Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

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Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#1  Postby TMB » Jan 01, 2013 3:09 am

Patriarchy is represented as a social structure that effectively places power in the hands of men, and while this has some negatives for some men, in the main it represents a power structure that favours men and disfavours women.

However, I suggest that there are two sides to placing men in formal positions of authority. There is certainly an element of power that means a male president, executive et al. makes decisions that affects subordinates, and this is power - the ability to control outcomes in your favor and possibly disfavour of others. However in most formal structures there is accountability and responsibility imposed by peers and subordinates. In democracy, you can be voted out or impeaches etc. The key being that the formal position will be held responsible for good and bad things and observation shows that there are many casualties in these roles. The other aspect is to see where the benefits of these positions go. Barrack Obama certainly has power but also great responsibility and carries some benefits of the power but also many drawbacks. By contracts Michelle Obama will carry all the benefits and far less of the responsibility. Their kids also get the benefits without much responsibility, however it could be argued that children of privileged parents have other issues.

Most men in formal positions will benefit a partner (usually women) and children. The issue will be women who are not in these positions but their competition is other women rather than men. Even once in these positions, the weight of responsibility is great, and power is offset by this. I think the issue is the assumption that the position is a benefit and power of itself, but looking behind this, many women in fact wield the power, by the simple fact that they get the benefits with very little of the responsibility. This model works across all class. A male breadwinner carries the can, and while they do occupy the top job, the benefits go back to their (mostly) wives and kids. It probably explains why men live shorter lives and die from stress and accident related causes while women live another 10% longer.

So I argue that a patriarchy means that men occupy the title roles and while they get some power relative to subordinates, they also carry the responsibility. The power is held by their partners who get the benefits without the responsibility and once again this is at the expense of subordinate men and women.
Any takers to discuss this?
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#2  Postby Adaimantes » Jan 01, 2013 3:30 am

What you're saying is that with power comes responsibility. Well, yes this got to be true in most if not all cases (power without - or with limited- responsibility would occur only in strict dictatorship). But then, why frame this as a matter of patriarchy? Do you simply mean it as a matter of fact (because most power we have been historically accustomed to was in the hands of men)? Assume situations of matriarchy or more simply cases where the head of political authority is a woman (e.g., Queen Elisabeth I, Golda Meir) isn't the duality power/responsibility still there? If so, then it's not really specific to patriarchy....
I think this is not your intention (or is it?) but your posting reads as if it were a defense of patriarchy...
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#3  Postby I'm With Stupid » Jan 01, 2013 10:21 am

I think the responsibility angle is something that has only come about as a result of democratising and meritocratising (is that a word) areas of life, which is actually only a fairly recent thing. The reality was that in the past, power often came with far less responsibility, because accountability was low and positions of power were gained by means other than actually doing a good job. In most countries in the world, even supposedly democratic ones, politicians and other powerful public officials actually have little accountability of their actions. There was a story a while back in China showing a regional politician's collection of ridiculously expensive watches, and they worked out that he would've had to work for about 10 years without eating to afford them on his supposed salary. I think there is a sense of responsibility in such roles, but it's responsibility to the in group (in dictatorships, responsibility to the party). And I think you'll find that regimes that are less accountable typically enjoy a far more patriarchal power structure than those with proper oversights. Not always, but often.

Where I think your argument holds more merit is simply in the lives of ordinary people. Men typically enjoyed power over women in the home, important decisions and even the bedroom, but it was based on the expectation that he was always able to provide for her. Similarly, it was expected that men would fight in the event of a war, for example. And women were just as likely to promote these values as men. It was women who during WW1 and WW2 would berate men who refused to fight as cowards, for example, but who would no doubt be horrified at the suggestion that they be expected to fight.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#4  Postby TMB » Jan 01, 2013 12:46 pm

Adaimantes, you said
What you're saying is that with power comes responsibility. Well, yes this got to be true in most if not all cases (power without - or with limited- responsibility would occur only in strict dictatorship).


No I am not saying this. I am saying that for formal positions of power, president, CEO etc there is a partly successful attempt to make the person in the position accountable/responsible and this dilutes the power they hold. One does not have to be in a formal position to have power. Michelle Obama has plenty of power and gets as much benefit as her husband does but carries far less responsibility

But then, why frame this as a matter of patriarchy? Do you simply mean it as a matter of fact (because most power we have been historically accustom to is in the hands of men)? Assume situations of matriarchy or more simply cases where the head of political authority is a woman (e.g., Queen Elisabeth I, Golda Meir) isn't the duality power/responsibility still there? If so, then it's not really specific to patriarchy....


My point is that men are considered to hold the reins of power because they occupy formal positions, however the downside of these is the responsibility that usually comes with them. Their partners and kids often have the real power as they get the benefits without as much responsibility. In the case of matriarchal scenarios where women occupy formal positions, they too are usually held to account for their behavior (if their subordinates can achieve this), however the world has been positioned as being a patriarchy and the assumptions is made that this equates to men holding power at the expense of women. However many women are the benefactors of associating with these men. It then becomes more a class conflict for power and women versus women, and less of a male versus female contest for power.

I think this is not your intention (or is it?) but your posting reads as if it were a defense of patriarchy...


I am not trying to defend patriarchy, simply pointing out the mechanism under which it operates.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#5  Postby TMB » Jan 01, 2013 1:23 pm

IWS you said,

I think the responsibility angle is something that has only come about as a result of democratising and meritocratising (is that a word) areas of life, which is actually only a fairly recent thing.


I think this depends upon what you consider accountability/responsibility. I agree that the current social attitudes have more formal power balancing structures and controls, but in the past people still carried the consequences.

The reality was that in the past, power often came with far less responsibility, because accountability was low and positions of power were gained by means other than actually doing a good job.


I do not agree that positions of power have ever been related to the quality of the work. It is probably affected by the appearance of quality, but power is an independent mechanism, as an adaptive trait all you need is to be powerful enough to lord it over the rest, not more meritorious. In the past there was more power in the arm and sword and people paid in this way when their subordinates were able to get a bigger share of the benefits.

In most countries in the world, even supposedly democratic ones, politicians and other powerful public officials actually have little accountability of their actions.


I agree. I am not arguing that a position of power has an equal dose of responsibility, just that in a formal position you are a defined target to take consequences or responsibility, which makes them less powerful that people who have no formal position but still reap the benefits because they are better at playing the game than those in formal positions.

There was a story a while back in China showing a regional politician's collection of ridiculously expensive watches, and they worked out that he would've had to work for about 10 years without eating to afford them on his supposed salary. I think there is a sense of responsibility in such roles, but it's responsibility to the in group (in dictatorships, responsibility to the party). And I think you'll find that regimes that are less accountable typically enjoy a far more patriarchal power structure than those with proper oversights. Not always, but often.


I have not considered this angle. You saying that a more dictatorial society results in a more patriarchal society. How does this follow?

Where I think your argument holds more merit is simply in the lives of ordinary people. Men typically enjoyed power over women in the home, important decisions and even the bedroom, but it was based on the expectation that he was always able to provide for her.


I think I should define what I mean by power. To me power is that which allows one to control outcomes in ones favour, and this might be at the cost to others. It might be that I am able to impose the cost upon others, yet still not get much benefit myself, in which case its a more complex equation and you need to see who else is benefitting. In the case of household power, the decision maker might not have the power, they might just carry the can as can happen in formal structures. As you mention the male provider, once again you need to see who gets the best deal. The person leading the directing things must be under the influence of more subtle power brokers that are less visible. This scenario happens often in political parties, where it is not necessarily the prime minister who holds the power, but they usually carry most of the can. Each scenario differs however the person with the title might not get all the benefits, once again loo at Michele Obama and their kids. Lots of benefits and little responsibility, Barrack Obama perhaps similar benefits but bigger responsibility. We have no idea of much Michele controls his behavior or his ambition to to becomes President. Do you think that without Barrack, she would be enjoying the status and benefits on her own merits? As we have seen with the Clintons, Hilary is in the same league as Bill (presumably excluding the penchant for young adulterous aides) but this is unusual.

Similarly, it was expected that men would fight in the event of a war, for example. And women were just as likely to promote these values as men. It was women who during WW1 and WW2 would berate men who refused to fight as cowards, for example, but who would no doubt be horrified at the suggestion that they be expected to fight.


I agree and its a good example of how little power a formal position can hold because the consequences are so great. Wearing a nice uniform and having some stars on your shoulders does not seem to give much power when you have been shot and killed and designated a posthumous hero. Not that the widows and relatives of these heroes would consider themselves getting a benefit but they retained their lives at least. There is little question is that men seem to do their own dirty work when it comes to murder, whereas women often get men to commit murder on their behalf. Who is responsible for war, the ones that carry the weapons or is it more complex and they are just being manipulated? This is where evolutionary biology gives insight into the extent that sexual selection affects our behavior.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#6  Postby Jacquitoo » Feb 12, 2013 8:13 am

This really seems to be a boys thread ... and there are some good points ... regarding positions of power and taking responsibility... but I believe girls and boys all have to work on uniting their anima and animus...
what the heck I have been a tomboy and had to do my own bicycle repairs ... and am thankful a mate helped me replace a head gasket and repair a hole in the rubber phlange of my Honda's carbie ... and so thought I was accepted as half-bloke ... but I still have to do all the woman's work in the house and pay the bills

One fella wrote a book in my writing club called "woman are on top" ... Of course I disagree ... doesnt the power flip flop around all the time?
"What if Absence calls - and a voice answers - in the accent of home"

from Times Power by Adrienne Rich ... I also like Wilfred Owen's war poems
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#7  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 12, 2013 8:48 am

but I believe girls and boys all have to work on uniting their anima and animus...


I think you'll find that, this being a site dedicated to rational skepticism, not many people are going to be buying into mystical notions of female and male energies.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#8  Postby Aern Rakesh » Feb 12, 2013 9:58 am

Spearthrower wrote:
but I believe girls and boys all have to work on uniting their anima and animus...


I think you'll find that, this being a site dedicated to rational skepticism, not many people are going to be buying into mystical notions of female and male energies.


Hmm. Perhaps if you label it as a 'mystical notion' you'll find people here jumping to say "woo". However if you talk in terms of qualities traditionally associated with male and female roles you'll find that many people today do try to express both, and there's nothing mystical about it. Whether you like it or not, ST, that is a change.

Only one woman in my parents' circle of friends went out to work full-time, the rest were 'housewives'. When I first came to Scotland in 1969, most men wouldn't be caught dead pushing a pram. Times change.

Plus a lot of women on this forum (and there aren't a lot of women on the forum, so let's try not to put Jacquitoo off just yet :smile: ) have had to be incredibly assertive to hold their own in certain sub-forums. A quality that in my mother's generation was, when expressed by a woman, labelled "aggressive" (and I still have to correct her when she says that).

EDIT: I had intended to add this link: http://www.rationalskepticism.org/fun-g ... 37495.html
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#9  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 12, 2013 10:22 am

Nora_Leonard wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:
but I believe girls and boys all have to work on uniting their anima and animus...


I think you'll find that, this being a site dedicated to rational skepticism, not many people are going to be buying into mystical notions of female and male energies.


Hmm. Perhaps if you label it as a 'mystical notion' you'll find people here jumping to say "woo". However if you talk in terms of qualities traditionally associated with male and female roles you'll find that many people today do try to express both, and there's nothing mystical about it. Whether you like it or not, ST, that is a change.

Only one woman in my parents' circle of friends went out to work full-time, the rest were 'housewives'. When I first came to Scotland in 1969, most men wouldn't be caught dead pushing a pram. Times change.

Plus a lot of women on this forum (and there aren't a lot of women on the forum, so let's try not to put Jacquitoo off just yet :smile: ) have had to be incredibly assertive to hold their own in certain sub-forums. A quality that in my mother's generation was, when expressed by a woman, labelled "aggressive" (and I still have to correct her when she says that).

EDIT: I had intended to add this link: http://www.rationalskepticism.org/fun-g ... 37495.html



Endogenous and exogenous, Nora.

If you're brought up by a society to be a 'proper little girl' and that constitutes having long hair, wearing dresses, playing with dolls, feeling emotional, being intuitive, being chatty etc. Then you've set up a begged-question. Any guy who feels chatty is thereby exploring/expressing his female energies? :)

As you've admitted: women are just as capable of being assertive as men. It's your culture that might lead you to believe otherwise, just as its your culture that might label it 'aggressive' when it's displayed by women, not some intrinsic nature of double X chromosomes.

If you go and read up on anima and animus, then you will see why I made that very gentle point as to why >>>rational skeptics<<< might not buy into this mystical fluff. There are no essentialist female and male energies hanging around in probability space awaiting zygotic karyotyping before imbuing their feminine/masculine qualities.

Of course, there are different hormones, different chemistry happens throughout the lifetime. But the notion that women possess X set of behavioral traits and men possess Y set of behavioral traits (see what I did there? :whistle: ) is wrong. Culture is what defines those traits and enculturation is what instills them to varying degrees, and dependent on the individual's character.

So yeah - not denying that this enculturation occurs, but couching it in mystical terminology helps no one and is not what this site's agenda is about.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#10  Postby Aern Rakesh » Feb 12, 2013 10:34 am

Spearthrower wrote:
Nora_Leonard wrote:
So yeah - not denying that this enculturation occurs, but couching it in mystical terminology helps no one and is not what this site's agenda is about.


Anyone who is familiar with psychotherapy will know those terms. I think they'd object to them being described as 'mystical'.

Plus, are we now defining what language can and cannot be used on this site? Is that part of the FUA?
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#11  Postby katja z » Feb 12, 2013 10:40 am

Nora_Leonard wrote:
Hmm. Perhaps if you label it as a 'mystical notion' you'll find people here jumping to say "woo". However if you talk in terms of qualities traditionally associated with male and female roles you'll find that many people today do try to express both, and there's nothing mystical about it. Whether you like it or not, ST, that is a change.


If I understand you correctly, you're taking these terms metaphorically. I've no disagreement with what you say. I do think however that given their history and prevalent usage, the terms anima and animus are less than helpful and (if used metaphorically) terribly open to misinterpretation. At least in my experience, every time I hear or see them mentioned, there's at least a whiff of the wooey notions Spear has commented on, and more often than not there's more than a whiff (in fact, they seem to have become standard terminology for all kinds of energy and angel healers around here).
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#12  Postby Aern Rakesh » Feb 12, 2013 11:06 am

katja z wrote:
Nora_Leonard wrote:
Hmm. Perhaps if you label it as a 'mystical notion' you'll find people here jumping to say "woo". However if you talk in terms of qualities traditionally associated with male and female roles you'll find that many people today do try to express both, and there's nothing mystical about it. Whether you like it or not, ST, that is a change.


If I understand you correctly, you're taking these terms metaphorically. I've no disagreement with what you say. I do think however that given their history and prevalent usage, the terms anima and animus are less than helpful and (if used metaphorically) terribly open to misinterpretation. At least in my experience, every time I hear or see them mentioned, there's at least a whiff of the wooey notions Spear has commented on, and more often than not there's more than a whiff (in fact, they seem to have become standard terminology for all kinds of energy and angel healers around here).


That may be true, I don't know. I only know them from the way Jung and other Jungians used them, and I do think that using them in the context of relationship dynamics is still useful, particularly to people who are in the field. Although I do agree that it is better today to refer to expressing certain attributes that previously were assigned gender roles, the development of the concepts of anima and animus were a useful step along the way.

For instance I was watching a film on tv once with a group of people, equal parts male and female. It was quite a moving film, and at a particularly poignant moment all the men swivelled their heads to look at us women to see if we were crying! (I don't think we were.) From the looks on their faces, the impression they gave was that they were hoping we'd do their crying for them, because "real men don't cry".

Now a Jungian might say that the men were projecting their anima on the women. Similarly for women who marry a man expecting him to do all the heavy lifting (and that's metaphorically speaking), a Jungian would say that they were projecting their animus.

Of course all these words/concepts might be out-dated in modern psychotherapy, I don't know. But one of my favourite books by a Jungian analyst was "Animus Aeturnus" which looked at the development of so-called 'masculine' qualities in a woman through poetry written by women. It was incredibly useful to me. Any branch of science or other academic endeavour has its jargon. Look at how many people misuse the term 'quantum', but we're not about to ban that from the forum, are we?

Sorry, I don't think it comes as any surprise to people on this forum that I bristle when the word 'woo' gets thrown about. And I think it's particularly unhelpful when it's directed at someone who has only recently joined the forum and who may not be entirely familiar with these unwritten rules.

In fact, until ST wrote what he did I wasn't aware there was such a rule!
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#13  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 12, 2013 11:11 am

Nora_Leonard wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:
Nora_Leonard wrote:
So yeah - not denying that this enculturation occurs, but couching it in mystical terminology helps no one and is not what this site's agenda is about.


Anyone who is familiar with psychotherapy will know those terms. I think they'd object to them being described as 'mystical'.


I disagree: Jung is a well known mystic



Nora_Leonard wrote:Plus, are we now defining what language can and cannot be used on this site? Is that part of the FUA?


Now where did I ever say or suggest that?

The forum is dedicated to rational skepticism: promotion of mystical ideas is not what rational skepticism is about. Ergo, floating mystical notions around as explanations or as insight is not going to be met with anything other than rational skepticism - yes, that might boil down to simply calling it 'woo' - but I think you can give me at least a little credit for having more comprehensively treated it in the rest of the post you didn't quote! :P
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#14  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 12, 2013 11:19 am

Nora_Leonard wrote:
Sorry, I don't think it comes as any surprise to people on this forum that I bristle when the word 'woo' gets thrown about. And I think it's particularly unhelpful when it's directed at someone who has only recently joined the forum and who may not be entirely familiar with these unwritten rules.

In fact, until ST wrote what he did I wasn't aware there was such a rule!



Err Nora? :scratch:

I didn't write anything about the word 'woo' - you did. :lol:

What I wrote was:

I think you'll find that, this being a site dedicated to rational skepticism, not many people are going to be buying into mystical notions of female and male energies.


So your bristling at me is more than a tad unjustified.

Nor are you being helpful in reading stuff that is not written.

Worse, you seem to be entirely contrary in your approach and what you've written: how else can the newcomer be familiarised with the unwritten rules other than someone, extremely politely, telling them that people at a site called rationalskepticism are not going to be buying into these notions?

That is, after all, what I did... right? :scratch:

I think you need to re-read what I wrote, because it seems to have warped into something entirely different in your mind! :grin:

Finally, there is no such rule. I never said there was a rule. I explained that a site dedicated to rational skepticism is not likely to be open to mystical notions. Again, that's what these terms mean: rational skepticism - not buying into stuff that doesn't stand up to reason.

Please also understand that the term 'mystical' is a perfectly normal and academic notion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism

And Jung is a well known mystic:

Jung the Mystic. Lachman, Gary (2010).

http://www.amazon.com/Jung-Mystic-Esote ... 1585427926


Calling someone a mystic is academically correct language - it's not necessarily pejorative.

Of course, as a rational skeptic, I think mysticism is bollocks. But given that I never said anything like that above, I don't think it's helpful if you intuit what I meant to say when you know perfectly well that, had I wanted to say it, I would have just said it!

I was being friendly and open.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#15  Postby Aern Rakesh » Feb 12, 2013 11:24 am

Spearthrower wrote:
Nora_Leonard wrote:Anyone who is familiar with psychotherapy will know those terms. I think they'd object to them being described as 'mystical'.


I disagree: Jung is a well known mystic


Yeah, perhaps to people who aren't as introverted as he was. Reading Jung was incredibly liberating to me—a strong introvert in an extroverted family—as it was the first time I realised I wasn't pathological (as introversion was at one time portrayed). Of course I've had to put up with the label 'mystic' plastered on me as well. Which IMO just goes to show how misunderstood introversion is.

Spearthrower wrote:
Nora_Leonard wrote:Plus, are we now defining what language can and cannot be used on this site? Is that part of the FUA?


Now where did I ever say or suggest that?


Spearthrower wrote:So yeah - not denying that this enculturation occurs, but couching it in mystical terminology helps no one and is not what this site's agenda is about.


Well presumably this site's agenda is not about playing endless Mafia games or Mornington Crescent, but that still happens here. :dunno:

Like I said, from my POV 'anima' and 'animus' are not 'mystical terminology', but terms used in a certain branch of psychology. Of course as you've just hinted, you might label all those branches of psychology 'woo'.

I guess I'm allowed to disagree? :tongue2:
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#16  Postby katja z » Feb 12, 2013 11:27 am

I haven't seen anyone framing this as a rule, Nora.

I hear what you're saying about these concepts as a helpful step. I do think they've outlived their potential usefulness though (also, it will come as no surprise to you that I bristle at the "spiritual" component in Jungian psychology ;) ). So while the comparison with how the word "quantum" is abused to give a sciencey feel to all kinds of nonsense is fair, I think there's a difference in that it's not an outdated concept in science, while the whole "animus/anima" thing seems to be exclusively thrown about by people who sell "alternative" wisdom of the kind I've mentioned above - as far as I know contemporary psychology has no use for Jung. (Of course, I'm happy to be corrected on this.)

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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#17  Postby katja z » Feb 12, 2013 11:30 am

Oh dear, I've been mulling my response for too long and things have moved on in the meantime!

Spearthrower wrote:
I didn't write anything about the word 'woo' - you did. :lol:


To be fair, I did.
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#18  Postby katja z » Feb 12, 2013 11:34 am

Nora_Leonard wrote:
I guess I'm allowed to disagree? :tongue2:


I've just had a mental image of you pulling this face IRL! :lol:

:cheers:
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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#19  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 12, 2013 11:38 am

I have a feeling we're stepping on your cherished notions, Nora. I say this because you've stopped reading what I am writing, and you're putting in stuff I never said instead. You also snipped out 90% of my post to focus just on the last sentence, and then seem to think that last sentence corroborates what you think I said even though I clearly didn't. :think:

I take it you have no qualms about calling astrology, ESP, ghosts etc. 'mysticism'? You see no pejorative in that? Presumably because you likewise don't hold them as being valid.

Jung believed in those too - as I said: he's a well known mystic.

I had a friend who happily laughed at the stupidity of homeopathy, but was a crystal healer and reiki master. Perhaps others on this site have over-sensitivised you to this, but I think your reading of my post is so far out of the ballpark I am going to have to wait until you've come back to actually address what I've said rather than what you've imagined I've said because I can hardly contend with your imagination! :tongue:


Katja wrote:Oh dear, I've been mulling my response for too long and things have moved on in the meantime!

Spearthrower wrote:I didn't write anything about the word 'woo' - you did. :lol:


To be fair, I did.


You did indeed - but chronologically, not until after Nora!
I'm not an atheist; I just don't believe in gods :- that which I don't belong to isn't a group!
Religion: Mass Stockholm Syndrome

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Re: Patriarchy - power or responsibility?

#20  Postby Aern Rakesh » Feb 12, 2013 11:52 am

I don't have time to come back to this right now, but in my defence ST I never saw this post before I posted above. Usually when I go to post it says "ST has just said something incredibly brilliant and you'd better check it out first!" But it didn't that time.
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