Women's Ways of Learning LO24680

From: Alternative Energy (ecospirit@mail.com)
Date: 05/25/00

Replying to LO24660 --

Hi Sajeela, Winfried, Judy, At, and others,

I'd first like to say my own preference would be to call this message
thread "HOLISTIC WAYS OF LEARNING", Knowing, and Communicating so that I
can keep sight of the fact that what we're discussing is actually central
to the WHOLE picture and not just a side concern or appendage. Yes, the
current dominant paradigm is masculine-oriented and we need to re-balance

Also, I admit I haven't read all of the threads...however, I thought I'd
dive in anyway and respond to Winfried's comments below.


Winfried, thank for sharing your deeply personal experiences with
self-discovery and power issues. I can relate to much of what you
described, and I know the journey continues. Unfortunately, I am still at
the "trapped within my beliefs" stage. Perhaps this is a recurring cycle
of growth, which may slowly lessen, or simply that the key areas for
growth may shift.

I also totally agree with your comments about diverse cultural

>cultural connotations of the use of words which are meant to convey
>feelings are often unknown and/or misinterpreted within a reader in
>another part of the world.

Yet, I also agree with Sajeela's comments about creating space for

>I know I personally feel that diversity is best
>aknowledged, celebrated and encouraged (rather than feared and suppressed)
>because in so doing there is room for difference and alignment.
>In any case, considering that the survival of humanity
>and many forms of life on Earth probably depends on a shift away from
>domination and towards greater partnership on all levels, we had best be
>thoughtful about these things!

I am only guessing, but perhaps there has been some frustration expressed
by various LO'ers at the hidden, systemic cultural assumptions we make
around whether we need to foster broader, more holistic, more diverse, and
more non-linear ways of learning, knowing, being and communicating on
Learning-Org listserv. This may only be my own interpretation, in which
case, I then put this forward as my own personal wish and vision.

Lately, it seems the world seems to be "heating up" in terms of
intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and respect, power shifts,
and equality. (Did you hear about the planetary alighnment of May 5th?)
This is true not only in my current program, but also, I recently
volunteered at an international conference on penal abolition. The overall
vision of this conference and cause is to head towards Transformative
Justice--that is, facilitating healing of victims or families and also of
the person committing the wrong, in order to bring about a more genuinely
just/fair society, and help prevent or reduce social problems, as well as
use tax dollars more effectively.

- jails are expensive
- they seem to harden criminals and teach them new skills
- don't seem to be an effective deterrent for wrongdoing
- justice system does not seem to be working for society's overall good
- unfair punishment of say crimes by individuals vs. both corporate and also
individual white-collar crime
- most people incarcerated are not there for violent crimes, their
punishment could be doing community work
- coming out of jail, ex-prisoners can be a burden on society due to
unemployability, re-sociailization,etc
- all of this increases and exacerbates social and economic inequalities.

Yet, there were many tensions and shortcomings inherent in the conference
which caused things to quickly escalate into a division between older,
white/Caucasians (many academics) and everyone else (ie, progressive
people, youth, people who lived the learning, people of colour, feminists,
alternative orientations, etc).

Getting back to LO, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I feel we spend
much time on this listserv going into great detail about the systems and
methods, and all that linear or theoretical stuff, of "learning
organizations". Yet I sense a reluctance to question some of the deeper
root causes of things.

I greatly appreciate the information, ideas, sharing, and personal
expressions that are shared here. However, I am also suggesting that we
might want to explore ways in which 1) the forum might be expanded or
rejuvenated to be more holistic and inclusive way (we need to keep
discussing how), and 2) perhaps there is something deeper that no one
wants to deal with because it may open up a whole box of social,
political, cultural, gender, racial, and other issues that people may fear
would cause division, "flaming", loss of cohesion or connection, and so
on, here at LO. However, I feel ignoring this covert issues means the
learning here may slowly lean towards the abstract or merely the polite.

Personally, I did try to question some basic things like HOW information
or ideas were being presented. I believe, in order to find whole solutions
or ways or transformations, we sometimes need to re-balance and call into
question things that feed into very common, popular, collective, or
sometimes even global perceptions. (Please see Call for the New Rising.
LO24412. 04/23/00)

As Albert Einstein said, "... one may not solve a problem from the same
consciousness that created it." That's part of organizational learning,

By the way, perhaps like Sajeela, I was perceived as being too strong or
"emotional" or critical in my reply. I am only guessing. But funny how
it's always those who sometimes face or deal with much more social burden
are seen as problematic. Maybe it's the overall paradigm, and not the
people. I also think here at LO, we have an incredibly fertile opportunity
to truly bridge differences and increase our understanding of the concepts
and practices of learning orgs.

My concern here is that the diverse viewpoints challenging the status quo
(even on this list, as there is inevitably one, even if does continually
evolve) are not being fully understood or don't get the proper time and
attention to be examined from a new light. Perhaps in the cycle of growth
on LO, it's time to look again at the foundation. Organizations are about
people. Speak to the people and systems will follow. That's what I think.

Without looking at this seemingly important crossroads, we may sometimes
inadvertently be shutting down some rich and creative thoughts/feelings,
or similarly, we may not adequately allow or create 'space' for being able
to generate holistic inter-gender, inter-cultural, inter-generational
creativity, or foster "double-loop learning" between novices and
experienced "learners". Again, I felt the posting "LO: Learning or
Teaching List" really summed up many of my own perceptions and concerns.
Yet to avoid controversy or conflict, I sense people are withdrawing. What
can we do about this? I wonder how we might further humanize this listserv
so it's not a largely intellectual debate?

I know and believe that NO ONE IS DISPENSABLE. I also feel that
frustrations are a healthy indicator of areas in which people might
improve upon. Like Lon Badgett, I believe it was, I also feel we perhaps
need to keep taking steps towards building a safe, open, democratic,
respectful, constructive, caring yet ultimately HONEST forum to dialogue,
share, and communicate within.


To be really honest, Winfried D., my perception is that the illustrations
which you kindly shared about your journey into awareness of domination
vs. equal partnership seem also to be a subtle attempt to provide some
teaching about evolving personal realizations around power and, thus
indirectly, seem to suggest that what Sajeela was saying about power
dualisms, and domination and subjugation paradigms, is perhaps not yet
whole and that the key to change rests solely with her beliefs and

>Sajeela, the lesson learnt here is, that domination is not the dualistic
>counterpart of partnership. In fact domination seems to be a special form
>of partnership (which I assess to be destructive, so that I don't choose
>it anymore, but first I had to gain the necessary freedom of choice).

While I agree to a large extent, there is nevertheless a reality, a
context in which we exist. There are so many things shaping and
streamlining us within our world. The world is very much about unequal yet
reciprocal power relations--be it between all living organisms on earth,
or among people, which can exist between genders (female, male, intersexed
or hermaphrodite--both F/M genitalia), classes, cultures, races,
religions, age, experience, sexual orientations, personalities, and so on.
Moreover, domination can happen even if one is not intending for it to
happen. I believe here you are making an assertion that may perhaps be
located to some degree in a personal socio-cultural perception, which may
also be part of a larger socio-cultural perception and therefore accepted
outright as being The Truth. It is one of many truths. Until we reach the
place of oneness, there seems to be a dualistic
reality--personal/subjective and external. You may choose not to dominate,
but that doesn't mean you as a political being are not existing within a
context that is at present mostly about power struggles of many kinds
involving domination and subjugation, and that perhaps you enjoy a certain
level of freedom and privilege within this overall context.

For example, men may feel or say they are not dominating in a certain
situation, but for many subtle and complex reasons--constructed or
innate--there will be social mechanisms that may cause a shift in power or
inadvertent domination. If this were not true, why is that men in North
America still earn more than women for the exact same work done (about $1
to 60cent ratio)? In fact, there are studies that prove that in many job
situations, women are actually more diligent, capable, responsible, and
are not afraid to be held accountable.

Let me say it another way. Men may be socialized or the masculine drive
(which I believe is present in all people) may be biologically programmed
to be assertive, dynamic, and competitive. Is the male person then being
dominating or just being true to himself? That's a very 'fine line' to
explore. Power relations and dynamics are constantly being navigated. To
never choose to dominate may seem true from your personal perspective, but
is the playing field a level one? And perhaps there are different social
contexts or mechanisms that can actively or passively contribute to
unequal power relations and privilege, thus creating involuntary
domination. This happens all the time, I believe. Until we explore, learn,
and understand these deeper issues, then what I personally perceive to be
the overall goal of learning organizations or communities remains an
elusory vision.

Imagine this one specific scenario. Say a teenage boy and girl in a small
town are getting very passionate with each other. Depending on the outlook
of the town's inhabitants, the time period, and even the predominant
religion there, the girl may have a very strong sense of having to be
desirable and "doing it" (ie, engaging in sexual intercourse) with the
boy, in order to be accepted or liked--both by him and her/their peers.
The boy may just stand/lie there with a demanding heat and expectant
attitude (possibly even arrogance, depending on one's perspective) and the
girl may then consent. Is this domination? Or is this equality and each
person is being true to themselves? Or is one person being true to
themselves and the other is merely acquiescing? Hard to tell, isn't it? It
depends upon many, many different factors, as well as the subjective
realities and consciousnesses of the two people. There are social
pressures surrounding us all and influencing our understanding and

I sense Winfried that your overall drive is towards wholeness, which I
totally appreciate. I also aspire to this. Thus, for example, I sense that
more community-oriented people and cultures (eg, East or South) need to
find empowerment in individualism and hence allow "freedom of choice", as
you say. And individualistic-oriented people and cultures (West or North)
need to conversely rediscover their relationships to a larger community or
system(s). I also agree that freedom (also autonomy, democracy) is the
path to wholly empowering and encompassing differences and diversity--YET,
we all walk different paths to get there. It seems to me, for example,
extremely masculine-oriented to believe that one ought to pull oneself up
by one's bootstraps to find freedom and personal glory. The
feminine-oriented way may be that one finds freedom by being nurtured
there and or through having loving connections with all that IS. I think
this the goddess reality that Sajeela is speaking of.

Two books that I feel capture the flavour of some of these power issues
quite well in relation to fairly straightforward subjects are:

"The Colonizer and The Colonized" - Albert Memmi (intro. by Jean-Paul
Sartre) (1957, 1965)

"The Vertical Mosaic: An Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada" -
John Porter (1965)

Also with respect to cross-cultural learning organizations, some books of
interest might be.

Basu, K.S. Management Similarities and Differences Under Different Cultures
(Paper No. 6). Rotterdam: Nederlands Instituut Voor Efficiency, 1968.

Chawla, Sarita and John Renesch, eds. Learning Organizations: Developing
Cultures for Tomorrow's Workplace. Portland: Productivity Press, 1995.

I'm just tossing these out there. I can't say they're necessarily
comprehensive or outstanding books. They just offer some ideas.

I also agree with this statement:

>Domination and partnership are both about differences, or the way to deal
>with differences. I often encounter people who show a strong need for
>domination in the way they behave.

Sometimes I'm quite aggressive or not balanced in how I deal with issues,
but I think as one educator described it, often those from the "margins"
or less empowered are struggling against a whole system. It's an upward
thrust against a dwon-pressing system. Hard sometimes just to be able to
breathe and persist in a belief of greater wholeness and truth against the
odds. Ideally, one should be balanced in communicating thoughts,
feelings, ideas, but it's not always so easy. In truth, we all struggle as
human beings. We need to create and facilitate an open, safe, inclusive
forum, in order to be less antagonistic, yet also allow space for the
unhealing to unfold itself. Sometimes in order to express my truth
against what feels like a pervasive status quo, I don't come across very
well. I am aggressive and domineering. Perhaps then I should recognize
that LO is a largely intellectual forum and therefore not much room to be
able to strive towards wholeness and feel safe in doing so. Therefore, the
concepts remain purely that for me. The opportunity to truly share,
embrace, embody, and transmit the learning is seriously compromised.


I feel the social, linguistic, and cultural diversity and all their
corresponding challenges within LO all help to make this list so
interesting and engaging! It is also one of many reasons why I suggested
heading toward an interactive listserv where pictures and other visuals
might also be possible (however, I totally appreciate the technical
set-backs of this for some LO'ers who can only receive text files, so this
will be the last time I mention it, I promise). Before, I felt if the
forum were opened up in this way (colour, visuals, sound, real-time chat
options, etc), we could definitely bridge a lot of gaps on LO, as well as
add much freshness and creativity.

[Host's Note: No, please do keep mentioning it... Don't let current
reality hold back the vision. Something good will emerge from the tension.
Maybe just not right away. ..Rick]

Learning-Org's "Vision Statement" is appropriately open and flexible.

"We focus on practitioners, i.e. those working to build learning
organizations, but our group is very diverse. Most of our messages are
thoughtful and inquiring. Our aim is that the discussion on this mailing
list be conducted in the spirit of learning and exploration. Messages with
an authoritarian tone are discouraged and "flaming" is not permitted.

"In other words, we are conducting a dialogue about building learning
organizations, and you are welcome to join us."

I am interested in building a learning organization, yet my questions may
be naive and other novices' postings may be similarly "annoying." How do
we address these issues?

BTW, a book on Creating Learning Communities is soon to be released and it
was created entirely ONLINE! The authors have never met each other and it
has collectively been brought into being. It is a listserv much like this
one. This was managed mostly through two listservs at Egroups: 1)
Cooperative Community Life-Long Learning Centers, and 2) Learning

Check out the book!


Several times people have asked if LO listserv is in fact meant to
function as a learning organization. No one seemed to reply. Perhaps we
need to clarify these basic things so we can orient ourselves
appropriately. It may perhaps modify some of the concerns that others have
mentioned before on LO. Maybe we need to create streams of discussions,
eg, those interested in co-creating grassroots projects, those interested
in support and sharing, those seeking practical techniques, those seeking
links to companies in the field, lists of contacts of those who are doing
research or academic work, etc. Otherwise, I feel I am merely diffusing
the elevated level of expertise on this list by not knowing where to plug
in. It's a shame, if so. I wasn't quite sure where the boundaries were,
which kind of predisposes people to being lurkers. This may in fact be a
desirable thing to the more advanced folks. Maybe we need to dialogue
about where we would like to head or be able to create avenues to
constructive action, beyond discussion.

Bringing this to a close (at last, eh?!), I guess ultimately what I am
saying is, that the experience or concepts of power paradigms that Sajeela
is describing is merely different than our own. To me everything is about
reciprocity, though it is hard for us to admit it. Sometimes I perceive
people as being more ignorant and ill-meaning than me, but still they have
something to teach me. I don't mean this in a patronizing way, but I guess
the key is being compassionate that others' hurdles may be different and
greater than our own, and in reflecting upon these, we may then see how
much we avoid some of our own stuff. Everything is simply an opportunity
to learn more and thus understand oneself better and hopefully gradually
transform or transcend, or, as I often suspect, keep going round and round
with an illusion of growth.

Sorry for this incredibly long and winding message. Clarity, focus and
organization are certainly not my strong points!!! But if I don't just
write these thoughts and get them out there, I will never end up
responding and may gradually disengage from the dialogues here, as I feel
we move further away from mutual understanding and more towards eclectic
soliloquies, such as mine!

Warmest regards,
Lana Choi


-------"Creating Learning Communites"-------
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Alternative Energy <ecospirit@mail.com>

[Host's Note: In assoc with Amazon.com...

Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi, Jean-Paul Sartre (Designer) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807003018/learningorg Vertical Mosaic : An Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada (Studies in the Structure of Power: Decision-Making in Canada, 2) by John Porter http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802060552/learningorg Learning Organizations : Developing Cultures for Tomorrow's Workplace by Sarita Chawla (Editor), John Renesch (Editor) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1563271109/learningorg


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