Power... at the Kitchen Table

Could any space be more common, more humble, more peaceable, more (dare I say) feminine?

Growing up in the age of feminism, I reaped many of the benefits of feminist victories. But over time, I’ve come to understand its shortcomings and reasons for its never-realized goals. Bottom line: it never pays to adapt and accept the tools of your oppressor in an attempt to create your own power. In the words of Audre Lorde, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

As much as anyone in the early 1970’s, I was brainwashed into believing that it would be necessary to deny anything “feminine” in order to gain the benefits of equality, which of course implies the inferiority of anything that is not based strictly on the constructs of patriarchal power—the business suit, the boardroom chair, the power lunch, the adoration of self-accumulated wealth, the shiny new car, the compulsion to make living a competition, the win at any cost, the vanquishing of enemies, King-ette of the hill. What were we thinking?

It amazes me now that the racist, oppressive system of patriarchy could ever serve women, let alone women of color, since its primary goal has always been to keep all of us in our places. It never seemed to occur to many of us that we already had what we needed...right at the kitchen table.

Under pervasive patriarchy, we have created a global economy that depends on the exploitation of people and planet and that cannot sustain itself. Under patriarchy we still have war, still have hunger, still have inequality, still have a few rich with many, many poor. Could a feminine approach change the trajectory?

Could that kitchen table, where hungry people are welcomed and fed, where there is always room for one more chair, where children do homework after school, where mothers and grandmothers pass down recipes, where we gather in grief and joy, in quiet activism, in study and in prayer—could the kitchen table be the real seat of power?

I think of poet Joy Harjo and her poem Perhaps the World Will End Here, meaning at the kitchen table. I think of these words from author Carol Flinders: “Long before institutionalized religions came along—and temples, and churches—there was an unquestioned recognition that what goes on in the kitchen is holy.... Do we not hallow places by our very commitment to them? When we turn our home into a place that nourishes and heals and contents, we are meeting directly all the hungers that a consumer society exacerbates but never satisfies.”

Can we all sit at the kitchen table with our feminine ways and save the world? Worth a try.

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