Introducing Feminenza - A new international network for women
The establishment of basic human rights for women (at least in the West) that
has occurred in the last 100 years can be perceived as restoring a more natural
state of affairs between men and women that started to go wrong during the start
of what some historians call 'The Axial Age'. This 'age' was from 800 - 200
BCE (Before the Christian Era). It is called the Axial Age because those luminaries
who lived during this period have had a profound effect on human consciousness.
Snapshots of the journey of women's emancipation and a view from now.
The new religious systems that emerged during this period - Taoism and Confucianism
in China, Buddhism in India, Monotheism in the Middle East and Iran, and Greek
rationalism in Europe - all shared fundamental characteristics beneath their
obvious differences. One of the shared characteristics was a focus on ethical
and moral issues but, less fortunately, they all led to a reduction in the status
of women, who were perceived as lesser beings in most respects. Christianity
and Islam were later religious developments and this feature was not present
in their origination, the Koran, for example, exalting the equality and the
complementary nature of the sexes. However it was as if the signal of women
being lesser was so powerful by then that in time this also became the norm,
by majority, in these religions.
Before the onset of the Axial Age women were often highly esteemed in these
societies, but the Axial Age generally led to a decline in their position: they
became the property of men, were excluded from most professions and were subjected
to the sometimes draconian control of their husbands. As Karen Armstrong in
her book 'Buddha' writes: "In Iran, Iraq and later in the Hellenistic states
women were veiled and confined in harems and misogynistic ideas flourished.
The women of classical Athens (500-323 BCE) were particularly disadvantaged
and almost entirely secluded from society; their chief virtues were said to
be silence and submission. The early Hebrew traditions had exalted the exploits
of Miriam & Deborah but after the prophetic reform of the faith women were
relegated to second-class status in Jewish law."
There have of course been many outstanding individual women who rose above the
restrictions of the permissions of the time in which they lived. There were
also some golden ages for women such as that in Islam between the 7th and 13th
century where many prominent women scholars, thinkers, divines and poets were
prominent; Europe saw the emergence of notable Christian female mystics in the
Middle Ages. However the dominant paradigm in the past three thousand years
has been one of elevation of the male gender to a superior status and there
has been no influence, religion, person or movement potent enough to superimpose
this in the long term.
The establishment of the Women's Franchise League in 1889 in England by Emmeline
Pankhurst and the ensuing and comparable struggles with the Establishment in
many of the northern hemisphere countries began a wrestling back of basic rights
and the introduction of social justice for women. The pace of social change
was accelerated by the two world wars when women entered many occupations previously
considered to be the sole preserve of men. In the sixties and seventies the
Women's Liberation Movement, which developed in the USA and Europe in particular,
continued the struggle in their own way and style. Many of the rights they were
fighting for are now part of the fabric of our society. Elaine Showalter, a
leading feminist, writer and academic recently commented that in her view Feminism's
work is done, that there are many kinds of Feminism but there is no longer a
Feminist movement, because they did not uphold principles that appealed to women
It is now generally conceded, in the western world at least, that women being
one half of the human race should be accorded the same rights as the other half.
The global picture is of course far more uneven and the evidence of entrenched
prejudice towards women is still legion. It is however notable that the establishment
of the rights of women to have equal access to education, and the right to vote
was firmly on the table at the negotiations about the form of the new Afghanistan.
This is a hopeful sign that equal rights for women are increasingly a non-negotiable
So where does that leave women in 2002? A substantial cultural emancipation
has been won, at least in part of the world. Is that the end of the story? In
Feminenza we think there is yet more to discover about our gender and its possibilities.
Feminenza is an international network of women formed in April 2000, working
in 16 countries with a view to pioneering a new template for women. We came
together after many years of individual search and experience, united in our
desire to work towards a better understanding of our true nature and purpose
of our gender.
Within this endeavour we are aspiring to develop what we perceive to be a higher
level of personal growth to which we give the term "Lady". We give
the titles of "Female" and "Woman" to the lives which each
woman experiences - the female begins at birth and the woman appears at puberty
and accompanies the female for the duration of a life. These two lives happen
upon us, they are intrinsic to our design, but the Lady is a life that without
application and development will only ever be rather frail. We are also working
to better understand our female and woman experience because they too have their
development needs and in fact all three lives - female, woman and lady - need
to work together for a life to develop its fullest potential.
The female, for example, can sometimes feel neglected and overlooked in the
great hurry scurry of the needs of the woman to learn new skills, get a job,
be a good mother and attend to the many demands handled by the woman life. When
this occurs, confusion can reign and stress can be a consequence of such internal
conflict. We have found there is a great deal to understand and manage better,
if one is to progress in a way that offers satisfaction to the whole of the
life since each of the lives have their own psychological, emotional, mental
and spiritual needs.
This triad of female, woman and lady is most enhanced and harmonious when the
lady gives leadership to both the woman and the female by, in the first instance,
knowing what she wants and why she wants it. The lady life is amongst other
things, one of connecting to qualities such as care and patience and fundamental
values, such as respect for the uniqueness of each life. It is the life that
can develop wisdom. Beyond the lady lies the domain of the spirit and it is
our perception that the development of the lady is crucial to the release and
influence of the spirit into our lives. There is much more we have discovered
in this - too much to write about here.
The journey of the last two years has been a fascinating one. As Feminenza
begins its third year, our keenest desire is to extend this rich web of international
companionship and dialogue to as many women as possible. In the past year we
have held workshops in and around the themes of Self-Expression, Taking Charge
of Your Life, Exploring Relationships and Finding Sanctuary Within. There have
also been conversation evenings, talks and courses. The feedback we have received
has been heartening, with women commenting upon the warmth and encouragement
they have felt in these evenings, as well as the excitement of coming into new
understandings. We are now starting to build links with other women's organisations
and are pleased about the dialogue and mutuality that is beginning to bloom
from these contacts; we hope to make more in the year ahead.
Affiliated with Feminenza is the Ruby Care Foundation, an international organisation
with charitable status which offers training for professionals and volunteers
in dealing with death, dying and counselling the chronically and terminally
ill and the bereaved. Its members have already had remarkable success in introducing
a different approach to these vital areas.
In reading more widely about the women who have gone before I've realised that
none of us is alone, that there is a great well of qualities - of courage, care,
compassion, patience and determination - generated by their endeavours. Feminenza
honours these women, known and unknown, and I know I can connect to these self-same
qualities as I try to do what it is these times call for me to do. I believe
there is something possible for women now that is new, that has within it an
evolutary potential, a spiritual emancipation the like of which has never appeared
before. And within that lies a promise of a better, more humane world in which
the feminine contribution is equally honoured and valued, because it is understood
that the world needs both the feminine and masculine working in partnership
- it really doesn't have to be one or the other.
If you would like details of activities in your country you can contact us
by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or
visit the website at www.feminenza.org