Towards the De-masculinisation of the
By Janine Roberts
Many years ago we invited to our home the
author of the Pedegogy of the
Oppressed.Paulo Friere, a radical scholar
who made an enormous impact back in the 1970s by saying education in
third world countries should give power back to the people that were
being educated rather than to teach them to obey orders from the
At that time our family home in Melbourne
was also the home for about 35 Aboriginal people. We jointly
challenged the organisers of his lecture tour for only making him
available to the middle class elite. We wanted to hear him too - so
they agreed that he would deliver a lecture at our home to
Aborigines. He came and argued during his talk that Aboriginal people
were so few in numbers that they needed to join forces with working
people if society were to be changed.
One of the Aborigines then responded that
what the author was proposing would mean that Aborigines would be
nothing more than the currents in a fruit loaf. No, he continued,
they could not seek their liberation initially by joining with white
workers.. Instead Aborigines had to seek their salvation separately
as a people, and, when they had won recognition as a people, would
then be able to join with workers as equals to work with them as
partners to construct a free society.
Women are also in danger of becoming
simply the currents in the loaf. The major institutions of our
society have only nominal numbers of women. This is all that is
planned. No more fundamental revision of our institutions is planned.
We are told that the appointment of some women to these institutions
ends institutional sexism. The plan is that the basic shape of our
institutions will remain as they were constructed by males during the
years of oppression.
It could be that we have something to
learn from Aboriginal society in Central Australia. (For a fuller description of this
click here.) There both women and men
traditionally have separate assemblies and only old people with grey
hair sit jointly. Perhaps we need for a while to have a separate
women's assembly to examine how female values could be incorporated
in reshaped insitutions. While this process is happening, there could
be separate Lower Houses or Houses of Representatives. The US Senate
or the UK House of Lords could become the house of elected grey
haired elders of either gender.
I can imagine some of the other changes
that would be made. The House of Commens and the US Congress would
stop being pits where males strut in packs and hoot at each other.
Instead the anti-trust laws would be extended so that it would be
illegal for our representatives to combine in groups of more than,
say, 15 members. Marshalling by whips of armies of MPS in mock
warfare with no regard to individual conviction would be replaced by
values of co-operation and voting according to reason, conscience and
individual conviction. Free votes of conscience would be the rule
rather than the exception. Party politics as we know it would be
ended. Enough people have surely been scandalised by televised
parliamentary debates to want to see the back of the current system.
Instead our representatives would be elected for their personal
qualities . Female values of co-operation, mutual support and working
for the public good would be fundamental to the structures of the new
As for Foreign Affairs, a different set of
priorities would determine who are our allies. In no way would we be
allied to Saudi Arabia where women are not even permitted to drive
cars. We would be friendlier to Libya where women have much more
freedom. Our absolute priority would be to build a world based on
co-operation rather than on military alliances and secret arms deals.
Thisis supposed to be the current policy but too often militiary
plans and private profits subvert the public policy.
Time to stop playing a male game. The
wrong questions have been asked. The principal question for debate is
not whether or not a woman's place is in the home. It is - have men
proved themselves fit to control the legislature?
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