Category Archives: Feminism

Feminist Utopia…

Remember yourself as a little girl. Now imagine what that little girl would do if she were invited into a Red Tent. Would she play, sing, laugh, learn, relax? We can create this for our daughters and the daughters of our sisters…

Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV.

After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know…

How would you life be different if you had a Red Tent as a girl?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

If you liked this video, subscribe to our channel & sign up for our free weekly episodes of Red Tent TV at http://www.redtent.tv/

Missed my most recent episodes? Watch them here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw

Enjoy the video and have a fantastic day! Thanks for watching!

My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw
Website: http://www.redtent.tv
Friendship on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redtentfilm

Opening song “Red Tent Temple” by Mother Turtle. http://www.motherturtle.com/

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", coming of age, daughter, Feminism, red tent, red tent film, red tent movie, Red Tent TV, story, The Red Tent, women's spirituality, women's stories

I’m Fearless…

The non-ordinary space inside a Red Tent evokes powerful reactions from women. Even a woman who is no stranger to empowerment can be amazed by what she sees…and by the strength of her response.

Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV.

After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know…

What makes you feel fearless?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

If you liked this video, subscribe to our channel & sign up for our free weekly episodes of Red Tent TV at http://www.redtent.tv/

Missed my most recent episodes? Watch them here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw

Enjoy the video and have a fantastic day! Thanks for watching!

My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw
Website: http://www.redtent.tv
Friendship on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redtentfilm

Opening song “Red Tent Temple” by Mother Turtle. http://www.motherturtle.com/

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", Feminism, friendship, From the filmmaker, healing, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, red tent, red tent experience, red tent film, red tent movie, Red Tent TV

Return To The Red Tent

by Teresa Maria Bilowus

“Return To The Red Tent” was first published in Starflower Living Naturally, Issue 2, July 2014

“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go…a place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women…” ~ Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

There is a place where women can go to tell their stories. A place where women can rest, create, sing, dance, sleep, or just ‘be’ for a while. There is a place where women can be witness to authentic sharing and connection. A place where women can hold each other and be held. There is a place where women can go to experience a ‘homecoming’ and leave feeling renewed, restored, replenished and open. There is a place for women. It is called the Red Tent. When women’s paths meet in this safe and sacred space, lives are transformed.

It is unlikely that when Anita Diamant published her best-selling novel ‘The Red Tent‘ back in 1997 she could have imagined how her work would be a catalyst for a ‘Great Remembering’. Anita Diamant’s descriptions of the monthly celebrations in The Red Tent not only illustrate the close relationship with land and nature and the moon cultivated by semi-nomadic women in ancient times, they also indicate the strong bond between women who would menstruate together in a sacred gathering space. It was in this sacred space, the Red Tent, where every girl became a woman.

Whilst the origins of the ‘Red Tent’ are fictional, women sitting together in circle is ancient and very real. Women coming together to bleed is found in almost every culture around the world. In some traditions women were segregated from their communities for being ‘unclean’ during their monthly bleeding time. But in many cultures women were honoured during the bleeding days and went to a special place within the village to commune with other women. Sometimes this place was called the women’s lodge, the moon lodge, the menstrual hut, the bleeding lodge, or by some other traditional indigenous name. These spaces all had great power and significance because it was the space where women bled together and shared wisdom. It was in these spaces that women passed down their traditions and shared their aural history – their stories and their mythology. It was in these sacred dwellings that women connected to their own inner power – in particular the intuitions and visions that came at the time of bleeding. And it was in these gathering spaces that women helped guide young girls into womanhood and were themselves guided by the community elders.

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

Today, the Red Tent is a global women’s movement. There are an estimated 20,000 Red Tents worldwide. In thousands of locations around the world women are once again gathering together to share the cycles and the stories of their lives. These are important times. For the last 4000 years the entire history of ‘woman’ has been suppressed. Women’s songs, wisdom, traditions, intuitions, stories, methods of healing, mythology, knowledge of herbs and of the stars, and of magic and the underworld have all been vanquished. Patriarchy effectively wrote history in the image and the voice of the masculine. This doesn’t necessary mean that history is wrong. But it does mean that without the voices of women, history is wildly incomplete.

When women enter the Red Tent a ‘Great Remembering’ takes place. Women the world over share the same experience of coming into the Red Tent for the first time and yet it being deeply familiar. The Red Tent is a gathering ground for which women have been yearning, but until women actually enter the space, this yearning has not been released. Adeola from the Red Tent community in Bournemouth, UK says “I found a space I hadn’t released I craved, to speak with a voice I had never heard, about a wisdom I had carried since birth but had no awareness of.”

It seems that ancient women-wisdom is woven into the very fabric of the Red Tent space. From its fictional beginnings, women all over the world have breathed power and life into the Red Tent. Some Red Tents focus on celebrating menstruation and the blood mysteries, others are simply a place where women can dance, sing, rest and speak their stores. Healing, transformation and renewal are common themes within Red Tent communities. Regardless of age, culture, background, experience, religion, or circumstance, all women have a home within the Red Tent. There is a deep-knowing that when a woman enters the Red Tent she is supported not only by other women, but by an ancient energy that has drawn women together since the Beginning.

Women have big, important stories. Deep, painful stories. Stories that matter. Stories make up the meaning of women’s lives and yet for so long there has not been a place for women to share these stories. It is so easy for women to hide what has happened to them – to stuff their own experiences down into a hidden-away-space so as not to feel them. It makes it easier to ‘get on’ with day to day life. But within the walls of the Red Tent women are experiencing the phenomenal healing power of telling their stories. No one needs ‘fixing’ or advice in the Red Tent. There is no judgement or ‘therapy’. But there’s lots of compassion. And there are lots of women being heard. When women speak it, shout it, cry it, scream it, feel it – whatever ‘it’ is, then it comes to the surface to be released. Women’s stories are monumentally important. Each and every one of them. All over the world the Red Tent is providing a safe and sacred space for women to tell their stories. And be heard.

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

In September 2012, award winning film-maker Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost released a ground-breaking documentary entitled “Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent‘. This 72 minute film seeks to ‘humanize the stories in the Red Tent – to put a face on the space’. Recently I had the wonderful pleasure of connecting with Dr. Isadora to talk about her film and the worldwide Red Tent movement.

Dr. Isadora, can you define what the Red Tent is for modern-day women?

“The Red Tent today can be anything you want it to be. The Red Tent is to fulfill the needs of your community. What do women need? Who would come? Sometimes women need to dance, sometimes to talk, sometimes to rest, to laugh, to cry, or to eat soup. There’s no one right way to create a Red Tent space. It has to meet the needs of the community, whatever those needs might be.”

Why now? Why at this time? Why has the Red Tent movement become so big?

“Contemporary women have a need for sisterhood. The Red Tent movement has a wonderful ability to cross all boundaries of culture, religion and background. No matter who you are, what language you speak or who you love, inside the Red Tent we are all sisters. I’ve heard women’s stories from Red Tents in India that are the same as women’s stories from Red Tents in Chile. The Red Tent transcends everything and brings women together to just ‘be’ in a safe and sacred space.”

So is the Red Tent part of the feminist movement?

“Well, firstly, let’s define feminism. My definition of a feminist is someone who believes that all women should be respected, honoured, nurtured, and heard. A feminist wants all women to believe in themselves. A feminist is someone who wants women to muster up the courage to live what they came here to do. I believe we are in the third wave of feminism. The first wave was the right to vote. Then came the second wave which was for equality. But we went out too hard. We burnt ourselves out. And so now the third wave of feminism is about self-care and self-love. It’s about bringing everything back into balance. The Red Tent gives us a place where we can find this balance. We can find sustenance communing with other women within the walls of the Red Tent. This gives us the power and the strength to go out into the world and do our work. Women need this balance.”

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

 

Dr. Isadora, in addition to being a filmmaker, you are also a textile historian. How important is the ‘fabric’ when creating a Red Tent?

“I have personally done over 500 film screenings of ‘Things We Don’t Talk About‘. Each screening is done in a Red Tent. I set up these Red Tents in gardens, churches, houses, forests, community halls and theatres. I have a great love of fabric. I have lived in 18 countries and I am intrigued by the history of fabric. I create amazing Red Tents with beautiful fabrics that I have collected from all over the world. But I know women who simply gather in circle each wearing a red scarf. That’s a Red Tent too. The Red Tent is any embodied space that honours the needs of women.”

Could you share your forward vision for the Red Tent movement?

“I would like to see The Red Tent movement get to places that are not so westernized. I would like to see it grow into places such as Eastern Europe and Asia. I’d like to see the potential that the Red Tent movement has to support women in those countries. I’d also like more international festivals with huge Red Tents. I envision global summits and international symposiums on the Red Tent movement where women from all over the world come to share their experience and their future vision.”

And finally, what about the future vision for your film? Where to from here for ‘The Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About’?

“I would like to do lots more film screenings within the US and internationally. And I’d like to make another Red Tent film. The next one would incorporate women’s stories from the global Red Tent movement. I’d like to film women from the Red Tent telling their stories in their own countries, culture and language, and then subtitle them in English.”

When contemporary women are asked what the Red Tent means to them, they share that the Red Tent is “a sacred feminine temple where I can honour myself”, and “home”, and “a place of powerful healing – healing where nothing needs to be done”, and “a place where I can come back to my pack.” There is a gentleness, kindness and realm of support for women within the Red Tent that is not found anywhere else in modern day society. Many women are witness to the powerful outpouring of love that takes place in the Red Tent. Women who have previously felt resistance toward women’s circles because of negative experiences of malevolent or competitive women are being drawn back to reconnect with women within the safe space of the Red Tent. Here, women are being nurtured by each other. Women can enter the Red Tent at any time. This supportive space is no longer just for women at the time of menstruation. The global Red Tent culture offers a place for all women to gather and honour their own individual journey while experiencing oneness with a united sisterhood.

There are often regular monthly gatherings within a Red Tent community. These monthly gatherings might be loosely structured to include movement and music, talks, rest time, craft activities, body work, creative pursuits, pampering, reading, journalling and much more. In addition, Red Tent communities offer open days where women can use the space in whatever way supports their needs.   Workshops or special events held in the Red Tent are often focused on areas that are deeply raw and painful for women. These can include topics such as healing from birth trauma, dialogue about sexual abuse and rape, mother wound healing, and empowerment around the menstrual cycle. Often when women take part in a workshop or retreat, they can experience big shifts only to go back to the ‘real world’ where there is no where to discuss, share, explore, or expand these shifts further. This can be difficult when the work is deep and the processes new. Within the space of the Red Tent, women can find ongoing support around such shifts from other women in the Red Tent community and from the space itself.

It is common within the Red Tent to find teenagers conversing with crones. This is a space where all stages of a woman’s life are recognized and honoured. The sacred trinity of maiden, mother and crone are melded together in a diverse and dynamic group of women defying societal norms on age segregation. It is within the Red Tent that young girls are experiencing powerful coming-of-age circles and empowering mentorship programs. Once again women are guiding girls into womanhood. For the first time in generations girls have a place to go to learn the ways of women. The Red Tent is a collaboration of women. All women have gifts to bring. Some women give massages, as others make tea. Some women bake cakes while others brush hair. Some women read poetry as their sisters are painting toenails. The Red Tent is where all of this can happen simultaneously and with complete spontaneity.

The healing that is taking place in the Red Tent is vital for our planet. When women heal themselves there is a ripple effect that touches their ancestors, their children, and the entire global community. Courageous women all over the world are speaking their stories. Women are finding their voices. When a woman comes to the Red Tent she experiences a ‘homecoming’ and a deep sense of belonging. Each time she returns to the Red Tent she returns home to herself.

© Copyright Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014 All Rights Reserved.

 About the Author

Teresa Maria Bilowus is a facilitator of workshops and retreats pertaining to Women’s Blood Mysteries. She is a Menstruality Empowerment Activist. Teresa facilitates Red Tent Bournemouth (Dorset, UK) and is the founder of Moon Girl Warriors, a powerful coming-of-age mentorship program for girls. Teresa is passionate about giving voice to womb-space wisdom and educating women on the rites-of-passage from menarche to menopause. She studies metaphysics and is a freelance writer. Teresa is the inspired mother of two phenomenal daughters.

Teresa can be contacted at: returntotheredtent@gmail.com

 

For further information on the Red Tent please visit:

Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost – ‘The Red Tent Movie – Things We Don’t Talk About’ http://www.redtentmovie.com/

The Red Tent Temple Movement http://redtenttemplemovement.com/

The Red Tent Directory – UK and Europe http://redtentdirectory.com/

Red Tents In Every Neighbourhood http://www.deannalam.com/global-network/

And for further information about HERSTORY – A Womanifesto (an informative free e-book) please visit the website of Jane Hardwicke Collings: http://www.moonsong.com.au/

 

 

 

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Space to Heal : a view of the ‘Angry Women Energies’

by Hollie B.

A few years ago my good friend Christiana Rose alerted me to an energy that she felt I needed to be aware of.  She had met with it in her own healing, and felt compelled to let me know, since I work so often with Women in Deep Space.

I have since got to Know these energies. In fact, I knew them long before, but I had never defined it in such a clear way. Now I call them the’Angry Women Energies’, and I will try to explain it to You.

Women's Circle : Space to Heal : Lunation

If You are familiar with Collective Consciousness, this will be an easy concept to grasp. Basically, (in really simple version) when enough People hold the Space of the same sort of thinking, Change or manifestation can occur. The collective thought is an energy. Energy magnetises – collects – together the same energies and creates itself stronger and stronger.

The ‘Angry Women Energies’ is a collective consciousness (Yes I said ‘is’) of Pain and Grief and Fear and Anger that has been created and strengthened over the many years of Women’s suffering. We can align it with patriarchal rule, sexual abuse, inequality – whichever. All of these things, when Women carrying these energies leave the Earth Walk and their energy shifts from the physical body, their anger finds the collective energy and adds to it. So You can imagine, with all of the injustice for generations and generations, that the collective ‘Angry Women Energies’ are quite strong.

But the energies themselves, floating around in Cosmic Space are not a problem – until they find something to attach to. You See, there are all types of energies out there. This is why it’s so important to hold the Space for thoughts of Peace and Love and Trust everyday. Because when we think happy thoughts, we attract happy energy yeah?

But when we think angry, victim, destructive thoughts, that energy will come to us. And for Women in pain from the suffering life has gifted them, the Angry Women Energies are standing, waiting in the wings, to connect, straight away. And so the energies use angry, grieving, Women with a victim-consciousness to attach to – the Women become Agents for that energy. And that way, the energies are able to live on through this generation.

Okay, so that’s a simplified, slightly all over the place version of how I understand the Angry Women Energies. I meet them often in my Work. I’m sure You will have had the experience of meeting a Woman who carries this energy. (They also prowl around the ethers, looking for groups of Women who carry the energy to attach to because as a group they are even stronger) She will be snide, manipulative and deceptive. She will use her stories of Women’s victimisation and struggles to prove her point, that men cannot be trusted and Women must rally together. She could be old or young, she appears in every Race and economic status. She uses masks and costumes to hide the pain and broken pieces of Self behind the barriers. She believes People See her as strong and unbeatable – but we all See her vulnerability and insecurity. She is racked with Fear.

And once the ‘Angry Women Energies’ attach themselves to her, She will not know how to break free. It becomes the only way she knows. It is normal for her. She will carry this energy, building it, magnetising other Agents of the Energies to her. And together they thrive.

Space to Heal : Women's Space : Lunation

Unless…

Unless, we make the choice to disallow their Anger. Unless we make the choice to feel it, acknowledge it, forgive it, and let it go. In this there must be a choice to think happy thoughts again. To think healing, loving thoughts. To find ways to express our Love. And to find ways to experience Love.

To forgive means to for- give : to give something over to the Great Mystery. To trust the Great Mystery to take the Pain and suffering and trust the Great Mystery to create something new and healed and Peace-full from it. The Great Mystery has that Power. It is all things. Call it Goddess, God, Universal Truth. It is Ultimate Power. It is Real.

Healing and Forgiving can be done. We must first See the Truth of our situation. And then we make the choice. Once You break free from the Angry Women Energies, they don’t get to return. We burst the bubble. We send the energy on its Way, declaring that they are not Welcome here anymore. They are no more in our Space. And we may use our Space to Heal.

About the Author:

Hollie B. is a Witch, Indigo Mama and Awesome Wife. She is a facilitator of Women’s Space with a focus on Being, rather than Doing. Her Work is Being the True Self, in order to Create the Sacred everyday, in simple Ways, in every area of Life.

At Lunation, Hollie offers the Clan Mother Journey Experience, an e’course for connecting to your own Truth, as a Cosmic Woman. She also facilitates Red Tent Experience in Canberra, Australia, and offers a variety of other courses and products. Find out more about Hollie B. and her Work at lunation.com.au.

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", Collective Consciousness, Feminism, healing, Hollie B., international, moon, red tent, ritual, space

Why Women and Men need shared Sacred Space

By Hollie B.

I’m tired of the reasoning : it was done in Matriarchal times.

Well, You know what, it’s not matriarchal times anymore. Matriarchal means that Women are on top of the Heirarchy. I’m not interested in having anyone on top. Let’s try equal.

Let me say first, that I feel very strongly about Sacred Space for Women and acknowledge that there is a time and a Space for it. It is a must! Obviously, my Work almost exclusively involves Women’s Only Spaces. I can’t say whether Men need their own exclusive Sacred Space. I’m not a Man. I’m not going to speak for them. But if they want it, Yes, sure go and do it!

What I am talking about in this post is the need for shared Sacred Space as well.

For the past few years there has been major issues around the Australian Goddess Conference’s choice to include Men. I know right, where in the words ‘Australian Goddess Conference’ does it say ‘excludes men’? It doesn’t. The stories of Goddess in all cultures are not specific to Women. Goddesses are Cosmic Women with Universal stories. The lessons in any myth have as much to teach Men as they do Women. Myth is not relevant only to one lot of People. Myth is a story to inspire the Culture of the many.

But there has been a very loud contingent that have complained that Men don’t belong at the Australian Goddess Conference. And I disagree adamantly.

Sacred Spaces for Women exist all over Australia now. Red Tents have become more common. There are gatherings and get togethers and Circles of all kinds, specific to Women.  These are Power-full Spaces for healing and shifting and Being our individual Self.

The Goddess Conference has the ability to reach out to the greater public. It is a first time drop for many People. So far, You could count on two hands the number of men who have attended. But I bet You couldn’t put an evaluation on how much those small number of men received from being in the womb of the Divine Feminine. For that is what we create at the Goddess Conference : a Temple of Sacredness dedicated to the Divine Feminine – who exists in every aspect of our lives, although not always acknowledged.

Shared Sacred Spaces : Men & WomenMen and Women need to share Sacred Space
Yes, many Women are holding wounds from the patriarchy. Yes, many Women are holding old wounds of abuse at the hands of men. And Yes, these wounds are in need of healing.

I’m not suggesting that that pain is not Real. I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t matter. But I will say this. It is time we got over and let go of our wounds, and brought wholeness into our Ways of Being. Stop blaming all men for your grief. Let go. Forgive. Move on.

And there’s another side to things that seems to be avoided in these discussions: Men are grieving too. Men have pain associated with the patriarchy. There are men who feel the loss of separation from the Divine Mother. Who have never been supported in a nurturing Space with the Divine Feminine, able to acknowledge the loss and grief we have all suffered.

There are men who have witnessed abuse. There are men who have stopped it. There are men who nurture their families and might need support around how to hold the Sacred Space of their own families. There are men who wish to sing and drum to the Goddess to fill their Soul. There are men who are ready.

It is not for anyone to say when the Men are ready to come. Trust that the Men who are ready will come. Trust that it happens for a reason and that when we heal together, we are All healed so much faster. The Work of families healing together is Power-full ten-fold to the individual. This ripples straight out to community. That’s Real Transformation.

About the author:

Hollie B. is a Witch, Indigo Mama and Awesome Wife. She is a facilitator of Women’s Space with a focus on Being, rather than Doing. Her Work is Being the True Self, in order to Create the Sacred everyday, in simple Ways, in every area of Life.

At Lunation, Hollie offers the Clan Mother Journey Experience, an e’course for connecting to your own Truth, as a Cosmic Woman. She also facilitates Red Tent Experience in Canberra, Australia, and offers a variety of other courses and products. Find out more about Hollie B. and her Work at lunation.com.au.

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Filed under Feminism, Hollie B., international, men in sacred space, red tent, sacred space, space, womanspace

From Gender Resister to Red Tent Sister

By Christina Mellen

I came to the Red Tent through a circuitous route. If anyone could have told me twenty years ago in my college days that I would passionately participate in a group that celebrates the womb, that perilous territory hotly contested by both religion and politics, well, I would never have believed them.  I was too busy spiking my hair and enrolling in Women’s Studies classes, absorbing the falsely empowering doctrine that gender is simply a construct of society that we as a rational society would, in some unrealized future, evolve beyond.
Fast forward twenty years, and I am engaged in a conversation with a female friend a few years younger, but with the same preconceived notion. When I invited her to visit the Red Tent that had just begun meeting in her community, she responded “I don’t participate in gender-based groups.” She then shared a story about teaching children to knit in her art class. She said she won’t offer the class until just as many boys sign up as girls, and surprisingly the boys seem just as interested. She says she doesn’t see gender, and I feel torn.

The part of me still stubbornly clinging to the ideals of feminism-though I’m often told they are as outdated as my k.d. lang-styled bolo tie- wants to agree with her. However, soon after college, many of my feminist friends went on to get married and have children, heeding the calling of that anatomy that our philosophical musings about the nature of woman left out in the cold. I did not feel a great emotional or psychological need to procreate so I got along fine disowning this part of my embodied self, thanks to the modern miracle of the birth control pill.

Since then I have been married and divorced. I have explored women’s spirituality groups led by wise women in herb shops who seemed full of New Age joy but soon proved to be post-menopausal man-bashers. I found my own “Ya Ya sisterhood” of women writers and poets who worshiped the Goddess on seasonal holidays.  I’ve hollered, hooted and cried communally at “The Vagina Monologues.” But it wasn’t until a fellow Goddess worshiper at my Unitarian church begged me for several consecutive months to come to Red Tent that I started having something to look forward to once a month instead something to cyclically gripe about. Over the last two years of sharing space and stories, solace and soup, in community with women in various stages in their fertility cycle, my own silenced womb has begun to speak in its own voice and I have begun to listen.

At forty-one I am finally contemplating the place that nurturing has in my life now and may have in the future. An early identifier with the option not to have children, I am in a place of openness, honesty and consideration about this life choice. When I read the novel by Anita Diamante that holds the same title as this growing national movement, I was drawn to the womens’ sisterhood and strength and the way they maintained their sacred secret world, honoring the Goddess under the noses of the patriarchy. I longed for that closeness, that solidarity. I loved the sensuality of birth- among these experienced women, I imagined I would be less fearfully fear facing my own travail.

The reality of this growing force of mutual empowerment–connecting through our common experience and witnessing each other’s differences without judgment–surpassed the serene escape of fiction. At the Red Tent each month, we share and create our own story. We check our titles and egos, fears and fierceness, at the door, and enter into vulnerability and introspection together. Among the crimson tapestries and candlelight so lovingly and artfully arranged by familiar hands in acts of service and joy, we can finally lay down our arms, breathing a little more deeply. In that vulva cathedral, the weight and expectations of the world are far away.

And when we emerge each month self-renewed, our cups filled, we find we have more to give back to our jobs, family and loved ones. We find we are changing the world by finally asking the questions that academic and political feminism shied away from—defining ourselves as women not by our past or by the roles we refuse, but by who we are now and who we are becoming—a more compassionate and empowered society than our embattled grandmothers could ever have imagined.

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Filed under Feminism, red tent, red tent experience, story, transition

Feminism is Not a Four-Letter Word

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, June 22, 2011)

Whether I call myself a women’s health advocate or Vagina Warrior, it boils down to this:

I’m a feminist.

(Shocker.)

What a loaded word, right? Images of unshaven armpits, gross looking white-girl dreads, floppy bra-less boobs, a man-hating smirk on my face, my fist raised in the air. Now, granted, if this describes you… um, cool! More power to you. But it’s not me. And honestly, that’s not what feminism looks like.

Feminism looks like women and men who want to take the world by storm to make the world a safer, better, more empowered place for women and girls. If you want men to stand by your side and advocate with you, feminists can’t be man-haters. Are there some feminist man-haters? Sure. But if feminism is going to make any kind of global impact, it’s got to be a collaborative effort between both sides.

Why the heck am I talking about feminism? A few reasons, actually. First, to be an advocate for women’s health is a pretty fundamental aspect of feminism. It’s about leveraging equal access to healthcare. Second. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully has a post that asks the question Do we want too much? and third, Schmoopy in our Prompt-ly Writing Group posted a link to a Guardian article that asks Why is feminism still so afraid to focus on its flaws?

The two are truly interrelated and it got me thinking about stereotypes that even I’ve held about what it means to be feminist, who is and is not considered feminist, and what it means to want more than we have.

I took a few women’s and gender studies courses in college. I was both vice-president and then president our of GLBT student alliance. I performed in the Vagina Monologues. As a young empowered woman in my early 20s, I was rockin’ the feminist label and damn proud of it.

Like so many things in my early 20s, I wouldn’t really appreciate all of it until now, as I approach my (gulp) early 30s. Feminism has become less about the rallies and the petitions and the student activism for me. Feminism for me has now become an active effort to make good in the world for women and girls where I can with the strengths and talents I have to offer. I blog about infertility and women’s health. I blog about why we need to care about the cultural norming of misogyny in America. I support and promote the work of the Red Tent Temple Movement. I think very intentionally about the kind of world I want to shape for my niece and hopefully, my own daughter should I be so blessed.

I’ve been doing the SITS Girls 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (SITS31DBBB). Much like their Bloggy Boot Camp blogging conference I went to in May, I am out of my league here. I’m one of a very small group (as in, you could probably count us all on one hand) of infertility bloggers participating. SITS is a very Mom Blogger focused forum of support. I’ve stuck with it because I’ve got a lot still yet to learn about blogging and as I’ve come to realize from reading both Esperanza’s post and the article Schmoopy shared – I’ve got a lot to learn about feminism too.

Did I turn my nose up at Mom Bloggers? A little, yeah – I’ll be honest. Part of it was jealousy – I want what they have. Part of it was being judgemental – how can nothing but reviews and giveaways be good for the blogpsphere? But as I’ve spent the last 3 weeks interacting and networking with these fabulous ladies, I’ve realized my stereotypical judgments were wrong. The Mom Blogger niche is just as varied and valuable and has as much to offer as the ALI blogosphere. I’m realizing it’s time to stop passing judgment and start taking a closer look at blogs outside of my niche to see what I can learn.

Oh Diane is one of those Mom Bloggers I’ve met through SITS31DBBB and she posted a fantastic post on why the Mommy Blogger market is so hot right now. What followed in her post comments was a fiery discussion about why Mom Bloggers get all the attention from advertisers while may of us childless folks sit here twiddling our thumbs.

My point is this: Mom Bloggers – and Mom Blogging in general – can be feminist too.

The Guardian article elaborates:

“Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that.”

Mom Blogging is not counter-productive or counter-intuitive to feminist ideals. Even when I was in college, I got horrified looks from other college feminists who were shocked – shocked I tell you – that I didn’t really care what my degree was in because I eventually just wanted to be a SAHM and pump out babies.

This is the point: it’s not about creating an army of empowered career-women. Feminism is about having  equal access to and support for making empowered choices, be it career, motherhood, health or otherwise. Wanting to be a SAHM mom – like my own mom was when me and my sister were kids, a fact that I am so grateful for to this day – doesn’t make me any less feminist. The fact that the Mom Blogger market is growing says to me that women’s voices in social media and technology are rising, and people (especially advertisers) want to hear what they have to say.

Which brings me to my last point: does feminism want too much? Again, from the Guardian:

Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it’s pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place. On even an average income, it’s never easy, even once children are at secondary school (though it’s certainly easier then). Your priorities change. Work is no longer the most important thing, for a while anyway. Ambition can dissipate.

Let me rephrase that: do we want too much? In fact, let’s drill that down again:

Do I want too much?

Take a look at what I grew up with: a mom who stayed at home for the most part, picking up seasonal part-time work to pad out Christmas and birthdays. My father still works almost 60 hours a week. He traveled extensively when I was much younger, leaving the brunt of the child-rearing to my mom. I’m stating this as fact, not to pass judgment. This was what worked for my parents and they were in agreement about their roles as caregiver and provider, respectively.

I grew up with a big, two-story house with two cars. My sister and I went to public schools and college. We pretty much got to do just about any lesson or extra-curricular we wanted. We lived in comfortable New Jersey suburbia. For the 18 years I grew up and lived in that house, this is what The American Dream looked like to me.

Is it too much to want the big, single family house? Is it too much to want a husband that brings home the bacon while I stay at home and serve as primary caregiver to our gorgeous genetic children? Is it fair to place that kind of burden on my husband?

Folks, I struggle with this. These are things I want really bad, I can’t necessarily have and boy howdy, I don’t like taking No for an answer.

But let’s step back for a second: in an time of record foreclosures, a flailing economy, and my seriously busted reproductive system, The American Dream I grew up with isn’t realistically even possible anymore.

Esperanza challenges us:

“The reality is, we might not get to be what we want to be, or we might have to sacrifice greatly to get there, and the same can befall our children. If certain lessons are learned; that frequently life brings disappointment, that sometimes their is no just reward for our efforts, that we must be grateful for what we have and stop continuously looking for more, that sometimes we won’t be happy, maybe, just maybe, we will wake up one day knowing how to be satisfied with our life.And maybe some day, if we’re very lucky, we can learn to be truly happy with what we have.”

I counter with this:

If the status quo was okay though, we wouldn’t need a feminist movement in the first place. And you know what? After all this, after this huge and rambling post, it’s not about feminism anymore.

It’s about being active participants in shaping a just world.

Feminist labels aside: where do we fit in to shape that world?

Where do you fit in? How are you helping to shape a just world?

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Filed under Feminism, Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Keiko Zoll