Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Friday, 9 May 2014

Cry, Baby: Barbara Walker and the Treatment of Women


Three weeks ago, in Nigeria, more than 200 school girls were taken from their school, kidnapped by a group of masked men, who have since threatened to sell the girls, including a 9 year old, as slaves and child brides.  (By the way, I abhor the term, “child bride.”  The correct term is “sex slave.”)  This is not an uncommon event in Nigeria and in many other places around the world; every day,women, young and old, are emotionally abused, kidnapped, raped, sold, beaten, and killed, usually by men, often by those who claim to work for the glory of whatever god they worship. 

I will not name the group responsible for this current atrocity, for to do so is to feed its power, to give these men a significance and identity not afforded to the girls they have taken, girls whose names most of us have never heard, girls who,until recently,were not as important as the male owner of a basketball team when he was called out for racist remarks he thought he was making in private, or whatever celebrities on the circuit are up to at the moment.  Now, the focus has shifted somewhat.  The Western world has decided to pay attention to the girls, offering moral and tactical support to help these children return to their families.  There are reports that the kidnappers might be willing to trade the girls for prisoners or ransom.  As an example of just how low we have sunk in devaluing human lives, a report in the local paper quotes someone who has “previously brokered face-to-face “peace” talks with this group" as saying this: “. . .it is possible to detect a conciliatory tone in this statement from  S-he is not saying he is going to kill the girls (LeaderPost, May 9, 2014, emphasis mine).”  Big of him.

How did we come to this?  At what point and why did men learn to hate women so deeply?  How did women, life-givers to all humans, become the targets for such rage? 

Barbara Walker thinks she knows.  I am speaking of that Barbara Walker, she of knitting fame, known to knitters young and old for her Knitting Treasuries.  Barbara wrote the bibles of knitting; when she finished that work to her satisfaction, she went on to write many books on the history of goddess religions and matriarchal systems.  In one of these books, The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power,  Ms. Walker traces the current madness of men back to a time thousands of years ago, when men began the suppression of matriarchy, replacing it with a system of violence and greed, a system in which anyone who is not Us is The Other, someone or something to be destroyed.  These characteristics, Walker claims, are traits of the patriarchal societies in which we now live. 

Patriarchal systems (most notably, the Christian church) actively suppressed female wisdom, punishing those women who were sought out as the keepers of wisdom, healers in their community, responsible for familial lineage.  Women were punished unto death for daring to seek education (sound familiar?); Walker cites a figure of over nine million people, virtually all of them women, killed in the witch hunt frenzy (The Crone, “The Crone Turns Witch,” pp. 125 to 146).  The suppression of women has a long, long history.  Current events are a continuation of tradition.

The Crone was published in 1985.  There's a good chance you've never heard of this book, let alone read it, even if you know Barbara Walker and her gifts to the fibre world.  Walker is an example of what she writes-we think of her as that lady who wrote those knitting books, not the strong, powerful force of intellect and champion of women’s rights she has always been.  She’s a scholar-you may not agree with her thesis, but she has the documentation to support her claims.  I consider myself to be a strong feminist, but there are sections in her book that made me go, “Whoa!”  Mr. DD read it and was fascinated; it’s a text anyone who desires some understanding of the world’s current treatment of women should  seek out and read.

The question remains: what can we do to help?  Raising our voices against this violence is a start and, by “speaking out,” I don’t mean liking pages or signing on line petitions.  Raising our voices means demanding change, face to face, with politicians, our neighbours, each other.  It means marching and active protesting.

In the long term, we will need a massive shift in our view of current patriarchal systems and our perspectives and treatment of women in these systems, which operate in every part of the globe, including here.  I’ll leave it to Barbara Walker to summarize the benefits of a shift away from the male back to the female:

If the self-seeking powerlust of mature men were made subject to the “intuitive” judgment of mature women, instead of the other way round, surely human life and society could be improved. The earth might become a safer, kinder, healthier place. People might care more for the welfare of future generations. Instead of trying to escape inevitable death in futile fantasies, they might enrich life by honest work on their legacy to their posterity.
Women, who have suffered so much at the hands of patriarchal mythmakers, need no longer pretend not to understand their motives.  God can’t, but woman can call man to account for his gynocidal, genocidal behavior.She had better do it soon, for he is already counting down to doomsday. (The Crone, p. 178)



  1. Thank you for sharing this. I had no idea Barbara Walker had such a varied background and wrote on this topic, but now that I know I'll be sure to seek it out.

  2. I certainly agree that patriarchy has greatly injured the world, and hope somehow for it's reversal. There is nothing new in this.
    But I strongly object to the political correctness of singling out Christianity as being the prime example of feminine suppression.
    We have the example in the news today of a young couple being murdered in India under the orders of Punjabi relatives; we have child brides, honor killings , female circumcision, widows being killed and ostracized, gang rapes in wartime; we have Malali(?) being shot for going to school, not to mention the 250 girls in Nigeria who have been kidnapped and sold into the sex trade lately. Some of this violence is cultural, of course, as most tribal systems are patriarchal and the customs have been adopted into the religion.
    The Christian church has a stained past as well, and has a ways to go. I abhor the way some priests abused children; I hope I will see in my lifetime female priests; it is inevitable.
    But, to pick out Christianity as the most notable example of violence against women is not correct; it is an easy target. just look around at the present day, and see and report the numbers.

    1. Hi, Fran! As I noted in my post, you may not agree with Ms. Walker, but she does document her claims in the book. She notes that violence against women is systemic, found in all cultures and all religions. She focuses primarily on the Christian church and its hierarchy in "The Crone." It's an interesting read.

    2. Deborah, I will check out this book from the library, but I am sure I have read many similar in my lifetime, starting with "women's lib" in the 60's and 70's,( as I am nearly Barbara's age), and going on through yoga, New Thought, Buddism, etc. There was a long period of anger in that era.......against men and organised religions. I don't know why Barbara would focus on Christianity, since violence against women predates Christianity.
      The book wasn't written until the 80's, however.
      Since you are talking about the book, and defending it, I assume you agree with it.
      It is important to know the histories from which we are emerging, but we must move on, and contribute to the spiritual development of our world.
      In my case, when I was very ill and very poor and very discouraged, the Catholic church was the only place where I found understanding and peace, and doors open every day. And I see daily where women are being helped, and where they are creating community. They do what women have always done......visit the sick, make sandwiches for the drop-in centre, sing at funerals, give out food boxes, organize retreats and workshops, send money overseas, counsel young girls, visit prisons. I believe that exposure to ritual and the commitment of cCommunion enables them to do that.
      I just wish we could live in the present, and stop attacking the church, when violence is all around us, and the church is trying to be a healing presence.
      Out of gratitude, I feel compelled to defend it. I will accept criticism from inside the church, but not from atheists, as Barbara says she is. Lets just move on.!! This has been talked about since forever.

  3. I haven't heard of Barbara Walker at all but will look her up now, thanks for the introduction, I am also not religious but would have to agree with Fran, especially looking at the world religions today that Christianity cannot take all the blame, other religions are just as patriarchal and still suppress women in more ways than christianity does. Yes some of these ideas about a woman's position come from cultural traditions, but most cultural traditions relate back to a religious basis. Religion has a lot to answer for apart from its treatment of women. As long as women are seen as possessions and 3rd class citizens nothing will change, we also have to remember that their are more women in the world than men so how have we ended up in this situation?

    1. Hi, Debbie! Ms. Walker tracks violence against women back to the suppression of matriarchal social systems. She argues that the Christian church and its leaders played a huge and ugly role in that suppression. Again, you may not agree with her, but if you read the book, you'll see that she documents her claims.