Buttons and Hooks by Oxana Poberejnaia


oxanaI have a problem. Some women push my buttons. Some men anger me, but in the context of feminism it is different. I usually dismiss men’s offensive actions and words as expressions of patriarchy. I take action, when I can – for instance recently I complained about the BBC radio 2 broadcasting misogynist statement when discussing a proposed Paternity bill. Complaining about the BBC to the BBC is like trying to stop a tide single-handedly. However, if no one does anything, nothing changes, as we know. In addition, I hope that statements such as “women of child-bearing age should only be employed by striptease bars” broadcast completely unopposed on the national radio service (for which we the listeners pay annual subscription) will raise more than one objection.

But coming back to women. I have noticed recently that very often I end up in deadlocks with women over silly issues. Once I was engaged in a debate about capitalism with a woman to the point when I completely forgot that I was supposed to be doing something completely different for work. The mysterious aspect of these “quarrels” is that more often than not the women have more in common with me than not: they are intellectual, independent and strong-willed. I suppose it is slight differences that unnerve me.

Cover of "The Mirror Within: A New Look a...

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This reminds me of an excellent book one of my female friends lent me, “The Mirror Within: A New Look At Sexuality” by Anne Dickson. Anne Dickson accurately observes that in patriarchal culture women tend to connect though shared suffering inflicted patriarchy. This means that often women find it difficult to connect over other issues and to recognise each other’s individual characteristics, apart from the shared trait of being oppressed. I admit I have this very problem: in the process of breaking the patriarchal mould, I tend to expect other women either to be the familiar oppressed victims, or alternatively to be exactly like me.

In the fight against patriarchy and capitalism I used and developed my passion and conviction. I have attached those to particular ideas and practices. The manner in which I express myself now can be overbearing. I might perceive this as justified, in the face of the awesome foes. However, when I encounter women with the same level of passion and conviction, but attached to a different set of ideas of practices, I suppose I find this threatening. These women have dealt with similar challenges to mine in a different way. And this pushes my buttons. I lose control over my reactions. When this happens, prevailing discourse of a society in which we find ourselves takes over. In our case it is patriarchy. So I give myself over to patriarchal fear of losing control, and respond with the patriarchal urge to install control over a dissenter.

Cover of "The Sacred Book of the Werewolf...

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My favourite modern Russian author Victor Pelevin wrote a book with a female protagonist, a holder of a Dhamma succession line, entitled The Sacred Book of the Werewolf (translated, as all of his books, into many languages including English). The protagonist has an ability to manipulate and control people by hooking on what Buddhism calls kilesas (impurities, imperfections, falling short of enlightenment). At her discovery of the Buddhist Dhamma she tries to throw her psychic net on a Buddhist monk, only to find that he lacked any hooks for her to hold on to.

Thus, Buddhism provides techniques to deal with our hooks and buttons so that no one can catch us by our hooks or push our buttons. Buddhist meditation is just one such practice, other spiritual paths have their own ways that are supposed to lead to the same result of being able to be happy no matter what the world or other people throw at you.

The process of working with one’s own buttons can be very useful in feminist life. From my own experience and from following the news in feminist and Goddess movement I know how easily women’s groups can break up, often due to strong women pushing each other’s buttons. Have you noticed how we find it easier working with the victims of patriarchy and patriarchal religions, than with the leaders of feminist groups? How we find it easier to help, than to cooperate? In this we might fall into a trap of patriarchy and assume the role of a patriarch rather then a feminist leader.

When looking at my feelings after being in opposition with someone, I often find that a large component of these feelings is regret and disappointment over a missed opportunity to connect and cooperate. Deep within, I want to be in accord and peace with the world, including all people: women and men. Thus, every time such connection is not established, I become upset and bereft of power that could have been used to improve the situation.

So, perhaps behind the habitual patriarchal response to dissent as I see it in other women is even a deeper fear and anxiety: that of separation, and disconnection, of being alone. Hence, the moral of all these stories might be that I need to continue watching all of my buttons and hooks closely, so that no force: not patriarchy, nor capitalism, nor fear can take over me. Furthermore, in that first moment of finding out that a women in front of me is not exactly the same as I (which pretty much is the case every time), I should be aware that a panic can arise, an anxiety that we will not connect and that it will be a disaster. This panic can unsettle my boat and derail communication.

Although it’s been said many times many ways, you cannot be too mindful. Mindfulness is always an asset. It can help us in the heat of the moment, and, failing that, it can help us search our feelings post-incident in order to find the solution and manage better next time. In this, Buddhist mediation is invaluable.

Oxana Poberejnaia has recently been interviewed by Karen Tate on her radio programme Sex, Religion, Power and Politics talking about capitalist anti-Soviet propaganda and Goddess in Slavic paganism. Oxana was an Officer of the University of Manchester Buddhist Society while studying for a PhD in Government, and has been involved in organising the Manchester Buddhist Convention, now in its 9th year. Oxana is now exploring the Sacred Feminine through marking seasonal festivals, working with her menstrual cycle, frame drumming and shamanic journeying, while keeping the practice of Buddhist meditation. Oxana is an artist and an author. She teaches frame drumming and meditation. Her works can be found on her bloghttp://poeticoxana.wordpress.com   



Categories: Activism, Buddhism, Community, Feminism, Goddess Movement, Men and Feminism, Patriarchy, power, Power relations

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18 replies

  1. Thank you Oxana for this wonderful conversational and hugely informative piece. It is a relief to find that the need for control is a natural offspring of patriarchal culture and yes I too have a deep fear of being alone hidden in my yin side. You have given me greater detachment from those buttons and hooks and I look forward to trying to relate through a clearer center in relationships with others and myself.

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  2. Really appreciated this in particular: “The process of working with one’s own buttons can be very useful in feminist life. From my own experience and from following the news in feminist and Goddess movement I know how easily women’s groups can break up, often due to strong women pushing each other’s buttons. Have you noticed how we find it easier working with the victims of patriarchy and patriarchal religions, than with the leaders of feminist groups? How we find it easier to help, than to cooperate? In this we might fall into a trap of patriarchy and assume the role of a patriarch rather then a feminist leader.”

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    • Thank you, yes. Unfortunately, I have found this a lot. However, conversely, I also see positive examples of feminist and Goddess- spirited leadership. In my experience, it happens when women allow each other to be completely and utterly who they are: intellectual, pragmatic, tearful, questioning… anything.

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  3. “How we find it easier to help, than to cooperate.”- that really set the bells off for me! So very very true. Helping- so easy to assign roles; I am the helper, you are the helpee. But cooperation?! Whose in charge? Is there an ‘in charge”? Egads what do we do with all these labels because this cooperation stuff is so confusing!

    Excellent post. Well done you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, yes. Recently I have found myself in situations where I suddenly got a sort of alternative Universe flash on myself as one of these Victorian ladies with a basket for the poor. And believe me, that was one of the most disgusting images I’ve seen.

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  4. What a good and useful life lesson this is to all of us. Thanks for writing this blog.

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  5. Oxana, What a marvelous post about a difficult subject. I believe that women cooperate better than men under patriarchy, but that’s not saying much, because we all — men and women — are formed by the patriarchal conflict model: me against you, us against them. I think you’re right when you suggest that learning how to fight patriarchy is easier than learning to cooperate with other women. That’s because in a very real sense when we FIGHT, we’re still inside the conflict model.

    Somehow your description of what you’re dealing with these days reminds me of the time in my late 30s and early 40’s when I realized that I needed to become more spiritual in my day-to-day living. One of my biggest fears at that point in my life was that this would mean that I had to let go of my feminism. But I realized pretty quickly that feminism in a sense was a toolkit for dealing with the world, etc., tools that I could still use, perhaps in a somewhat different way, maybe in a less confrontational way. But that didn’t mean that I would no longer be a feminist.

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    • Hello, Nancy! Thank you very much for your support. Yes, exactly. Rita M Gross talks about a similar thing in her book “Buddhism after patriarchy” – that when she was “shopping” for a spiritual path, she was consciously going for the one that would not run against her feminism. And that she found Buddhism to run parallel tracks with feminism. Feminism for her informs Buddhism (as Buddhist teachings never discuss impermanence and conditionality of gender), whereas Buddhism can help feminists to channel their negative emotions and experiences into positive results.

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  6. Not everyone pays an annual subscription to listen to BBC radio. As long as you don’t watch or record live television broadcasts you don’t have to pay the licence fee.

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    • By the way – got a reply from the BBC. Small victory? Pointless gesture? I don’t know…

      “Thank you for contacting us regarding Radio 2’s ‘Jeremy Vine’ on 29/11/2013.

      We understand you feel the programme undermined women and promoted sexism.

      BBC journalists are well aware of our commitment to impartial reporting. They seek to provide the information which will enable listeners to make up their own minds and provide the forum for debate, giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard.

      We do not seek to denigrate any view, nor to promote any view. When reporting on social developments, topical and current affairs programmes aim to identify all significant views, and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of the audience.

      It is not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on a subject within individual programmes. Editors are charged to ensure that over a reasonable period they reflect the range of significant views, opinions and trends in their subject area. We will continue to review these standards to ensure our output is balanced and well considered.

      We appreciate your concerns about the content of the programme and would therefore like to assure you that we’ve registered your feedback on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback that’s compiled daily and made available to staff across the BBC, including programme makers, channel controllers, and commissioning executives.

      The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.”

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  7. Quel bonheur de ѵisiter votre рost

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  1. Women’s Mysteries, Women’s Circles | WoodsPriestess
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