What do Roe v Wade and Mother’s Day have to do with The Great Resignation?
First things first, this article is not about abortion. This article is about history. This article is about understanding how we got here in the first place — a nature dominating, feminine oppressive society, that is making us sick.
Now, I want to preface this discussion with this: there are dangers to discussing history. There is no monolithic humanity; there is not one single story of our evolution. When discussing history, nothing is neutral, everything is nuanced based on who’s history is being told and who is telling it.
With all this in mind, let’s dive in, shall we?
So, what happened? How we did we transform from a non-hierarchal, earth-based society into a full blown mechanistic industrial machine, one in which the value of the feminine is repressed and our daily lives are fundamentally divorced from the rhythms of nature? One in which we loathe our endless working lives and feel bereft of our one true love — freedom.
Queue, the agricultural revolution.
Largescale agriculture, abstract language, and subsequent colonization is said to have marked the severing of our tie with the earth. We slowly began to move away from living life in accordance with the cycles of nature, each with our own piece of land for which we cultivated and bonded. Our ancestral, Pagan European traditions, rooted in earth-based indigenous practices and a connection to the land, gave way to formal religions (i.e. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) that were sweeping across Europe. These were religions in which the gods did not reside within the landscape but rather, in other worldly domains, thus breaking our bond with the earth and removing our responsibility for local ecological and social community.
This event is sometimes referred to as humanity’s “original trauma”. Trauma is defined as an emotional response to a terrible event. The terrible event that we live with every day is a disconnect from our original source, our true mother, the Mother Earth. We cannot live balanced lives without an ongoing connection to our ultimate form of nourishment.
When our connection to one another and the more-than-human-world, to natural ecosystems, to natural rhythms that govern how we live, what we eat, wear, and breathe are thwarted, all aspects of our wellbeing are disrupted. The vitality of our physical, psychological, and emotional lives is inextricable interwoven into the land in which we live. That is because, we are nature.
Nonetheless, our non-hierarchical society began to break down. With that break down we begin to develop hierarchies: patriarchy, economic classes, state structures (military, political and bureaucratic), gerontocracy, and town and country land divisions. All of these hierarchical systems govern our lives today and form the very fabric of our workplace ecosystems.
These socially constructed hierarchies worked to establish a split between humans and nature. No longer were we indigenous, oral cultures with a “sensuous, creative, profoundly embodied mode of consciousness, in which all spoken utterances take their meaning from or refer to earthly beings, and in which stories are tied to the land hold the culture’s meaning” (David Abram). We instead placed value and focus on a linear thinking, alphabetic literacy, opening a gap between mind and nature, the latter becoming silent. We no longer relied on the language and wisdom of the land to guide us, we relied instead on our human-created modes of learning and perception.
Then a pivotal painting was created in the 16th century, one that would marvel humanity and change our perception of the natural world, and of woman.
The Mona Lisa.
There are many reasons, known and unknown, as to why this painting has held such great awe for humanity. It is generally believed that the painting is of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo, and known to be a witch. More than this, psychiatrist JJ Vandenberg said that this painting became so famous during this time because it was the first time that nature was depicted as the secondary experience within the painting. This was wildly contrary to what most people knew and experienced at that time. Nature had become some sort of background, secondary experience, birthing a contrast between the interior space versus exterior.
Coinciding with the release of the Mona Lisa were the witch persecutions. The witch persecutions, through brute force, firmly established a strict gender binary, a dualism between men and women, which created the conditions for capitalism. Capitalistic structures required laborers, men, to work the land and in the factories. The witch hunts worked to demonize women and earth-based traditions that saw the natural world as alive and sacred. This demonization was necessary in order to install a mechanical world view of today that is necessary for capitalism. The witch persecutions established the following views:
Female = nature
Communion with nature = devil worship
Nature and female = to function as reproductive assets for the growth of a capitalistic patriarchal worldview.
The established attitude toward women and nature became repressive.
Women moved to the domestic role to produce children and care for the household, creating gender associations between production (men) and reproduction (women), with production being superior to reproduction. The earth itself was to be used, profited from, and colonized. Femininity, in all its forms, turned into a marginalized mode of human experience. The established role of the woman was to reproduce, beyond which she held little to no value in society.
Reproduction and the caring for life, including the caring for ourselves, for our children, for our elderly, for our earth, ensuring the maintenance of the integrity of our personal health, the health of our planet, and the communities in which we belong, became devalued, as is today.
Healthy “mothering” — allowing for pause, rest, listening, space for reflection, self-care, choice, attunement to our bodies, connection with earth, non-doing, and following our own natural rhythms — is virtually non-existent within our culture, and in particular, our workplace cultures and leadership styles.
Because of this painful history, we are collectively suffering from an archetypal longing for Mother. A deep primal longing to be loved, not only by our personal mother, but also by the Great Mother, Earth Mother, and our own internal feminine, mothering qualities.
And perhaps nowhere is the void of Mother seen more clearly than in our workplaces. The pervasive lack of care and nurturance shows up as an absence of trust, violations of boundaries, perfectionism, over working, difficult claiming one’s voice/power, strict hierarchies, lack of authenticity, unhealthy competition/power, unsustainable business practices, greed, demand, difficulty being in one’s body, cut off emotionally, and operating separate from one another.
These are the real reasons we hate our jobs.
And yet, onward we march, to the demise of the planet and ourselves with a deafening silence from Corporate America on relevant legislation, including a woman’s right to choose. It’s as if the current hierarchical gender dualism says, “If we give women the right to choose their reproductive rights, we somehow also grant power back to the feminine.” This sounds strikingly familiar to giving employee’s the right to choose where they want to work, with only 16% of companies opting for a fully remote workforce.
Granting power to the feminine tears at the very fabric of the dominating, patriarchal system that has sought so desperately to repress it. A system whose values are centered on producing infinite products, commodities, technology, money, work, and growth. The same values and modes of being that have formed our workplaces.
Fortunately, through humanity’s forced pause over the last two years, we have seen a new paradigm beginning to emerge. One based in regenerative leadership and solutions with new values that support all and not just a few. This is the direction of a future of work where we willingly choose to enter healthy, reciprocal relationships with our employers. Relationships held in balance between production and reproduction. Relationships that support our health, growth, and development and the health, growth, and development of the earth on which we live.
Let’s join together in creating a new story.