels. I know. I lived through it and saw this movement from an unusual perspective. Though at the time I didn’t fully realize the impact it would have on my life, my world view, or my belief system.
I was exceptionally fortunate to have parents that chose to raise their family in an experimental city of the future — Columbia, Maryland — a planned community developed by James Rouse, located between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. I am proud to call myself a 70’s Child of Columbia, MD. At an impressionable age, I lived in a city designed for the inclusion of all – gender, races, and creeds. I lived in the forefront of social progress all around me – in my schools, in my neighborhood, in my place of worship – everywhere. No, it wasn’t perfect, far from it. My brief time living and breathing what is possible for humans to achieve has shaped me forever. I will never deny that.
Between our activist neighbors, bi-racial families, an ecumenical place of worship, plus a city where there were no “tracks” to divide low-income housing from the rest of the community, the women in Columbia amazed me. From scientists, educators, stay-at-home moms, politicians, lawyers, business owners, and everything in between, most of these women rocked! They were strong, they used their voices. They were motivated and contributed much to our city and our community, especially to the young minds living amongst them.
These women taught me so much through simple interactions at the Village Center where the grocery stores were, and by the numerous roles they took on in our community, our schools, our Interfaith Center, etc. Yes, each had their own personal struggles, and each had their own views on everything. What they taught me was exactly that. We can have and use our own voices and stand in our own views without wavering, cowering, or feeling less than. This was such an important lesson, even though it was not fully realized until much later in my life. The adults, both women and the men of the 70’s Columbia planted seeds.
Unfortunately, life outside that “bubble” city was a shock to me. Seriously, a real shock. Segregation, intense discrimination against many, and more rocked my world. Yes, I always knew it was there. I had encountered some of it when younger, and on a few trips our family took to various parts of the country during my Columbia years. I read about it and saw it on television, true. But I wasn’t living or breathing it, nor were these issues firmly rooted where I lived, played, and went to school. In fact, these issues were often vigorously challenged at most every turn.
Until I left Columbia, I was protected by forward-thinking parents. We lived in a Big 10 university town during my latter years of elementary school, and I spent my middle and high school years in Columbia. The social education I received by simply living and experiencing social changes in action is priceless.
Women didn’t need to be “fixed” as many initiatives of the 1980s outwardly appeared to do. Encouraged, supported, and empowered, yes. But “fixed” no. There’s nothing wrong or broken about women – ever. Not in ancient history, last century, or now.
There was momentum and women were steadily moving into male-dominated corporations and other institutions. Women were gaining confidence, becoming assertive, in addition to forming large networks between themselves. Challenging the patriarchy where possible, making huge strides into trades, white-collar work, health, science, sports, the arts, plus more, were awe-inspiring endeavors and necessary. However, the notion that women needed to take on an almost masculine appearance and voice — suits with thick shoulder pads and loud, almost warrior-like speech — to fit into the patriarchal society, may have hushed many supporters both female and male alike.
Women met one of many crossroads during this time. Trying to make themselves “fit” into the patriarchy in the workforce and across the outward societal board, even if they weren’t receiving equal pay, meant transforming, while at home in private, into donning the “ideal” female homemaker role. How realistic was that? How realistic is that? In many ways, we’re still bumping into that mindset, though thankfully, today, it’s being challenged in different and, dare I say, more effective ways.
I was part of the “be a superwoman” trend of the 1980s. I was fresh from college and working while at the same time, trying to build my newly formed family. Yet, I was young and didn’t have the wisdom I do now. The duality of maintaining both an almost masculine persona at work and the outside world, coupled with the desire and my intrinsic need to be a nurturer, a “good wife” for my husband, and a “supermom” to our two young kids, left me drained. Frankly, I became less than eager to help champion the cause of women. I would watch, listen, and silently cheer the strides being made. As embarrassing as this is to admit, that’s where I was for a while. I know for certain I wasn’t the only woman feeling this way.
Progress and change do happen. That’s part of the beauty of life itself. Now, firmly established in the workforce and other institutions across the board, it’s crystal clear that women are here to stay in nearly every position imaginable. Not only can women handle these positions — still at a lower pay — women can and do excel. Big companies, universities, religious institutions, and governments began to sit-up and take notice in the last few decades of the previous century.
The 1990s ushered in tremendous strides in organizational development and structure, world-wide. More and more women were leading the edge of this change as they began serving as CEO’s, judges, astronauts, world leaders, prominent religious leaders, etc. The breadth and depth of these changes encouraged more research and more studies to better understand this phenomenon. These studies produced hard facts and numbers, changes in vocabulary, clearer insight, etc. These facts simply could not be denied. Change was occurring in front of our eyes at an increased and steady pace. Wider and larger networks for women were established on a global scale.
Yes, the storms of the night are weakening, and there are great indications that the storms are starting to move off in a different direction, and perhaps even dissipate altogether. I am hopeful.
Throughout the ages, many men have known, respected, and treated women as equals. Yet, in a patriarchal society, quite often their voices were hushed, no louder than whispers, or the support they gave was behind the scenes, and in private. That is changing daily. I celebrate this! Awakened and forward-thinking men today, are now advocating and championing gender equality publicly on a much grander scale than ever before. By displaying their commitment to change, using the power of pen and voice, these men have produced the key needed to tumble one of the biggest locks on the door of equality.
The women’s movement isn’t about bashing men. Honestly, it never has been, though it may have seemed that way at times. Boiled down to its essence, gender parity is and always has been about human rights. We are all made of stardust, so to speak. Every person regardless of gender, race, or creed has the same basic components that make us human. It’s so ridiculously easy to understand if we go back to the essentials. Our species will not survive without both genders. Interestingly, and perhaps by design, both genders also have components of the opposite gender in all aspects of this human life – body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
Our most ancient ancestors knew this on a primal level. The medicine women and men throughout the ages knew this and still do. The people of the world are seeking balance. It’s a requirement for unlocking the paradoxical cage we have put ourselves in by living in a patriarchal world-at-large. Without balance, we are creating critical struggles for our species on many levels, unnecessarily, and assuredly to our detriment.
What does that balance look like? I don’t know for sure. What I do know, is that this kind of balance is fluid, not static. Imagine you’re walking a balance beam for the first time. The beam is narrow and to keep your balance you need your arms. You waver back and forth to varying degrees, yet you don’t fall off. That’s balance. Sometimes, you lean a little more to one side than the other, but never too much. As you continue to practice, your arms become less important, to the degree that you can walk the beam with your arms placed behind you. The shifts are almost imperceptible, yet they are there. They are required to maintain a balanced path forward. We need and must honor and respect each other in all areas of life. Without the give and take between genders with equal importance, our future is precariously positioned.
Dawn is upon us now! Yes, we need to celebrate the achievements of women! For far too long, the contributions, the abilities, and the innate wisdom of women have been close to silenced. Even with all the progress women have made and society has accepted, there is still so much more to do.
Our world needs every medicine woman and medicine man to step forward, bringing their magic, their potions, and their intrinsic knowledge to the world. Who are these medicine women and medicine men of today? They are you, and me, individually, and collectively. You carry the knowledge, the power, and the ability to heal and create change within you.
When we reach into ourselves and do the work to heal our wounds, and our personal darkness, we are also healing our world – it’s kind of like the ripple effect – once a ripple starts it moves outward touching whatever is next to it, causing another ripple to occur.
Are you a medicine woman or a medicine man? Will you
- Forge positive visibility for women?
- Celebrate women’s achievements?
- Call out gendered actions or assumptions?
- Maintain a gender-equal mindset?
- Challenge gender stereotypes and bias?
- Try to influence other’s beliefs and actions?
- Help forge women’s equality by __________?
The questions above are the International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020, Each for Equal theme commitment questions for IWD, on March 8th, this year. (2020, International Women’s Day. Retrieved on February 29, 2020. From https://www.internationalwomensday.com/SelfieCards)
Claim your status as a modern medicine man or a medicine woman! Make a commitment. Be part of changing and healing our world. A new day is dawning, and with it comes glorious new opportunities, richer and better health, and restorative balance.
Let hope and love light your way!