Women Leaders and the Great Turning

As is true each week when we report on resistance movements, there is a lot going on, too much to report in one summary. One common denominator we noted this week that we highlight here is the prevalence of female leadership on many fronts.

We point this out, because we see leadership by women as an essential element in the creation of a society that is capable of sustaining a peaceful and just existence. As Riane Eisler documents in The Chalice and the Blade, the most repressive and violent periods of human history correspond with times when women were dominated and traditional feminine values of caring and empowering were viewed as weak.

The rise of women to a place where they can lead based on traditional feminine values is consistent with the Great Turning, as described by Joanna Macy, away from a society based on competition and destruction towards a society based on cooperation and life-sustaining practices. We celebrate women and the Great Turning in this week’s report.

The last two days, we were inspired by women leading efforts against the tar sands and environmental destruction in the wake of a wave of oil spills. On April 9, Nancy Zorn, a 79 year old grandmother from Oklahoma used a bike lock to attach her neck to a massive earth-mover, an excavator, to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from progressing. She said “I can no longer sit by idly while toxic tar sands are pumped down from Canada and into our communities. It is time to rise up and defend our home. It is my hope that this one small action today will inspire many to protect this land and our water.” Zorn is the second Oklahoma grandmother to be arrested resisting the KXL.

In Texas, Julia Trigg Crawford, is a third generation farmer at Red’Arc Farm in Lamar County, Texas, 100 miles northeast of Dallas where her family has lived since the 1850s. The farm produces wheat, corn and soybeans and supports a small herd of cattle. Crawford says it is “one of the most beautiful pastures in the county” that is “revered” for the quality of hay produced. TransCanada condemned the land and offered her payment. She is now embroiled in a tough eminent domain battle in court fighting the condemnation. She urges others to take TransCanada to court.

Activist Cindy Sheehan is on a ‘Tour de Peace’ bike ride across the country. We’re posting updates of her journey. She left her home on the anniversary of her son, Casey’s death. She’s stopping in towns to talk with people and spread the word for peace and justice. Sheehan is promoting everything from free education and healthcare for all to ending dependence on fossil fuels. She says the effort is designed to be nonpartisan, telling an audience in Palm Springs “Politics is just a small part of what we should be doing to change the country.” She plans to get to Washington, DC on July 3.

This weekend, Occupy the Department of Education, organized by women who advocate for quality education, held a protest in Washington, DC urging democratic not corporate education reform. Education reform consistent with democracy would include more funding, smaller classes, policy and curriculum input from citizens, and professional teachers committed to staying in the school systems (i.e., not Teach for America teachers).

April is a month of action against drones with events occurring throughout the country. Surely a highlight was the protests in San Diego where Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK led a protest at the home of Neal Blue, chief executive officer of General Atomics which manufactures the Predator drone. Benjamin, who has written a book on drones, says she wants “a transparent, national discussion about our use of drones. This is not the kind of world we want to live in. We think we are beginning to turn the tide on public opinion.”

You can watch or listen to our interview with Medea Benjamin and Judy Bello about the month of drone protests on ClearingtheFOGRadio.org Monday, April 15 at 11 am EST. Another leader in the work to end the use of drones is retired US army Colonel and former diplomat, Ann Wright.

Female activists from the group Femen protested across Europe in a day of action, an international “topless jihad,” on April 4th in support of Amina, a young Tunisian woman who caused a scandal when she published photographs of herself bare-chested on the Internet in March.

The Idle No More First Nation’s Indian movement was sparked by Chief Teresa Spence in December 2012 when she engaged in a hunger strike protesting the seizure of land and natural resources from tribal areas. The movement has spread around the world. This week the Idle No More protests took place in Red Lake Manitoba, Canada where HudBay Minerals is planning a copper mine as well as in Minnesota where Angie Palacio handcuffed herself to an interior door at Enbridge Energy to protest the company’s operation on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Finally, we have been following a group of Indigenous women who are walking 1,200 miles from the headwaters of the Mississippi River to the Mouth of the River. They carry with them a bucket of water from the headwaters which they will pour into the mouth of the river to show the river what she could be. Their purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of keeping the Mississippi clean for the next seven generations. They are now south of St. Louis.

These are only a few examples among many of women showing great leadership and dedication in the culture of resistance that will transform the country. There are many people involved in this movement (see our website for some of the other activists) – all genders, races and ages are part of this growing national and global movement.

And, as we can see from Obama’s budget, it will take all of us working together in solidarity to overcome transnational corporate power that currently controls the political process and increasingly controls the resources and services that we need for life. Diversity brings strength to all things including movements. When we work in solidarity, we can’t be pitted against each other by those who oppose us and there is greater wisdom and creativity.

So, this week we celebrate women who are leaders because we see the rise of women as a positive sign. And we celebrate the growing culture of resistance which includes all people who seek peace, justice and sustainability.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are co-directors of Popular Resistance. Margaret serves as co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. Read other articles by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.