Harvey Jackins: A Powerful Ally to Women

I hope each of us is continuing to find ways to discharge on our personal relationship to Harvey and on his phenomenal life, job, and impact on the world, and our plan to have just as big, or bigger, impact. That is what he expected. He expected us to finish the job of creating a world where human love and rationality, not greed, make the decisions.

I don’t know any other human who has as many deeply loving, personal, caring, and effective relationships with other human beings. I use the present tense because, as he would say, we have as much of him now as we ever did; he is still there in our minds. I remember him saying many times that he could find no reason to limit the number of people he loved. There was no reason not to love everyone! What I found amazing was how personal and unique my relationship with him was, how much we both marveled at the connection we had. At the same time, I knew he had unique relationships with hundreds of other people. I also knew that each relationship in no way diminished any other relationship. He did not love people “the same”; he loved, saw, and reached for the unique human in each person. Loving each person uniquely is what made him such a good ally to all kinds of people in general and to me, as a woman, in particular. The oppression tries to make us “the same.” He saw what was uniquely me.

He saw the strengths I didn’t know I had—a mind that could put together ideas and come to brilliant conclusions. When I drafted the first women’s policy, I didn’t know I was doing something brilliant. I was just taking what I knew, what we had talked about at several liberation workshops, and weaving it together with what I thought were logical conclusions based in RC theory. It was so based in RC theory that men could not be the enemy, even though that was a popular mistake that was being made in the wide-world women’s movement. It all just seemed to logically flow from what we had been saying, what I believed was correct in our theory. I was stunned when he phoned me, wildly enthusiastic about how I had just “saved” him, because he was being pushed by a number of women to write a women’s policy, which he knew would bring him a lot of flak. Then he and Diane Balser got to back me from the flak that flew—and it did fly. While most women in RC were enthusiastic about the policy, we were just getting a handle on internalized oppression, and the policy, its writer, and its defenders served as lightning rods to a lot of internalized oppression.

He was continually putting his mind to figuring out reality and contradictions to the distress. In the last big workshop he did in Philadelphia, he kept talking about women leading men. The men kept asking, “What do you mean?” He would give an answer that would almost make sense to people but still left them baffled. Finally he said, “Let me show you. Women know things about sexism that men do not know and need to know. I want a couple who can tell they like each other.” People proposed several Co-Counseling pairs. He said, “No, I want a married couple. In a Co-Counseling relationship you can skirt the sexism and not have to really deal with it. In a marriage you come face-to-face with it twenty-four hours a day.” He then worked with a newly married couple, asking her to not blame the guy for his difficulties—not say, “Stop being a jerk” or “I hate it when. . . .” or any other negative thing—but to speak directly and clearly to what their life would look like if he were not being sexist. He asked her to describe what non-sexist behavior was. She shook and shook, and tried to talk. At first it would come out negative. Harvey would stop her and say, “No, don’t tell him what you don’t like. Tell him how to act. Tell him the positive.”

Finally she began and said, “Ask me how my day at work was. Treat my work as important as your own. I come to your performances; come to the fund-raiser I’m doing for work. Take my ideas seriously; listen with interest and respect.” The whole time she was shaking hard. (We have been terrified into not speaking up; it is a major part of female oppression.)

The next evening somebody asked again what he meant. (I think in a way the men were hoping that they didn’t have to tackle the sexism head on because it makes them feel really bad.) He got another woman up front to try to talk as directly and positively, this time to the whole group, about what is non-sexist behavior toward women. Not what it isn’t, but what the positive behavior, the opposite of the sexist behavior, real human behavior, looks like. Again with a lot of discharge, mostly shaking, she struggled to find ways to say things like: “Sit on your hands in an argument so you’re not pulled to threaten physical violence.” “Follow our lead on how to do things.” Many things were said. Then Harvey suggested that each woman there, if she had something to add, come and line up and add the pieces that were being left out. Almost every woman in the workshop got up and said something before the evening was over. Most were able to stick to speaking in positive terms—how to, rather than how not to, behave. It was one of the best speak-outs I’ve ever seen and at least partly understood by the men. Harvey admitted that he learned a lot and that it was hard to listen to and look at behaviors that are so accepted, yet so devastating to women.

I will miss his always pushing forward the frontier of our understanding. Most of all I face the challenge of keeping in my mind the picture he had of me. That picture is there to be accepted and used. We need to be each other’s reminders now! We can hold out to each other his picture of our unique abilities and talents until each of us can firmly hold our own picture in our heads. He loaned me his confidence, and I still have that loan. He often talked of the dearly departed sitting on the cloud, dangling their feet and beaming at the ones left behind. For someone who doesn’t believe in such things, it is still a good image. I wave back and continue to use such a powerful ally to accomplish our joint task of creating a rational society.

Kathy Miller
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA 

Last modified: 2014-10-06 22:35:39+00