This time tomorrow night I’ll be sharing, for the first time, a piece of the memoir I’ve been working on for a good three years now.
I’ll be reading at a gathering I organized on behalf of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, called “Writing from the Heart.” It features seven of us in all, each sharing a piece of writing that comes from the deep, sometimes aching, sometimes exuberant place at our core, which we rarely trot out and share in public settings.
I organized “Writing from the Heart” because I believe it is so important, now more than ever, for women to get over our social conditioning to “be nice,” “be polite,” “go with the flow,” and cede the floor. It’s so important that we start expressing, loud and clear, the truths we hold inside us, which are often far from self-evident.
Each one of us has her own perspective on the world, her own experiences to share, her own passions and convictions. I am less concerned with the content than with the character: what matters to me is that you say what is in your heart, and listen to the heartfelt ideas of others, and that out of this exchange we begin a dialogue on what’s important in this deep, rich, rarely mined terrain.
Let us be frank: although women have made great strides in the past century, we still live in a male-dominated world.
Old, masculinist stories of domination, penetration, exploitation and subordination still prevail over many of the world’s societies.
We live in a violent world on many levels, and the violence, whether against the natural world or against other human beings, is overwhelmingly committed by men.
Women have been forcibly kept out of the male-dominated public sphere in most societies, for much of human history.
We have been the ones bearing and raising the sons who go off to war. We have been the ones keening and mourning over the coffins that return. We have been the ones who have been silent while our daughters have been forced into marriages too young, or to men we knew would be abusive. We have been the ones raising our grandchildren as best we could when our sons and daughters died of AIDS, or ended up in prison. We have done the best we could with the tools and strengths we had available.
But this is a new time. Without really realizing it, we have stepped over the threshold into an era that calls for an extraordinary effort on the part of women and men of good heart and far-reaching vision.
Women and men must work together to create new social, economic and environmental frameworks that will enable us to survive and even flourish in the brave new world of climate change that is now upon us.
Women, who have centuries of experience of nourishing, cultivating, collaborating, and surviving against all kinds of odds, have a special role to play in this new era.
Women need to teach these skills to men; and men need to share with us their warrior spirit.
In this new age, the feminine and the masculine must come together in the service of generations to come, each learning from the other and together becoming greater than they could ever be apart.
Every human being has both estrogen and testosterone coursing through hir system, and every human being is capable of both nurturing and violence.
Today, we need women to have the courage to defend the rights of future generations, both human and non-human, and we need men to stand with us in acknowledging that the age of masculine privilege and dominance has been terribly destructive, and must now come to an end.
This is what is in my heart on this 12th anniversary of 9/11, this 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup, this 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Tomorrow evening at this time, six other women will share writing that comes right from the depths of their hearts. This sharing must become a great, passionate tide, an upwelling of feeling and action that will sweep us away into a better future.
Let it be so.