It’s been a great four months. Since I started trying to imagine what the world might have been liked if women had been in charge from the beginning of time, you’ve showered me with fascinating sources and suggestions, which I’ve really been enjoying working through.
Already, we’ve seen some intriguing threads emerge and there are loads of leads that I’m champing at the bit to follow up. The ideas we’ve started to edge towards are big and challenging, and for me to do them justice, I need to be able to devote some serious time to developing the next stage of the project.
For the next wee while, however, time is likely to be in short supply. I’m in the thick of writing my book Reading the World: postcards from my bookshelf about my project to read a book from every country in the world in 2012, and I’m also getting married in September.
As a result, I’ve decided to put IWR on ice for the next couple of months. I’m hoping you’ll keep sending me your ideas for books, groups and other sources that could help us piece together a picture of a woman’s world.
In the meantime, however, here’s a brief summary of what we’ve found out to date:
- Childcare is a key territory on which battles about gender roles are fought. Whether you believe that mothers have a special, unique bond with their children that makes them an irreplaceable primary caregiver or whether you feel that women should have the same opportunities to work as men throughout their lives, it is indisputable that society in much of the world is not set up to accommodate women who have children. Many mothers feel guilty whatever lifestyle choices they make. It seems clear that the structure of our working lives would be very different in a woman’s world.
- Many people who attempt to imagine a female-led society opt for a direct role reversal, imposing traditionally male traits on females in leadership positions. From the worship of gynocentric symbols to terrifyingly violent, ruthless women such as Jacqui in Sarah Hall’s Carhullan Army, many of us seem to conflate masculinity and power in our minds. Perhaps the idea of ruling is, in itself, male?
- Some authors go further, throwing up questions about whether concepts such as time, naming and individuality would be radically different if women had shaped society, as Doris Lessing does in The Cleft.
- For all their creativity, though most writers inevitably seem to run up against the limits of reality as we have been conditioned to see it – what French-Canadian author Nicole Brossard has called ‘the accumulation of masculine subjectivity that has been working for centuries establishing laws, traditions etc’.
- In fact, the most interesting insights into how things might be if women ruled have come not from books and artistic visions, but from women-only and women-led groups. In particular, two themes seem to be emerging: the idea of difference being the source of unity in a female-run society (as suggested by Lesbiana: a parallel revolution and group storytelling projects such as Everyday Sexism); and the idea of competition having much less of a role in a woman’s world (an idea first raised by Hanna Kalanne from secret Finnish women’s society Jämerän Naiset).
With this in mind, I’m particularly keen to hear about women-led communities and organisations who might be prepared to talk to me or let me come and visit them for the next stage of the project. I’m also conscious that most of the sources I’ve looked at to date have been Western ones, so I’d love to hear about books, artwork, figures and other ideas from further afield too.
But whatever your thoughts and wherever you are, I’d love to hear from you. Just post a comment below or email me at ann[at]annmorgan.me
Thanks so much to everyone who’s contributed to date. I look forward to following your ideas up soon.
Picture by United Nations Photo