Women Harvest Power
I don’t usually talk about electoral politics in this blog, but the events of the last week are so remarkable and related to the season that I want to address them.
Lughnasadh (LOO-na-sa), celebrated on August 1 in the Celtic tradition, marks the beginning of the harvest. We gather the fruits from the seeds we sowed in spring. These fruits can be food for the body; they also can take the form of projects completed, goals met, skills attained. The holiday is named for the sun god Lugh, known for his many skills. According to legend, he held a harvest fair to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu, whose name derives from a Celtic word meaning “The Great One of the Earth.” At Lughnasadh we give thanks for abundance and recognize our accomplishments and gifts as well as the hard work and sacrifice that harvest requires. We prepare for the dark, cold times to come in fall and winter, storing up nourishment for our bodies, minds and souls.
96 years after women won the right to vote in the United States, a highly skilled, experienced woman has been nominated by a major party as its candidate for the highest elected office in the land, the Presidency. This accomplishment – this harvest – has been a long time coming and would not have been possible without the hard work, courage, sacrifice, and stamina of thousands of women and men over those 96 years. Whatever one may think of Hillary Clinton, personally or politically (and she tends to inspire strong and divergent feelings), the significance of the moment calls for recognition and celebration. As Clinton made her acceptance speech, she stood on the shoulders of Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, the Grimké sisters, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and many others, known and unknown, as well as those of modern feminists.
Suffragists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were split by racism and xenophobia. Giving white, educated women the right to vote was touted by some white leaders, both female and male, as a strategy to limit the political power of people of color and immigrants. Things have changed at least somewhat since then. Many people of color and immigrants took the stage and spoke powerfully at the Democratic Party Convention. Three talented Black women took charge of the Convention and the Democratic National Committee after leadership failures highlighted by leaked emails. However, we still have a long way to go before universal suffrage and racial and gender equality are achieved in fact. Racist, misogynistic and xenophobic attitudes and actions are also center stage in this election season, dividing the country and attempting to deprive millions of their votes and other rights.
Qualities and abilities traditionally associated with women – birth, nurturance, intuition, interdependence, cooperation, compassion, stamina – have for centuries been undervalued compared to those associated with men: independence, self-reliance, toughness, logic, competition, dominance. These qualities can manifest in anyone, female or male. To restore the health and vitality of our democracy and of the Earth, we need to find a better balance.
On the first night of the convention, Michelle Obama said that “the president is about one thing and one thing only, it’s about leaving something better for our kids. That’s how we’ve always moved this country forward, by all of us coming together on behalf of our children.” On the last night, Chelsea Clinton spoke to a national audience 5 ½ weeks after giving birth (something I can’t imagine doing). Both she and her mother honored their female lineage in their speeches: grandmother, mother, daughter, and the next generation, just being born amidst huge changes and challenges.
In our personal and communal gardens, we choose what seeds we sow, physically and metaphorically. Some of the plants in our gardens were sown by others before us; we can nurture them or weed them out. We also choose on whose behalf we focus our hard work. We will harvest the fruits of our labors. What will those fruits be, and how will they be shared?