The omen with a W, that’s us, women! We aren’t just wo-men, we are w-omen as well! So there’s a lot in us, and our wor(l)d!
Are we then, also a phenomenon which can foretell the future, with a view towards change? We are, already, “phenomenal women”, to quote Maya Angelou.
There is a branch of social science and philosophy called “phenomenology”, could we claim this? Probably very much so, as it’s the study of consciousness and experience, and this has always been central in the women’s movement! Feminist phenomenology!
Then the foretelling: we – or some of us – can perhaps foretell the future, many healers and shamans in history have been women, so much so that they called us “witch” in the Middle Ages and burnt many of us – written about famously by Angela Dworkin and others.
On the other hand, though, the ‘omen’ is also between us and the men, literally. It is inside our two words, as follows: w-o-men: we are in front of it, the men behind it, we could say. Is the ‘O’ that’s between us, our exchange space, the circle that brings us together? Or is it a trans-space?
In an ideal world, the former may be so. But as long as there is patriarchy, connections between us are disturbed and overlooked. Group analyst W.G. Bion uses “the simple and single ‘O’ as a concept and a theory of infinity and transcendence but he never detected gender there. There is, then, the typical omission and disturbance. Buddhism, of course, has the ‘om’: the juncture between ‘women’ and ‘men’ – but this is a word from another language of course… this is, perhaps, the true transcendence, which may have inspired Bion with his ‘O’.
And right now…
This year, there’s a curious oddity on International Women’s Day: the Governments Budget will be announced on International Women’s Day. A strange choice! If it was good news for women’s progress, then it would make sense, but otherwise the budget is at risk of overshadowing the aims of the day it has chosen for itself.
Secondly, Radio 4, which I otherwise love (it’s by far my favourite station), has declared this week to be ‘Mars week’: so it’s about planetary exploration! This too is odd, considering that Mars is supposed to be ‘male planet’, whereas Venus is traditionally woman’s planet. Again there is a chance here, which is to challenge gender stereotypes in the stars, but if it’s not doing this, then, like the Budget, it is at risk of overshadowing the aims of International Women’s Week – and it risks to take no notice of International Women’s Day!
Our Women’s Organization faces new challenges. In a time of extreme upheaval, organizing a Women’s March, just because it’s Women’s Day, and we are traditionally supposed to have a march then, can fade into a routine and thereby insignificance.
It’s easier, too, to have a women’s march, then, say, a march against Brexit. Clearly, a march against Brexit is more controversial than women. Brexit, unlike women, is not a topic that has been around for a long time, but it’s now acute, so organising against it has to take place now.
Of course not all women voted against Brexit, neither does it affect only women: so it’s a different type of topic.
So, given that not all women against Brexit, would a march against Brexit be divisive? My argument is that if it is, then it should not deter us from organising against it. After all, what would be the use of accommodating all opinions if we are demanding things, such as our rights? To be revolutionary is an act of courage as well, but then this is precisely the point of standing up for our rights! I think this is why Second Wave feminism was more successful than our movement at the moment. Back then, they were prepared to demand specific things, whereas nowadays we are so involved with inclusivity when it comes to opinions, that it threatens to weaken our impact. There has to be some tolerance of variety in opinions, otherwise this would not be democratic, but if there are too many different opinions under one banner, our overall message becomes too broad, diluted and too general to have much impact. We need more courage nowadays!