Tag Archives: feminism

Dancing with Speeches #41 Manal Al Sharif

Manal Al Sharif from Saudi Arabia rose to fame with a speech from her car. A simple act of defiance. Driving her way to freedom went viral, got her detained and got her heard, face seen and named. She followed up speaking in Oslo and that speech brought her sisters from around the world with her and many in her own country to get behind the wheel and not get arrested.

It always starts with one voice, one face and one name and then over time they are joined by the first follower – this all important person who echoes, pays homage and responds and then over time the movement grows. Call and response are the building blocks to all movements. Single actions lead to collection ones – a walk to make salt brings down an empire (Mahatma Gandhi) sitting on a bus brings freedom and rights (Rosa Parks), walking off land leads to fair wages (Vincent Lingiari). In Manal’s actions she is also asking each and every one of us: What wheel are you going to get behind to drive to freedom?

The wheel is a wonderful thing – and when connected to an engine even more powerful. The axel, hub, spokes, wings, rim, cap, tyre all embellish the humble and technological beauty, of the wheel. And wheels come in so many shapes and sizes, holding meaning and messages – the ferris wheel on steroids that is the Eye overseeing our cities, the wheelbarrow carting our gardening endeavours (and little children) around backyards, the colour wheel offering a kaleidoscope to enrich our senses, the wheel of fortune being spun at fairs and appearing in readings, and the prayer wheel holding us steady in all kinds of weather.

Manal Al Sharif is a woman of means, well endowed with friends to support her and come alongside of her vision for women. She calls out common sense and practicalities – and after all isn’t this the simplicity of equity? A chance for us all to have our hands on the same wheel to drive ourselves to the freedoms for all and not just the privileged few? Her name means achievement and attainment. In our response to her call success will arrive.

How long is this turning of the wheel go on before all women (and therefore all men too) are driven to freedom? The exodus from enslavement by patriarchy and frankly just silly ideas is not yet complete. There is more wheel turning to be done. More songs to be sung. More voices to be heard. More ears to listen. More hearts to open. The wheel is turning and Manal’s hands on her steering wheel in a car she owns, on a street in a city she lives and works in, driving without arrest another turn is taken.

In my tradition, to every season there is a turn and we all need to take our turn at the wheel, to be the call and all the more important, be the response to the call.

This is the time for every purpose and for every work to be turned towards speaking up and righting wrongs towards all women. There is no stop to the turning and whirling. Like a dervish possessed with the ecstasy and mystical love for their God, women of the world twirl and swirl, creating a ferment for change no longer voiceless, faceless or nameless!

we came whirling
out of nothingness
scattering stars
like dust

the stars made a circle
and in the middle
we dance

the wheel of heaven
circles God
like a mill

if you grab a spoke
it will tear your hand off

turning and turning
it sunders
all attachment

were that wheel not in love
it would cry
“enough! how long this turning?”

every atom
turns bewildered

beggars circle tables
dogs circle carrion
the lover circles
his own heart

ashamed,
I circle shame

a ruined water wheel
whichever way I turn
is the river

if that rusty old sky
creaks to a stop
still, still I turn

and it is only God
circling Himself

~Rumi~

Dancing with Speeches #11 David Morrison

Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison’s message about inappropriate behaviour of male army personnel is the book end to Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech in the Australian context. His ‘take no prisoners’ approach to sexism set a new standard in clarity about what it means to be inclusive.

We all have standards that set the tone of what is and isn’t acceptable, and we settle for a range of standards for the same things in different contexts. Take for instance the humble hamburger: a fancy de-constructed gourmet version in an upmarket location attracts different expectations from the one we might eat in a fast food family restaurant in the suburbs.  Morrison made it plain the Army held itself to the highest standard and there was no room for anything less that holding that standard.  So often we settle for less, we make excuses, we compensate for inadequacies, we might even say “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.  This will lead us to betray our standards and in the end, we become the victims of our own inability to hold ourselves to our own standards.  We end up being less than our potential. Whether we are a nation, a military outfit, a community, a family – there are standards infused with our values we can proclaim, hold ourselves to account and practice in a disciplined way.

This week, Tony Windsor, independent political candidate aspirant reconnected with his standards, no longer able to be a passenger on standby, has raised his hand to be considered by the people of New England (NSW) to be once again their representative in the Australian Parliament.  He says he must step up to the plate again and give the voters a choice about the standards he holds for a democracy that will take his community to heart in its decision making.  The week before, elder Patrick Dodson did the same to join the Senate, a place made clear for him with the resignation of a right wing senator opposed to marriage equality. The ‘father of reconciliation’ will bring a spiritual power to the Senate never seen before in the Australian landscape.  A new standard of the land as mother. is eeking its way into our national parliament.  We heard this week from women (and men) members of parliament about who calls themselves a feminist and Dale Spender’s definition got a good run again, courtesy of Senator Penny Wong:

Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety in the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centres, women’s refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist’, I ask, ‘Why? What’s your problem? – Dale Spender

The standards of justice, equity, inclusion, access, participation – are my kind of standards and I often let them slip.  I too make excuses and reluctantly defer to the culture in which they slip. Yet as Morrison pointed out, there is no room to do that, it is ill disciplined to settle for less. We are all responsible for building a culture. We can invoke Drucker’s culture eats strategy for breakfast mantra to help us and to build the inclusive culture in which the standards are in the bedrock, long before that culture gets translated into strategy.  The Army who treats its own with disrespect will surely inflict more atrocities on those they meet in the theatre of war.  So it is too, if we don’t hold ourselves and those around us to the same standards of decent, respectful behaviour, then we will not translate that careless, discipline to those we might work alongside of or serve.

It is easy to let your standards slip, it starts often as an act of compassion or forgiveness even, yet before you know it you are out of step and drowning in the consequences of accumulated slips.  Holding yourself to your own standards requires hearing the reveille each morning as a call to those standards to be upheld.  We need to wake up to ourselves, be roused, hear the bugler call us to get up and be armed with the necessary discipline to face the day where we set standards. We need to hold ourselves accountable to those standards, and if others don’t like that, well, find another friend, another colleague, another partner, another workmate.