Feminist Gift Economy Conference

– posting from the conference in Las Vegas –

I’m a little hesitant to write about this so frankly, because it is not my intention to be overly critical. There were a lot of positive and interesting aspects to this conference, but there’s a way that I feel kind of like I got on the feminist “short bus” this weekend. Especially since I brought a friend and it was really her first introduction to feminism.

I’m pretty well-schooled and deeply steeped in feminism (having studied with hardcore, lesbian, separatist types like Marilyn Frye), and that may be why this weekend was such a disappointment. It was the most patriarchally structured conference that I’ve been to in many years. Largely academic presenters reading their papers from a stage in an auditorium. Formal time for asking questions of the “experts” was set aside. The conversation was carefully managed and controlled.

It fell completely short of what was possible for this passionate group of people to co-create together. There was fairly redundant blaming of patriarchy for the woes of women, and rallying cries that real change was only going to come from women reversing the damage done by patriarchy and moving back to the ancient wisdom of matriarchal societies. There were accidental glimpses of some of the places where new matriarchal orders and gift economies are emerging: Burning Man, Open Source Software development, and Complementary Currencies. But most of the people there didn’t really grok that it is those domains where the changes are happening, where colonialist patriarcy and cancerous corporatism is being transcended. This is where new models are being created and successfully implemented.

If there’s a place to bring women’s wisdom and the strength of tribe and community from indigenous peoples, this is the place that would be receptive and is reinventing those things. Oh and by the way, NOT primarily being led by women… Strangely enough, those greedy, power-hungry men are saying “we want to build equitable systems where everybody is taken care of.”

Hmmm… It feels like such a backward step for the feminist movement from the communities I was participating with 18 years ago. How is blame, and divisiveness ever going to create something that works for everyone? Didn’t bell hooks point all this out and shift central narrative in feminism yet?

Studies show women are just as strong (often stronger) enforcers of partriarchal norms as men. If we don’t ALL take responsibility for the mess we’re in and want to invest energy blaming others for our problems, how will we create the solutions together?