MARY ANNE CAMPBELL
At what point in your life did you consider yourself a feminist? Was it an event or a process?
I cannot remember ever thinking otherwise. I knew I was a whole person, and I knew that there were those who aren't. I didn't have a word for it until I was a teenager, but being whole was always who I was.
Who most influenced your awareness of your feminism?
My mother, sisters, grandmother. Watching them reach, watching them being dismissed for their gender, for their approach. Learning the concept of "women's" responses vs "men's", watching the way male thinking is all about taking territory, watching women do the same--- and seeing both men and women who instead yield, enfold, create together to make a bigger world. I am "in" matriarchal thinking all day, as I work at very high level with horses, who have a matriarchal herd structure. Their honesty and inclusiveness is so at odds with the violence, harshness, status consciousness, and selfishness of contemporary life. They make it plain there is another way.
In what ways has your feminism informed your life choices?
I avoided joining in to corporate culture because of its patriarchal structure, I'd always prefer to work in life affirming places. I avoid people who limit themselves of either gender. When I've felt that claustrophobic feeling that I'm in the company of the blind and the shut down, I've found other routes to follow.
In what ways do you share your feminism with others?
I live my life unapologetically in the belief that all human beings are inherently good. I raised a son and a daughter who are both powerful, engaged and balanced human beings, now raising their own daughters to be the same. I'm a kind, welcoming, loving, playful alive human being-- and at the same time, I can demonstrate the meaning of the phrase "effectively setting boundaries" at the drop of a hat. I'm both comfortable with my feminine attributes and with the ones traditionally considered masculine. I'm as easy with farriers and stablehands as I am with the CEOs and even the sons of nobility I work with now and then. I share by example.
Describe your vision of a feminist world.
In a feminist world, we'd no longer feel the need to hide from our softer side. Men and women alike today, even "girly" women, are at heart very hard, very guarded. Even "new age" folks will argue endlessly about the color of the chakras. In a feminist world, we wouldn't be lost in an endless fight to be "right". We'd be curious. We'd be open. We'd be powerfully engaged in this always changing world.
We'd return to our birthright, the balanced mind and heart. We would not be endlessly proving ourselves to one another, but rather we'd be engaged and open and curious about one another.
We were this way when we were born. We cover it up with the shards and structures of our inherited patriarchal culture. And I don't mean "boys", I mean culture based on armoring and status.
Matriarchal culture is safe, it's inclusive.
We learn from one another. We grow from one another's influences. Think about how music changes over time, influences become new movements become new art forms, enriching the whole planet with new sound. That's matriarchal thinking.
Imagine if we had this in business, in politics, in community work. Imagine if we valued one another in all our differences as fascinating resources instead of needing to "cut off other's heads to make ourselves look taller."
In my feminist heaven, we're all once again safe enough to be unguarded, to be curious, to bring our best selves to the table and share that brilliance without fear.
How I Define Feminism:
Feminism is the understanding that all people's worth is inherent at birth, and that character and contribution is unique to the individual. Who we are and can be is not limited by gender or any other accidental attribute.
I come from a long line of women who stood up for themselves and made lives that mattered in the teeth of the cultural belief that they should sit down, shut up, and be ladies. I am one of six brothers and sisters raised by a widowed mother in Oregon. We remain very close, and her strength, her integrity, and her love has carried on through my generation and well into the grandchildren. We are people with lives that matter, and she is the reason why.
Personally, I'm an artist, writer, mother, and teacher. What I paint, teach and write about is an old form of classical riding. Along with my husband, Craig Stevens, I teach riders from all over the world to work with their horses as sentient beings. What this requires of us is the ability to get educated to a different way of moving and thinking, to develop a profound sense of balance, and to learn to listen effectively to love, fear and aggression in ways that keep both the rider and the horse intelligent, engaged and willing.
This older form of training teaches leadership through matriarchal connection. It's not the military riding that is taught in contemporary barns, this work is many thousands of years old.
In working with horses, the trainer's gender has no meaning. The most effective trainers throughout time have been those who knew the beauty of both their feminine and their masculine side.
I love the ancient connections in the work I do, and I am dazzled everyday by what happens when men and women find the balance that is their birthright as healthy human beings. What we find in my arena reaches out to every facet of my student's lives. They have healthier businesses, healthier families, and more joyful lives as a result of this ancient approach to the horse.
I feel my mother in the work I do, her love of life, her tenacity and engagement. I feel my sisters and brothers, and the long strong connection to family that is "women's" work continues to feed my soul.