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 The Basics of RC Women's Liberation

Transcript of Webinar, June 27, 2020
Led by Diane Balser, International Liberation Reference Person for Women

I've been doing a few zoom workshops and it's good to see how women have become in charge of technology. (handed over to Tech team for announcements)

Language Liberation

Language: Welcome. This webinar is being interpreted into Spanish and Greek You will hear the Spanish, but not the Greek. Although there will be interpretation for 2 languages there are many present whose first language is not English. Please remember to speak slowly and clearly and wait for interpreters to finish interpreting. RC uses interpretation both as a way to communicate and as a key contradiction to language oppression. Language oppression is universal. We all had to learn a language and most of us did not learn it in completely relaxed and loving environments. In addition, language, especially those learned by colonial and imperial powers can be a tool of oppression. The fact that so many speak English allows us to communicate widely; but it also hides the beauty of many languages around the world. We use interpretation to be understandable to those who cannot speak English and to be aware of other languages. Slowing down for interpretation allows all of us to listen more carefully. In addition, we will pause every twenty minutes so that we can change interpreters, listen to the interpreters and all those who are interpreting in their heads and for those transcribing for one minute. Then we will have a moment of silence.

Language, Male Domination, and Women's Voices

Thanks that is great. I want to add that language is also a form of male domination. You often hear the expression “mother country” or “mother language”. That usually refers to where you were born, with an understanding that it is your more authentic language. That is as a result of the societal institutions in which women will often marry a man in another country and the assumption is that you give up yours and take on the man's language. And so young females who struggle because of sexism and ageism to have their own voices will have language oppression squash them along with sexism. At some point, if they are not using language they grew up with, (it may not be their own voice)?

The idea in women's liberation to have your own voice is very important. It's assumed that women will talk in soft voices and not be heard in loud voices.

So, our voices can come in many languages, but also come in many sounds. We gain our power and liberation by fighting for our own voice, and each woman has her own unique voice. That's one of the reasons we have language interpretation, so we can grow to understand and hear each other’s voices.

International Movement

I'm going to give a list of countries represented here which shows the breathe of RC and also of women’s liberation work in RC: Australia, Bolivia, British Virgin islands, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, England, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Wales, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Finland, Iran, Iraq, Spain, Argentina.

Amazing! It’s great to be female on the earth and in every country represented here.

History of Women's Liberation in RC

Females are the majority of the international RC community. We are also majority of leaders in RC. That is a very potentially powerful situation for us. There is a long history of Women's liberation in RC, organising us a women to discharge the distresses we face as females and also develop the thinking and tools to challenge our distresses and the institutions that oppress us. I would say that at different points of history women as women belong to every oppressed group, except for men. When we say, “women as women”, we are talking about being fully female. We have other oppressions, but we look at things from the viewpoint of our femaleness.

When I started RC in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I came from the women’s liberation movement of that time. Co-counseling was exciting to me because I could do the emotional work, I wasn't able to do as a political activist and there were many women from countries all over the world who started communities, like in Athens Greece. These were women's liberation activists. Then, in counseling we started doing women's work. We had an RC women’s liberation movement which had a wide world component. Many of us went to women's wide world conferences and brought RC tools to women’s groups. Barbara Love and I went to Kenya in 1985 for a women's conference and we taught Wanjiku co-counselling RC and she eventually became a Regional Reference Person in Africa.

Over the years, 45 years or so, women's work has had its ups and downs. It is influenced by what goes on in the wide world. I would say that women as women - when we're organized as a sisterhood - are one of the most powerful groups for wide world change.

While there have been many hard times. It would be interesting to have reports from women from every country to say what's going on in RC for women and what's going on in the wide world. Probably will have time for a few. Would be so interesting to hear from every country!

In the last 20 years, outside of RC there have been many attacks on women's groups. In counseling a lot of younger women have gotten the idea from the wide world that women are no longer oppressed. It's harder to organize women's support groups, etc. I would say today particularly with the effects of the global pandemic, and also the surge of the fight against racism, there are more possibilities for women to fight for ourselves, both individually and as a global group.

Oppressions of Women's Bodies

I'm going to share the basics: a few major points we share regardless of our particular situations.  Women are a majority oppressed group. We think of some oppressed groups, at least in some countries, as "minorities" – less in number than dominant population - sometimes think that way. But women are the majority of the population in the world. We're a key oppressed group, because our biology is used as the pretext for female oppression. Our biology particularly in relationship to reproduction. We are key to the survival and growth of human beings. The exploitation of our biology/our bodies is used as a basis of exploiting or oppressing all groups.

In racism the human body has been exploited leading to genocide and colonization. But the very first group to have their bodies oppressed is females. One of the issues we see in RC is that it's a confusion. Women are at least 70% of the RC community. Often, we as women don't feel that we're oppressed. That's why I said the joke about I thought only 4 or 5 women were going to show up! The pull is to go to some other group. And that's why it is such a good sign that so many of us wanted to be with each other

The exploitation of women and our bodies is so great: in terms of the unpaid work we do, the low paid work we do, the vulnerability of violence towards us and our bodies. Often, we don't want to feel those feelings. That’s why it's so great to have this many women. We can sense a collectivity. If you get the opportunity to FEEL the tremendous effects of the oppression we have faced, you can feel you’re on a road to power.

We Can't Be Invisible or Silent about Systemic Women's Oppression

Today particularly in western countries there is the denial that women are still an oppressed group. Economically because our countries are often better off than non-western countries, women have won certain rights, but there are many more rights we could still win. We've been forced to accept very limited rights. In the western world there's the sense of "sexual liberation" which is really sexual exploitation

That's why it's so important to have a contradiction that says we have a big oppression. We won't accept our invisibility of ourselves as women or of the oppression.

There is a system of sexism and male domination. It's not just individual attitudes towards women. Again, there's a myth that male domination no longer exists, when in fact it's very pervasive.

Male domination also affects men. Some men oppress other groups of men. Men as a group oppress or dominate women. What just happened in the US - the tragic death of an African American man by a police officer - is an example of male domination

In the world, women and young children become the basic dominated group throughout the many institutions. In economics, women are the poor of the world – they are the low paid/unpaid workers. Almost all institutions have a big factor of male domination.

The Sex Industries

One of the keys institutions in advanced capitalism, is the sex industries. This form of sexual exploitation of women throughout the world makes more money than almost any other institution except for the military. Pornography, prostitution, the sexualization of women in the media, the sexualization of young girls in countries throughout the world have become very basic to the oppression of all people but particularly to women.

Male Entitlement

In addition to the institutions there are different mechanisms of female oppression. One is the notion of male entitlement: male entitlement to women's bodies: whether it’s sex, various forced ways of reproduction, or the entitlement that men in controlled corporations have, which we might call “male corporate entitlement”. You certainly see it around the global pandemic. Women are the majority of service workers, the majority of upfront workers, essential workers. The corporate system thinks they have a right to our bodies, our labor, in order to profit, no matter how many people die. And the majority of women in these oppressed groups are women of the global majority and indigenous women.

We have many institutions that perpetuate what I've just said, but it's male domination which keeps our oppression going.

Appreciate Each Other

We’re going to have mini sessions now. Let me just say, you may end up with a woman or couple of women you don't know and that's going to be a great experience. You may end up with women whose language you don't understand. Sometimes you can have your best session that way with the woman who gives you attention, smiles at you, loves you and you get to cry and laugh. Each woman is a brilliant treasure. You want to get to know each woman. She deserves your respect; and just make sure you appreciate each other at the end of your session. Learn her name at the beginning of the session, and where she's from, and at the end, appreciate how great she is as a female. give a virtual hug, and then we come back. Discharge on any of the things I’ve said, on being female, on women’s liberation, women’s oppression.

Being Female in the Pandemic

Two things I wanted to say: One of the key issues is to be visible. The pressures, certainly during the pandemic, is for women, females, humans, to become invisible and get into our caretaking roles and jobs. We are there to take care of our children, our men, our service industries. We have to make sure we get through the pandemic. That’s our job. And our oppression as women is made invisible. So small to large issues. Men taking up more space, walking down the street, walking down the street without a mask; taking up more space than women who are trying to socially distance.

For many years women's issues were seen as smaller and smaller issues. I don't know if it's true in other countries but right now there are lots of jokes told about women. Is it worth going to get your hair cut? Yes, you risk your life but is it still worth it? Jokes about beauty, not being seen as attractive, rather than fears about risking our lives. So, from young girls to older women we're all facing big oppressions that are not being noticed. And usually when there are times of crisis women are supposed to put our issues aside.

So, the big push I have for all of us is to be completely visible as females. We make our issues visible, to prioritize ourselves and what we are fighting for. And that’s in opposition to sacrificing ourselves.

Demonstration with L

I'd like to do a few demonstrations with women from different countries.

L from El Salvador

D: Hi L

L: Hi Diane

D: Say a couple of things about you as a female

I am a 64-year-old woman from El Salvador. I am a single mother and a survivor of the civil war. It is horrible, horrible.

Male domination is everywhere. I don’t find myself easily. It’s like I do not exist. Everything is for others and taking care of others…. all the time. I don’t know what it’s like taking care of myself. My whole life has revolved around taking care of others. I dedicated my life to the revolution. I was ready to fight for other people. My people, without thinking of myself. I don’t know how to do that. I grew up with a mother taking care of my father and children. She died at my age. So, in the middle of the pandemic it is hard for me. It reminds me of the civil war. WE began lockdown in March. The military and the police took over all the streets. The whole country was in the hands of the military. There was an increase of violence against women. This is very interesting. My country has been in the media because of the high rates of homicide. The president says, “No homicides in quarantine”. He didn’t mention how many women were killed and the different ways that women have been killed, different from the ways that men have been killed in my country. The first woman who was assassinated, a young 20-year-old female, was murdered and mutilated and thrown into a garbage can. This is going to happen to females during quarantine. No one is talking about it in terms of the statistics. Silence. Violence against women doesn’t exist. It’s so unfair. It’s cruel. It’s impossible to resist. How can I not be silent? How can I raise my voice? The message is clear: you talk, you can be killed. This is like the war. I’m so scared. Scared to talk, scared being female and 64, the age of being a target. It’s scary. I have people dying. There is not room in the hospital. There is no oxygen. This is what it’s like being female in a poor country, dominated by the USA. I don’t know what it’s like being in a country not dominated by the USA, because my whole life is this way.

Do you understand Diane? What it's like to female, 64, fighting my whole life for change? I’m supposed to be strong. I'm terrified. Sometimes I don't know what to do. I'm so blessed to have this process in order to discharge; to use my mind to think and move forward for myself and my community.

D: Do you want to just share…. you don't leave your house at all?

L: I have been confined at home since March.

D: So, your daughter gets your food for you?

L: My 25-year-old daughter goes outside to get the food every 2 weeks. Yes, and even though it’s hard on older women even here.

D: What would happen if you went out?

L: You are not allowed to go out if you are elder. You can be taken by the police to a detention center, which is not more contaminated than ever. More risk to my body. I don't want to leave.

D: Yes, nor should you. OK, we’ll stop there, thank you.

Demonstration with P

D: say your name?

P: P

D: Where are you from?

Arlington in Massachusetts, USA

D: How old are you?

P: 28

D: And anything about your situation?

P: I’m not married, I am a young adult, living with friends in an apartment I’m a nanny and a women’s rights activist, at least a little bit.

D: With discharge can you talk about the sexism you face as a young adult woman, maybe also especially during the pandemic.

P: I’d say first thing that comes to mind is, I live with two women and a man. They’re friends of mine…..and trying to organize the man around social distancing and around following the rules that are laid down by the females in the house and that I have to follow among other things in order to keep working because I’m in a germ pod with my employer.

It’s like a full-time job. we’ll have like a long conversation with him where we very clearly state that the females in the house are not comfortable with opening up our closed loop. I would get essentially fired if the closed loop was opened. We’ll have a conversation with him, and then he’ll agree, and then the next day it’s as if the conversation never happened. And we have to have the exact same conversation again. it’s so annoying. I am scared that he won’t listen and will just break our loop and only tell us afterwards; and then I won’t be able to go to work.

D: That was really important any other things? The way sexism affects you or your other friends?

P: Another thing is I think my dad is really lonely, which is so sad; and I love my dad so much. But he clearly feels very entitled to my time and my attention; and recently he’s asking to hang out. And I’ll tell him I’m busy or something. And then he’ll spend like half an hour over text trying to convince me to hang out with him.

Another thing is around dating. Mostly what I’ve been seeing with my friends is panic about what quarantine means for being able to meet a partner; basically, a panic about being single forever. So, there’s a lot of meeting people over dating apps and then making very quick decisions to join their social distancing group so they can date each other

D: P, do you know anyone who’s been a victim of any kind of violence or pressure sexually.

P: Not violence. The most I can think of is people feeling pressured to do things/ to come into contact with people against their better judgment.

D: What does that mean?

P: I have a lot of friends who are waitresses who have gone back to work as soon as the restaurant opened even if they didn’t want to.

D: Females. These are females.

P: I also have a lot of nanny friends who have really unceremoniously lost their jobs, totally lacking integrity on the parts of their employers

D: Is there anything that you’ve done that you haven’t wanted to do?

P: I didn’t want to go back to work at first, but my employer said that if I didn’t, I would lose my job. And I do now think it’s safe, but I wasn’t sure at first.

D: What’s the last thing you did, or you’re scared of doing that you wouldn’t want to do?

P: I don’t know: it’s hard when someone says that they need you to not just do exactly what they want you to do: like a friend who’s having a hard time or my parents or my employers.

D: What do you need to say to them? (D suggests: “I’m not here to service your needs.”)

P: I’m not here to service your needs. It’s terrifying. I’m not here to service your needs. It’s like the fucking Holocaust Diane, I don’t know what to tell you.

D: Young women: You’ve already mentioned many things where you couldn’t keep your job, a parent who wanted you and you didn't…..do you feel a pressure to touch bodies, men’s bodies at all?

P: I haven’t but I do know females who have

D: Talk about it

P: Everyone is having a hard time and men feel very victimized when women don’t want to break social distancing to date them or don’t have time to hang out with them.

D: I just want to go back to the pressure to break social distance in order to have a boyfriend

P: I have felt pressure yeah. It’s like there’s mass panic about being single right now.

D: suggests direction “Don’t ever pressure me to break social distance, to jeopardize my health and my wellbeing. Don’t use my vulnerability of not having a boyfriend right now.”

D: I guess you know it’s hard to give a picture, except for those of us who remember what it was like to be younger, to feel like you constantly have to think about whether you should do something against your better judgment. I don’t know if older women remember what it’s like--it wasn’t necessarily true of all young women, but for many. P, in another minute, just look at me and try to show me.

P: (discharging fully crying, laughing, shaking) I’m like fucking stop fucking stop! Stop! Stop! Why would you do this? I’m like sisterhood you idiots, It’s not worth it, it’s not worth it! Who told you this was worth it?

D: We’re going to put a check there. Thank you.

We’re going to do a mini session now. How do you experience your oppression/ the sexism towards you as a woman, right now during the pandemic: as a female, as a pregnant female, as a single female, as a queer female, etc.

Make Our Struggles Visible

So, what I wanted to say is that the first stage of what needs to be happen for us as women is to make our struggles visible. Since our job in our society is to take care of other peoples’ difficulties, we aren’t supposed to have our own difficulties. And so, for us, one big step around our victimization is to be able to show the struggles we have, to talk about them, to discharge about them, to visibly fight them. We need to show.

Part of it is just giving other people information. During the pandemic, there are often more things happening to us because we are female. But also, our struggles are more visible, and men’s struggles are more visible, especially for those people who are in quarantine or in isolation together. As a single woman living alone, I discharged a lot of feeling like I lost all control of my life.

I could talk a lot about that, but I just wanted to share some of the others if we had time. I know there are some people who are pregnant. What is like to live in this pandemic and be pregnant? During any crisis, generally speaking, there is an increase in domestic violence. You know from what goes on when people are trying to share childcare, what happens in households when there is no money coming in, there is also often an increase in sexual violence or sexual pressure on women; and that can take all different forms.

I’ve asked different men what goes on for them. Can they ask and follow women’s lead on social isolation? And how are decisions are made around touch and social distancing?

I think that there are special oppressions for women, black and brown women. Special things around difficulties getting hospital space?

Women and Work in the Pandemic

We have looked a little bit into the issue of lower pay. Women are the majority of service workers and essential workers, where there is no choice but to go back to work if there is work, the sexism and classism that is directed towards women as essential workers.

And what happens to women if we try fighting for ourselves? It’s hard to fight for yourself as an essential worker because you won’t get any money if you quit, and a big part of your job you know is to serve people have Covid19. And your endangering your own life by going to work every day. I see that as a result of male domination racism, capitalism, corporations insist on still making profit; and it’s at the expense of different groups, but in the case, women in particular.

So, the next question is as you make your struggle visible how do you fight for yourself? There is a lot of work to be done as a client: learning to speak up for yourself/stand up for yourself; going back as a young girl when you were silenced and then learning how to fight, not against other women but with women as a group. What does it look like to stand up for yourself?

I want to do some short demonstrations with women from different countries.

Demonstration with M

M from Israel

M: My name is M and I live in Israel?

D: As a female, especially as a female who is Mizrachi how do you feel sexism affects you?

M: it’s combination I can show more of my fear, and that I am scared, and it’s not like around me, not many people can show it and accept it. No one is scared here.

D: As a woman who is also a woman of color can you put the sexism and racism together?

M: Yeah, it’s together

D: Because of time, I will take one thing you told me. You were telling me what was like with government trying to tell people it would be okay, that you should go back to work, that you shouldn’t be worried.

M: And now the situation here is that everything is open: everything like work, restaurants; but the number of the people who get sick is everyday more and more and get up….

D: So, let me just give you some words to see if it works. Make and angry fist and just get angry at this male Ashkenazi government, and just look at me and imitate.

M: I’m scared you know

D: and say, “How dare you!”

M: (she does this and discharges)

D: Great, keep going

M: How dare you! My life! It’s my people’s life! How dare you! This is my life, our life, and my parent’s life, and my family, and my people’s life, and I don’t have any choice. I’ve got to work; I need to go to work and I’m scared. How dare you!

The racism is that all other people, mostly the white people here, they aren’t scared, they think it’s nothing.

D: I want you to keep getting angry: the white people. The Ashkenazim, the men, the government, how dare you!

M: The United States Government, how dare you!

D: That’s great, keep working there. We have to put a check now.

More Reports from More Countries

The next stage is women fighting, learning to fight back as clients and then taking a stance in wide world for ourselves and all women and all people. so, what I want to do is hear from women from many countries (we won’t be able to get to all of you) what women should be fighting for in your country?

Anyone from Nigeria, a woman’s fight that should be taking place in Nigeria?

C: Women are fighting against domestic violence and economic pressures.

D: What is the situation around domestic violence?

C: The rape of young women (very young women) by their fathers and neighbours. The issue of women living in camps for displaced persons. The security guards who are supposed to protect them are raping them when they try to get food.

D: Thank you. Someone from India

A: We have a family system any kind of domestic violence is being suppressed. We cannot let domestic violence and male entitlement go unnoticed in any kind of relationships and marriage. It must not be taken lightly.

D: thank you, someone else from India

X: yes, like A said, and most of the men, rather than spend quality time with their family, want to go out and work because they have nothing to do at home. The women are still responsible for the children, and older people are having to work more.

D: Kenya?

J: it’s like respect has gone. We the older women were highly respected, but today the men have no shame in raping the older generation. It’s so intimidating. All the families need to have more respect for their women. We work so hard to put something for everyone to eat. We are more oppressed than before

D: Anyone from the Netherlands in Europe?

A: Mostly we are fighting the issue that most of the care workers are female, so they are working very hard and they are earning less money than others do. And I think in general as women we should speak out more loudly for ourselves and fight more together and less as individuals.

D: Anyone from Mexico?

?? In Mexico we have a strong movement around femicide. There is very little legal help. It’s seen as something inside your family. I’m working with women who leave their homes to go to work and also the university. There is pressure to work and women being raped. We also have domestic violence against girls and women. Femicide is still going on. And immigrant women heading to the USA are being attacked.

D: Wales?

M: Fighting to keep the language and culture alive. Women are the ones doing most of the work in the house and looking after everybody including the parent

D: Brooklyn, NY, USA ?

T: from Chicago, originally, American and Nigerian. One issue is trying to think about men from my group wearing masks during Covid. But I think as the protest pick up during the Black Lives Matter campaign, that we aren’t just fighting for black men, but that we are including black women in the fight; and just trying to challenge where there is some quiet expectation that we don’t challenge male domination and sexism.

D: We have to end unfortunately. If anyone want to write about something write personally to me or to the women’s list. I encourage everyone to write who can.

For those of you who are new to Re-evalution Counseling make sure you talk with your teacher or person who brought you if you have questions. There is a lot of work to do. We have done a lot of work already in RC. We bring lots of good thinking and experience. It’s a very hard time on the planet. I’ve done this work for many years. I began as your reference person since my 30s and I am now 76

For everything that is a success there is a fight for us. Fighting for leadership on the planet. There was an article in the United States that showed that places led by women were more successful than the ones led by men.

Remember the women’s commitment: I will never again settle for anything else than absolute everything.

Thanks to all the women coming from every country. Thanks to the tech team, the interpreters, and Mary Ruth Gross, our organizer. Superb job everyone.

I love you!


Last modified: 2020-08-03 22:52:52+00