Like what you like

Artwork by Elise Gravel.

Right now, my five year old son would probably tick yes to all of these things.

I hope he grows into a person who feels free to continue liking what he likes, without feeling a need to censor those inclinations, to accommodate other people’s expectations of what is suitably manly or girly.

I recently listened to a podcast featuring Pat McCabe, Weyakpa Najin Win, (Woman Stands Shining) a Dine’ (Navajo) mother, grandmother, activist, artist, writer, ceremonial leader and international speaker. She spoke to the idea of the masculine warrior hero versus the mythic female role in ancient stories:  “I think it occurred to me the first time when I read Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade. It was a long time ago, so hopefully I’m remembering this correctly. In it, she was describing how, prior to 5000 years ago, in human history, that if you went archeologically and looked at community sites, that they were not fortified. There was a very specific point in history, about 5000 years ago, when all of a sudden communities, civilizations, fortified, and that fortification began somewhere, (I’m not going to remember where), somewhere in Northern Europe. Her point was that at some point we became a warrior people, but we did have a long history, prior to that, in which we were not war-like people. That was a huge reimagining for me of who I am as a human being because I’d always heard from when I was small, ‘we’re just like that. We just like to war. That’s just how we are.’ So that was a big breakthrough for me, about keeping the eyes of my heart and my soul open to what kind of beliefs am I holding about who we are? Because maybe that’s not who we are. And that’s also the beauty of looking at a much longer history than most modern anthropologies and archaeologies and sciences do.

“Prior to 5000 years, in these non warlike communities, what you find are all these effigies of the female figure. Everywhere. I’m going to assert here, that her point was that when we lived under the goddess, we didn’t have as much war, we weren’t warlike at all, and as soon as we moved to god, everything changed. I’m  not going to challenge that entirely, but one thing I might  propose about that, as a slightly different interpretation, is just to say that when all those effigies, we look at them from our current modern world eye, and that’s what we see. But knowing how the feminine is held within Dine and Lakota, my experience, the woman is equated with the land, with the mother earth. She is also equated with life itself. So I don’t know that we were looking at a goddess world, so much as we were looking at a world that understand that it needed to always revere life, to always place life at the centre. It wasn’t so much about the woman being more revered than the man. I think that is our modern world wounding, that comes from our hierarchical upbringing in which you always have to have first and second place, you’ve always got to have one on top of the other. But I think, as I look in my own and in Lakota culture, it’s not either/or. We’re not pitted against each other. In spiritual practice, in the ceremonies that have come from ancient times, like the sacred pipe – the whole piece about that is you have a stone bowl, representing the feminine, the earth, and then you have the wooden stem, which is representing the masculine. The power of it is when those two things come together. Then, we say, we can live. Then we have the possibility of life. So we have to be careful when we observe these gender things from ancient history, because we’re looking at it from a very wounded eye in the modern world.

In the power-over paradigm, in which we find ourselves today, it’s very important to keep an eye on who has the power –  because it really does mean whether or not you’re going to have what you need to survive. It all depends on where you are on the power ladder. So as soon as we say, ‘the woman represents life and the land’, because of our woundedness in that power-over paradigm, we immediately might jump to, ‘well, where does that leave me, if I’m the man? am i getting left out? am i losing power here somehow by acknowledging that?’ So I always start this conversation by noting the terrain that we’re in, and noting how different it is from other perspectives, because what has been said to me is, ‘you think you k now what the masculine is, but you don’t. And you think you know what the feminine is, but you don’t. All you know is how they behave when they’re plugged into a power-over paradigm. But they behave very differently in other paradigms that humanity has known before.’

I think the #MeToo movement is coming back to the ability to recognize the woman as life, inherently sacred, with an inherent dignity. Hopefully we can get over that response of saying, well what about the masculine? I find myself doing that all the time, because I want everyone to feel included. Just because we’re naming the medicine of one thing, whether it’s masculine or feminine, (and I should say, we’re not living only in a binary, there’s a spectrum,) but there’s a beauty, a functional polarity that we’re looking for. Just because we single one out, doesn’t mean we’re leaving the other one in the dust.”



2 thoughts on “Like what you like

  1. finafunk says:

    Excellent essay!

    I definitely recommend reading Eisler’s Chalice and the Blade Lisa, it kinda blew my brain with her theory of our ancient history, and where we are today, and tying it all together.

    Thank you kindly,



  2. Lisa Richardson says:

    Thank you Sarah! I loved what Pat McCabe had to say – she covered a lot in the entire podcast and it was really heart-opening to me. Thanks for your comment. And I’ve just put that book recco down on my TO READ list. Would be fun to connect about it once i’m through. xoxo

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