“What will the writing of history be like, when that umbrella of dominance is removed and definition is shared equally by men and women? Will we devalue the past, overthrow the categories, supplant order with chaos?
No––we will simply step out under the free sky. We will observe how it changes, how the stars rise and the moon circles, and we will describe the earth and its workings in male and female voices. We may, after all, see with greater enrichment. We now know that man is not the measure of that which is human, but men and women are. Men are not the centre of the world, but men and women are. This insight will transform consciousness as decisively as did Copernicus’s discovery that the earth is not the centre of the universe. We may play our separate parts on the stage, sometimes exchanging them or deciding to keep them, as it works out. We may discover new talent among those who have always been living under the umbrella of another’s making. We may find that those who had previously taken upon themselves the burden of both actions and definition may now have more freedom for playing and experiencing the pure joy of existence. We are no more under the obligation to describe what we will find than were the explorers sailing to the distant edge of the world, only to find that the world was round.
We will never know unless we begin. The process itself is the way, is the goal.”
—Gerda Lerner, 1986, pp. 13-14
From the first time I heard Gerda Lerner’s voice in her seminal work, The Creation of Patriarchy, I could sense the true potential of the human spirit hollering out from a world that has been wrapped in silence, ringing out to to what it means to be human––to find our true hidden potential. “Connecting to what it means to be human,”––I often use this phrase with our students, as I feel this is the meaning we must strive for to find our agency to truly flourish on the planet. This idea moves us from otherness to oneness. As we bust out of the cultural limits of our colonial capitalist world, under the umbrella of patriarchal dominance, our eyes open wide to a brave new world. No longer are we seeing in sepia tones, or flying at half power, we start sensing the world in multi-spectrum. Men and women collaborative have an opportunity to co-create the world anew.
As a man, how can I be an ally to enable this process of mutual participation in the world? Well, I talk about it. Not from an expert opinion, but from a curious and naïve position. I talk with our students, other faculty, and my two daughters. Recently, in celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, through an undergrad leadership class, we invited five woman from Dal’s CEGE MBA to share their lived experience working in different leadership roles in Canada. This was a co-inspiring event, as the voices inspired students participating in the audience, and in reciprocity, inspired the speakers. Each leader was a storyteller, giving examples of over-coming obstacles, giving examples of resilience, and sharing triumphs of break glass ceilings. You could sense the impact as students asked questions and shared their related stories. This reinforced that we learn from each others discursive stories, they enable our sense-making, and they impact and change us forever. Also, it enables us to ask that question “What will we find exploring the world in what it means to be human?”
Lerner, G. (1986). The creation of patriarchy (Vol. 1): Oxford University Press, USA.
Professor Williams had graciously shared this post with CEGE Connection in 2022, now being published for the first time in alignment with International Women’s Day 2023.