Relaxing Into an All-Encompassing World by Oxana Poberejnaia


oxanaI believe that as feminists what we are striving towards is not just equality between women and men, although this aspect is crucial. Feminism has contributed to developing of such disciplines and practices as deconstruction, environmentalism, LGBT rights, and animal rights.

Feminism walks in step with all the movements for more justice and freedom in the same way as patriarchy goes along with capitalism, exploitation and environmental degradation.

Nagayon_PayaA Buddhist teacher Rodney Smith of Seattle Insight Meditation Society often emphasises in his talks the importance of relaxing and letting go of rigidness and the illusion of control in your meditation and in your life. Any attempt to dominate anything or anyone form the position of a permanent, all-powerful self is doomed to fail. Impermanence is one of the fundamental characteristics of reality in Buddhism, and it applies to all conditioned phenomena, including society and individuals.

Life will change, whether we want it or not. However, oppressive ways of organising society such as patriarchy and capitalism try to keep power in the hands of few individuals by keeping everything as is.

Patriarchy can be explained by a combination of various social economic historical and psychological factors, and this fear of letting go is one of them.

Ukrainian-wreathI recently visited Ukraine and met some friendly and generous people there. Ukraine has historically been relatively more feminist than other European cultures. One of the reasons for that is found in history. In the feudal times, majority of men would leave home life and join a Cossack Republic in the south of Ukraine in order to ward off attacks by the Tatars and the Ottoman Empire. This left women to run the country.

In addition, the Soviet rule in the country meant that women worked and voted starting from early 1920s. Although in reality it meant double load for women, as they were expected to do house work as well as day jobs, generations of women who could support themselves emerged.

claywomenFinally, Ukrainian culture and mythology have preserved a lot of remnants of the matriarchal pre-Indo-European beliefs of European population. In fact the region that I visited was the location of the famous Neolithic Trypillian culture, from which a wealth of Goddess clay figurines have come to our time.

All these factors have led to a situation when Ukrainian women generally enjoy the same rights as men: they work, own property and act as equal partners within marriage.

At Ukrainian wedding ceremonies, no one “gives the bride away”: the spouses-to-be enter the registry office together as a couple. During the ceremony they together step on a ritual embroidered towel which their Mothers lay before them. (Obviously, there can be a light-hearted competition of who steps on the towel first, indicating who will rule the family. However, some couples make a point of practising stepping on the towel at the same moment).

At political scene, women are often leaders. During one of my previous visits to Ukraine, while the former president Viktor Yanukovich was still in power, I heard it from a male pensioner that he had great contempt for Yanukovich and that he would definitely vote for Yulia Timoshenko, in the hope that she would put Yanukovich back in prison. In contrast with Ukraine, in Russia popular opinion was against Timoshenko partly because she was a woman trying to influence politics. Very often Yulia Timoshenko was attacked for her very looks, especially her Priestess-like hairstyle.

Vegetarian_dietAgainst this backdrop, the more surprising for me came a negative reaction to my veganism that I encountered. I would like to emphasise once again that people with whom I socialised were hospitable and good-natured in every other way. It was only when I mentioned that I was vegan that I witnessed such a defensive reaction that it threw me. Comments were firing from every side and corner of the table. It was as if the people’s entire worldview was threatened by my diet choices.

Rodney Smith talks about moving from Self-Centeredness to All Beings as an integral part of a Buddhist spiritual journey. Karen Tate, a Goddess advocate, recently had a guest on her radio show who promoted veganism as an antidote to the feeling of separation and as a move away from institutionalised violence. Charlotte Cressey is an ecofeminist and a believer in veganism as a New Paradigm of Relationship.

However, independent and strong women were happy to deny the right to live and enjoy life to animals. In my mind, this is not a true victory for Feminism.

LGBT rights seem to be slowly receiving legal status mostly due to the Ukrainians’ desire to get visa-free access to Europe by following European regulations. It is my opinion that a society where equal women and men oppress any other group–LGBT people or animals–is not feminist.

 

Oxana Poberejnaia is a content writer at http://content4you.org. She 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 10th 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. Her works can be found on her blog.

http://poeticoxana.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: animals, Buddhism, LGBTQ

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11 replies

  1. Interesting post on the Ukraine.

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  2. Thanks, Oxana. The title of this post and your thoughts here on impermanence offer an all-important teaching, that is, how to let go as a way of taking on something deeply meaningful and delightful. Maybe that includes how we can best interact within our friendships too — true love is everyday our freedom of choice, and needs no ownership.

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    • Hello, Sarah!
      Thank you for reading and commenting! Yes, I think so. And in any case, I think any religion teaches that true ownership is impossible: everything will be let go off at the moment of death. And before that, everything either changes or disappears.

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  3. Reblogged this on writingontherim and commented:
    I found the part about the history and current culture of the women of Ukraine and big surprise. Who knew.

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    • Dear Juliana! Thank you so much for reblogging! Thank you for your comments as well. Yes, the trail of the Cold War is still trodding the earth, and it is disappointing. Information flow is no longer restricted, and yet harmful stereotypes about the former Soviet Union prevail in the public opinion. Unfortunately, the “free world” mostly gets its “information” about Eastern Europe from Hollywood films.

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  4. Thank you for posting this, Oxana. Carol J. Adams published her classic book, THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF MEAT A FEMINIST-VEGETARIAN CRITICAL THEORY, in 1990. It’s currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence. I think it’s important for all of us to keep probing at ways where we can decrease suffering in this world by exercising compassion. Factory-farming–and most of our food–meat and dairy–comes from factory farming is inhumane–cruel. I believe “power over” or “domination” is at the core of patriarchy and factory farms/slaughterhouses epitomize that domination. (Ten billion animals a year are killed annually after living(?) horrific, tortured lives.)

    I do find it interesting when some people, as you note, seem to feel that their entire world-view is threatened by my choice to not eat meat.

    http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTBmxc1kH6n7N-TZkOPPN6yAiaeBLit9MEvnM2dmapBtOft_lwN

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  5. I’m confused. Does your definition of feminism include working for justice and freedom in the context of women’s, LGBT, environmental, and animal rights? In other words, you have to include all four aspects (women, LGBT, environment, and animal) in order to be a ‘real’ feminist? What if you work for one but against the another? (This is my Anita Bryant question I also posed to Carol Christ in the previous post).

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    • Hello, nmr! Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. I am juxtaposing orientations of the heart which translate into social practices. On the one hand I had relaxing, connection, feminism and all the other movements you mentioned, and on the other – contraction, rigidness, urge to control and patriarchy with capitalism. In my view, historically all 4 aspects (women, LGBT, environment and animal) have walked and developed together. Breakthroughs in one sphere meant advances in another and so forth. Meanwhile, patriarchy and capitalism oppose them all. Buddhist practice, for instance, includes such disciplines as mindfulness, generosity, compassion and wisdom. You don’t have to practise all four at any one time to be called a “Buddhist”. However, ideally, if you have got time in this lifetime, it would be good to advance in all of those.

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  6. I enjoyed reading about Ukraine at a human level, not what we get from the media. And thanks for reminding us that we’re not quite in control. ;-)

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    • Hello, Barbara! Thank you very much for your kind comment! I find that lately the media have been quite sympathetic toward Ukraine, especially its strong civil society (Have you watched the documentary “Winter on Fire”? Often western journalists come to Eastern European countries with a pre-existing superiority complex, and it does not even occur to them to ask women there: Well, when did you start to vote? Or “When were you allowed to work outside home?” They just assume that this would be later than in western Europe. And in he majority of the cases, they would be wrong. At the same time, Eastern Europeans often have an inferiority complex, created by the abovementioned western media and especially Hollywood films, so it also does not appear to them to point out to the western people that western societies are in many aspects behind in feminist matters.

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