Matricentric Feminism

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Genevieve Vaughan, interviewed by Rajani Kant:

"* RJ: Does one have to be a 'feminist' to accept your views?

GV: No. In fact there are some currents of feminism like so called "Post Maternal feminism" ( Stephens) that have a knee-jerk reaction to anything about mothering. However this is changing. There is now a 'Matricentric Feminism' in academia due to the long and tireless work of Andrea O'Reilly. There are powerful currents of the women's movement outside academia, some of whom call themselves feminist and others who do not. What really matters is their positive belief in concern and care for the other including the heroic example of the Black Lives Matter 'Mothers of the Movement'.

I don't believe I am an 'essentialist'. I have done my best to analyze mothering as interactive work that can be done by anyone and I use the term 'motherer' to include anyone who performs this complex and detailed process. Nevertheless there are biological aspects to mothering that cannot be denied, like lactation, and that are important both materially and symbolically. We should remember however that the mothering process depends primarily on the biology of the baby, not on that of the mother, since the baby would die without the mother's care.

It is in the necessary interaction between mother and child that the gift patterns arise, and they continue into the rest of life with many variations. My answer to this question then is no, one does not have to be a feminist (depending on the definition), but one does need to honor mothers and women in general in order to follow their leadership.

* Are you a feminist? If so, what does that mean?

Yes I am a feminist, a matricentric, maternalist feminist, if I have to categorize myself (already a patriarchal silo-making enterprise) I stand in solidarity with women everywhere to oppose the forces of destruction and I include men of like mind who try to be non patriarchal. I try to take the elements of maternal practice and generalize them in areas where they have not been generalized, cancelled from view and replaced by patriarchal thinking.

I believe I am contributing one piece of a tapestry woven by many, but an important piece because mothering has been left out of the design or perhaps woven with a transparent thread, so the picture has been distorted and the way forward obscured. It is really impossible that there can be peace on Earth without righting the ancient wrong that has kept mothers and with them all women in a place of servitude and ignominy.

Let women lead the way forward towards a conscious gift economy and a gift economy consciousness. This has been called the century of the newborn because of the discoveries that have been made in neurobiology.I would add it is the century of the mother of the newborn and her economy, our economy in which we all develop as human , the species of homo donans, the species being of the giver and receiver, the identifier of needs, the species of passing it on, giving it forward, laying it down, and implying the value of the other. +

Not doing this we have forgotten the implication and condemned ourselves to a tragic terminal egotism which allows us to remove ourselves from the deeds of our patriarchal rulers to such an extent that we do not see or hear the detonation of the drone bomb that explodes in the heart of the man crossing the street in Libya holding his children's hands or the home whose pretty tea equipment and colorful wall hangings were destroyed by the war in Homs so that its inhabitants are making their risky way across the Mediterranean, to find dubious haven in Europe where only child traffickers save them from starvation.

Connect the dots. Who is responsible? why are these immense crimes happening? What evil anti maternal deed of ego orientation started this horrendous chain of events? that we sometimes see excerpts from on the news.Yemen dying of cholera. Say her name! . Syria in rubble! say her name! Afghanistan, these 18 years! say her name! Iraq, the cradle of civilization!

Are all these not then Motherlands invaded, raped by the Capitalist Patriarchy we benefit from? What possible interpretation of events, intentions, business deals could justify any of this? The rape of women and children and the rape of nations is the same.- the individual and the societal level mirror each other in fractal structures of the anti mother, exchange that puts each in egotistic opposition to other. And Mother Earth! Say her name!

The market and patriarchy fit together to create a systemic parasite that feeds on the gifts of all transforming them into stratospheric profits. Many of us are parasites in one of our roles and host in another. We can individually diminish the parasite behavior and free the host whenever possible.

Every child that is born is the citizen of a new earth, a gift economy! let us treat them all as such- boys too - and let the garden of Eden finally flower again, that garden that began before Patriarchy and exchange, the garden that is our maternal human planetary heritage.

* What political practices flow from adopting your ideas?

Fact is, if we were giving to all these countries instead of enacting the 'hitting' patriarchal imitation of gifting, we could be in a relation of mutuality with them. There is a syllogism of the gift: if A gives to B and B gives to C then A gives to C. It is transitive all the way through and implies the value of the receiver. We would be interested in the receivers, not in denial of the suffering we cause.

The logic of exchange is self reflecting, ego oriented. Our minds hold back, not used to traveling down the path of thought towards the suffering of others. Even if we have caused it ourselves. And we are dying of suspicion and loneliness while the gift economy (that we are exploiting) would bring community and trust.

We need a radical disbelief in the social structures we have now, an understanding of how and why they are mortiferous, a vision of the alternative and plans for getting from one to the other way or ways of life. Realizing that total transformation is necessary will allow us to realign and reinterpret projects that are not enormously radical in that light as moving in that direction.Whatever the degree of radicality all the projects would have the deeply radical final goal of total transformation towards the gift economy. .

Maintaining the maternal value of peaceful revolution will help us embrace a non-violent approach even in the most radical initiatives. Volunteers can see the light at the end of their labors as the gift economy final outcome, as can people in the helping professions, urban gardeners, free librarians, tool sharers, eco-villages, time banks, coops, all can see the final goal as one of social transformation, while those truth tellers, whistleblowers, those protesting war, organizing marches, lying down in front of nuclear missile transports can also see their work as a social gift, the solution to a problem consonant with the values of the (M)otherworld to come!" (email, January 2018)

More information

* Name some of your most important Works .

"Communication and exchange" (1980) Saussure and Vygotsky via Marx" (1981), For-Giving, a Feminist Criticism of Exchange(1997) , ed Il Dono/the Gift (2004)ed Women and the Gift Economy: a Radically Different Worldview is Possible (2007) Homo Donans: for a Maternal Economy (2007), The Gift in the Heart of Language: the Maternal Source of Meaning (2015), ed. The Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy ( 2018 in Press).

* Is there a website you can refer the curious to?,

* What works/authors inspired you in your own journey?

Malinowski, Marx, , Vygotsky Rossi-Landi, de Saussure, Freud, Goux, Sohn-Rethel,Schaff, Jean Baker Miller, Olga Silverstein, Bruno Bettelheim, Lewis Hyde, Carol Gilligan, Lakoff and Johnson, Tomasello, Goettner-Abendroth, Barbara Alice Mann, Trevarthen, Meltzoff, Stein Braten, Allan Schore, Darcia Narvaez, I Ching, Tarot. William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas, Ursula Le Guinn.


Armstrong, Jeanette, "Indigenous knowledge and gift giving: living in community", in G. Vaughan, ed. Women and the Gift Economy (Toronto: Inanna Press, 2007)

Gimbutas, Marija, The Language of the Goddess (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989)

Goettner-Abendroth, Heide, Matriarchal Cultures: studies on indigenous cultures across the globe (New York: Peter Lang, 2013)

Goux, Jean Joseph, Symbolic Economies: After Marx and Freud. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1990).

Jordan, Nané, Placenta Wit,Mother Stories, Rituals and Research (Toronto: Demeter Press 2017).

Kanth, Rajani, Farewell to Modernism: On Human Devolution in the twenty-first century. (New York, Peter Lang, 2017).

Marx, Karl, Capital, A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1996 [1867])

Narvaez, Darcia, Valentino, Kristin, Fuentes, Augustin, McKenna, James, Gray, Peter eds.,Ancestral landscapes in Human Evolution, Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing (New York, Oxford University Press, 2012)

Narvaez, D. "Baselines for virtue". In J. Annas, D. Narvaez, & N. Snow (Eds.), Advances in virtue development: Integrating perspectives. New York, NY: Oxford University Press 2016).

O'Reilly, Andrea, Matricentric Feminism.(Toronto, Demeter Press, 2016)

Renfrew, Lord Colin, (2017)

Rosch, Eleanor, "Principles of categorization" in E. Rosch and B. Lloyd eds., Cognition and categorization (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1978) pp. 27-48

Siegel, Daniel M.D. 2012. The Developing Mind, Second Edition, (New York, The Guilford Press, 2012)

Sohn-Rethel, Alfred, Intellectual and Manual Labour: Critique of Epistemology, New York, Macmillan, 1978)

Stephens, Julie, Confronting Post Maternal thinking, feminism, memory and care (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012)

Vaughan, Genevieve, "Communication and Exchange", Semiotica 29-1/2.(1980)

- "Saussure and Vygotsky via Marx" ars semiotica (1981)

- For-Giving, a Feminist Criticism of Exchange, (Austin: PlainView and Anomaly Press,1997)

- (ed) Il Dono/The Gift, a Feminist Perspective (Roma, Meltemi, 2004)

- (ed.) Women and the Gift Economy, a Radically Different Worldview is Possible, Toronto, Inanna Press (2007).

- Homo Donans, for a Maternal Economy (Milano, VandA e publishing (2015 [2007])

- The Gift in the Heart of Language: the Maternal Source of Meaning (Milano, Mimesis 2015)

- ed. The Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy (Toronto, Inanna Press 2018 - in press)