An Open Letter to Anita

Dear Anita,

Thank you for your kindly provided preview of the article you were submitting to NvT. I would like to comment.

The history of this issue as I remember it goes something like this. A couple of years ago ANN got itself together enough to begin drafting a charter and principles. Among the items on the displayed butcher's paper was a reference to the concept of patriarchy. A couple of men at that Gathering said that they disliked the word and one even left the Gathering at that stage because of this issue. I said that I had long ago resolved never to belong to any progressive organisation which refused to come to terms with the reality of this concept, or any which failed to endorse broad feminist principles as the solution. I remember that Glen said she felt the same way. Since the issue was generating such strong feeling an interim circumlocution referring to "power over" and "oppressive systems" was used and the debate on whether to use the word itself was agreed to be suspended until the following year.

This Gathering started with what seemed to be some nervousness on this subject since Glen and Ed among others told me that Bryan Law (who hadn't been at the previous year's gathering) would be even more vigorously opposed to ANN condemning patriarchy than had been the two men the year before. Towards the end of the Gathering Ed indicted at lunch that he would like to discuss something with me. He told me that the afternoon's agenda included the item about the inclusion or non-inclusion of opposition to patriarchy in the charter and asked what I intended to do. I said that if no one else did (preferably a woman) I would move that the word be included. Ed then said that he would support me if that happened although he expected the experience to be quite personally painful for him, since if no women had joined the debate by that time it might well be perceived as a battle between male personalities. I remember that I replied that there might well be agendas unknown to me operating inside of the Gathering which might stop some of the women there contributing for one reason or another, and while I respected that fact my own personal position which I had outlined the year before hadn't changed, I would not continue to support any organisation which ducked this question, or one which refused to affirm feminist principles to combat the evils of patriarchy.

Ed's worst fears were realised and it did indeed look like "older men" (to quote you Anita) head butting each other in a ritual display of male strength while the women remained silent. Why this happened I still don't know - although a couple of women told me after the event that they had been intimidated by Bryan's passion on the subject.

At this stage I am very undecided as to whether I will bother to attend this year's Gathering, but ( like you) if I do I don't intend to take any further part in this debate. Most certainly what interest I still have in ANN will totally dissolve if a sanitised charter results from this Gathering.

Some years ago I attended a series of meetings in which the then Green Independents in Tasmania were transforming themselves into a political party. I was part of the Tas group of eco-feminists who asked that fighting the evils of patriarchy be one of the stated aims of Green Party.

The power wielders who were instrumental in forming the basic charter of the party thought it might be too controversial and not politically wise to do this. From that time on I lost interest in the Tas Green Party (Although I still vote for them as the best of a bad bunch).

I would like to close by repeating that I don't personally think it worth while to put energy into any organisation or network which ducks this question, painful as the debate on it might be.

Jack Lomax

P.S. I've just remembered Robert Burrows once advised me that if I was ever submitting an article to NvT I should try to make sure that there was some reference to nonviolence. Feminism is - in my opinion - the epitome of nonviolence principles.

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