egalitarianism and feminism (was Haudenosaunee egalitarianism)

Wed, 31 Jan 1996 09:21:01 -0500

The question of Haudenosaunee egalitarianism (and implicitly Native American egalitarianism)
and the question of the influence of Haudenosaunee social organization on early (anglo)
American feminism, are not two separate issues. Rather, how one answers the first conditions
how he or she will view the second.
The question posed by Ruby Rohrlich (via an extended quote) is: how did the early feminists
arrive at their "dream" of "human harmony -- based on the perfect equality of all people, with
women absolute sovereigns of their lives"? In order to answer it, we need to ask further
questions: (1) is this an accurate characterization of their vision?; (2) if it is, was it
shaped by their interactions with the Haudenosaunee?; (3) if it was, to what degree were they
directly inspired by aspects of Haudenosaunee social reality, and to what degree were they
engaged in an active process of utopian imagination? Thus, the meaning of Haudenosaunee
"egalitarianism" is important to clarify if we want to understand the process whereby a
certain vision of egalitarianism (anglo feminist) was "influenced by" another (Haudenosaunee).
Several respondents have suggested that one cannot draw a transparent connection between the
two without defining egalitarianism and filling in the content of the two (supposedly
egalitarian) ideologies. In addition, we would need more information of the kind Rohrlich
supplies about the actual interactions between feminist leaders and Haudenosaunee, as well as
information about the social organization of the early feminist movement, in order to say
anything interesting about the question.
What I don't understand is why Ruby is so unwilling to do this. She tries to portray her
adversaries as closed-minded name-callers, while at the same time she calls people "retarded"
and refuses to engage in debate because she doesn't like what her interlocutors are saying. A
much more effective response is to engage them, answer their challenges, and move the debate
in a positive direction, because it *is* possible to have a meaningful discussion about these
issues. If you want people to understand and be more accepting of feminist perspectives, it
is in your best interest to explain what feminism is, how it came about, and what it's good
for, instead of labeling other people as "feminist-baiters". It also wouldn't be a bad idea
to be open to the suggestion that maybe, in this case, the early feminists were doing some
dreaming/imagining/constructing when they established their notion of egalitarianism, and that
it might not correspond exactly with a Haudenosaunee (or even less likely, a "Native
American") reality.
This is my first post to the list, inspired by my frustration at the obfuscation generated
around this issue. Let's hope we can avoid some of it in the future.
Mark Rogers