Last three titles of my ten most influential books and articles which helped shape my thinking regarding feminism and the human community — woo! Got it posted at a reasonable hour, too! :)
8) Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas by Barbara Alice Mann
I loved this book! It’s so refreshing to read excellent research that simultaneously recognizes and refuses the Western fallacy of the disinterested, distanced researcher. The author, Ohio Bear Clan Seneca and professor Barbara Alice Mann, successfully interweaves Western scholarly research with a powerful native perspective — the Iroquoian Story Keeper’s style of oral record — to produce a narrative which is at once rigorously researched, richly threaded with humor, and a fascinating read.
Mann explains the profound influence and direction of Iroquoian women in the politically consensus-seeking, economically gift-oriented, socially egalitarian, and spiritually feminine divine Iroquoian social realm, through chapters which explain the culture’s social conceptions of balance. Strikingly, Mann also traces the slow erosion of women’s rights, duties, and honors through the often violent influence of the two Western “religions” of capitalism and Christianity — including how modern Western research wipes women clean from the record. Despite the horrifying record of Western atrocities, however, the author’s interjections of dry humor make this a profoundly hopeful work, offering the unique template of a far more egalitarian and widely distributed matriarchal society than is ordinarily available for modern study and learning. Check out my quickie review here!
9) “An Organizational Approach to Undoing Gender: The Unlikely Case of Offshore Oil Platforms” by Robin J. Ely & Debra E. Meyerson
This article was a wonderful revelation to me, with its scientific examination of how we can “undo” destructive gender roles. As the authors themselves note, it was quite startling for them to discover “an organizational initiative designed to enhance safety and effectiveness [which] created a culture that unintentionally released men from societal imperatives for ‘manly’ behavior” (p. 3). The original article may (unfortunately) be difficult to find, but I blogged about it here.
10) The Tending Instinct: How Nurturing is Essential to Who We Are & How We Live by Shelley E. Taylor
Holy cats, where do I start?! This book was amazing — so many incredible ideas! Definitely read this one for a strong scientific backing to the fascinating discoveries it relates. Fortunately for me, I’ve already written about it in my blog, so you can check it out in:
- Part 1 – which is mostly me musing about scholastic requirements, but also includes some references to Susan Kent’s wonderfully perceptive article “Egalitarianism, Equality, & Equitable Power.” It’s a brilliant take-down of white male anthropologists who (usually unwittingly) twist what they see to fit their unacknowledged and pre-conceived notions regarding the superiority of masculinity and what they consider men’s work… as compared to their ideas of what femininity and women’s work are.
- Part 2 – where I mention the unfortunately tenacious “alpha fallacy” extant in most patriarchal cultures. In a nutshell, in every heavily social species examined the most highly aggressive males are not the biggest winners, as we’ve been incessantly taught. The most highly aggressive males are, in fact, invariably the biggest losers, stuck at the bottom of the social hierarchy — and the easiest way to fix this? A childhood involving greater nurturance from calm, confident, attentive mothers.
- Part 3 – This section includes my ruminations on Taylor’s research regarding the critical importance of nurturance & of supporting pregnant women & mothers so they raise physically and emotionally healthier, more empathetic and confident, and well-socialized children… as well as how to prevent domestic violence.
- Part 4 – Here I review the research on the incredible physical & financial value of women’s nurturant work, & how their social networks lessen stress for both women & men — to the point that men who are living alone die at a hugely increased rate, that the rigid hierarchy of most patriarchal cultures and social class hierarchies is incredibly damaging… and how to fix it!
There you go! That’s 10+ really fascinating and personally influential texts. Admittedly, most of these books are rather scientifically oriented, mostly because it’s been my experience that hard data is what is required to get people to even consider changing their minds. This is not to say that I dislike poetry and prose, or lyrical writing — there are several books in my “polishing” category that are beautifully written and a pleasure to read. Just off the top of my head I recall:
- Alice Walker’s heart-wrenchingly inspirational We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in A Time of Darkness;
- Luce Irigaray’s gorgeously difficult poetic philosophy in je tu nous;
- Anne Primavesi’s beautiful melding of logic and lyricism in her Gaia’s Gift: Earth, Ourselves and God after Copernicus; and
- Kathie Carlson’s elegant myth-making from both patri- and matrifocal perspectives in Life’s Daughter/Death’s Bride.
Finally, for those who feel philosophy isn’t a “hard” science, I recommend Feminism & the Mastery of Nature by Val Plumwood. If you follow her staggeringly deep and articulate reasoning and it doesn’t convert you… then nothing will. :)