Gender and Sexism in the Rainbow Gatherings

The other day I was proofreading the thesis of a friend on the Rainbow Gatherings and enjoying her conclusions which benefited from more academic training than I ever had. Approaching the Rainbow from an anthropological point of view she opened my eyes to a few aspects of the Gatherings to which I’d been blind.

One of these issues was the role of gender and sexism in the Rainbow.

The Rainbow is mired in notions of masculinity and femininity that originate from historical prejudices dressed up in New Agery. We have Father Sky and Mother Earth. The male sun and the female moon. Tantra workshops explore cosmic masculine and feminine roles without questioning the social, economic and historic roots of all these beliefs.  But let’s look at the facts:

I can say that in all the focaliser meetings, vision councils and seed camp circles which I’ve attended they have been overwhelmingly populated by men. There are many women in the Rainbow who take on enormous responsibility in the Gatherings and work just as hard as the men but I cannot recall once being in a practical, decision-making circle where women dominated.

The announcements at food circles are mostly made by men and so the ‘voice’ of the Rainbow is perceived to be male.  The musicians for the magic hat and around the fire at night are predominantly men. Perhaps because the music industry itself is overwhelmingly male.

An exception are  the workshops which are more evenly distributed between the sexes and, predictably, there are as many, if not more, women cooking in the kitchen.

One might speculate that women in the Rainbow simply prefer to stay out of the politics and decision-making, the endless arguments and the delivering of speeches. Or it might be that they just don’t feel heard or respected in these circles and so keep their distance. I don’t know. But it’s worth asking the question.