Why have I started up this blog? Good question!
I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time. In fact, I had a blog which I’ve long since abandoned to the blogosphere heaven. Lately, I’ve been on social media a lot, especially Facebook and Twitter. But social media has it’s downsides. Facebook is great for making lots of new friends, keeping up with what’s going on in your areas of interest, keeping in contact with people, posting photos, videos, memes and other visual information, reading and sharing links, and so on. It’s also argumentative, sometimes pretty hostile, tends to lock people into bubbles, and is subject to Facebook’s “community standards”. Twitter is the same only more so. This blog is to try and set up my own platform in order to write about the issues that are important to me without restrictions or fear of censorship.
The issues I want to explore involve, first of all, women and girls, including feminism and all that movement’s different aspects and permutations. I identify myself as a “radical” feminist, although this hasn’t always been so. But, at least since I was in my mid-teens, I’ve seen myself as a girl or woman in a world that doesn’t necessarily value me because of that. I became a “second wave” feminist, dropped out of it, came back in an international context, left again, and now I’m back. I’ve also spent many years as an international human rights teacher, writer and advocate, and especially a student and teacher of Indigenous issues. My interests extend to history, law, international relations, intellectual and cultural property, and the Earth’s environment, especially climate change.
Women and girls are the “other” half of the human race. The half that tends to get sidetracked and forgotten, “mansplained” and ignored, intimidated or silenced. With nearly four billion of us female humans on this planet, no one ideological, political or philosophical perspective is going to apply to all of us. I support a diversity of views within feminism, and outside of it where these are supportive and useful to women and girls. But I start with a basic premise:
Feminism is about the rights of women and girls. And women and girls are female human beings.
I respect the rights of all people, all living creatures, and our only home – Earth. This includes the rights of all living species; all cultures, races, nationalities and ethnicities; both sexes and all sexualities; all gender preferences that are not destructive of other human rights; all abilities and disabilities; all ages; all political perspectives that are not destructive of human rights or the Earth; all classes and castes that are not destructive of other humans or the Earth; all religious beliefs or lack of beliefs that are not destructive of human rights or the Earth. But in my view, writing about rights starts with respecting the female half of the human race.
I also believe there is a second starting point. In order to respect and protect our Earth and every living creature on it, we need to understand the land, water, air, ice, energy, different habitats, and how the Earth’s systems work together as a living whole, including us. Climate. Biodiversity. Geological systems. Ecological systems. Oceans. Atmosphere. Our place in our solar system, our galaxy and our universe. And to do this we must respect science -not blindly – but intelligently. Ask questions. Think critically. Respect the knowledge of those who have come before us, but without giving up our own ability to be inquisitive and creative. Remember the past, but look forward. Scientific knowledge includes disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, geology and medicine. It also includes the knowledge of Indigenous peoples, farmers, craftspeople and all those who work with their heads and their hands. It can include (with some caution) the social sciences such as archeology, anthropology, language studies and cultural studies, sociology, and psychology. Above all, science is not just a body of knowledge, but a method of inquiry and discovery. So my second basic premise is:
Science and scientific inquiry are the bedrocks of how we think about the world, both as it is now, but also how we got here, and where we might be headed.
My third starting point is that Indigenous peoples everywhere, including our own ancestors from wherever we come from, developed systems of knowledge, science, ways of thinking and living – in particular places and at particular times – which speak directly to who we are as one of many living species living on this Earth. These ways of living do not separate science from the sacred. Knowledge is not compartmentalized into “out there” and “in here”. We as humans are not separate from the Earth – we are part of it. Other animals and plants, rocks, rivers, ice and oceans are part of us. The Earth is a living system and humans are essential to how that system works – or doesn’t work. I cannot speak on behalf of Indigenous peoples, or even my own ancestors (who came from Scotland for the most part). But I can write about what I’ve learned and am still learning from the “Peoples of the Earth”. So my third basic premise is:
The “Peoples of the Earth” – Indigenous, ancestral, rural people, the working poor – have developed ways of living on Earth that might show us how to find a way out of our current crises. Therefore Indigenous rights – like the rights of women and girls – are foundational.
Finally, I start always with history, including what we sometimes call “myth”. If we don’t understand how we’ve created the narratives of our present, we will not understand who we are or where we’re going. The history we’re usually taught is that in which the principle characters are men, in particular white Euro-colonial men. Western Europeans and Americans especially dominate how we look at history and our current political, economic and social systems. Anthropologist Eric Wolf wrote a book, first published in 1982, in which this Eurocentrism is highlighted. The title of the book is Europe and the People Without History (University of California Press; Second edition, 2010; see also Blaut, J.M. The Colonizer’s Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric History, The Guilford Press; 1st edition, 1993 and Eight Eurocentric Historians The Guilford Press; 1st edition, 2000). The rest of us – women, children, poor people, working people, Indigenous people, people who are not white – are left on the peripheries of these histories, or are completely invisible. Some progress has been made to bring peripheral histories into the centre, and these are immensely valuable.
But, I also believe we need to expand what we think of as “history”. It doesn’t have to be a linear or chronological narrative of “events”, it doesn’t have to be in a written language, it doesn’t have to be “secular” as opposed to “sacred”. It can cover a range of different forms of communication. History is essentially stories, often presented as about the past, but not always. Oral history, women’s history, myths and origin stories are often dismissed or simply ignored by Euro-colonial authors as fictional, primitive, “fairy tales” and legends. I think this is a mistake. Human history long predates written texts. It can be found in art, stories told down through generations (some of which are astonishingly ancient), music, languages, “old wives tales” and children’s stories. History can be discovered through archeology, linguistics, genetics, radiation dating, physical relics of the past, even within the human body itself. So my fourth and final basic premise is:
History, however it can be discovered or deciphered, is a collection of all the stories that tell us who we are as humans on this planet. These stories can ground us in the Earth itself, or they can separate us from the planet and other living creatures, including other humans, in ways we are discovering can be alienating and dangerous. Understanding history, scientific knowledge and systems of inquiry, along with centering the basic rights of female human beings and all the peoples of the Earth, are the four basic premises we need moving forwards.
My writings in the posts that will follow are based on other writing and research I have done, the teachings I’ve learned from so many people, the exchanges and communication I’ve had on social media and elsewhere with others, many of whom I have never met, the experiences that have shaped me, and the knowledge-keepers of many different cultures and disciplines I have been privileged to come across.
As for me, I’m approaching my 70th year, I’m retired and have no more reasons to be afraid of what others might think or feel about what I say or write. You may or may not agree with me, but I hope you’ll at least respect that my words are meant in all honesty and good faith.