The Women of Liberia and Embodied Goddesses to End All Wars


Subtitle: Goddess Transforming Spiritual Activists

“Thereis no tool for development more effective than the empowerment ofwomen.” Kofi Annan

Religions have followers,Spirituality counts on spiritual activists.”

 Thereis no doubt in the minds of many women leaders today that Goddess, orthe Divine Feminine, is inspiring and informing a global SpiritualTransformation. Goddess culture is not embedded in myth, asandrocentric chroniclers, historians and anthropologists have made usbelieve. Goddess culture is embedded in women who embody Goddessenergy, and men who honor the Divine Feminine, alive and well incultures where loving caring conquers a monoculture of warsterrorizing women, children and the aged for the sake of selfish,unending greed and subliminal messages of male privilege as endorsedin God-centrism. Unfortunately, sometimes even the most optimisticpeople believe that there has never been an end to wars. Thisnarrative of the three main Goddesses from India comes from atimeless Oral Tradition. Today you will listen to the ways in whicheach Goddess informed women in a remote country in Western Africa, asthey put an end to fourteen years of civil war—though there is noevidence that any of them were externally devoted to a HinduGoddess—nonetheless, they embodied fearless Goddess energy andstrength.

Unlikethe history of western religions, which reveal a chronologypunctuated by wars, and notions of hell as a “place” reachedsomewhere in the afterlife, the stories of Indian gods and goddessesreflect internal battles or struggles in the conscious andunconscious mind. They are symbolic of the journey of the embodiedsoul towards the victory over the internal forces of darkness.

TheGoddess has been at the center of Shakta spirituality in India forthousands of years. In Western Northern countries She has beenuncovered from the suppressed histories that Marija Gimbutas broughtto light in her groundbreaking research, inspiring many others likeRiane Eisler in The Chalise and the Blade, first, and morerecently in her political activism since her more recent bestseller,The Real Wealth of Nations. Similarly, the Divine Feminine, asin the form of Mother Mary, has always been at the center in thehearts and conscience of countless Christian devotees; as well as inthe Goddess forms of Tara and Kuaiyin honored by people in China andJapan, and nearby countries. She is asserting her Presence in today´sworld where the God has been presented as the Father of “chosenpeople,” rejecting “untouchables,” inspiring wars instigated byHis so called “chosen” ones to plunder the water, minerals,fossil resources of the oppressed “others” in Third Worldcountries. At a time when the construct and image of God, and hisrepresentatives, has been corrupted and distorted by sociopathspiritual and secular world leaders, Goddess comes to restore sanitythrough the Compassion of the Divine Feminine in Her most redemptivecapacity. She emerges in the caring ways of every woman and maninvested in stopping the madness of endless destruction and leaving alegacy of life.

Inorder to make this story even more relevant in the context of modernwestern experience, I will introduce you to women who made use of theFeminine Divine, transcended religious differences to succeeded inbringing about the end of a protracted war. Before entering on thetopic of the Goddesses trilogy of India, the main subject of thistalk, I would like to give a brief introduction about the women ofLiberia, for the benefit of those among you who have not heard aboutthem.

Thewomen of Liberia have embodied the Divine Feminine in ways that caninspire, embolden and empower all women in the First World to put theGoddess Shakti, or energy, into good use towards the end of thedeplorable endless genocidal wars fueled by greed, exploitation and anarcissistic technocratic agenda gone mad. Liberia is a West Africancountry approximately the size of Tennessee in the US, which wassubjected to over fourteen years of civil war between 1989 and 2003.It was under these circumstances that Leymah Gbowee was inspiredduring the liminal stages of a recursive dream, as she woke updetermined that she had to do something to end the daily massacres.Gbowee felt compelled to organize and lead the Liberian MassAction for Peace, a Christian and Muslim women’s peacemovement that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil war in2003, and the exile of dictator Charles Taylor and his retinue ofruthless war lords; most of them brothers, husbands, fathers, sons,uncles of these Women. The PBS documentary series Women, War andPeace, segment by the name “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,”offers the dramatic and searing account of the ways in which LeymahGbowee and the women of Liberia took control of their politicaldestiny. The documentary tells the astonishing storyof the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictatorCharles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war, and won a onceunimaginable peace for their shattered country in 2003.” Thededicated activism of the women of Liberia is “a compellingexample of how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.”

 Inspite of great fear, but with unflinching determination, Gbowee andthe women of Liberia organized for over two years and finally securedtheir place at the negotiating table in Ghana, where they signed aResolution to end the civil war. Leymah Gbowee and LiberianPresident Ellen Sirleaf were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.Yet the women of Liberia continue their efforts towards social,educational, economic and political reconstruction even today. Thevalor and practices of the Women of Liberia on behalf of peace andhuman dignity bring to life an impressive account of how accessingthe Divine Feminine, women elsewhere can organize and put an end toall wars. Goddess energies from within informed them that the mostsacred external work of mothering society at large, never ends. Thewomen of Liberia embody a triumphant Goddess informed culture inmodern times.

Today,when the destruction of ecosystems and wars have taken unprecedentedproportions—we hear of water wars, oil spills, nuclear plantdisasters and ongoing emissions, we also learn of attacks on thehealth care system and the food systems—we are deeply concernedthat the natural resources that we enjoyed are no longer availablefor younger generations. These are precisely the best fields whereinthe three Indian Goddesses inspire and inform us on overcominginternal and external struggles required to restore social justice.


TheIndian Goddesses trilogy appears in the Markandaya Puranas, itsprofound mystic meaning and allegorical descriptions also appear inlovely and elaborate iconography. The Durga Sapta-Shati or DeviMahatmya is the scripture of the Goddess. The Durga Sapta-Shati alsocontains verses found in the Ratri Sukta of Rig Veda, whichdemonstrate that the Goddess was worshipped from time immemorial. Themain Goddesses appear as Kali-Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati—thoughmany other goddesses emanate from their effulgence, just as infiniterays emanate from the effulgence of the sun and moon.

Eachverse in the original Sanskrit text continues to be elaborated uponby Sanskrit scholars in India and abroad. In the story of theGoddesses, each obstacle or enemy of the soul is depicted as a demon,as we will see. The demons, in their arrogance, aspire to take theGoddess by force, and therefore, an intense battle in the field ofthe mind-heart conscience ensues. The battle represents the battle oflife. We are thrown to battle between the forces of dharma andadharma, ethical action vs unethical action. Just as historic warshave been endless, the same applies to the internal wars in the mindsand hearts of everyone who aspires to evolve in consciousness. Tosome who are negatively impressed by the iconography of Kali-Durga,it may help to ask, if the ongoing destruction caused by wars isaddressed as more comfortable just because we do not see it in thepresent media —it is not televised. ~ Could it be that “out ofsight, out of mind.” ~

Goddess Durga, Remover of Obstacles

Goddess Durga, Remover of Obstacles


Thestory of the three Goddesses symbolizes the journey through spiritualtransformation—this process is internal and integral, it covers allaspects of life simultaneously: physical, mental/emotional andunconscious—and as such, it leads us to confront the enemies of thesoul: egoism (or Iness/mineness), mental distractions and ignorance.In the first stage of the spiritual journey the worship ofKali-Durga helps in the removal of gross impurities of the mind,like many expressions of egoism. From the standpoint of KundaliniShakti the knot of karma, or Karma Granti in the Manipura Chakrais pierced and dichotomies of attachment and hatred are resolved. So,eliminating gross impurities from the unconscious, Goddess Durgaestablishes a firm foundation as the more dynamic and creativeaspects of the journey lead to the heart center. In Nonduality orAdwaita-Vedanta, this stage represents the blossoming of Sat, or theAbsolute Existence aspect of God is realized.

Inthe context of the women of Liberia, facing an internal and externalbattlefield, their task was to dismantle 14 years of unconsciouscomplicity, or women feeling “silenced,” into organizing andmobilizing for change. Durga aids on ending distractions that promotenegative patterns and prepares the field of the mind/heart for deeperexpansion of consciousness.

Mantra for propiciating Kali-Durga: Om Sri Durgayai Namah

Goddess of Prosperity and Creativity

Goddess of Prosperity and Creativity


Onthe second stage of the spiritual journey, Goddess MahaLakshmidestroys a buffalo demon and his army, which symbolizes the spirit ofdistractions. At this stage, the eight arms of the Goddess holddivine weapons, representing psychic abilities, which specialize indestroying or dissolving aspects of distraction, which robs one ofspiritual strength, while other arms confer the treasure of DivineWealth *discernment, detachment from adharma, six virtues(tranquility, control withdrawal, forbearance, faith, concentration), and intense longing for Liberation * during a process ofreconstruction, re-creation and transformation of unconsciousimpressions.

Thebattle is characterized by a growing awareness of distractions asobstacles to expansion of consciousness and meditation. The demon atthis stage is adept at changing forms, one obstacle is overcome, andit emerges as another one—it is extremely cunning, and moreresourceful than a chameleon. Endless subtle desires from theunconscious keep the mind agitated, and rob the person of inner peaceand a deeper capacity to feel empathy and true Love. Now, theinternal battle emerges from deep rooted unconscious impressions, asblind spots are revealed through daily life practice and in deepmeditations. As meditation deepens, what was unconscious to thesurface level of awareness becomes clearer in the awakened state ofmind, where one encounters the subjective facets of human personalityand deeper self-analysis. Goddess Lakshmi rents asunder the threeknots of the heart: desire, anger and ignorance. With the end ofdistractions, or externalization of mind, the Grace of GoddessLakshmi manifests as growing divine qualities in the conscious mind,and inexhaustible creative energies begin to emerge in thepersonality.

Interms of Kundalini studies, the dissolution of the three knots of theheart prepare the subtle energies in the individual to ascend to theAnahata Chakra, at the throat center encompassing knowledge of sleep,dreams and death. At this stage in the spiritual movement toNonduality or Adwaita-Vedanta, oneness with God asExistence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, manifests in the unfolding ofAbsolute Knowledge on the journey towards Self-realization. TheAdvent of spiritual prosperity and calm relaxation accompanies thedawn of the Grace of Goddess Lakshmi.

Inthe context of the women of Liberia, Goddess Lakshmi inspired thecreation of the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, serving as platform for their movement towards victory against thewarlords and forces of destruction, the work of personal, emotional,social, political and spiritual reconstruction continues progressing.

Mantra for propiciating Goddess Lakshmi: Om Sri Mahalakshmiai Namah

Goddess of Wisdom, Arts & Learning

Goddess of Wisdom, Arts & Learning


Goddess Saraswati symbolizes wisdom that destroys ignorance in itstwo aspects: the ideas of “I and mine” (individuality and itsload). One of the most dramatic episodes at the beginning of Herstory is when a messenger demon comes to take her by force, with theintention of taking Her to his Lord and King, because She is the mostbeautiful woman he has ever seen. To this arrogant and crudeproposition, Goddess Saraswati calmly responded that since earlychildhood She made a vow that She would not marry* (71) one whodoes not defeat Her in battle—meaning, the Goddess will notassociate with one of inferior qualities—a most important firstcommandment for Women everywhere, this battle is not justphysical, it is also emotional and intellect. The smoky-eyeddemon—Smokey Eyed was his name—came back with an army of 60,000soldiers, representing the endless ramifications of self-centered or perverted vision. As the demon and his army approached,the Goddess utters the power-charged bija mantra “Hum.”A bija mantra is a powerful sound wave uttered withsubatomic and transatomic purity and intention, therefore it isinfallible. The esoteric meaning of the Goddess of Wisdom marks theactive stage in spiritual evolution when the intuitive function ofthe mind predominates. At this stage the Kundalini Shakti movesfrom the heart center to the throat center and from the throat centerto the Ajna Chakra, or third eye between the eyebrows, ending theknot of ignorance, wherein the castle of dualistic vision,represented by the demons “Iness and mineness,” vanishes.

Inthe context of the women of Liberia, Goddess Saraswati inspired themwith wisdom and insight into the workings of the minds and hearts oftheir opponents, for implementing the conditions conducive for aPeace Agreement and the Vision and the wherewithal for victory at thenegotiating table. Like Goddess Saraswati, the women of Liberia exercised their power in a unique way by uttering a different power sound, the sound waves of “NO” to the sexual ‘needs’ of the men in their lives. In this way,  these brave women claimed power over their bodies, minds and Spirit, while they put an end to men using them as allies in an ongoing state of  war! May more women exercise their power for such a noble cause!

Mantra for propiciating Goddess Saraswati:Om Aim Saraswatiai Namah!


Onthe journey to expansion of consciousness, Kali-Durga manifests todestroy egoistic tendencies like hatred, fear and greed; whileGoddess Lakshmi emerges in loving kindness, creativity, increasingawareness of ethical integration; and with ongoing effort onpersonality integration, Goddess Saraswati emerges in the form ofincreasing insight, intellectual expansion until She bestows supremeBlessedness, Liberation. The women of Liberia have taught womenelsewhere that women are not only the keepers of the home, theenvironment, and economic resources. The women of Liberia havedemonstrated to the women of USA and the rest of the world how tostir a dynamic social conscience, put it at the service of creativeaction in solidarity and goodwill, until they drew the highestblessings from the Goddess, an insight into putting an end to war.The women of Liberia have taught women all over the world how to putan end to all wars.

SuchSpirit driven movement implies changes in the normative, formativeand performative social structures. So, to “Be the change”is not enough, let us all be agents of change!

Maythe three Goddesses Bless endow you with Health, Joy andEnlightenment!


Namo Devyai Mahadevyai Shivayai Satatam Namaha |
Namaha Prakrityai Bhadrayai Niyataah Pranataah Sma Taam ||

Roudrayai Namo Nityayi Gouryayai Dhatrayai Namo Namaha |
Jyothsnayayai Chendurupinyayai Sukhayayai Satatam Namaha ||

Kalyannyai Pranatam Vridhyayai Sidhyayai Kurmo Namo Namah |
Nairutyayai Bhybritaam Lakshmyai Sharvanyayai Tey Namo Namah ||

Durgayai Durgapaaraayai, Saaraayai Sarvakaarine |
Khyatyai Tadhiva Krishnayai Dhumrayai Satatam Namaha ||

Ati Soumyati Roudrayai, Nataastastastyai Namo Namaha |
Namo Jagatpratishtayai, Devyayai Krityayai Namo Namah ||

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Vishnu Mayeti Shabdita |
Namastastyai Namastastyai Namastastyai Namo Namaha ||


 Adorationsagain and again to Goddess, the Divine Mother, who abides in allbeings in the form of the Divine Maya (Cosmic Illusion),Consciousness, Intellect, Sleep, Hunger and Thirst, Shadow, Energy,Class, Shame, Peace, Faith, Loveliness, Wealth, Thought waves,Memory, Compassion, Fulfillment of ones’s desires, Mother, Error.

Visualizethe form of Goddess Durga abiding in the lotus of your heart.Dissolving obstacles of fear, adversity and pain; physical andmental. Visualize the form of Goddess Lakshmi in the lotus of yourheart, conferring the boon divine qualities: insight, creativity,wealth in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. Visualize the formof Goddess Saraswati, Goddess of learning and Wisdom, abiding in thelotus of your heart as your experience in body, mind, intellect,insight and spirit blossoms into the Nondual realization, “I am allthis.”

OmShanti, Shanti, Shanti!
Open your eyes.

Women’s Spirituality Creating Relational Social Systems


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For the last 30 years I have been immersed in Goddess spirituality practices, as bhakta and sadhaka, within the Samkhya-Adwaita panentheist experiences. These experiences have made me appreciate and value what Integral Yoga (Patanjali Sutras) and Hindu rituals have to offer in the context of spiritual activism, and the need for women scholars heuristic and hermeneutic contribution to take us from past assumptions like “Know Thyself” to the most pressing question of identity “Who am I?”



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This is my response to Garrity-Bond’s article “THE SAINTHOOD OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN BY A FEMINIST-FRIENDLY POPE?” posted today in Feminism and Religion.

Thank you Cynthie for your valuable contribution exposing the “high powered” (in part powered by certain women identities) patriarchal and Vatican insecurities playing in Ratzinger’s move to canonize Hildegard of Bingen. I take your incisive discussion here as an invitation to share my grain of sand. Please forgive my English as a second language–sometimes prepositions eat me up.

Here you open another opportunity for us to discuss and uncover the church’s intentions in their unrelenting, proactive stance to shape women’s “ideal” identity as submissive and weak. Vatican and the pope are desperate to keep feeding women’s weakness in their effort to breed the corruptible identities which support and lead to present male economic, political, military and religious power sociopathologies.
In my humble opinion, these provocations to radical feminists point out to he need for women to redefine and reposition mothering and a new woman centered psychology of child development. Let me explain why, I believe that there is still much to be done in the area of deconstructing our internalized oppression. The questions leading to undoing our present epistemologies require that we simultaneously consider redefining mothering roles, especially our mothering the male child. How would I have loved to attend mothering courses to prepare me to raise my sons for an egalitarian society! As long as young mothers lack feminists educational support for raising the next generation of feminist men, present “homes” will continue breeding patriarchy.
I believe that as long as Skinnerian, Freudian and other pathological schools of psychology keep informing our social norms and formative structures, the family, the home, education and early child development will continue being defined by a self-destructive patriarchy. I hope that more feminists view the urgent need for women to re-write courses on Early Child Development, Mothering for a Healthy Society and Parenting (co-parenting as well as joint parenting as in the environment of extended families). The complexities are endless and the rewards could be the fastest social restructuring ever seen.
Women defining the vision of home, extended home, mothering, parenting and family relations will be ready to create a new boy child identity away from the dualistic dichotomies and oppositional prevalent constructs. This new epistemology needs to assert itself in the Academe. It is present to some extent in Women Studies Programs and in the two Women’s Spirituality MA and PhD Programs where women meet and engage in transformative conversations. But we still need Mothering and Parenting courses towards the creation of an egalitarian society in order to unlearn the ruthless modes of patriarchy that may have unconsciously seeped through our internalized oppression.
Women’s Child Psychology, Developmental Psychology and Mothering courses would include a critique of media, film, sports, technological, nuclear, corporate, legislative and political influences and applications and how all other present expressions of these keep imposing their negative normative and formative values during the developmental years of the male child leading to power hungry male oppressors. With respect to Mothering, questions about redefining women’s concepts of love and yielding, building the other above herself… may need to be addressed. I still envision home as the best place to end the abuse of power. But worry that not enough importance has been given to creating such a home in academic studies. Political Science departments abound in universities, but what happens during the 18 plus years before the male child develops the will to pursue a career in public office or high profile leadership? Do we want more peacocks, narcissist actors and other insecure shallow and ruthless males in office in the future? We hear nothing about departments that teach subjects leading to the knowledge of how to tend and befriend, bond and nurture, and raise the future leaders of an egalitarian society.
All this begins to take shape in our dreams, and I hope that our dreams are clear and persistent. The creation of Mother centered Child Development educational programs to end the conditions that feed the present abuse of power is urgent. In this sense I hope that radical feminists birth and nourish the knowledge needed to create educational programs to birth a future global egalitarian society.
When you write that “The answer for women is to seek power,” immediately I see a problem with unconscious drives for retribution fueled by women’s internalized oppression (which has been a survival mechanism for some strong women to succeed in a “man’s world”). I suggest that we frequently evaluate our drives in conversations with women from present matrifocal traditions. The Minangkabau brought to us by Peggy Reeves Sanday, Culture Matriarcali by Heide Goettner-Abendroth, MIRCI and founding mother Elise Boulding are only a few examples that come to mind now. I would encourage us to questions the term power—which no woman lacks because power to bring forth life is a power biologically assigned by creation, whether we pursue it or not, whether it is able to manifest in every woman or not—in favor of a union of compassion, love-life drive, passion expression of a particular way of power. It may be too soon to preach power to our sisters lacking the necessary support to stop the sharp tool of power being turned against them by a military ruthless patriarchy to pierce our own soft bellies.
When women mother the Woman loving and Women adoring men that deserve our and our daughters loving and adoring, we can talk about power in equal terms: power to create, improve, care and preserve. Poor power right now is too closely linked with the power to destroy. I wonder if we can say with full confidence that feminists today are completely free from internalized patriarchy. The question of how to extricate ourselves from the onslaught of normative, formative and present unconscious influences of internalized oppression keeps coming to my attention, and I am interested in listening to as many suggestions as possible. The formidable complexity of the many ways in which Patriarchy covertly operates from within us, makes me wonder that if some women we were to fully negate the male oppressor within, there would be nothing left of her. So a shift from a patriarchal informed identity to that of a woman in an egalitarian society, one where there is a balance of power, requires profound physical health, psychological health and spiritual health considerations.
Then, the new Women’s Child Development Psychology, Mothering and Parenting courses will be oriented to influence women’s power of agency to emerge from their hiding quarters, from centuries of oppression, into the open for an emerging psychological and social revolution towards true justice and sustainability of all life forms.
If instead of the romantic and weak metaphor of Bride/Bridegroom, surely a media attention catcher, we changed the imagery to that of Mother/Father, we are placed back in the arena of creating society right from home. This home, not limited to a nuclear family, needs to be the place where we envision shaping a society beneficial for all.
To poor son Ratzinger I ask, where is “male power” when woman pushes life forth out of womb? That is Power! As well as women’s responsibility to raise the boy child to honor, love and adore her in all women during all his life.

Ecofeminism: Inspired by Goddess in Women

Ecofeminism: Inspired by Goddess in Women

 Vrinda Pujals

[Essay first submitted as course requirement in “Critical Thinking” with Prof. Carol Christ, Women’s Spirituality Program, CIIS]

After “four thousand years of accepting male centrality,”[1] and the ecological, political, economic and social disasters supported by the “implicit acknowledgment that men are the same sex as God,”[2] ecofeminism and women’s spirituality founding mothers lead us through a journey of gratitude to women in remote, almost inaccessible areas, where women are and have always been the same sex as Goddess. From the influential works of Charlene Spretnak, Dorceta E. Taylor, Judith Plant and other ecofeminists I will discuss the role and interrelation between ecofeminist activism and women’s spirituality for recreating a new vision of the sacred as embodied, immanent and transcendental.

What is at stake when we forget to acknowledge the value of the invisible in living systems? It seems to me that without taking the invisible into account there is nothing left for scientific enquiry. Perhaps the “invisible,” or Spirit, as it is known by some, or the “unknown” as it is known in some Eastern traditions, is the common ground of science and spirituality. This common ground can be visualized as system-continuum from individuality to commonality, from empirical to transcendental views of “reality”—it morphs or dissolves into something else at every phase, going from abstract to concrete and to abstract again—and, like life itself seems to emerge out of “nothing.” Then, what is the value of spiritual experience if it does not make us instruments or agents of compassion and preservation when biotic systems of life are at stake?

It is in the light of these merging, re-emerging, manifesting and dissolving experiences, and the mystery of our own visible and invisible sacred spaces, that women are addressing “interlocking systems of oppression”[3] in religion, politics and economics, from multiple standpoints like gender, class, ethnicity, and other sub-categories, in order to gestate a biotic community of interrelated systems of cooperation.

Prepatriarchal and nonpatriarchal cultures keep inspiring and informing us, western feminists and ecofeminists have drawn extraordinary strength from women who have preserved matrilineal indigenous traditions. While paradoxically in the West, or the so-called “First World,” I agree with Judith Plant that, “With God, and his righthand Man, at the “center of the universe”—conceived of as the hierarchical Chain of Being—there is no room for anyone or anything else in the driver’s seat.”[4] In “The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics, Charlene Spretnak defines spirituality as, “The focusing of human awareness on the subtle aspects of existence, a practice that reveals to us profound interconnectedness.”[5] This interconnectedness embodies living spirituality, as we bridge actions from the invisible intentions within to the visible web of life in a continuum using our whole beings: energy-matter-emotions-Spirit. Even though I agree with Spretnak about the need “to encourage ecofeminist philosophical consideration of radical nonduality,”[6] I find that to lend a sense of urgency to achieving radical nonduality trivializes a spiritual achievement that in many indigenous spiritual traditions, as well as in the perennial philosophy, is explained as a culmination or perfection of disciplines through many embodiments. Part of the problem possibly stems from distorted patriarchal interpretations given to the term “duality” and “nonduality.” But discussing Spretnak’s suggestions from the perspective of the meaning of nonduality in the perennial philosophy of India would require a different essay.

On the other hand, the “denigration of nature,”[7] as Spretnak points out, remains perpetuated through the advent of modernity in dualistic thinking modes prevalent in Western philosophy and culture. Here it is interesting to note that the term “dualism” as interpreted by Spretnak refers to polarities and dyads like man/woman, victim/oppressor, nature/spirit, while “dualism” in Indian and Eastern spirituality refers to ontological polarity perspectives like object/subject experience, individual-God, life-death, dharma/adharma, microcosm/macrocosm, etc. She also points out to the “anti-life” patriarchal ways “based on nature’s destruction and women’s subjugation,” in the words of Indian physicist Vandana Shiva, Spretnak concludes that “ecofeminists are drawn to practices and orientations that nurture experiences of nonduality and loving reverence for the sacred whole that is the cosmos.”[8]

In her anthology, “Ecofeminism” Karen J. Warren states that, “According to ecofeminists, nature is a feminist issue. Just as there is not one feminism, there is not one ecofeminism, or one ecofeminist philosophy.”[9] For Warren it is helpful to “visualize ecofeminist philosophy as the intersection of three spheres:[10] 1) feminism, 2) native, indigenous, local perspectives, and 3) science, development and technology;[11] she insists that we take empirical data seriously, giving due attention to the role of women in preserving trees, forests, rivers, food, farming, technology, toxins, environmental racism, children, and the sexist-naturist language. While Charlene Spretnak emphasizes that, “The central insight of ecofeminism is that a historical, symbolic, and political relationship exists between the denigration of nature and the female in Western cultures.”[12] After laying down the Eurocentric historical background that informs the so called “First World,” she proceeds to elaborate on ecofeminist philosophy, political activism and spirituality. It is interesting to point out that Spretnak, Christ, Collins, Warren Pintchman, Irigaray, Franzmann, and many other feminist theAlogists and ecofeminists, acknowledge “The validity of noncognitive and nonlinguistic knowledge (as well as conceptual and analytical modes of knowing),”[13] and a most of them insist on women creating new language to define women’s experience in the center of home, community and societies.

For Judith Plant ecofeminism is a response to fear and alienation. After men and women, humanity and the rest of nature have been separated in the name of profit, “This movement has a lot to do with learning to live with differences.”[14] Another manifestation of patriarchal exploitation of nature that concerns ecofeminists is the appropriation of land, expatriation of indigenous people prevalent in a patriarchal sense of entitlement over land through colonial occupations. In “Learning to Live with Differences,” Judith Plant addresses some of the historical events which have contributed to the progressive and systemic collapse of biotic societies. Plant, like Starhawk, speak of a “culture of estrangement”[15] where “The basis of power-over, of domination of one over the other, comes from a philosophical belief that has rationalized exploitation on such a massive scale that we now not only have extinguished other species but have also placed our own species on a trajectory toward self-destruction.”[16]

In addition to a power-over society where “Power over is the order of the day,”[17] a concept that Plant shares with ecofeminist Petra Kelly, Andy Smith addresses colonial issues which have been relegated to “non-question” and “non-data” in both the US environmental justice movement and in ecofeminisim. As a woman of color born in Puerto Rico, a US colony for over 100 years, patriarchal false sense of entitlement aimed at appropriating land and cultures touches me profoundly. The “non-question” and “non-data” issues of US imperial presence imposed over our culture, and the oppressive presence of U.S. military bases in the Island-nation of Puerto Rico lead to deep, personal and spiritual issues that affect me and every woman of color in the Island.[18] But, the deplorable US military and/or imperial occupation in most of the Americas south of Turtle Island, which consists of 35 sovereign states, 23 in North and Central America and 12 in South America,  is not contained to my Island of birth. The newcomer’s “notion of hierarchy” and its pretenses of “democracy” forced upon people immersed in consensual traditions[19] introduced a catastrophic “abuse of nature in the name of profit.”  Here Plant points out to important academic work in US and Canada “revealing how the US Constitution, through Benjamin Franklin and Tom Paine, was very much influenced by the Iroquois, Or Haudenossaunee, form of democracy.”[20] A system where “leaders belong to the people.”[21] Ah, but aren´t they called public servants? It is only a name. This “Forcing ‘democracy’ on a consensual people reveals how little the ‘democratic process’ can be trusted to deal fairly with ethnic and cultural differences.”[22] And we call this civilization? I invite women, especially mothers, to invite within the center of family reunions where there are children, the important question of whether we live in a civilized society.  I strongly believe we don’t.

While Plant gives us deeper insight into white men’s destruction of First Nation people and their ways of life, the hegemonic out of control power of transnationals, megacorporations with a goal for “complete control of the global economic and political order,” she makes us aware that ecofeminists want to listen to the wealth of knowledge from the First People about ending the underlying fear of death in this male dominated society,[23] a fear that is opportunistically exploited for profit by the industry of so-called “mental health” professionals, the importance of returning to bioregionalism, diversity as a “sign of a healthy and stable ecosystem,”[24] and the hope that “Out of the dark ages of fear and power-over there is emerging a way of being for humanity which we can barely comprehend but to which we are attracted like bees to honey.”[25] All pointing out to renewed hopes in recovering our interconnections.

In her essay Plant elaborates on five hundred years of European people’s abuse of the First People, and the old order “Fear of difference and its desperate need to control the world…” while giving little attention to the even more diverse group of US diasporic African people of color, apart from a cursory mention to “white over black”[26] oppression. As I struggle to contain this essay within some boundaries, I wonder what contributed to her ignoring the abuses inflicted on people of color, their greater ethnic, social and cultural diversity and their contributions for “Learning to Live with Differences.” I find Dorceta E. Taylor’s empirical data research significant to our better understanding the centuries of Eurocentric terrorism and oppression over indigenous people whose struggles show us many ways to recover a balance between matter and spirit for future generations.

In “Women of Color, Environmental Justice and Ecofeminism,” Dorceta E. Taylor exposes the dissonance found in communication attempts across women of color, the environmental justice movement and ecofeminism. Taylor points out that “Ecofeminists match the racial and socioeconomic profiles of traditional environmentalists… [who do not] even recognize womanism.” [27] Ecofeminists are not fully nor adequately understanding the difference in experience and “the differences between white women and women of color.”[28]

The complexity in this need to acknowledge and be open to honor differences is further confirmed in Taylor’s claim that, “According to ecofeminist scholars, there are four types of feminism—liberal, Marxist, radical and socialist—and two kinds of ecofeminism arising from them: radical ecofeminism and socialist ecofeminism.”[29] One can observe how patriarchal political, cultural, educational, and corporate strategies succeed in their aims to “divide and conquer” women’s efforts. One can see how the effects of internalized oppression thrive by keeping women divided, and challenging ecofeminist solidarity. But ecofeminists are creating a unifying language, theory and more empathetic actions leading to leadership towards greater social justice.

As ecofeminist and panentheist, I reject the futility of academic theories which serve little to reach women in privileged groups about how to recognize, listen, value and learn from the insights and the contributions of marginalized women and women of color. By this I am referring to the little application of high sounding academic jargon which Chandra Talpade Mohanty argues obstructs women’s solidarity. In very simple terms, as a white-black woman, and a black-white ecofeminist whether I am certain, by DNA testing or empirical data, or not, of being part of such a rich interracial privilege or not, I am aware and conscious of embodying the ripples of sorrow from unending abuses and indignities perpetrated against women of color, and am immensely enriched by the intelligence, resilience, dignity and generosity of indigenous women everywhere. The open wounds of women of color, and their vulnerability reach me in physical, emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual ways. I used to define myself as a radical ecofeminist, but after assimilating the abuses and deliberate systems of oppression that keep excluding women from deciding their futures and the future of their communities, my mission is that of a radical, socialist, womanist-ecofeminist woman of color. Is it possible that sometime in a past embodiment, I may have been the white oppressor, without being conscious of how to separate from destructive socio-pathologies? Ending the abusive male monoculture depends on women’s solidarity with women of all colors who “will not be lulled into thinking there has been fundamental change and will continue to raise questions about typologies and definitions.” [30]

I agree with Taylor that “The political activism of women of color in environmental justice movements is very complex.” [31] These women are not only interested in seeking “liberation only for themselves,”[32] they are fighting gender issues, racial and sexual discrimination, inequality, civil rights, labor rights and colonial, and imperial structures.  “They are dominated not only by white men but also by men of color and by white women.”[33] I also agree that “gender equality for women of color means something quite different from what it means for white women.”[34]

The many dimensions of women of color activism and their contributions to the environmental justice movement include redefining what is considered “environmental,” working with research and evidence, increase the communication among women and across issues, building alliances, including civil and environmental rights alternative focus, creating better political strategies about the differences and similarities with ecofeminism,  issues of race and domination, racial and sexual equality, social class, environmental justice, theory, politics and activism among other emerging issues.

When Taylor exposes the little attention that has been given to many issues which “have disproportionate impacts on people of color,”[35] and that “It is time for ecofeminists to increase their awareness of these problems and their commitment to work with women of color to improve conditions…” it is significant that she cautions all women to do so, “without being domineering or imperialistic.” [36] It is in this context that the NIMBY campaign (not in my backyard) movement and “environmental justice activists looked at the relationship between class, race, power, control, money, and the exposure of environmental  hazards and saw that increasing numbers of undesirable facilities and land uses were being foisted in communities of color after they were successfully blocked in other communities.”[37] This may require further preparation as white women purge themselves from the internalized mechanisms of male oppression which have prevailed for centuries and keep emerging in tensions which also divide white women groups.

Communities of people of color continue being the target of increasing toxic dump sites, increased health hazards, and manifold environmental injustices. Taylor adds that, “For a long time environmentalists did not recognize that certain issues and activities had disproportionate negative impacts on communities of color; if they were aware of the impacts, they paid no attention to them. [… And] did not consider people of color to be part of the constituency they served;”[38] therefore, the crimes committed against people of color became “non-questions” and “non-data.” Contrary to feminists, who sometimes inform us from divergent standpoints, ecofeminists like Spretnak and Taylor intersect and agree in areas like spirituality, politics, theory and activism. But the environmental justice movement sets itself apart from ecofeminism and the environmental movement in that it is concerned with distributive justice and corrective justice.[39]

The voice of Judith Plant in “Learning to Live with Differences” provides an interesting contrast with Taylor’s essay and the “challenge of the ecofeminist community” as Plant describes how “the delicate balance of life became disrupted.”[40] Plant reports on what most of us experience in a “culture of estrangement,”[41] and proposes ecofeminism as “a response to fear and alienation”[42] Plant takes a look at Western civilization, what I called the uncivil self-denominated civilized, “and how we might do something about healing these relationships.”[43]

Plant brings to this work “the committed belief that humanity must turn toward ecocommunity: the creation of vibrant and sustainable human communities…”[44] For her the most essential feature of ecofeminist thought is that “all oppressions—whether men over women, First World over Third World, north over south, white over black, adults over children, human beings over other species, society over nature—have their roots in common… a philosophical belief that has rationalized exploitation on such a massive scale that we…have also placed our own species on a trajectory toward self-destruction.”[45]

Hierarchical structures, the notion of power over, centuries of violence, the concept of “rights’ which actually serves to keep us separated from each other and the land,[46] European philosophical perspectives of self-interest—which has given us today a system of government and a way of being in the world that is self-centered, twisted, distorted, and very seriously out of balance[47]—the insistence on forcing “democracy” on a consensual people, and the unholy alliance of corporate policemen and mega-corporations goal is complete control of the global economic and political order.[48]  Plant proposes that “Among the many strands of thought and action helping to uncover the lies and half-baked truths of Western civilization is ecofeminism.” [49]

Most feminists would agree with Taylor that radical ecofeminists “are critical of worship of a father god[…] claiming that replacement of goddesses with a transcendental god was linked to the rise of patriarchy, male dominance, wars, and the devaluation and destruction of nature.”[50] What Spretnak calls “the logic of domination” is on its way to be dissolved by the other half of the human race. As Karen J. Warren confirms, “Feminism is intrinsically a movement to end racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism.”[51] And ecofeminism is bringing together women from all traditions, indigenous, womanist-feminist, mujeristas and even women from the ecology movement who learn about the contributions of ecofeminists and indigenous women who hold the ancient wisdom from their ancestors centuries of listening and learning from the ways of the land, the rivers, the mountains, the birds and all the living forest. And this wisdom reveals to us that we are One. Women will keep inspiring the need to honor and enjoy our differences. We are all a continuum web/river of life experience seeking to sing in distinctive voices.


Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought, Sociology 319 –Contemporary Social Theories, March 24, 2006 .

Plant, Judith. “From Learning to Live with Differences: The Challenge of Ecofeminist Community,” in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, edited by Karen J. Warren, 122-139. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997

Spretnak, Charlene, “From Critical and Constructive Contributions of Ecofeminism.” In Worldviews and Ecology, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John A. Grim, 181-89.  Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1993.

Spretnak, Charlene. “From Preface: The First Twenty Years.” In The Politics of Women’s Spirituality: Essays by Founding Mothers of the Movement, edited by Charlene Spretnak, xi-xxi. New York: Doubleday, 1982.

Taino Indians Counted Out of Existence!

Taylor, Dorceta E. “From Women of Color, Environmental Justice and Ecofeminism.” In Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, edited by Karen J. Warren, 38-81. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997.

Warren, Karen J. editor. Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997.

[1] Charlene Spretnak, “From Preface: The First Twenty Years, in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality: Essays by Founding Mothers of the Movement, ed.  Charlene Spretnak (New York: Doubleday, 1982), xiii.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Patricia Hill Collins, “Black Feminist Thought,” Sociology 319 –Contemporary Social Theories, March 24, 2006 .

[4] Judith Plant, “From Learning to Live with Differences: The Challenge of Ecofeminist Community,” in Women, Culture, Nature, ed. Karen J. Warren (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997), 126.

[5] Charlene Spretnak, “The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics,” (New Mexico: Bear & Company, 1986), 41.

[6] Charlene Spretnak, “From Radical Nonduality in Ecofeminist Philosophy,” in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, ed. Karen J. Warren (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997), 425.

[7] Ibid., 182.

[8] Ibid., 188.

[9] Karen J. Warren, “From Taking Empirical Data Seriously: An Ecofeminist Philosophical Perspective,” in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, ed. Karen J. Warren (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997), 4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 5.

[12] Charlene Spretnak, “From Critical and Constructive Contributions of Ecofeminism,” in Worldviews and Ecology, ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John A. Grim (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1993), 181.

[13] Spretnak, “From The Politics… in “Preface,” xviii.

[14] Plant, 131.

[15] Ibid, 120.

[16] Ibid., 121.

[17] Ibid., 123.

[18]Taino Indians Counted Out of Existence,”!

[19] Plant, 125.

[20] Ibid., 122.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 125.

[23] Ibid., 128.

[24] Ibid., 139.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 121.

[27] Dorceta Taylor, “From Women of Color, Environmental Justice and Ecofeminism,” in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, ed. Karen J. Warren,(Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997) , 62.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., 63.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., 68.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Dorceta E. Taylor, Women of Color , 49.

[38] Dorceta E. Taylor, Women of Color, 38.

[39] Ibid. 42.

[40] Judith Plant, “From Learning to Live with Differences: The Challenge of Ecofeminist Community,” in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, ed. Karen J. Warren,(Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997), 120.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid., 126.

[43] Ibid, 121.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid, 123.

[47] Ibid., 123.

[48] Ibid., 125.

[49] Ibid., 127.

[50] Dorceta E. Taylor, Women of Color, 66.

[51] Warren, Ecofeminism, 4.

Women Spirituality and Activism for Social Justice Through the Waves —Complex Work and Simple Spirituality

 Women Spirituality and Activism for Social Justice Through the Waves

—Complex Work and Simple Spirituality


Vrinda Jamuna Shakti

[Essay first submitted as course requirement in “Womanist-Feminist Worldviews—First and Second Wave Euro-American Feminists & Women Spirituality Foremothers” with Professors Arisika Razak and Mara Keller, Women’s Spirituality Program, California Institute of Integral Studies] March 2011

When the importance given to comfort (status quo) stagnates the imperative need for social changes, have we considered how much each one of us has to change to reach basic human civility, social  and spiritual justice? There may be more questions than answers at this point. 

Simplicity, brilliance and elegance are usually recognized as the main characteristics of spiritual traditions and the perennial philosophy; while complexity and dangers can be regarded as natural effects and characteristics of the pursuit to solving international conflicts and social injustices through political activism. Here I will attempt to address the significance and the presence of the Goddess in Women’s Spirituality throughout the first, second and third waves and the social injustices that marked each stage; in addition to offering a few notes on the importance of giving emphasis of the continuity in women traditions from pre-first and post third wave movements. The old adage, “Divide and conquer” is a concept worth noting in our eagerness to label and categorize eras and phases of feminism, because by doing so we lose the underlying value of women’s solidarity, and we negate the efforts and existence of all those who fall in between one wave and another, as in the case of “baby boomers.” Are feminist baby boomers considered Second Wave? And what about the daughters of baby boomers who have not identified with the characteristics of Third Wave? As we create categories that divide us, we are open to be “conquered” or further vulnerated. As an uninterrupted and continuous presence, women´s spirituality has remained an intensely unifying principle in women’s efforts towards social justice throughout the ages. Like a kaleidoscopic pattern that integrates diversity in a unifying system, I will attempt to bring close and weave some ways in which women’s spirituality has maintained the bonds of solidarity and tradition.

I write from the standpoint of a revolutionary spiritualist, and also from the standpoint of one who is immersed in womanist-feminist the(a)logy. I say that Vedanta is revolutionary because wouldn’t you agree that the statement, “Only Brahman is real, the world is unreal,” is revolutionary enough? Even though this Brahman which informs us through its attributes from subtle to gradually denser like unconscious, consciousness, intelligence, discursive mind, ego identity, senses and body, which are obviously transient and mortal, in its subtlest, formless aspect It is not. Therefore, Vedanta as a standpoint is revolutionary, because all that is unreal can be created. This world where humans interact with nature is a story waiting to be retold. And woman in all her roles, as teacher, as mother, as elder, has the power to retell this story and, in doing so, redefine human identity, if only She knew her capacity to inform a different and better reality. My humble position within this standpoint is that of one who is daily engaged in growing into this awareness; by no means an overnight attainment. It can take more than a thousand incarnations, but even in a glimmer it informs us of unbound power within.

What other beliefs describe first wave feminists in addition to being identified as suffragists, liberals, Marxists, Socialists, radical anarchists, and members of the abolitionist movement? Cynthia Eller describes the first victories of the foremothers of first wave feminism, “Elizabeth Gould Davis in The First Sex, gives the most extensive coverage to this phase of feminist spirituality’s sacred history, beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft and the publication of her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1791. Others date the first wave of feminism—as many contemporary feminists do—to the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York.” [1] Referring to the Convention, Zsuzzanna Budapest stated, “On this day the most important love gift to both sexes was conceived—equality. The Goddess moved our sisters Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to begin the liberation of women then at Seneca Falls… There is no doubt in my mind that with all that politicking, they instinctively called on the higher powers.”[2]

Furthermore, the present deplorable interplay of global patriarchal violence and exploitation is self-destructive. While others consider that the main issues addressed by first wave feminists were suffrage and unionization of women workers, Eller quotes Diane Stein’s views that, “The first wave of feminism… addressed the issues of women’s rights, of patriarchy and religion.”[3] And Eller goes on to address the important contributions of Matilda Joslyn Gage, Virginia Woolf, and Theosophists Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant to what she calls “protofeminist spirituality.”

Gage captures best the spirit of first wave feminists of her times in the inscription and dedication of her book, Woman, Church and State:

This Book is Inscribed to the Memory of my Mother, who was at once mother, sister, friend:

Dedicated to all Christian women and men, of whatever creed or name who, bound by Church or State, have not dared to Think for Themselves:

Addressed to all Persons, who, breaking away from custom and the usage of ages, dare seek Truth for the sake of Truth. To all such it will be welcome; to all others, aggressive and educational. –Matilda Joslyn Gage[4]

The Goddess in women spirituality is about Spirit identity, fulfillment and freedom; not irresponsible freedom, but sustainable freedom, which includes social and environmental global justice. Most would agree that women are entrusted the most sacred role of birthing life to Earth, but we need to expand on our own concepts about our cosmic role and contributions because women’s role in the creation of humanity extends beyond birthing. Women´s role extends into what Arisika Razak calls the “critical need our society has to make a new model for human interaction.”[5]

Second Wave feminism was characterized again by liberal, Marxist, Socialist, radical, but moved away from an anarchist orientation while exploring social justice and awareness of lesbian, Third World, spiritual and ecofeminism as its main issues. Cynthia Eller wrote that “Elizabeth Gould Davis sums up and draws the natural conclusion from this state of affairs: ‘The ages of masculism are now drawing to a close. Their dying days are lit up by a final flare of universal violence and despair such as the world has seldom before seen… Any and all social reforms superimposed upon our sick civilization can be no more effective than a bandage on a gaping and putrefying wound.”[6]

Patriarchal powers have overstepped the limits of greed, life forms and Earth’s exploitation. Eisler says, “What may lie ahead is the final bloodbath of this dying system’s violent efforts to maintain its hold.  But the death throes of androcracy could also be the birth pangs of gylany and the opening of a door into a new future.”[7] But yet, we need to retrace and reevaluate the sorrowful ways in which women have colluded with their own victimization, fears and ignorance. Women as mothers are empowered with the sacred responsibility to inform the developing individual about her or his identity, and to awaken Divine Consciousness in all. But first, in order for women to promote the emergence of Goddess identity in womankind, we need to embody that which we represent; we cannot give or transmit qualities that we do not have. This bears repeating, before women can inspire the Goddess potential in her offspring and a divine identity in humanity, she herself must embody the Goddess. Whether physically or emotionally birthing the child in its formative years, educating as teachers, mentors, partners and/or encountering the chaos and harm caused by political systems which have been led by imperialist oppression, greed and exploitation of all life forms, women are literally at the center of life.

What we consider our human experience includes consciousness of the physical body and world, and an invisible, or unmanifest, field of mind—personal and collective—in addition to the subtlest energies of unconscious consciousness, all in a continuum. This eludes the grasp of reason, especially in those who follow linear ways of thinking. Still, the responsibility to convey, inspire and transmit this continuum of experience—from physical to mental to emotional to spiritual—is what distinguishes women as Goddess, as mothers and as friends of humanity as a whole. The present state of chaos in the world has evolved after women have endured centuries of oppressive influences that have numbed the innate sense of agency to embody and inspire the qualities of enlightened Goddess and spiritual consciousness in the developing child and on her environment. Therefore, the inclusion of Goddess in women’s spirituality informs women of their identity at the center of life.

But, male centered spirituality keeps sending the message that the authoritative model of patriarchy is valid. “In a seminal article on this topic Carol Christ asserts that religions centered on worship of a male God generate conditions that keep women in a state of dependence on males and legitimate the political and social authority of men.”[8] But, what is Goddess identity or Goddess consciousness? Consciousness, being intangible and abstract, is best described by its effects. Consciousness is the medium through which we are aware of the body, mind, emotions, and Spirit; the subtlest of all energies, which moves us throughout the complex experiences of life. Furthermore, through consciousness, we also have access to waking, dream and deep sleep consciousness, which can guide us into a deeper analysis of our interpenetrating identity from body awareness to transcendent spirit; but such analysis would be the topic of another essay. Goddess consciousness informs the body, mind and personality of women’s identity. And this identity is probably the only power that can emerge from within us to help create an effective change in human consciousness from destructive to creative ways of living. Though consciousness transcends body identification and empirical categorizations, its effect in human aspiration manifests in our drive to know, to exist and to enjoy the experience of uninterrupted awareness, knowledge and bliss—Sat-Chid-Ananda—the Sanskrit term for the Divine unrelated to gender and defined in terms of qualities. Consciousness also moves us to direct our efforts towards an integral understanding of ourselves as women embodying the Goddess potential and ideal by recognizing the interpenetrating presence of Goddess in all men and women leading us to a revolutionary change in identity necessary to preserve the marvel of our humanity. But, first we need to evaluate and change the social constructs and sociopathologies that disrupt the experience of our full spiritual potential. Is it healthy to feel anger when confronted with brutal social injustices?

As third wave feminism’s first voice, Rebecca Walker’s feelings were violently shaken during the time of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings (1992), when African American lawyer Anita Hill testified that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, “I had classes to go to, papers to write, and frankly, the whole thing was too painful. A black man grilled by a panel of white men about his sexual deviance. A black woman claiming harassment and being discredited by other women… I could not bring myself to watch that sensationalized assault on the human spirit… not about determining whether or not Clarence Thomas did in fact harass Anita Hill. They were about redefining the extent of women’s credibility and power.” Was a woman´s voice, self-worth, and injustice, that of Anita Hill, challenging “a structure predicated upon the subjugation of our gender?”[9]

But, Walker provides us with a clear cut and definitive assessment of this historic case when she concludes, “…its very real outcome is more informative. He was promoted. She was repudiated.” So, if the message to women is to “Shut up. Even if you speak, we will not listen.”[10] But what does being a Third Wave feminist means to Rebecca Walker? “To be a feminist is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of my life. It is to search for personal clarity in the midst of systemic destruction, to join in sisterhood with women when often we are divided, to understand power structures with the intention of challenging them.”[11]

“I am not a postfeminism feminist. I am the Third Wave.” –Rebecca Walker

How does Goddess spirituality inform us of ways to channel righteous indignation, even fierce anger, into the life force that moves our noblest mission towards social justice? Knowledge, action, even anger and direct experience are necessary for us to be cognizant of our embodied Goddess consciousness. Embodying the Goddess, by adopting a more Integral sense of being, women will help us all develop qualities that overshadow the past social constructs of women’s personality as weak, designed to comply with patriarchal demeaning concepts of women, and deliberately created to categorize women as commodities, excluding women from their position at the center of life.  Goddess consciousness helps women stop colluding in their own oppression. Changing the conversation at home, with all the members of the household, including the spouse and our children is an important first step to changing the negative pathological identities that social constructs have assigned to women. Every woman that follows fashion trends informing her of what beauty is, either to have plastic surgery, to be obsessive about pleasing others by the ways she looks or by molding her personality to compete with men by being assertive or a particular personality type to help her “win” and “succeed” in life, is colluding with her oppressor by being the slave of concepts that feed an economy which spends most of its revenues in feeding the war machinery, and which ends up harming mostly women and children.

Ordinary consciousness has led our world to its present deplorable condition; where the powerful and the wealthy oppress those who are judged to have less power and wealth. Women informed by Goddess identity will be responsible for pointing out to the moral relativism in our times. Goddess consciousness awakens prosperity in the home, society and the planet. US global and local corporate and political agendas informed by ordinary consciousness have led to exorbitant power in the hands the oppressor that abounds with greed, hatred, and ignorance, while making sure to promote more of the same—through toys and entertainment promoting violence for profit—in the oppressed. The task before us is beyond human comprehension, but a revolutionary transformation in women’s identity to Goddess identity can bring us the redeeming force to gradually birth a new humanity in a few more generations. Knowledge of women’s Goddess identity is the beginning to end the destruction of man by man. We are no longer ignorant. The Goddess movement, the Next Wave, has begun.

As women uncover the layers of false identities imposed upon them for millennia, informed mostly by men—their own offspring—and share with one another the most powerful responsibility of birthing their own Goddess identity rooted in caring for all living systems, including the Earth, that awakened woman will, in turn, empower her child into their God and Goddess consciousness.

This is the potential of all human beings, the prophetic purpose of our being according to mystics of all spiritual traditions. How do we apply our spiritual sense of responsibility in practical ways that help other human beings? Seeking self-improvement and ways to embody the qualities of Goddess must inform us about how to live and promote a simpler life, gratitude and appreciation for the lives of others. Considering that our world has been in a state of ongoing war for more than one century, I bring in the suggestions of Coronel McGregor, a former warrior who questions the motives of our wars, when he says, “We need short, sharp and decisive changes in our military policies. As Madison said, ‘We need to stop our military going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

We were told that a hurricane of terrible destructive power took place approximately once every 70 years or so. In less than one decade we have lived through two tsunamis, the most recent one in Japan. Nature’s forces of destruction have been unleashed by irresponsible probing and applications of “modern” technology. This is the world that we all face now. A world where the children of mothers in the US are involved in terrorizing the children of mothers in many other places, and the monstrous war economy will keep growing until women redefine themselves and her offspring as Divine beings.

All spiritual traditions converge in defining Spirit as the interpenetrating essence and energy that moves matter and all beings. And the Spirit manifests as Goddess in the mothers, teachers and leaders roles, enlightening humanity of their Goddesses and Gods identities. I hope to expand on the unifying force of women´s spirituality and thealogy through distinct periods, events and movements in herstory. We are beginning to study the many ways in which Goddess spiritual traditions have been interpreted and applied; and it has not always resulted in positive social conditions for the men and women who have engaged in goddess spirituality. We need Goddess spirituality that informs women of benevolent and protective identities, as opposed to one possessed of indiscriminate destructive qualities. “The authentic female mind is our salvation.”[12]


Diamond, Irene, and Orenstein, Gloria. Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1990.

Eisler, Riane,

Eller, Cynthia. Living in the Lap of the Goddess. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1995.

Erndl, Kathleen M. Is the Goddess a Feminist?:the politics of South Asian Goddesses. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Freedman, Estelle B. The Essential Feminist Reader. New York: The Modern Library, 2007.

Gage, Matilda Joslyn. Women, Church and State. (1893).

Lorber, Judith. Gender Inequality: Feminist Theories and Politics. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Spretnak, Charlene. Toward an Ecofeminist Spirituality, within Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism (edited by Judith Plant). Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1989.




[1] Cynthia Eller, Living in the lap of the Goddess, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 176.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 177.

[4] Matilda Joslyn Gage, Woman, Church and State. (1983), 3.

[5] Diamond and Orenstein. Reweaving the World., (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1990), 165.

[6] Eller, Living, 179.

[8] Kathleen M. Erndl quoting Carol Christ in Is the Goddess a Feminist? 1979, 187.

[9] Estelle B. Freedman, The Essential Feminist Reader. (New York: The Modern Library, 2007), 398.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 400.

[12] Charlene Spretnak. Toward an Ecofeminist Spirituality, 132.

A Mixteca Woman Preserving the Lives of First Peoples

A Mixteca Woman Preserving the Lives of First Peoples

in the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, Mexico

by Vrinda Jamuna Shakti (Estela Pujals)

[Essay first submitted as course requirement in “Indigenous, Chicana, Latina Perspectives and Contributions” with Prof. Sandra Pacheco, Ph.D., Women’s Spirituality Program, CIIS]  March 30, 2012

 Copal is a kind of amber used as incense found in Mesoamerica. This earth-based and resilient resin provides us with an appropriate metaphor to describe the gentle nature of the Copaltecos, as the Triqui first nation people of San Juan Copala, who live besieged by the fires of corporate greed encroaching upon their Autonomous Territory, are known.  But as gentle as the Triqui people have been, there are serious oppressive forces threatening the very life of this people. Activist Bety Cariño gave her life in  the struggle for the autonomy and land sovereignty of San Juan Copala, the government is funding paramilitary forces to massacre and perpetrate ethnic cleansing for the profit of at least one Northern corporation. It is imperative for feminists in the US to recognize the efforts and self-determination of the indigenous Mixteca women. Feminists in the US need to address the ways in which belonging to a consumer society represents colluding with the empire against the Third World.

Even when I write from the standpoint of a panentheist mujerista, I hope to reduce whatever subjective awareness of oppression to ashes at the inexhaustible altar of the grief and suffering of my indigenous sisters and brothers from south of the Border. What importance can any personal grief have when observed from the standpoint or awareness of their sacrifices in daily life? I would also like to apologize in advance for the probably offensive and accusatory statements that I will be directing to the privileged theologists, spiritualists and Christian good people in the U.S.—offensive  to those who assume a defensive position, not to the compassionate ones.

RECONSIDER: This essay is an attempt to make the transformative, inspiring leadership and spiritual drive of Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo, significant as it is in the persistent struggle of the Triqui first people in the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copala more broadly known among my peers in hopes to invite further analysis about indigenous Mixteca mujeristas. It is not possible to explore the multiple aspects of indivisible systems of community solidarity at more length in this brief essay.  I hope that more human rights activist mujeristas, feminists and indigenous nations defenders make it their mission to lend more support to the struggles for survival of the peace loving Triqui people.

Not covered in this essay are issues of the colonization of other indigenous communities close or far away from the Triqui and Mixteca people of Oaxaca and from other lands within America, the America from Arctic to Antarctic. There is also little time and space for me to mention the many elements of linguistic appropriation by the imperial culture of the US in, for example, the essentialist, expansionist and genocidal misuse of the word “American” in English language—as if the other America, about 35 sovereign states, do not exist. This is only one of the many issues that point out to the height of US government’s imperial arrogance—the US media does not cover the US perpetrated terrorism against the others: the faceless Americans. I would like to encourage more discussions and studies confronting these issues in other essays. However, I hope for the written word to raise its loud and deafening cry at the injustices that corporate and colonial interests keep perpetuating in our own “back yard” or México (not to mention the rest of Central, South America and Puerto Rico).

Early in 2010 I learned about the plight of the people of the autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala and the valor of Beatriz Alberta (Bety) Cariño Trujillo, who at that time was preparing the Second Humanitarian Caravan. Cariño was the founder and director of CACTUS (Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos/Centre for Community Support Working Together), a non-profit organization defending the Triqui farmers displaced by government armed and funded paramilitary groups (UBISORT-PRI, MULT, MULT-I). Cariño also organized women’s collectives in northern Oaxaca and was an advocate for the indigenous people´s right to autonomy and their sovereign access to land, food and water. She dedicated her life in defense of the human rights of the Triqui and Mixteca people, and to improve the quality of life and the civic participation of the women in San Juan Copala and other regions. One thing that impressed me the most about the Triqui people was their efforts in adhering to nonviolent ways of conflict resolution. Despite being unarmed, they persisted with dignity to preserve the land of their ancestors, their solidarity and their traditions, even if this meant confronting armed paramilitaries who assassinated their most vocal leaders.

In the year 2005 the Triquis reached a population of 786 inhabitants, and by 2010 their population was reduced to 630 inhabitants, some of whom had been assassinated, while many “disappeared” and others were displaced outside the autonomous territory.

The Triqui people have been subjected to near starvation as well as blockades of food, medicine and medical care. As of today, there have been five massive Caravans of well wishers in solidarity with their struggles, people from surrounding communities who have risked their lives by joining efforts to take foods, medical and hygienic supplies to the People of the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala.  In an article from Waging Nonviolence, an online “People-powered news and analysis” journalist Michael Perillo reports that,  “Ubisort also prevents damaged electricity cables and a busted pipe that delivers the community’s water supply from being repaired, forcing residents to use a contaminated water source. Moreover, sharpshooters who surround the area have kept the community under permanent fear.”[1] Amnesty International also explains why 700 Triqui people are being killed, “San Juan Copala […] declared itself an autonomous municipality in 2007. This means it governs itself through the traditional indigenous practices and does not recognize the authority of existing public officials.”[2] Therefore, while transnational corporations force their access by bribing state authorities in order to “develop” they actually steal, plunder and destroy the people of Copala’s indigenous territory.

The Triqui People of San Juan Copala have asserted that, “Because our communal struggle, through a peaceful organization, seeks to do away with the repression, imposition and cruel treatment to which we were subjected, first by the governments and then by ‘organizations’ which, rooted in lies and corruption, have taken from us our word, our decisions and have taken our right to live as first peoples; we don’t have weapons, we don’t need them: we know that with organization and with the solidarity of the people of Mexico and of the world we will soon attain a life of peace, with justice and dignity.”[3]  This is such a rare demonstration of valor and true heroism. Where in the U.S. do we encounter people facing corruption with this persistent boldness and valor, even at the risk of ethnic cleansing? The Triqui People are an inspiration to the first nations within and outside of the United States. At the present time in the U.S., more and more corporations profit from people’s fears: security-surveillance related businesses, people with anxiety related diagnosis seeking counseling or psychological assistance, culminating in the mass hysteria of a Department of National “Security” in a country where there is no people security. In this climate, it is inspiring to listen to the testimony of Bety Cariño at the Front Line Dublin Platform state, “They are afraid of us because we are not afraid of them.”[4] Cariño was not present at the Mexican Congress in March 2002, as Comandanta Esther, a Zapatista leader from the southern state of Chiapas urged those gathered there, “I want to explain the situation of women as we live in our communities, […],” but, “I am not telling you this so you pity us. Comandanta Esther’s discourse should convince those intellectuals removed from the daily life of indigenous people that culture is not monolithic, not static […] many indigenous women want both to transform and to preserve their culture.”[5] As a mujerista indigenous leader, Cariño was driven to transform and to preserve the culture and the ancestral lands, including the ancestral air, water and fire of her ancestors.

“On 27 April 2010, at approximately 14:40, a humanitarian group made up of 30 human rights defenders as well as international observers were on their way to San Juan Copala to deliver provisions like foods and medicines to indigenous communities who have been under siege by armed groups.”[6] The caravan was ambushed. Paramilitaries linked to the government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz blocked the road ahead with large boulders, while UBISORT paramilitaries (Union for the Well-Being of the Triqui Region) opened fire on the unarmed members of the caravan. Betty Cariño, founder of Community Support Center Working Together, CAUCUS and Jyri Jaakkola, an international solidarity activist from Finland, were killed, while others were wounded in their attempt to run away from their attackers. The stunning courage of Betty Cariño asserting the human rights of the people of San Juan Copala, challenging the criminal stance of the colonial patriarchal government resulted in her assassination during the paramilitary ambush to the caravan in support of the Triqui people of the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copalá. Without the collaboration and solidarity of a committed feminist and mujerista activist like Bety Cariño, and he organization CAUCUS, the Triqui of San Juan Copala are now forced into extinction. More recent searches show that CAUCUS, the organization founded by Cariño, is no longer active.

At the First Indigenous Women’s Summit of the Americas decolonizing efforts on the part of indigenous mujeristas was loud and clear. Whereas most Mexicans pay homage and reverence to Catholic authorities, “The indigenous women’s response is a significant expression of a newly gained spirit of autonomy and self-determination. The women’s declaration, in both tone and content, also speaks of the erosion of the [c]hurch’s dominion over indigenous worlds. These poor unschooled women have shown themselves to be braver and less submissive than some feminist negotiators at a recent United Nations meeting with Vatican representatives.”[7]

The Sixth caravan in support of Triqui autonomy, February 4, 2012.

 [On]  (February 5th 2012) the sixth caravan in support of the Triqui autonomy will depart the historic site of San Salvador Atenco, after the 2nd encounter of displaced people at Universidad de Chapingo. However, as a result of the strike in such an important venue for students and workers struggles, the event was transferred to San Salvador Atenco where the community is also faced with threats of being displaced in favor of capitalist megaprojects, like the attempt to build an airport in their territory, and now they confront the prospect of yet another project.[8]  [Original text in Spanish, translated by Vrinda Pujals]

Other issues—A Climate of Impunity and Resistance[9]

Is the NAFTA superhighway yet in place? Is the evidence of the North American Union, an economic construct which supersedes the notion of national borders in favor of profit or the so called “Economy” (the economy that profits a few is no economy to the People, the native or oppressed people) a covert way of imposing the free-for-all of an economy without borders for corporate/banking/political powers? Can an “Economy” designed by bankers married to political power co-exist with the intended concepts of democracy in the U.S.? The same borders that are blurred into nonexistence by the North American Union agreements in place between US, Canadian, and Mexican governments, conveniently exist in monolithic “Immigration Laws” to punish and to profit from the poor people who cross them. The US Immigration and Customs  Enforcement, ICE, and the Department of Homeland Security, insecurity to most of the planet, are arms designed as a profiting machinery oppressing destitute, so called “immigrants,” who have to abide by the “laws and borders” imposed by an oppressive nepotism  posing as democracy.  Why is it so difficult to demonstrate to the People of the US that the borders meant to separate Mexico, Canada and US in order to criminalize migrant workers are the same borders blurred to non-existence by the opportunistic NAFTA , North American Free Trade Agreement? Learning and teaching in the US would be easier were the people of this country not mesmerized and brainwashed by the Media and alienating forms of entertainment.

The deplorable crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people of the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala have attracted the attention and solidarity of the governments of Norway, Finland and France. Maureen Meyer,[10] Chief Coordinator of Programs for Mexico and Central America at the Washington Office on Latin America, WOLE, redacted a letter to Gabino Cué Monteagudo, Governor of Oaxaca, requesting that his administration protect the Triqui people of the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copala, in no uncertain terms. At the end of her letter Maureen Meyer explicitly stated that she expected a response in writing from the governor of Oaxaca.[11]

One may wonder if the very name “Autonomous Municipality” carries within it a kind of contradiction preventing or limiting the possibilities of more widespread international support. It is perhaps easier to conceive of an autonomous “territory” than to conceive of an autonomous municipality. The very term “Municipality” conveys the sense of a hamlet, village, a small community… an area not likely to harness the international support that the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copala would attract were it a territory and not a “municipality.” According to Mixteca attorney Francisco López Bárcenas[12], Oaxaca contains 16 indigenous nations, and the Triqui People are one among these 16, while the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copala extends over 517.6 km2.[13]

It is important to understand the displacement of the People in Triqui territory of Oaxaca in the context of the expansion plans and other “needs” of the former Continuum, now Fortuna Silver Mines, Inc., for greater access and free range to develop an airport and all the other infrastructures required for the mining, exploitation and excavations in the Oaxaca region.

On January 23, 2012, in the open source online site Intercontinental Cry, Ahni reported on Zapotec protesters being shot on behalf of “Fortuna Silver Mines.”[14] While some may contend that the Canadian mining interests bring “progress” to the Oaxaca region, I consider this so called progress meaningless to people who are facing extinction, while their ancestral region is enriching the pockets of corrupt officials and foreign investors. For obvious reasons, this is the kind of news that the mainstream media covers only from the perspective of the Canadian mining company, and not from the perspective of first peoples. One Zapotec was killed, and another man is in recovery after police officers and other armed men opened fire on a crowd of protesters in the municipality of San José del Progreso, Ocotlán, Oaxaca, Mexico. Shamelessly, the struggles of the first peoples of San Juan Copala, like those of most other natives are being officially covered under the smoke screen of a “war against organized crime.”[15] But, who are the criminals or the terrorists in this case, the people or the State? If we support t he State, where is our conscience? It should be with the oppressed.

The parallels between the Ley de Seguridad Nacional[16] [the so called “Law of National Security”] in México and the so called National Defense Authorization Act , 2012 NDAA, in the U.S. are too significant to be ignored. In the context of a borderless global economy, journalist Chris Hedges expounds further on the destructive fork tongued political dialogue where there are no borders, and apparently no limits, for the mafia of the so called “economy,” while it secures borders and laws erected to perpetuate crimes against humanity.[17] The very name and functions of the UBISORT paramilitaries (Union for the Well-Being of the Triqui Region) is significant and evocative of the euphemistic distortion of the state government, or the loyalties of the governor of Oaxaca. While the government loyalties are not with the people, the state and national administration sides with the paramilitaries who pose as defending the “well-being of the Triqui Region” while in fact the word “region” in this case means the defense of silver and gold mining interests of the Canadian miner Fortuna Silver. Defending Fortuna Silver’s interests is leading to massacres and the demise of the Mixteca and Triqui population defending their ancestral lands. The Triqui people’s defense of their ancestral lands represent an obstacle to the “well-being” of the Canadian  mining company that has secured legislation in favor of their surface soil and subterranean mining exploration and exploitation. The water used for the mining exploitation, estimated to last twelve years, diverts all underground water to Fortuna Silver, the mining company, and leaves the people in a vast territory and their water supply heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals for an indefinite length of time. For more on the Oaxaca mining project affecting over 34, 000 hectare, see the documentary Minas y Mentiras: La verdad sobre la mina Cuzcatlán en San José del Progreso (1 de 3). [18]

Bringing in the Rational Mind—Showing us spirituality, caring in action

Everyone experiences loss, but how can the personal losses experienced in my life, as a panentheist, ecofeminist woman who is relatively safe in the urban U.S. be of any significance to me while others, who are an extension of who I am, who are my own larger body (Virat),[19] inseparable from this interconnected breathing System-Universe called Earth, confront ethnic cleansing, the genocide of first peoples, bleeding communities displaced from one place to another, and women that lullaby their children to sleep thirsty and hungry night after night without water for basic hygiene nor medicine for their elders? How do I put the luxury of my peaceful life to work for those for whom peace is not a choice? I hear these people’s voices sobbing for their desire to live, even in my dreams.

The work of Bety Cariño was spirituality in action, whether her activism was fueled by a spiritual calling or not. He life was dedicated to protecting the lives and living conditions of those who were less fortunate. The so called First World and its leaders keep expanding the projections for consumerism, militarization, while corporate occupations and governments keep funding paramilitaries to carry out genocidal attacks against indigenous people (ethnic cleansing), while most of the people of the United States live in the midst of an economic collapse. In the midst of the present chaos, “First World” people, have much to learn from people who protect a small autonomous territory and farm their land, hold meetings of elders to keep the social order, support each other by celebrating and consuming the healing plants of the earth, and indigenous women can teach us much about sustainable ways of living, healing and dying in peace.

In what ways is our need for spiritual activism hampered by participating in a society which promotes the social club called churchgoers’ religion? Can one even be a mediocre Christian, Jew or Hindu and still support a status quo and ethnic cleansing so close to us, right in our back yard, in the southern tip of Mexico?

It is in this context that the ongoing repression and displacement of the people of San Juan Copala becomes an affront to the humanity of all freedom loving people. The assassination of first peoples, reasserted on April 27, 2010, with the ambush and shooting of human rights Mixteca activist Bety Cariño and Finnish human rights activist Jyri Jaakkola in La Sabana, a region controlled by the armed group Unión de Bienestar Social de la Región Triqui (UBICORT), a name which roughly and euphemistically translates as, “Social Welfare Union for the Triqui Region.” The Nordic male invaders that swept over egalitarian agricultural matrilineal societies, as detailed in the work of Marija Gimbutas, and the Spanish Conquerors who invaded the peoples of the original nations in the “New World,” are still informing the psycho-pathological attitudes of “divide and conquer” that the Eurocentric ruling patriarchal societies keep perpetuating for centuries and are again enacted in the massacres and murderous attacks, another form of “ethnic cleansing” against the Triqui indigenous people of the Autonomous Territory of San Juan Copala.

Reading Cherrie Moraga, I am made aware of the tremendous need for women activists in the Oaxaca region and elsewhere in Latin America. At a time when Moraga “began to make political the fact of being a Chicana”[20] she recalls her brother mentioning that he never felt “culturally deprived.” Moraga goes on to describe what many so called Latina women can relate to, how males in the household are served, sure with privileges like this there is no reason why males would feel culturally deprived. The one parallel that I find between Bety Cariño and Moraga’s feminism is the way in which each broke away from being the witness to atrocities, and worked for creating their own vision of what a more just world can be. Unlike Moraga, Cariño lives in a heterosexual family environment, but much like Moraga, she had a vision of how women can help each other beyond the socially acceptable normative values of kyriarchal society.

Philosophical ethnocentricity has served to silence the voices and positions of indigenous women. Feminist Sylvia Marcos gives greater emphasis to decolonizing efforts which, according to her, “should be grounded at the epistemological level.” This is precisely the context in which Bety Cariño challenged an establishment that perpetuates the colonization of indigenous people. Through her efforts at CACTUS she and others in the second caravan, challenged the colonizing stance of the government supported guerrillas, and this cost her her life. Like Cariño, many indigenous feminist women impose their efforts in ways that effectively correct what Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak calls “the international feminist tendency to matronize the Southern woman as belonging to gender oppressive second-class cultures.”[21] What is seen as by others as imposing, may be precisely what Marcos and other authors suggest by “decolonizing efforts […] grounded at the epistemological level.”[22] How else can one present a silenced, distorted and rejected indigenous epistemology to those who have imposed their culture and epistemology in your own land other than by being even more imposing, more persistent? The persistence of the Triqui and the Mixteca people is endless.

I hope that my voice contributes with a different flavor to a similar shout exposing the oppression against the Triqui nation. I believe that being a panentheist includes being a mujerista, feminist, womanist, ecofeminist, deep ecologist, and a radical and revolutionary spiritualist in solidarity with Bety Cariño and the indigenous women of San Juan Copala and the Mixteca first people of Oaxaca, Mexico. Even when I write from a different standpoint, I appreciate the academic contributions, the intimate narrative and transparency of standpoint of the self-described “movement writer”[23] and Chicana mujerista Cherrie Moraga.

In her important contribution Mujerista Theology, Ada María Isasi-Díaz describes her need for a systemic analysis, which also lays out the relationships possible between mujeristas and the oppressed, “To join the liberative praxis of the oppressed, and to have personal relationships with them, has enabled me to understand systemic oppression and to go beyond thinking, as my mother does, that persons are oppressed because they do not try hard enough to overcome the limitations of their situations.”[24] The understanding of this systemic oppression requires the in depth analysis of why are people oppressed. How do good people collude with the oppressor? How do good people stop being inactive witnesses supporting the status quo of oppression?

What makes spirituality meaningful? Spirituality for me is inseparable from an urge to experience my phenomenological, individual self rendered small by the limitations imposed by social and mental constructs (born of a conditioned mind), while experiencing I am one with the larger mass of humanity, the Hindu Virat, that inseparable “other” of greater significance than any particular “I or me,” in need of pampering, personal caring and egoic attention. Do I want to go to San Juan Copala and become another victim? No. In A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology, the editors make reference to S. Saldívar-Hull who urges women of color under capitalism to write.[25] It is in the spirit of activism for change, activism for transforming a culture of oppression into an egalitarian culture of coexistence that I write about indigenous women and the indigenous cultures. I write as an act of defiance to the oppressor, I write as an activist and spiritual revolutionary dedicated to stir others to stop crimes against Earth and humanity.

I would like for this essay to grow from a warming to a burning voice of conscience to all good people to join in solidarity with the plight of the first peoples of San Juan Copala confronting an empire of destruction which profits from genocidal wars.


Ahni, Zapotec Protesters Shot on Behalf of Canadian Mining Company.  Intercontinental Cry,

Arrellano Chávez, Daniel ( Translated by Scott Campbell. The “Low-Intensity War” Against Autonomy.

Caravan in Support of Triqui Autonomy.

Cariño, Bety. Testimony at the Front Line Dublin Platform.

Cariño, Bety. Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos, CAUCTUS, interview.

Climate of Impunity and Resistance.

El Enemigo Común. San Juan Copala: On the second caravan and the autonomous project.

Estados Unidos Mexicanos [Mexican United States]Ley de Seguridad Nacional,

Front Line Defenders.

Hedges, Chris. Corporations Have No Use for Borders.

List of Assassinated Victims

López Bárcenas, Francisco. La Persistente Utopía Triqui: El Municipio Autónomo de San Juan Copala.

López Bárcenas, Francisco. San Juan Copala: dominación política y resistencia popular de las rebeliones de Hilarión a la formación del municipio autónomo.

López Bárcenas, Francisco. Documenta rebeliones indígenas en la Mixteca.  

López Bárcenas, Francisco.

Meyer, Maureen. Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Meyer, Maureen. Transcript attached [online scanned letter is legible in Spanish language, but prints blurred].

Meyer, Maureen. WOLA.

Minas y Mentiras—La verdad sobre la mina Cuzcatlán en San José del Progreso,

Municipio Autónomo San Juan Copala,, Sexta Caravana de Apoyo a la Autonomía Triqui [Sixth Caravan in Support of Triqui Autonomy.]

Perillo, Michael. Nonviolence takes hold in “Mexico’s Gaza,”

The time for the people, quantum leaps!

[Addendum I]



Testimony by Bety Cariño to the Front Line Dublin Platform, February 2010





With my voice, I speak for my brothers and sisters of my mixteco people, from rebellious

Oaxaca in this great country called Mexico. And in these lines I cannot speak of myself

without speaking of the others, because I can only exist if they exist. Therefore, we exist

as us.

Brothers and sisters, these women I am; a daughter, a sister, a mother, a comrade, a

teacher, an indigenous woman, a Mixteca, an Oaxaqueña, a Mexican, they represent us

women who go forward leading our peoples against the looting of our mother Earth, for the

benefit of large transnational corporations and financial capital. Today, with our voices, with

our struggles, with our hands, the legitimate wishes for social justice of the Mexican

Revolution are being kept alive; our struggle is the same one the Morelos, the Magón, the

great Zapata and, in today’s Mexico, the EZLN led, a struggle that has cost the lives of

thousands of Mexicans, all of them poor people from the bottom of society who have

fought these fights. The place they have been given in history continues to be one of

exclusion and they have been forgotten. Today we, the young, the indigenous peoples and

the women are at the head of this catastrophe.

Our fields now are the scenes of ruin and disaster, victims of indiscriminate commercial

opening, genetically modified crops, the ambitions of the multinationals; this has

consequently caused the forced migration of millions of our brothers and sisters who, in

the words of my grandfather, “have to leave in order to remain”.

In Mexico the right to autonomy, the right to exist for the indigenous peoples is still being

denied, and today we want to live another history: we are rebelling and we are saying

enough is enough, today and here we want to say that they are afraid of us because we

are not afraid of them, because despite their threats, despite their slander, despite their

harassment we continue to walk towards a sun which we think shines strongly; we think

the time of the peoples is coming closer, the time of unrepressed women, the time of the

people at the bottom.

These days, discontent is present throughout the length and breadth of our national

territory. Because of this the presence and participation of us, the women we defend,

cannot be put off any more in the daily business of human rights; we want to construct a

world with Justice and dignity; without any kind of discrimination; today we are pushing

forward a profound and extensive process of organisation, mobilisation, analysis,

discussion and consensus which is helping us to build up a world in which many worlds

can fit. We are the result of many fights, we carry in our blood the inheritance of our

grandmothers, our roots make demands of us and our daughters are rebelling.”

[phrase turned bold by vrinda ]

[Addendum II]


San Juan Copala: On the second caravan and the autonomous project,

May 20, 2010


Twenty days after the brutal murder of our comrades ALBERTA CARIÑO TRUJILLO AND JYRI JAAKKOLA, along with others wounded by high-caliber weapons in the hands of groups completely identified with the state, there has been no justice. This impunity has favored this paramilitary group which calls itself a “SOCIAL ORGANIZATION” (UBISORT), so that it again commits another attack against the inhabitants of the AUTONOMOUS MUNICIPALITY, obeying the orders issued from the halls of government, kidnapping on May 14 comrade MARGARITA LOPEZ MARTINEZ and SUSANA MARTINEZ, holding them for approximately two hours during which they received all kinds of threats, and on May 15, this same group, commanded by RUFINO and ANASTACIO JUÁREZ HERNANDEZ, kidnapped twelve inhabitants of the AUTONOMOUS MUNICIPALITY of San Juan Copala for an entire night; during which time they were beaten, threatened and stripped of all their belongings, including the food which they had previously bought in Juxtlahuaca, as well as money, most of it which was to pay for the Opportunities program. They are: FELIPA DE JESÚS SUÁREZ, JOAQUINA VELASCO AGUILERA, MARTIMIANA AGUILERA, ISABEL BAUTISTA RAMÍREZ, MARCELINA RAMÍREZ, LORENA MERINO MARTÍNEZ, LETICIA VELASCO AGUILERA (CHILD), ROSARIO VELASCO ALLENDE (CHILD), JOSEFA RAMIREZ BAUTISTA (CHILD), TWO CHILDREN OF FOUR YEARS OF AGE AND A ONE-YEAR-OLD BABY.

AS A RESULT OF ALL THIS WE ANNOUNCE: [Four points of understanding]

[Addendum III]

[transcripción de la carta que Maureen Meyer, Coordinadora Principal de Programas para México y Centroamérica, WOLA, dirigió al Gobernador de Oaxaca, Lic. Gabino Cué Monteagudo, el  10 de junio de 2011.]

[membrete papel de oficio: Washington Office on Latin America]

Lic. Gabino Cué Monteagudo

Gobernador de Oaxaca

Estimado Sr. Gobernador,

Por medio de la presente, la Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA por sus siglas en inglés) le expresa nuestra profunda preocupación por la situación que miembros del Pueblo Indígena Triqui de San Juan Copala están padeciendo en consecuencia del desplazamiento del que fueron objeto en septiembre del año pasado por grupos paramilitares. Como consecuencia de lo ocurrido, 20 personas fueron asesinadas y varios otros s imatizantes del Municipio Autónomo de San Juan Copala fueron heridos.

WOLA ha estado siguiendo los conflictos en San Juan Copala desde los hechos violentos del 27 de abril de 2010 cuando un grupo de aproximadamente 30 observadores de derechos humanos fue emboscado por un grupo armado cuando éste se dirigía a la comunidad, resultando en el asesinato de dos observadores y varios heridos. Hemos tenido la oportunidad de poder discutir con ustedes esta situación en las reuniones que hemos realizado durante sus visitas a Washington, D.C. También hemos mantenido comunicación con miembros del Pueblo Triqui quienes nos brindaron testimonio sobre la riesgosa situación que aún padece la Comunidad Triqui.

Tenemos conocimiento sobre la movilización que tuvo lugar en las semanas pasadas donde Triquis de diferentes comunidades viajaron a la Ciudad de México a pedir apoyo para asegurar su retorno, debido a la poca acción del Estado para garantizar el acceso a su territorio y continuar con su vida en paz en su comunidad como es su legítimo derecho.

En seguimiento a las conversaciones que hemos mantenido con usted sobre esta situación y por la importancia que su gobierno está dando a los conflictos en el estado de Oaxaca, le solicitamos respetuosamente informarnos sobre las acciones de su gobierno respecto a las garantías de protección de este grupo vulnerable y para crear las condiciones de seguridad que permitiría a los desplazados del municipio autónomo poder regresar a San Juan Copala. De la misma manera, solicitamos que su gobernó lleve a cabo una investigación de los hechos de violación a los derechos humanos ocurridos en San Juan Copala y en el territorio del pueblo Triqui para poder llevar a los responsables a la justicia.

Agradezco su atención y respuesta por escrito a la presente petición.


/S/ Maureen Meyer, Coordinadora Principal de Programas para México y Centroamérica


Erendira Cruzvillegas Fuentes, Comisionada para la Atención de los Derechos Humanos del Poder Ejecutivo

 [Addendum IV]

On 18 January, members from the community of San José del Progreso gathered to speak out against a pipeline that the mining company Cuzcatlán wants so it can exploit the community’s water resources.

CONTINUUM RESOURCES has been exploring/excavating underground  in the lands of the Zapoteca population of San José del Progreso in Valle de Ocotlán taking advantage of the concessions/grants/ trade-off awarded to them by the Federal Government.

In 2008, the Canadian company FORTUNA SILVER MINES, INC. bought CONTINUUM´s concessions/grants/ trade-off and commenced dynamite explosions of an access ramp as part of their plans and preparation for the large scale exploitation gold and silver in the Oaxaca territory. Commercial production began Se pt, 1, 2011. The preparation period began in 2010, while the exploitation phase began in 2011, and is projected to last at least another 12 years—to process an estimated 1,5000 daily tons mineral. To achieve their goals, the company will require an enormous amount of water, which, in turn, will expel highly toxic substances into the water supplies of the whole region.

Mexican National Security Law’s is an ominous mirror-image of the US “Homeland Security,” while in the Northern empire inaction and complacency mark the paradox of a powerful nation’s people as if rendered impotent like robots, in contrast to the inspiring activism and righteous outrage, commitment and valor of the Triqui people and the people of Oaxaca.

[1] Michael Perillo, Nonviolence takes hold in “Mexico’s Gaza,”

[2] Ibid.

[3] El Enemigo Común, San Juan Copala: On the second caravan and the autonomous project.

[4] Bety Cariño testimony to the Front Line Dublin Platform,

[5] Sylvia Marcos, Mesoamerican Women’s Indigenous Spirituality, in the Journal of feminist studies in Religion 25.2 (2009), 30.

[6] Front Line Defenders is a legally registered Irish charity,

[7] Marcos, Mesoamerican Women’s,  34.

[8] Municipio Autónomo San Juan Copala,, Sexta Caravana de Apoyo a la Autonomía Triqui [Sixth Caravan in Support of Triqui Autonomy.]

[9] More on the Climate of Impunity and Resistance

[10] Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

[11] Maureen Meyer, Transcript attached [online scanned letter is legible in Spanish language, but prints blurred].

[12] Francisco López Bárcenas, La Persistente Utopía Triqui: El Municipio Autónomo de San Juan Copala

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ahni, Zapotec Protesters Shot on Behalf of Canadian Mining Company.  Intercontinental Cry,

[15] Daniel Arrellano Chávez, ( Translated by Scott Campbell. The “Low-Intensity War” Against Autonomy (Part One)

[16] Estados Unidos Mexicanos [Mexican United States]Ley de Seguridad Nacional,

[18] Minas y Mentiras—La verdad sobre la mina Cuzcatlán en San José del Progreso,

[19] Virat: macrocosm, the physical world. Glossary of Sanskrit terms,

[20] Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years: lo que nunca pasó por sus labios (Boston: South End Press, 1983), 92.

[21] Marcos, Mesoamerican Women’s,  35.

[22] Marcos, Mesoamerican Women’s,  34.

[23] Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years (Boston: South End Press, 1983), p. v.

[24] Letty M. Russell, Inheriting Our Mothers Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective, (Louisville: The Westmister Press, 1988) 102.

[25] María Pilar Aquino, et. al., A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002), 146.

Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens: An Analysis of this Feminsit Theology in Third World Perspective


One of her most famous speeches was “Freedom From Fear”, which began: “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens:

Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective

Book Analysis

 Vrinda Jamunashakti

PARW 7608

Womanist Feminist and Post Colonial Worldviews: African, Asian & Post Colonial perspectives

Professors: Arisika Razak and Mara L. Keller

November 22, 2010

 Growing up on top of a hill at the border of urban/rural Puerto Rico in the 1950s, I drew strength, comfort and beauty from my mother’s sweetest soprano voice and sharp anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, socialist outlook, while my siblings and I were cradled to sleep in rocking chairs and awakened by the morning lullaby from my father who had breakfast ready for us; this was the daily ritual before taking us to school and going to his office. My mother was an articulate, straightforward woman and my father was a feminist man and lover of Goddess in her. I inherited a Garden where mutual respect persisted in giving me the illusion of an ideal world, until I saw the photos of hunger and genocide. The polarities between my mother’s and our global gardens keep me coming back to work for peace.

The energy of women’s indignation is filled with the unifying power of Love throughout this book. And that unifying power kept ringing in all the authors in Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens. The Gardens are presented as a triptych where the theories, life experiences and contributions of feminists theologians are divided in there harmonious parts that emerge from the title’s main idea. The first glimpse from this Feminist Theology in Third World Perspectives triad leads us to Claiming Our Mother’s Roots, and from this threshold I want to gain further insight by concentrating on the honorable and inspiring work of Merci Amba Oduyoye, Be a Woman and Africa Will be Strong; here I want to add that learning from the women of Africa all womankind will be better prepared to contribute towards improving our humanity. The next natural component of the triad in this allegorical garden, which speaks more directly to women in younger nations, is Clearing Our Space, here I explored some of the facets of the familiar Cuban heritage of Ada María Isasi-Díaz’ A Hispanic Garden in Foreign Land. And the last segment of this trilogy, Cultivating a Global Garden, leads me to embrace vivencias (live memories) from My Mother’s Garden Is a New Creation, by Marta Benavides, whose insights remind me of the daily mantras of my life.

As a spiritualist and Spanish speaking woman from colonial Puerto Rico, I felt closest to Oduyoye, a Christianized woman from Akan background, to Isasi-Díaz for being outrageously bold, and to Benavides, from El Salvador, for asserting the value of life over institutions.

Be a Woman and Africa Will be Strong, Merci Amba Oduyoye

A strong Africa in Oduyoye’s terms inspires strength to women everywhere on this earth. Born in Ghana, Oduyoye began to discover that her tradition was well managed by Asenie women to whom she owes a “feminist ancestry.”[1] Though her mother and grandmothers lost their names… they did not lose their own specific identities.” To them she owes “the partial failure of the patrarchalization of what was a mother-centered culture; left to men, the ‘damage’ would have been total.”[2]

What style of Christian theology does Oduyoye favor? “I have appropriated the oral transmission of scripture and theology…” and she “refuses to honor the ex-cathedra monologues.”[3] I can feel her dynamic presence in liturgical leadership. As the church follows the androcentric model for ordaining ministers, her “age-mates… have little time to give to the church misuse.”[4] But, for some reason, patriarchal domination has managed to create the typical doublespeak in Africa, as in other Third World countries, making women who “raise the issue of ordination…” of being “an imitator of the degenerate West.”[5] But it is refreshing to learn that the Nneemafo women “will simply ignore the churches if the churches ignore their charisms.”[6]

Another group of women who can revitalize and inform not only Africa, but the “degenerate” West, are the Mmabaawa. In Oduyoye’s hope on the “strong tradition of sisterhood in Africa” we are left with a far-reaching anticipation that “there is no limit to what women there can do to teach the church the meaning and practice of ministry.”[7] This is an empowered w oman for whom “Gender is no criterion for the lack or possession of wisdom.”[8] And she adds, “…so I have a duty to help forge a relevant theology for a living Christianity in Africa.”[9] Here I see Oduyoye’s theology immersed in matrilineal reverence, perhaps all the ingredients for the formation of thealogy. Informed by her motherline, Mercy Amba shares that, “The only limit I recognize in myself is how well I can perform.”[10] Her words are dynamic and universal, I feel immensely enriched and energized by her catalytic vision.

Oduyoye speaks to my deepest ontological questions when she adds, “I have in my own theology made the difference between sacrificing and being sacrificed.”[11] This rings all the bells in my life when debating Catholic formative notions of abnegation in the context of selfless service to humanity, or Karma Yoga in yogic practices, where service is rendered without egoic expectation of material reward, and it is precisely intended as a conscious effort to diminish ego identity, because it is understood as an inspirational and enriching privilege for going deeper into the meaning of the Living Present. However, the perception of this living privilege in me tends to fluctuate as fulfillment and frustration alternate in my daily life.

A Hispanic Garden in Foreign Land, Ada María Isasi-Díaz

By stating that “Mutuality asks us to give serious consideration to what the other is saying, not only to respect it but to be willing to accept it as good for all.”[12] Isasi-Díaz seems a little bit too naïve, bound by organizational or institutional religion constructs.  Isn’t this another illusion or facet of domination turned inside out?

In her Hispanic Garden in a Foreign Land, she offers an important argument when she states that, “patriarchal understandings of power […] are operative even in the feminist movement.”[13] I find that this is one of her best contributions to the subject. I wonder to what extent the students that enter California Institute of Integral Studies, Women’s Spirituality Program, like myself, still contend with unconscious “patriarchal understandings of power.” Like many social scientists, Isasi-Díaz highlights the importance of women’s contribution in wielding the sharp tool of language “for understanding the power dynamics in society and in the feminist movement.”[14] On this subject, I have followed a few articles by George Lakoff[15] and other progressive authors on how the present extremists have seized the power of popular sound bytes to mold, inform and attract our younger generations into their destructive agendas for profit.

As a Puerto Rican, and a Caribbean woman like and unlike the Cuban Isasi-Díaz, I cannot relate to the “internalized oppression and the siege mentality”[16] that she refers to. My experience leads me to feel outraged and a fierce disgust at the system of oppression. Entitled to feel outrage, I release the siege mentality and its energy suppressing trappings. But I do not feel empowered by blaming, so much as in finding out where are my weak spots and the weaknesses of my kind, in order to correct them  and revitalizing a solidarity movement. In self-correcting ourselves we are empowered to stop that in is which perpetrates the monstrous and oppressive conduct in the oppressor(s). And paradoxically, whenever I have seen a member of the oppressor class as an individual in front of me, I see a small, insecure, person with almost sub-human fears and contracted awareness; an infinitely tragic and sad identity. So, how can I turn my rage against such morally bankrupt and defeated individual? Our rage is best directed to the systems of oppression, as other Womanist-Feminists have stated before.

My Mother’s Garden Is a New Creation by Marta Benavides

In contrast to the very cautious Isasi, Benavides is practical and fiery as she boldly states, “We need to educate the citizens of t he United States about the need to search for effecgive peaceful solutions to the conflict in Central America […]  in order to do that we have to change the understanding of what national security is.”[17] What is national security? I also ask myself, is it not all people security? Oh yes, a police state to enforce a military dictatorship that secures the legalized global mafia of the IMF and the World Bank supporting US interests in the name of a corrupt Public Debt? Security at the cost of how many other nations’ sovereignty and their people’s food and water supplies?

I felt immediately at ease with Benavides’ approach to applying what we know into practice, “…gardening is about visioning. It is about faith, hard work, patience, beauty, and sharing. Gardening is about dreaming and futuring. I is one of my mother’s legacies to me.”[18] Here Benavides speaks to my heart and the hears of the people of the Americas (moving away from the false and essentialist attribution of US as the  “America,” familiar to all in common parlance), I say this because we are a people whose dreams have been repeatedly stolen and keep desperately emerging to claim a right to futures.

Benavides comes to us as offspring and offshoot from a very practical mother’s Garden.  “My mother’s definition of spiritual was to care and act on behalf of life, to keep people alive. Religion, she said, is not sacred; people and life are sacred.”[19] She reminds me of John Perkins’ accounts of the Emperor’s New Clothes in US covert handling of loans and funding of a new colonial corporatocracy[20]and the rippling effect of its presence in our “Americas,” the Americas of Benavides and of the people of over 40 sovereign nations and I.[21]

For feminists to address national security as a global concern we need to remove the masks of euphemism and nicety when pointing out at the political-criminal-corporate policies under the guise of “helping bring democracy, war against drugs, missionary’s work…” and similarly repulsive modes of colonial infiltration. For more on the monstrous ways in which so called “developed” nations are exploiting the Third World, I recommend we listen to “The Impact of Globalization on Food and Water,” a talk by Dr. Vandana Shiva at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, July 28th, 2002. [22]

No American, whether from one of the 7 countries in Central America, or from one of the 24 islands in the Caribbean, or from one of the 13 South American countries or from one of the 3 North American countries, should use the gentilic or appellative American to refer exclusively to those born in the U.S.A… The popularization of the term American as an essentialist demonym referring to the U.S. to the exclusion of over 40 other countries in this hemisphere seems to be a result of the Marshall Plan to dominate the North and the South… The U.S. funded and pretext coup d’états keep going on… So, when Benavides puts the U.S. in its rightful place, noting the arrogance and ignorance at the core of its policies with regards to the rest of the Big Americas, I applaud her valor 100%. It may cost us our lives, but we should not yield to “siege mentality.” For even more incendiary and inspiring facts on U.S. imperial invasions in the rest of OUR America, please refer to The Open Veins of Latinamerica, by Eduardo Galeano. Now, as a woman, my job is to help us heal.


Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latinamerica. New York University Press, 1998.

Perkins, John. Confessions of an Economic Hitman. New York: Plume, 2005.

Russell, Letty M., Kwok, Pui-lan, Ada María Isasi-Díaz, Cannon, Katie Geneva, editors.  Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective. Louisville: Westminster Press, 1998.

Shiva, Vandana. The Impact of Globalization on Food and Water. Talk given at the Kane Hall, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. July 28, 2002.



[This essay was written in Chicago style.]


Guru and God, “The Person who believed in me before I believed in myself.” Angelica Herston, harpist


[1] Mercy A mba Oduyoye. “Be a Woman, and Africa Will be Strong” from Inheriting Ouor Mothers’ Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective. (Louisville: The Westminster Press, 1988), 38.

[2] Ibid., 39.

[3] Ibid., 45.

[4] Ibid., 47.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 48.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 49.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 50.

[11] Ibid., 51.

[12] Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “A Hispanic Garden in Foreign Land” from Inheriting Our…,( Louisville, KY: The Westminster Press, 1988),  97.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 98.

[15] George Lakoff, Don´t Think of an Elephant (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004).

[16] Isasi-Díaz, 103.

[17] Ibid., 135.

[18] Ibid., 131.

[19] Ibid., 130. (All bolds are mine).

[20] John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, (New York: Plume, 2006).

[21] Isasi-Díaz, 137.

[22] Vandana Shiva, The impact of Globalization on Food and Water, a talk given at the Kane Hall, University of  Washington, Seattle, WA. July 28, 20002.

Luce Irigaray and Female Subjectivity Applied to Dismantle Savage Male Monocultures

Luce Irigaray and the Women Movement of Liberia: Female Subjectivity Changing a War Monoculture into a Culture of Intersubjectivity

(Or Luce Irigaray and Female Subjectivity Applied to Dismantle Savage Male Monocultures)

By Vrinda Pujals

[Essay first submitted as requirement for course “Luce Irigaray: Feminist Philosopher” with Prof. Charlene Spretnak, Women’s Spirituality Program, CIIS]


Creating cultures of intersubjectivity… feeling, connecting and loving Life til natural causes do us apart

It is very unlikely that women who have succeeded in asserting female subjectivity even in the midst of wars of genocide, carnage, and crimes against humanity have read Luce Irigaray on subjectivity and intersubjectivity. However, these women have successfully applied Irigaray’s vision for dissolving male monoculture. In this brief essay I will discuss examples of women who have connected with their primal subjectivity and applied Irigaray’s ethics of sexuate difference by entering into a dialogue of intersubjectivity with different levels of the most destructive patriarchal systems against women and children—war as a system where men engage in human butchery and where rape and massacres are used as a weapon of war. These women have passionately and efficiently engaged in female subjectivity during the most challenging conditions one can imagine: from the bowels of war. This essay draws inspiration from the PBS documentary Women, War and Peace.[1] The five-part documentary series reports on the work of women in four countries, which spans four continents; a project including all these will not be possible in this brief essay.

The women of Liberia transformed a whole nation. I choose to concentrate on Pray the Devil Back to Hell—women power in the peace movement and the reconstruction of Liberia. In this essay I also hope to awaken in the reader the curiosity to view Women, War and Peace and perhaps the desire to learn more about the victories of the women of Bosnia, Afro-Colombian women and Afghan women.

I would like to draw attention to how women in Liberia have applied their empowering subjectivity by engaging in revolutionary, dynamic relational and artistic ways of  communication, while creating a movement that brought women from the margins to the center of the discourse on armed conflict and peace resolution, to the point of attracting international support and attention. The women of Liberia offer us one of the most compelling examples of how women asserted their subjectivity in the middle of an atrocious human slaughter called civil war, which lasted more than fourteen years in Liberia. Their movement led to the re-education of the patriarchal monoculture, leading to a culture of intersubjectivity for the whole nation. Though internal conflict had been fermenting for almost a decade, civil war erupted in Liberia in 1989 and it lasted until 2003. Close to a quarter-of-a-million people, mostly women and children were killed, and according to The Economist, “the country was destroyed.”[2] For example, “Rebel soldiers played soccer with human skulls… created forms of torture unheard of before, like slicing open the stomachs of pregnant women, taking bets on the sex of the unborn child.”[3] It was under these conditions that Leymah Gbowee spoke one day before her church congregation and inspired Christian and Muslim women unite in protest against the war and demand that there be peace. Her ability to convey female subjectivity to those who listened and joined her eventually led to the creation of a new language. Like Irigaray, they probably asked themselves, “We come back to the problem of knowing which language will win out over the others,”[4]  even as we speak on the terms of “a subjectivity in the feminine”[5] in which women could envision, create several ways or languages  manifesting intersubjectivity at the same time, these were initial sparks to dissolve Liberian male monoculture. Their contribution is a significant model for women in other countries where conflict is present, now that rape and the slaughter of women is encouraged as a military strategy and as “efficient weapon of war.”[6]

War is the epitome of male objectivity and male monoculture—and the total control of women—the notion that “problems begin with woman,”[7] a sense that “women do not exist,”[8] or the absence of “a culture of two subjects.”[9] Gbowee demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, that women were the solution. In an impassioned interview she explained, “… There is nothing in my mind that would make people do what they did to the children of Liberia.” The recognition of what is unacceptable from subjective experience can connect us with our differences, and it “is a source of fecundity, not only physical but also cultural, spiritual.”[10] Therefore, I suggest that according to the premises proposed by Luce Irigaray, war is an absolute negation and annihilation of female subjectivity.

Reports on war from The Youth Advocate Program indicate that “today 80 to 90% of the casualties are civilian women and children. From 1986 to 1996 alone, over 2 million children were killed in armed conflicts, and over 6 million were seriously injured.”[11] In another source of empirical data, the UNICEF report on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” states, “In the past decade, around 2 million children have been killed in armed conflict.”[12] How can marginalized women situate their efforts at intersubjectivity in a more visible position? In situations of imminent danger, the women of Liberia came together in a discourse of female intrasubjectivity never seen before. Few issues arouse more intense reactions in women than that which affects home, security, love, peace and the future of the family.

One day in 2002 when Leymah Gbowee was five months pregnant, she decided that she and her 2-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son had had enough of the war in Liberia. She describes how on days where the explosion of artillery was unbearable, she and her children would walk for 7 hours to get to her parent’s home. She describes it was “hell on earth.” It all began when Charles Taylor rose to power in 1989, at that time he took total control over the finances, including the gold and diamond trade of Liberia. Taylor also formed units of small boys, ages 9-15, and fed them drugs to secure absolute obedience. He had a private army called the “Anti-Terrorist Unit”—how ironic and, unfortunately, somewhat familiar to women in the US—and the whole country lived in fear.

In the early part of 2002 Gbowee, a social worker by profession, had a dream. In the dream she heard someone insisting, “Get the women of the Church together to pray for peace.” One day she addressed the full congregation at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Monrovia, saying, “We are tired… we don´t want to do this alone. We want to invite all other Christian churches to come and let’s put our voices together.” At this moment Gbowee’s voice expressed every woman’s urge for female subjectivity in war-torn Liberia. Soon Asatu Bah Kenneth, Assistant Director of Liberian National Police—the only Muslim woman in the church that day—and Gbowee started a movement, and what would become the “Christian Women’s Peace Initiative” consisting of ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters. This was the beginning of a movement that emerged from women’s solidarity, and from it a new language of female intersubjectivity reached every corner of Liberia.

At this moment in history, the women of Liberia began to assert female subjectivity. But, to better understand the meaning of intersubjectivity, let me explain what Luce Irigaray meant by subjectivity and the subject? In Speculum of the Other Woman, Irigaray states, “Any theory of the ‘subject’ has always been appropriated by the ‘masculine.”[13] Lacking a communication of intersubjectivity, women and mothers have managed by using what Luce Irigaray calls “double subjectivity.”[14] This is necessary, she explains, because of the urge “that I exit the prison of a single discourse…”[15] for inviting an intimate dialogue with the other about a need for urgent change. How have the women in Liberia come to apply Irigaray’s theory of subjectivity and intersubjectivity? How is the vision of Luce Irigaray also being lived by women in villages and jungles of Colombia, and in Afghanistan? Irigaray’s powerful philosophical program can find examples in the experience of female subjectivity being enacted in the remotest corners of the world. One may say that it has reached other women from within, even spontaneously, as the wind carries fragrance. Perhaps the questions should be how Luce Irigaray, a scholar far removed from war-torn areas, created a philosophy that speaks directly to and connects with women in situations of conflict and imminent danger?

Gbowee later relates, “Seeing women who had lost everything and still had hope… I think that is how I got baptized into the women’s movement.” As the women began to mobilize in a way that was impossible for the government to ignore, Charles Taylor went to church, and the leadership of LURD, guerrilla warlords, went to the mosque. How can these men be religious? Then the women escalated their efforts and intersubjectivity skills: they began to pressure their pastors, bishops, and Muslim imams to pressure their leaders to make peace.

On April 2003 the war intensified, and the women met at the church declaring a need to act in more “forceful, dramatic and effective ways.” Then they decided to mobilize in public protest. Intersubjectivity is not a passive function, and the women of Liberia demonstrated how to escalate the power of female subjectivity to engage the male monoculture of war in intersubjectivity even as they pretended to turn a deaf ear to them. They were also emboldened to take this new language of female subjectivity to the radio. In radio announcements they declared, “Are you sick and tired of war? Come join us at the fish market for a rally organized by the women of Liberia.” And the announcements continued, even the color of their t-shirts and their headdress became part of the language of peace and female subjectivity, “We wear plain white clothes… as a sign that we want peace.” The fish market was a well thought strategic site, Taylor and his entourage passed that road every day—language in a strategic site.

Thousands of women gathered at the fish market with banners like “The women of Liberia want Peace Now.” To their display of valor Taylor replied in the usual tone of arrogant patriarchal monoculture, the self-appointed “right” to kill, “Women may go to the street and embarrass themselves, but nobody will gather in the streets to embarrass my administration.” Some women feared the worst. One woman told her aged mother who was taking care of her children, “If I get killed… Just remember mom, that I was fighting for peace.” The valor of these women was a testament to thousands of women empowered by female subjectivity. Over 2,500 women kept coming to line up under the hot sun chanting, “We want peace.” One day, Taylor’s convoy passed and slowed down but did not stop.

As women continued their rally at the fish market they were getting to know one another, weaving stronger bonds of female intersubjectivity, and empathizing with one another. Another strategy that the leaders of the movement suggested was for the women to engage in a sex strike if their husbands were not supportive. By encouraging other women to assert power over their bodies the bonds of intersubjectivity groew stronger. The leaders shared, “You have a power as a woman, and that power is to deny the man your sex. And when they ask why you are denying him, you ask them to exert any power they have to put an end to the war.” In this way, the women of Liberia asserted in another strategy in nonverbal communication to negotiate with men in terms of female subjectivity aimed at dissolving the monoculture of war. The women of Liberia continued creating a new feminist discourse meant to communicate at very personal, intimate levels. In this way they held made many men who were not participating in the war accountable, and guilty by omission, if they did not collaborate with the women to stop this war.

As women advance in an ideology and ethics revolution, the conflict took a turn for the worse. However, there was an international call for peace talks, the world was watching. Meanwhile, Taylor and the warlords refuse to come to the peace table. “At this point the tone of the women changed, “Now we are demanding, we are no longer appealing.”  The leader of the male monoculture of war crimes, Charles Taylor, could no longer ignore them, so he finally decided to meet with the women at the presidential mansion on April 23, 2003.

On April 11, 2003 the women headed by Leymah Gbowee presented the “Women of Liberia Position Statement on the Liberian Crisis” to Taylor. Formal peace negotiations started in Ghana. The language of female subjectivity in the case of Liberian women, excluded the possibility of being seen as politicians (because they could be prosecuted) they succeeded in manifesting a major public event which was a major success on on intersubjectivity. Again Irigaray comes to mind, “only when women insist on the integrity of their own spaces of embodiment can love become the basis of a revolution in ethics.”[16]

Taylor agrees to the women’s demands to go to the Peace Talks in Ghana. On that day the male monoculture began to be successfully dismantled by a female culture of intersubjectivity. In Accra, Ghana, on June 4, 2003: Gbowee and a group of Liberian women refugees went to Ghana; they expected it would be for about two weeks. Taylor, a group of Liberian warlords, plus several African dignitaries and heads of state were present. Unexpectedly, as he sat in the peace talks in Ghana, news broke that Charles Taylor had been indicted on war crimes. Taylor flees to Liberia a wanted man, while his delegation is left behind to decide Liberia´s fate… still in the hands of a criminal male monoculture.

Unfortunately, a full fledged war breaks  out in Liberia even as the Peace Talks continue in Ghana. Women peacebuilders remained in Accra extremely worried about the fate of their families. Meanwhile the Peace Talks were stalling. While women subjectivity centered on peace, the government representatives of Liberia’s discourse remained centered on power, jobs, positions and the control of the resources. For them it was all about who got to be the Minister of Justice, who got to be the Minister of Finance… so he could steal!

All along, women in Liberia continued gathering at the Fish Market every day, as the Peace Talks continued. There they fasted, prayed, while the looting and the raping continued. After six weeks, the Peace Talks still centered on male monoculture, and were going nowhere. As Gbowee suggested, “Some of the war lords came from poverty striken areas and were living their dream life at the peace talks. They were behaving like men in vacation.” July 21, 2003, Leymah Gbowee and the rest of the women were running impatient and angry knowing that while they represented peace for Liberia, their own children back home were in constant danger and experiencing hunger.

In a brilliant stroke of genius Leymah called for the women to assemble  inside the Peace Hall, blocking the door inside the building and loop arms with one another. This was another bold strategy intensifying an embodied language of female intrasubjectivity. Shortly after that a security guard told her, “You are obstructing justice!” She describes how, for her, this was the last straw. Gbowee shares that the word justice coming from this man triggered the most effective rage from within her. As the guard threatened to arrest her, Gbowee proceeded to remove her headdress and to undress… “In Africa, it is a curse to see the naked body of your mother, especially when she strips deliberately.”

The Peace Talks were immediately interrupted, and Nigeria´s president came down to listen to the women of Liberia. After that, a few of the women were invited to join the Peace Talks. Leymah Gbowee demanded an end to the war within a deadline of two weeks. She said that if peace was not reached in Liberia, “Next time we will be even more. There are 2,500 women in Monrovia’s refugee camps and over 10,000 exiled in Accra.” With this, the tone in the Peace Talks changed from male jolly to very serious. The Peace Agreement was signed. International peacekeeping troops arrive in Liberia on August 4, 2003, and Charles Taylor steps down as president of Liberia on August 11. In 2006, Sirleaf “established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with a mandate to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation” by investigating more than 20 years of civil conflict in the country.”[17]

Women engaging in a dialogue of female subjectivity demanded the end male monoculture by engaging in a dialogue of intersubjectivity. These women altered history, where they more engaged in cultural intersubjectivity or in asserting relational reality?[18]

Since women’s work in the reconstruction in Liberia and the appointment of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as President in 2005, women’s work for maintaining a culture of intersubjectivity continues. On November 2011 Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won Nobel Prize, together with Twakel Kerman of Yemen. In spite of the extraordinary and persistent success of women in the transformation of Liberia, Sirleaf being the only female head of state in Africa, re-elected in 2011, there is a sense that the news about the major victories of these women—from Colombia, Afghanistan, Liberia and Bosnia—are not reaching women all over the world as it should.  The expansion of the private military companies (PMC) complex threatens to turn the whole world in to a military battleground for profit and we need urgent changes. At the present time the PMC industry is worth over US$100 billion per year. [19] Women from all walks of life and all parts of the world need to mobilize and apply the models presented here and to apply female subjectivity, intersubjectivity to dissolve the military industrial complex monoculture.

Much more can be said about these documentaries in the context of Luce Irigaray’s philosophy of female subjectivity and intersubjectivity applied to end male monocultures. I would suggest that feminists, ecofeminists and scholars expound on “War Redefined.” This segment contextualizes a new hermeneutic of women’s role in war and in creating peace.[20] As women continue to be in-spired, and in-spire others on the ways they have succeeded in dissolving the oppressive male monoculture by asserting female subjectivity, men and women will succeed in inventing and recreating more cultures of intersubjectivity  to secure a legacy of peace for future generations.

Secondary conclusion—based on the significance of the topic:

Now that the women of Liberia experienced the power of female subjectivity to successfully dissolve male objectivity and monoculture as they created a culture of intersubjectivity, the question remains, what is peace? Liberian women discovered that “peace is a process.’ And that when guns are put down, we have to continue to build peace. We have to accept our combatants into our midst, we cannot hold it against them.” How do you forgive men who have conducted massacres in your own village? On the other hand, how do you move forward if you do not forgive? Listening to the stories of women victims of war crimes, it is difficult to forgive.

Leymah Gbowee continued her social work with ex-combatants, and this helped her reach a different understanding of the perpetrator. After working with them, s he saw a lot of them “as much as victims as the women…” Not all women would agree to this. Liberian women continued working towards a democratic election. Their Mass Action Campaign ended two years after January 15, 2006 after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as the first woman president of Liberia, and the only woman president of modern Africa. But now, Liberians know that if ever things go wrong, these women will come back. On January 2011, Ellen lJohnson Sirleaf was re-elected and began her second term as President of Liberia.


Hirsh, Elizabeth and Olson, Gary A.  Je—Luce Irigaray: A Meeting With Luce Irigaray, JAC Online Journal, Vol. 16. 3 (2009) ,

Irigaray, Luce. An Ethics of Sexual Difference. New York: Cornell University Press, 1984.

Irigaray, Luce. Je, tu, nous: Toward a Culture of Difference. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Irigaray, Luce. Key Writings. New York: Continuum, 2004.

Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. New York: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Charlie Rose interviews Leymah Gbowee, from Liberia, winner of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

Ford, Tamasin, Sirleaf Victory in Liberia Marred by Boycott and Violence, The Guardian, Nov. 10, 2011.

Huff Post, World, “Liberia Elections: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Wins 90 % in Boycotted Vote”

Nobel Peace Prize laureates for 2011,

PBS, Women, War and Peace: A Five-Part Special Series on PBS. Featured from Oct. 25 to

Nov. 8, 2011.

The Economist, War’s Overlooked Victims: Rape is Horrifyingly widespread in Conflicts All Around the World, January 13, 2011.

Women, War and Peace, A Five-Part Special Series on PBS (Full Episodes)

[1] PBS, Women, War and Peace: A Five-Part Special Series on PBS. Featured from Oct. 25 to Nov. 8, 2011.

[2] The Economist, January 13, 2011.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Luce Irigaray. Je, tu, nous: Toward a Culture of Difference. (New York: Routledge, 1993) 57.

[5] Luce Irigaray. Key Writings. (New York: Continuum, 2004), vii.

[6] The Economist.

[7] Irigaray, Key Writings, vii.

[8] Ibid, viii.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., ix.

[11] Youth Advocate Program International, Inc. ,

[12] UNICEF, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

[13] Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman, (New York: Cornell University Press), 133.

[14] Elizabeth Hirsh and Gary A. Olson, Je—“Luce Irigaray: A Meeting With Luce Irigaray,” from JAC Online Journal, Vol. 16. 3 (2009): 348,

[15] Ibid.

[16] Judith Butler, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, (New York: Cornell University Press, 1984) back cover.

[18] Charlene Spretnak. Relational Reality, 2011.