Article by: Joyce Simmerman, J.D.-- Staff Writer


This, my first regular submission of "Tidbits" is actually a quick and dirty race across women-times with some very mini- reviews of a few favorite works by women authors. I pick these because they have been among those writers who have helped change my life and understandings. These women defined their experience of life in ways I could relate to, in ways which gave me an otherwise ungranted dignity to some very undignified situations and circumstances in my life. They helped me process my life with their definitions of woman's experience. Today I can see how these tidbits were threads of my very fabric of life. They helped weave and reweave the new AND raveling threads together so it made sense, so I could detect hope in my darker hours, days, or weeks.

Patriarchy is A Conceptual Trap. E. Dodson Gray, (out of print). This title spoke Volumes to me and others. It was used in a feminist theory course at the University of South Dakota. However, unlike the mess blesser below, this one was absolutely pregnant with multiple births of the Big Picture of LIFE for me. The mess blesser got me through some of LIFE experiences just by the hope and encouragement of the concept. This book, on the other hand, put it ALL together in a very nice way. The "nice way" showed me I didn't have to be angry at all men for the way the arrogant authorities, religious experts, and all the other power-wielding or exploitative male experts ordered MY world and EVEN my perceptions around.

I could actually feel sorry for the poor deluded males caught in this "conceptual trap" with me. My 3 sons might not become the enemy if I used the knowledge right and perhaps my 2 daughters could be spared suffering from the invisibility and minimalization attendant to the female state of being. One of the main bondage-breaking concepts of this book is that authoritarian insistence on the "either/or" conceptual trap to our thinking can be remedied with awareness and replacement. The "either/or" is also manifested in "less than/more than" , "better than/worse than", "higher than/lower than" type comparisons.

For examples, the "either/or" is so typical of the problems we can see upon analysis of many legal decisions spewed out of the courts today. A person is guilty or not. Sane or insane. Violent or non-violent. Black and white. No shades of gray. It involves the totality and colorings of our perceptions of what actually exists in other spheres and planes of being. The quality of mercy is being strained by these polar opposites as our conception of the world's functioning. If a "higher-up", (ie. authority or expert, religiously-titled person, or other digitary--or celebrity), makes a statement, it is given MORE credence than any wise questioning or answers a "lower-than" person has, (i.e., the layman, not FORMALLY-trained and credentialed person). Our homes, communities, schools, universities, organizations, businesses, consultancies, thus revolve around the rather artificial credentialing system we've bought into.

This higher than/lower than credentialing and recognition of those who "merit" merit deprives everyone involved. It demeans the potential of the art of persuasion and reason as being the forces behind group actions. Force and violence, exploitation of the "lower thans" is at least tolerated, and at worst actively promoted by, policies favoring this unequal recognition of the worth and dignity of all humans, of everyone's contribution. It discourages any critical exploration of these conceptual traps for humanity, the earth and all its sentient creatures.

Gray included neat illustrations demonstrating the devastating effects which could be causally connected if one started from the right perspective. If our world order revolves around the concepts placing a "God" as highest, next man, then woman, then children, then certain animals, then others on down the ladder to totally demeaning things like grass and trees, then it becomes, ipso facto, "OK" for a loving god to order beatings of children and wives in the orders of holy writdom. This "ordering" of hierarchical layers can turn so-called holy matrimony into licenses to beat, maim and kill, with other authorities looking the other way, refusing to take it as seriously as if, say the President or the Pope, or other dignitary were attacked or killed. After all, IF one's life is valued as "less than" the President's or Pope's, then it is at least conceptually OK to set different standards for the unequal treatment of justice, merit and favors for people.

The patriarchal, or hierarchy, model of ordering our governments and governemental relations means that the "biggest" and most powerful will be listened to whereas smaller and weaker will not. The fallacies in this ordered thinking are not immediately apparent: intuitively and emotionally, yes. But until they are well defined and illustrated, they are somewhat hard to "conceptualize" and accept. Harder still is the progressive retro-circular-thinking by which our societies and homes could benefit. Patriarchy is a Conceptual Trap points the way to a more equitable world concept but does not go into the proposed solutions in any great detail. The questions are raised however.

I believe that in these estranged and violent times we would collectively be much better off if solutions and suggestions were sought from accros the spectrum of humanity's resources, to reconcile people's differences, to honor and celebrate them, instead of hierarchically layering them. There are organized societies which function well with egalitarian principles. There are organizations in existence today which demonstrate the soundness of promoting the dignity and worth of each human being, with degradation and indignities one of another NOT being part of the active functioning of the organization. Again, I will furnish author's name for due credit further down the line.

Woman,Church and State: The Original Expose of Male Collaboration against the Female Sex. My tidbit threads from and about this book involve the validation of my personal struggles with organized religion and how it affected the perceptions reaching into our civic life. At the time I read this book it was printed for the Women's Center at Aberdeen, S.D., or at least that was my source. The Women's Center also circulated a film with documentation of the witch burnings done with the collaboration of the churches and states primarily of Europe. The film was very dramatic. The statistics documented originally by Matilda Gage from her research of actual old church/state records in Europe were staggering.

I do not recall offhand the summary figures she compiled for female gender witch-hunt related deaths, but it seems it was 9,000,000, more than Hitler's holocaust. Talk about man's inhumanity to (wo)man! The book was of great interest to me personally and life-changing in several respects. Matilda Gage is rarely mentioned as being a leading suffragette today, after doing much of the early work alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the others. Because Matilda also actively promoted church reforms, and partly because the others thought these too divisive in the vote struggle, some sought to minimize her recognition. Her revelations regarding the role the church has played in the subjugation and exploitation of women were very validating of some of my earlier experiences. I see this still going on in many places, too many places, with the various religions still working to keep woman in her place ... sometimes lower than a dog, as though they should be "lower than" too. (Some dogs, like some women, are much more noble than SOME male humans. It seems to have worked).

Gage's more scholarly approach to the totality of the concepts of equality, and a difference with the other suffragettes as to the amount of support to be given to black men in their struggle, have served to place this heroine of mine almost in oblivion. I was awed at the time I read this book that a woman living in those times was able to have the education and the means to pursue the research and commit to the struggle as she did. At the present time, as I write this "tidbit" I cannot even find my copy of the book. Its here somewhere.....I will get back to readers with more on Matilda later. I feel she is still a heroine for our times.

God Bless This Mess. (Circa 1970s). As promised, this is a "quick and dirty". This tidbit is actually just a TITLE of a book by a woman author unknown to me at this point in time. I do not have the time to research her, but promise to do this detail in the future to give her credit where credit is due. I never had an opportunity to read the book itself so I cannot even pass judgment on it. I have a feeling it might be a trifle too "religious" for me. However, that Title alone spoke VOLUMES to me: God Bless This Mess. She didn't have to say more for my comfort and encouragement. It spoke of empathy for my situation.

At the time I believed my personal and domestic life was in quite a mess, and any encouragement that there was light at the end of the tunnel for me and my children was eagerly appropriated. As I shared with members of a women's list, I think I'll soon undertake a book about "Poor Housekeeping". More on that later, suggestions welcome on how to do it. Thats it for now, folks. I have lots of good books to do more than quick and dirty on which I will share in time to come.

For instance, consider this partial quote in the preface of a 1935 book by Eleanor Booth Simmons, titled simply "Cats". She tells describes a homeless woman she had met who was carrying a forlorn cat to a shelter, "I has a feelin' for them," she said. "Of all the creatures in this world, cats an'women has the hardest time." Can you relate?


WOW! Update to my following "Tidbits" submission: I need to tell the world.... I did not send this off last evening feeling uncomfortable with not finishing the credits and more of the "Woman,Church,&State". I prayed my own way...to G.O.D. . .i.e., "Good Orderly Direction"...(If She/He IS really "God" she'll understand: for more "direction" on this.), Not being able to find my book copy I went to Internet this morning to plug those keywords into search to see what I could turn up. What I found THIS time was much more than I bargained for. Not only did I find a wealth of new websites with feminist books/writings online but a bit of heroine Gage's history I never knew before.

She, like me, was privelged to spend time with a matrilineal Indian tribe...the Iroquois in her case, Tlingit-Haida in mine, which influenced all her further work and influenced her belief, LIKE MINE, that a more just, peaceful, and functioning egalitarian society is not only possible...but WORKING MODELS!! AND, She, like me, was adopted into the WOLF CLAN! I got goosebumps, dear Readers!! I AM in happy hunting grounds NOW!! :) MORE LATER.

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