The confluence of several events in recent days compels me to speak to why the `sacred feminine’ needs to be revitalized, because doing so is totally relevant where the tar hits the road. In other words, every culture, systemically, needs to examine the treatment of its women and do whatever is necessary to restore respect and dignity to human life.
Recent events include: the shooting of a girl in Pakistan who advocates for girls’ education; the suicide of a Canadian girl who was mercilessly victimized by bullying; and the widespread evidence in a recently televised documentary film Sext Up Kids about the dehumanizing of adolescent girls and boys, and children, as the consequence of the hypersexualizing of Western society.
First of all, Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old Muslim girl, was airlifted to the United Kingdom this week, after being shot by the Taliban, the extremists of fundamentalist Islam, because she publicly advocated for girls’ education in Pakistan. According to a report on October 15th in The Associated Press, it is not yet determined whether Malala has suffered brain damage. Regardless, she will “require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma.”
How many other thousands of girls have had and will have their lives threatened, and sometimes terminated, by the misogynist fundamentalism of not only Islam, but also other religions and/or cultures, globally? What must be distinguished, however, are the fundamentalist elements of particular religions and cultures that are so destructive to human life and the human soul. We must not demonize an entire religion, culture or nation when violence occurs – too often a convenient tendency in human behaviour – yet which does nothing to resolve the problem of political and social injustice.
The problem of silencing dissent – such as the international quest to attain equal human rights for women – resides in the doctrines and actions of authoritarian, repressive power holders in religion and government. Both, working hand-in-hand through centuries, have distorted and misused the original teachings of founders of major world religions, such as Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Mohammed.
In a fascinating book, which provides an in depth perspective about why and how women’s power became diminished through the centuries, globally, appears this passage:
“The Prophet taught his fellow Arabs that in Allah’s eyes every mortal was equal. A woman could own property, enter any legitimate profession, manage her own earnings, and was an equal in legal cases (Sura 4:4&32)” [Schlain, 1998, p. 281].
Given the above citation, it follows that women were allowed to pursue education too, as equals to men within the original Islam faith. So, what happened, we may ask? Well, how that story unfolded I will explain partially in my next blog post, not just regarding Islam yet Christianity more so.
Meanwhile, I would like to direct my readers to another source, Dr. Faheem Younus, whose article “Malala Yousafzai: Does Islam Even Give You a Right to Education?,” originally published in The Washington Post, concurs with my conclusion.
The horrific and immoral act against the life of Malala illustrates `bullying’ on a huge, systemic scale. The scale is that of religious fundamentalists distorting original spiritual teachings – and thereby de-sacralizing the `sacred feminine’ – as an excuse to continue to inflict unconscionable repression of women in the name of religion. Doing so is outrageous, regardless of who does it in the name of any, and all, religions!
But, the predominantly secular society of today’s Western culture, most notably in North America, cannot be complacent. In the West we are afflicted with a more insidious problem to address, and essentially transform, whose tentacles also impact on the human family through globalization and ubiquitous digital technologies.
The problem in the West is `market fundamentalism,’ which I first mentioned in a September blog post about the writings of Paul Hawken. Clear parallels exist between Hawken’s call to challenge the corporate desecration of the earth and the ways we can denounce, and stop, the abusive treatments of female human life.
Meanwhile, the visible trunk of this problem, rooted more deeply in North America in the aftermath of the Second World War, that I provocatively identify here, holds up an economic and educational structure that has warped the very core of Western society. The reason is, it feeds off a variety of addictive behaviours – grounded in materialism and consumerism.
Western culture seriously needs to look at all of its institutions from family life to education and health care, to examine what and who we value, and the reasons why. As Holocaust survivor and spiritual psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl observed more than fifty years ago, in regard to North America society, it is afflicted by an “existential vacuum.” Indeed, his book Man’s Search for Meaning became a classic in American university studies. Is it even read today?
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith similarly observed a major problem in the same era, in reference to the continuing over-production of material goods, documented in his book The Affluent Society (1958). He pointed out at the time, too much was invested in things and not enough in people. Has anything changed?
The twin addictions of materialism and consumerism are accompanied by crude measures of achievement, including superficial and arbitrary measurements of physical beauty. One major destructive consequence is the phenomenon of eating disorders. I am not alone in naming this issue, nor the first. Please see my blog post on Marion Woodman, a Jungian psychotherapist who helped many women with eating disorders and more.
These `systemic addictions,’ I suggest, are the primary root causes of further problems in Western society today. Such problems include, but are not limited to, increasing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and the above-mentioned eating disorders. These are triggered by a black spider’s web of social and economic pressures imposed upon younger and younger girls and boys, unnecessarily, to conform to ridiculous images foisted on them by the dark side of popular culture.
Yet nowhere in the news do I see the above-mentioned root causes identified – and that systemic blind spot is the core issue that we in Western society, as fellow human beings and community members, need to tackle – intergenerationally – on many fronts. Media literacy is one front.
For it gets deeper and darker, because popular culture is infused with market forces that reduce human life – indeed, all planetary life – to commodities. And worse is the result of commodification of life itself today – a hypersexualized society, where soft porn (now mainstream) and cyber bullying intersect. The human spirit can be, and is being, shattered through the indiscriminate, mean-spirited, selfish, mindless uses of digital social media.
This regrettable fact brings us to the suicide of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl in British Columbia, whose life did not have to end so tragically if more of her peer group and more adults, respectively, had been compassionate and paid attention to the signs of despair. There are no excuses. Where is the modelling among adults for young people to develop caring qualities?
The YouTube video of Amanda’s page-by-page letter leading up to suicide is not sensationalist, but painfully revelatory. I give Amanda’s mother credit for supporting the video’s continued YouTube presence, for people to reflect, and engage in group discussions.
A more recent CBC-TV news item this week exemplified the potential for healing and building trust, through showing a “restorative circle” at an alternative middle school in Ontario. This talking circle is a safe space for students to discuss bullying and related issues. Its regular practice has greatly reduced bullying in that school. Healing our youth profoundly is needed.
The Canadian documentary Sext Up Kids provides the sorry evidence of the 24/7 peer and social media pressures upon our youth. This non-stop misuse of social media is creating another type of addictive behaviour. Meanwhile, the fashion/cosmetics worlds need to have their heads and souls examined, as well as the corporate owners and editors of women’s magazines, and their advertisers, who perpetrate utterly stupid, and degrading, hypersexualized representations. The film shows us samples.
On the website Counselling Connect, look up an informative blog post focused on one of the film’s screenings attended by helping professionals, and audience discussion with CBC-TV filmmaker Maureen Palmer. Also, see further listed resources.
Shameless individuals are making pots of money from the exploitation of children. They exist because consumers create a market. The only language understood is one based on profit-making. Boycotting the products of corporations who manufacture and market this crap is one strategy. Let us support, financially, alternative clothing entrepreneurs and create new businesses. Support the people who cherish the inner beauty and dignity of our youth and children, and who have talents, for example, to create funky clothing that kids will want to wear. The difference is, it will be age-appropriate rather than make our female children look like hookers.
To sum up, we all are participants in the problems, as well as the possible resolutions, simply by being alive at this historic moment, as planetary citizens and consumers.
We need to create safe spaces, across genders and generations, to name and deconstruct the problems. Equally important is to give our supportive presence in order to assist the youth to retrieve and reconstitute the shreds of their self-respect, dignity and respect for others. We need to stand together and turn around what is being destroyed by the dark forces in a society that has lost direction in how to value children’s lives as sacred.
Let us together co-create a new kind of humanity. Making change is possible, when the willingness is there. If that were not true, we still would be living in caves.
My upcoming blog posts will explore how the heck we got into this mess, taking us back through history. The story begins when our ancestors actually were hunters/gatherers living in caves, told through an author’s perspective considered ground breaking at the time. I would argue, it still is today.