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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.