I'm also mostly a lurker here, and partly because of another thread long ago where a man shared his righteous indignance about the women-only workshops being offered, and seemed to flat out reject that there could be any value in "conscious segregation" for the purpose of greater integration on the whole.
I may (or may not) have an unpopular view of where the problem of sexism comes from. I do not claim to speak for all women, any men, or very much of the race at all. I aim here to share the views of myself, the many friends I have made in my treks up and down the east coast (from NY on down to AL and much of the space between).
Whenever I find myself in a new place, I feel the need to seek out my "crew". Most of the time, though this is not my intention, I end up with a group of women who are seeking to "live well". Here are some of the things I have had (hopefully relevant) conversations about with these groups of (mostly) women:
- Men and women ARE different, and avoiding the differences, glossing over them, or pretending they don't exist is more sexist than trying to understand them, or falling short of that, to accept and embrace them. Many of us have come to the conclusion that we live in a culture where equality is valued more highly than freedom, and the overwhelming evidence that we are not equal (maybe equivalent) is no match for the popular dogma. I make no claim as to the reason or source of the differences (social, genetic, etc.) between the sexes, or the relationship sex has to gender. This is a matter of diverse opinions, although I can't claim it has garnered much debate among these groups, as most of us are more interested in "now what" rather than "why".
- Most women, and most men, do not neatly fit into any sort of "category" although there are things that can be pretty accurately stated about most women, and most men. Gross generalizations may not be completely accurate, but they are often very useful and helpful in integrating diverse groups, so long as those who do not fall into those generalizations aren't dismissed or devalued. In fact, those who fall outside the generalizations are often the most valuable. This might include women who are driven to "step up", depending on whether you agree with me that "stepping up" is something a man is more likely to do in the public eye.
- Most of the people who become part of my "crew" believe that men are more likely to seek wider approval for their actions, and that this is good. Most of these people believe that women are more likely to try and make their own situation as good as possible, and share with others partly by inviting them to share in what they have accomplished at home - and that this is good. For my own part, I work towards living well, making better choices, BEING HAPPY AND HEALTHY and LOOKING GOOD DOING IT. This is one way we influence others, through envy. If I have good health, free delicious food growing right outside my door, and an attractive home, then people who see my home, who visit me, who meet me, talk to me, they are going to want to have what I have. They will start the conversation with me, and I don't even need to try and convince them that what I have is better than what they have... as I don't even believe that that is true... but they decided that they want it, and they will try and get it on their own.
True, I don't post on many forums, I don't have a blog, and I don't teach classes (yet). I feel that "homemaker" (in the sense of one who modifies their home to suit their ideal) is a role that many women will fall more easily into than the more typically masculine role of a public face/voice. I value the work of Sigi Koko (in the realm of natural building), Rosemary Morrow and the other women who, honestly, have slipped my memory for the moment (that happens with Paul too, I often forget his name at the exact moment I want to reference something he's said or done). Reading what a woman writes on the same topics as men who are more widely recognized has been incredibly useful for my own work and life, *because* men and women are different. Being taught a class for women taught by a woman has also been incredible. The value of women leadership and presence is incredible, but I don't know that saying "step up" is the way to approach most women about doing anything, at all. That sounds like a masculine call to action, lol.
((I also am personally struggling with what I will label as an addiction to technology. I am in recovery, and I am proud of how I have been dealing with it. It can be an excellent tool, but for me (and many others I have run into) it's mostly a distraction from what I can DO.)) The fact that men are more widely recognized for their work and efforts has more to do with the common traits of men vs. women than it has to do with any high-drama sexist claims. This is ok, too, it's part of the transition from where we have been to where we are going. So long as the women who do "step up" aren't damned from the start, and the men who don't "step up" aren't damned for that, then we can make some real progress without bringing in the drama that labels like sexist, racist, etc. often stir up.
- The people who begin to become part of the crew and don't remain so are often those who take personal offense at the ideas of others and hold onto it unless and until they get "satisfaction" that their offense will be mitigated. Those who remain are those who, even if they take personal offense, don't hang onto it past the point that it might be useful or helpful. Folks who are less entitled are more ready to learn, accept, and live in harmony. Entitlement is anti-permaculture, I believe. Maybe, entitlement is part of what makes the word "vegan" so dirty these days, that is the militant vegans are harboring a sense of entitlement for the animals. The sense of entitlement does seem to fall along certain lines, which I won't go into.
- The women in the "crew" are more interested in "living well" than in changing others' minds, and it may sound selfish, and maybe it is, but I think it's A-OK too. These particular women are sick of drama, and many feel that ANY label can and will be a source of drama in time. The ones who feel this way don't even like the label "permaculture". One even pointed out that calling a way of life by any name makes it immediately not the norm. Her point, which I have considered over and over, is that what she considers living well might actually BE permaculture, but calling it that makes people who want to "fit in" avoid it. Simply living it, doing it, and sharing the bounty, is the way to reach the people who are "asleep" in the mainstream, she said. And if that will happen, it will happen quietly. It does seem that this is "women's work" if one accepts that women are more likely to work close to home and less likely to seek public view. Many of this group have included home-schooling as part of their living-well. The children are learning from their parents how to live close to the earth, and close to home.
I guess what I'm really getting at is this: In my opinion, the people who are most likely to cry "sexist" are the least helpful. Ignore them, or accept them, but trying to cater to them is probably more sexist than what they were crying out about in the first place. Equality isn't "real", equivalence might be more realistic, but they are ideals, and ones that I'm not even sure of the ultimate value of, so long as we are able to avoid the types of horrors that brought about the fear of inequality in the first place... and I think that the permaculture ethic (with or without the "extras"), if followed would never allow those sorts of gross situations to arise.
And as far as sexism in permaculture... maybe it's there, maybe it's not, but the only way for us to be non-sexist is to accept the unique nature of each individual, value what they have to offer, encourage every voice to find it's song, and not to look down on any song just because it's too loud or too quiet... so long as there is harmony and consonance.
I hope that last bit about songs wasn't too "purple" for you, and as always, I hope I have been coherent and relatively non-offensive.