Category — Feminism
Thank you Clarissa Pinkola Estes for your inspiring words to carry us in to 2014
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
December 31, 2013 4 Comments
Does November know what it is this year? I know its bonfires and sparkly skies. All a bit glitzy after the darkness and gentle Samhain quiet of my Norfolk ocean. It’s a wee bit of a mash up in my head…a mixture of things that don’t seem to go together, but there they all are anyway – rolling around in my life. It’s somewhere in between autumn and winter – squeezing the last drops of sunshine out of summer, and pulling on the woollens at the same time. Eating the last tomatoes and basil, whilst chopping up the squashes for winter soups. It’s feeling radical at a feminist conference, then a week later lying on the floor praying for Scotty to beam me up. Hey ho. November, you can be a bit tricksy. We will see what you bring.Yeah, so where did we get to? Oh yes, I left you a while back after I had decided that clippers were a fantastic idea. Even better then, after a vicious bout of pmt, to go the whole hog and do a Sinead. Hurrah. Listen up, all you mothers of teenagers, I have been banned by my children from the school A’level information evening. At the time of writing this, I am luxuriating, LUXURIATING, on the sofa with a glass of wine, while unfortunate partner is slugging it out in a sweaty gym hall filled with spotty youths and leaflets. I may be a cliche, but no-shit-sherlock, I’m a happy one.
November also brings the candlelight, and the beginning of the official ‘cosy time’ when my bad ass gets glued to the sofa. This can last, if I time it right, from November through to April, sooooo good.
It’s a wonder I actually get any work done at all. Although you would be proud of me – I have at long last had some of my original artwork mounted, and got together some of my stitchy things, and put them in an online shop here. And even more cunning of me, I have gotten that very clever girl, sister of badness, cake, and ocean dwelling, to carve some stunningly gorgeous crochet hooks and other lovely things, to put in the shop too. Yay. Do take a look and check out what we’ve been up to.
And from stitching to sisterhood – the Feminism in London Conference 2013 was a blast – a massive thank you to the organisers, speakers and workshop facilitators. I am still on a total high from meeting some fab women, hearing some great speeches, and well – just looking around a packed auditorium of women (and some men and kids too) – seeing strength, resilience, intelligence – and thinking wow! We rock sisters….
There are people putting the world back together again…piece by piece….hope by shining hope.
Happy November to you all out there….may the leaves you swish through be extra crunchy, may the stars twinkle magically above you….may the dark time gently come to rest in your sacred spaces.
November 7, 2013 1 Comment
Oh this life as a hardened activist can be an exhausting one, don’t you know? But I am committed I tell you…..especially committed when there is a promise of cocktails and water splashing in 30 degrees.
But it’s not all Pina Coladas and paddling pools…well, ok, busted. It was this weekend.
Oh you fantastic bunch of Aldermaston Peace Camp Women – how did I get so lucky and stumble across you? I wasn’t the most likeliest of candidates at the end of last year…but 6 months on, with mad hair and a nose ring I am really quite at home with the new me. And I was really quite at home at your camp, with its women centred, non hierarchical, gentle, fun, anything goes vibe.
We prepared food together, sang together, talked, danced, slept, and steamed in soaring temperatures, and it was fab. Our camp angel had to be Margaret, with her lovely, calm, smiley energy as she washed dishes, made delicious food and looked after everyone with her gentleness.
Camp superstar had to be Lucy for bringing outrageous dressing up clothes that tipped us over the edge into mad squealing during the impromptu disco from my little iPod – sisters are definitely doing it for themselves.
Camp hero has to be Rebecca doesn’t it? – for leading us to a magical alder grove for an elegant synchronised swim on Saturday afternoon – we were water nymphs at their finest (sadly my camera didn’t get grabbed to record that little treat, maybe just as well, as our muddy bottoms and nettled legs could be slightly distracting in celluloid).
Other camp wonderfulness was a fantastic watermelon salad, our own camp cinema on Saturday night for a screening of ‘Carry Greenham Home” and Lisa spoiling Ann and I by feeding us spoonfuls of melted chocolate as we lounged in the coolness of the paddling pool – you fabulous girl. Just too many treats to list them all.
Wool Against Weapons was there of course – our beautiful, growing, pink peace scarf decorating our space, and reminding me all the while of you generous, amazing knitters and your clicking needles.
I took along a big basket of wool and we all got stuck in – we even had a knitting vigil on the roundabout outside the main gate. Ask me what I am knitting? Well, PC Rob, it looks like you’ve just been hijacked by a bunch of crazy women and are knitting for peace, pet. What do you know?
But you know what? All things balance in life I find. And just in case this intrepid activist wanna-be got carried away here on the glamour of it all, let me tell you this. This was no girl guide’s jamboree. We were there for some really scary reasons. There’s some pretty heavy stuff going on, on the other side of that fence. They make bombs. Bombs kill. People, animals, environment, our souls.
And in their wisdom (??) the Government is wanting to spend another £120 billion on keeping this weapon of mass destruction going. Hey ho, hospital beds, education and our safety are probably hugely overrated anyway. Hmmmmm.
But here’s the thing. We have a choice. Come closer, I want to whisper something desperately secret to you. Are you ready? Once you’ve heard it, it will make you as insanely dangerous as me.
Up for it? O.k, it is this – we are powerful, each and everyone of us. We can think independently, choose to be different, speak out, get together, resist. There it is. The R word. RESIST. Afterall, its sheep we’re up against.
If each and everyone of us told their M.P, (preferably in a letter), like they did recently in Scotland, ”Listen Bud, if you are up for this bomb they call Trident, then we simply won’t vote for you” – then girl, will they start shifting nervously in their pressed suits, and wonder what the hell to do next.
Sure, you can tell me it’s complex and multi-layered, but REALLY is it? We do not want this nasty, nasty WMD in the world. Not in this land, not anywhere. Let’s begin somewhere.
And what better place to begin than with a small bunch of thoughtful, committed women, intent on changing the world*. Indeed its the only thing that ever could – along with some cocktails, some songs and a whole heap of belief and a gutsy attitude. Bring it on.
* Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
July 19, 2013 No Comments
Here’s the thing. There doesn’t need to be much of an excuse for a party around these parts. Especially if it’s going to be a girly, stitchy cake party (yes, these things really do exist, particularly in Stroud)
In my experience, the girls round here will rock up to the opening of an envelope (harsh but fair) – so you can imagine the frisson felt when Woodchester village hall started filling up with fabric and frolicking….
Sewing machines were lined up, cake was laid out, and we were on our starting blocks…because of course we were on a mission…..
We were invited there by Bad Jo, whose birthday had rolled around again (they do that, birthdays) – and asked to each make a piece of quilt for her, to remind her of the fantastic community that we have and how loved she is within it. Yay to that!
Of course, because it was Jo, in all her brilliant-ness and cunning, she had got us there for something else too. And this something else was called Because I Am A Girl.
…which is the name of a campaign run by an organisation called The Plan, supporting girl’s rights to quality education. Here is what they say: At least one in five adolescent girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, conflict and discrimination. Every day, girls are taken out of school and forced into work, or married off to strangers where they risk isolation and abuse. Missing out on school can mark the end of a girl having any choice over her own future. This isn’t fair, it isn’t right and it’s also a huge waste of potential.
So Jo got us there to tell us all about it, and to make a commitment to help in some way. Which we agreed to do, because, hey, this is a plan that makes sense for all of us, right?
So in amongst the busy needles and lovely things to eat, there was chatter too about how lucky we are in this country to have the choices we do when it comes to education; to home educate, or state educate and all that it means for our daughters. With One Billion Rising still fresh in our minds, we got inspired to carry on and fight for all the daughters in this wonderful world of ours
And this we will do, together, in communities, and wherever it is needed and however long it takes. Stitch by stitch, plan by plan, word by word, because these children are not only our future, it’s vital to invest in their education properly and fairly. Women hold up half the sky. Thanks Jo.
April 17, 2013 No Comments
How rock and roll do you want me to be?
I am a bit of a Libran at heart, and so my thinking world is often very grey in that I can see all sides, value lots of different ways of seeing issues. On Monday, I travelled to the Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons Protest at Aldermaston, and had one giant dose of black and white dished up to me. I don’t really know where to begin.
O.K, so to set the scene…there were lots of different gates and a very big wire fence surrounding the bomb factory – and many, many fab rainbow people gathered around each of the different gates. Knowing I couldn’t get to visit all of them, I concentrated on two – the Women’s gate and the Faith Gate. First job – hang up a length of our pink peace scarf – oh, for longer legs…
There were some very moving things tied up there, including these beautiful origami peace cranes that had been painstakingly arranged despite fingers being so numb they were nearly dropping off.
…and fabulously colourful stitched banners…I am determined to make my own banner of loveliness – anyone up for helping me?
Hey, check out these little crocheted birds that had cheekily yarn bombed their way into one quiet corner….
O.K.That’s enough of the stitchy angle, lets get down to business. I have to tell you that I met some AMAZING people that day – people of hope, people of faith, people of determination, smiley people, articulate smart people and just plain awesomely wild people!!
This is me talking knitting to one of the oldest women in the U.K. Her name is Hetty, and at 107 she was totally up for protesting nuclear insanity. Go Hetty! Next to us is the M.P Jeremy Corbyn – he had some totally inspiring things to say too.
Dr Rebecca Johnson was there (one of the awesome people I mentioned earlier) – now she has some feistiness that I wouldn’t mind a little of. Here she is reminding us that what we do locally feeds into political debate globally. Oh yes, people, we can and do make one hell of a difference.
Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary was there and up for modelling a bit of our pink scarf – yay! And there was also possibly the most formidable women I am ever likely or lucky enough to meet. Here she is with Kate – Pat Arrowsmith. She is a peace campaigner of some standing, has had prime ministers quaking at her sustained heckling, is a voracious gay rights advocate and having served 11 prison sentences was force fed when on hunger strike in Gateshead prison as a younger woman. That is some C.V.
There were some gorgeous Somali women who I had fun dancing with when the time for making noise and banging pots and pans came. And oh! I was ablaze with cheekiness about asking people to be photographed with that scarf of pinkiness – I knobbled Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, and several others – some needed to be incognito – they were obviously on more secret missions…sssssh….
Oh yes, this was a day of anti-nuclear frolicking to be sure – and with 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world, someone had to do it. There was a smackeral of glamour too – here I am trying to advise Katharine Hamnett on the ins and outs of a knit and pearl (yes, so she is Queen of the World when it comes to all things textiley, but hey! I was unstoppable by then….)
I need to tell you how exciting it was unrolling those first pieces of pink peace scarf that we have all knitted. Wool Against Weapons is on the map, and on Monday was in people’s hands, draped around shoulders, hung on the fence, and most of all being talked about.
So, I stepped into that whole rush of black and white thinking, and it was good. There is no middle land in this debate – Trident has to go. We cannot afford the £100bn in renewing it, and our dear planet certainly cannot afford the consequences of something so morally reprehensible and vile being fired. There, was that rock and roll enough for you..
As one of the brilliant banners said – “Resistance is to make yourself one safe republic of unconquered spirit” – well, I saw many of those such spirits there, and wow, did it blow me away.
Actually, what really nearly blew me away was being handed a pink megaphone in one mad moment, in front of the crowd at the Women’s gate – and fired up on a few too many virtual coffees jumping up and going for it….ooops! This is Jaine Rose (again), unzipped and crazy pink, signing off
April 3, 2013 No Comments
“The greatest thing your’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return” – so begins one of my favourite films, Moulin Rouge. Following hot on the heels of Imbolc and pancake day is Valentines Day – o.k, I know, its a horrible Hallmark commercial nightmare….but love! Oh, its really the only thing that counts, isn’t it?
It is true that love may ‘weave strangely’ and we all have twists and turns in the journeys we make towards finding it. Who do we love and why? And how? So in the run-up to this love fest, my hands were busy with making little pieces of thank-yous for people I love, felted hellos for new sisters, hidden paintings for old ones.
There is close to home love, happening right here, where I am.
And then there is an ‘out in the world’ love, of a different kind. For Valentines Day has just been reclaimed by women. It is now V Day.
One Billion Rising, started by Eve Ensler 14 years ago, is the most amazing call to women and men across the planet to rise up and use our collective strength and solidarity across the borders to refuse to accept violence against women and girls
One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity. One Billion women dancing is a Revolution.
Yes, it seems that hearts, flowers and chocolates are no longer going to cut it around here…time to get out the paint and step into a more proactive and vocal land of love…
And so what of this feminist tsunami? It is one women’s vision to dance an end to the violence, to shake the earth into awareness. Well, I am with her. And so too, millions of others today, across this wonderful earth of ours, in all its colourful diversity.
Did Stroud rise with the thousands of other cities, towns, and villages across the planet? You bet your red and black t-shirts and wiggling hips it did! We are Stroudies, we ‘do’ protest and drumming and mad dancing, and loud singing. And we do it well.
So this Valentines Day – this fabulous V Day – I have told my special loves that I love them, I have loved my friends, and danced and sung among the community I love, in the town that I love and call home. But most of all, my heart has almost burst with the thought of the love of sisters I will never know, but am willing to stride out for, to speak up for. Know that we see you, that you will never be alone with this. We will not stop until the day you are safe.
Together we are stronger.
February 14, 2013 4 Comments
Quietly, without ceremony or fanfare, Imbolc arrives. Candles are lit, Brigid’s crosses are woven, and my eyes scan my days for bluer skies and light returning. I have made it this far through the winter.
What is Imbolc then? What does it bring? It is a wonderful fire festival, a reminder of what burns inside, what endures. What waits and grows. The seed, a dream, dream seeds. And just to help us remember that all things return, the very first snowdrops arrive in our woods.
When everything seems bare, and barely there, what is it that keeps me going? Where are my strong roots? What is it that I believe in?
Do I have roots that I can trust, or am I just the palest of flowers that is brave enough or foolish enough to poke my head above this cold winter earth?
I want to tell you about a woman who is surviving, who is enduring, who will not let go or give up. A woman with strong, strong roots. Her name is Haneen Zoabi, she is my age, and she is a Palestinian Israeli citizen, committed to finding peaceful solutions. She was brave enough to stand for Knesset, parliament, in the recent elections, despite continued bullying and death threats by people who are afraid. I am not for or against any person, group or cultural idenity. I am pro-peace and I love her vision and absolute resilience.
She is the first female MK in an Arab party (Balad), and she is focused on employment for women, an end to violence against women and girls, education and children’s rights. She believes, as I do, in equality for all. Those are deep roots.
While the world keeps turning, wars keep going around and around in circles, and my little stream keeps flowing through my valley – we need a quiet surviving of spirits that are determined and brave, that will not be flattened by strong winds, by winter, by darkness.
People who carry on, no matter what. Women who can ride storms, live with being afraid and hated and still weave amazing ideas in to a big scary not-ready-for-them world.
This woman, like so many intrepid women today, means business. In 2009 she met with Code Pink and the Women’s Coalition for Peace, in 2010 she boarded a flotilla with other activists to protest the Occupation of Gaza. And then there is my small world. Where is my energy this Imbolc, where will my thoughts be in the coming seasons? Where we put our words and our hearts, well – it counts. What we focus on grows.
This Imbolc, let there be colour, imagination, growth in brave directions, a holding out for better ways, more peaceful days. Let us cheer on these women, in their quiet surviving.
February 2, 2013 2 Comments