Many of us have a growing sense that we are at a crucial inflection point in our civilization and at a crossroads for the future of our planet. I’m not sure if that point needs to be defended, explained or expounded upon. To me it seems completely transparent, glaringly and frighteningly obvious. I live with that knowledge constantly, which translates into grief for the biodiversity that has already been lost and is accelerating; fear for the turmoil and human-made ecological catastrophes that will cause more and more people to lose their land and homes, leading to increased acts of violence towards the vulnerable; and anger towards the elites of the world who siphon up the resources of our planet for themselves and then barricade themselves behind their wealth.
Grief, fear, and anger. These are the emotions of the shadow lands and these are the emotions that we usually try to deny and deflect. These are the dark places of the soul. But, if we continue to reject these negative emotions rather than acknowledge and address them, they will return to confront us over and over again. We, as a society, have gone off course, have created a machine that is trampling all that is beautiful on our bountiful and giving, blue and green planet.
Our western civilization has become a family in a speeding car, hurtling directly towards a cliff with our foot to the floor on the gas pedal while squabbling over who gets to ride shotgun. An ecological precipice is looming and no one seems to have the will or the wisdom to hit the brakes or grab the wheel. And those of us who would like to just jump out of the car altogether find that we cannot do so in our industrialized, over-populated society. Am I the only one to feel a sense of entrapment? No matter how “green” I go: driving a hybrid car, recycling, living as light a carbon footprint as I know how to do, s long as I live within the norms of our modern first-world civilization, I cannot escape. There is no opting out of that family car that I see. We’re all in this ride this together.
The metaphor of the metal and plastic manmade machine of a car contrasted with the green and blue bounteous mother earth is not by chance. And the precipice we’re hurtling toward is nature’s surefire response to protect herself from our excesses. Deep ecologists say that nature always wins in the long in the long run. Indeed she does. And we are nearing the final lap.
Another way of understanding this is to say that the speeding vehicle represents masculine values – achievement, ambition, action and conquest – which exist in us all regardless of gender – and have become so predominant in our society that they have overwhelmed the feminine. The feminine values we seek to elevate are those of nurturing, caregiving, receptivity, and stillness. A millennium or two of exploitative patriarchy “progress” have disparaged and denigrated the feminine, causing women, minorities, and nature herself to be relegated to the margins, to be “othered.”
Daraga elder, author and speaker Malidoma Some says something similar: “Our disconnection with earth is translated into a disregard of the feminine. How far can you go in violating the mother that gave you life? As long as the feminine is diminished, the connection between us and the earth is going to be compromised. We have abused the earth so much that we don’t know which direction to go. We must wonder what the connection between this increasing masculinity that is translated in terms of repeated violence [in war and in conflict] and the degradation of the earth. It is all connected.” (as quoted in the wonderful documentary Inn Sae) (link).
So, considering the very urgent scenario outlined above, it is clearly time – if we are to have any hope at all – for feminine values to be restored to their proper place of equal value alongside the equally valuable but overabundant masculine values. It is time for a new wave of feminism that respects and honors the earth. Feminism has been a powerful force for positive change. First-wave feminism actively fought for and won the right for women to vote (the suffragette movement); Second-wave feminism of the 1960s won the right for women to move into the male dominated workplace. Third-wave feminism began in the 1990s with Anita Hill’s testimony against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Today, the #MeToo movement is the culmination of third-wave feminism, standing up to male sexual aggression, a long-overdue vindication of Ms. Hill and countless other victims.
But what’s next? What is Fourth Wave Feminism?
My sense is that what’s missing and what needs to emerge is a feminist movement in service to the Feminine. We have fought for the right to move into the workplace; we have fought for the right to be treated as equals to men and to be free of oppression, discrimination and sexual aggression. It is time for women and men alike to elevate and respect the feminine energies that are present in all humans – those energies that respect and celebrate the interbeing of all life on the planet, the values that hold all life as sacred. Our disrespect of the Earth, of nature, translates into our disrespect for the Feminine. That is where the next wave of feminism and service to the feminine needs to go: towards cultivating a deep respect and love for the web of life. Fourth wave feminism is a lasing and harmonious blending and balancing of masculine with feminine. Those are the forces that will call forth the More Beautiful World (A term coined by Charles Eisenstein).
When we think of the forces arrayed against us, it is intimidating. But when we think of what’s at stake if we fail to infuse the feminine back into the world, then we realize that we cannot shirk from trying. Failure means annihilation, doom. Quite literally. As Rabbi Tarphon enjoins us: “it is not your responsibility to finish the work of repairing the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” We are all in this together. Let’s heal the world by honoring and elevating the feminine. Let’s avoid the precipice we’re speeding toward and take a more flourishing path by stopping the speeding vehicle, stepping out of the car, and embracing our relationship with our mother, the Earth.