HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RIANE!
Writing this tribute to Riane Eisler on her birthday feels oddly unreal when I think about my long-lived encounters with her work. How is it possible this formidable woman, who has transformed the thinking of whole generations of women and men, thinks of me as a partner? How can I help further her work? Or—no! Rather, how has she made this OUR work?
I first encountered The Chalice and the Blade thirty years ago, when I was core faculty of writing and women’s studies in an undergraduate program at Vermont College. That book enabled me to name the domination I recognized and helped me aspire to Partnership in my relationships, not only for my own happiness, but for the well-being of my family, community, state, and nation. Today, that huge mission feels truer than ever.
I couldn’t have guessed then that I would soon be designing seminars on the etymology of economic language, concerned about women’s systemic poverty—or that I would soon discover another bold book of Riane’s, The Real Wealth of Nations. It named for me exactly what my values told me was authentic—but excitingly, it also engineered institutional solutions for practical policies that I could talk about with my students. It only required our setting an upside-down world of thinking right side up!
When I presented at a 2008 NOW Conference to demystify money’s language, titled “Economics is Greek to Me,” the sources I cited included Riane and Nancy Folbre, an economist also concerned with the caring our GDP numbers omit. I couldn’t have guessed that just months later, Wall Street would crash the whole economy. Nor did I realize then that these two brilliant women were already partnering in the project that became the Center for Partnership System’s Social Wealth Economic Indicators, or SWEIs (currently, CPS is developing the new Social Wealth Index).
After the crash I continued to teach and research the strange language of Wall Street’s derivatives and collateralized debt obligations, wanting to understand what had happened. I wrote a series of articles that won a National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting in 2019, and decided to expand my work, drawing on what the award cited: my unusual sources. They meant women like Riane.
My mother died before the crash, but she wouldn’t have liked my title for the book I eventually wrote. I coined the word Screwnomics,* to name what Riane had shown me, the dominator’s unspoken but widely applied economic “theory” that women should always work for less, or even better for free. I don’t know where I found the courage to ask her to review my book pre-publication, but I’m grateful for her lovely blurb, and for then sharing with me her important work on the SWEIs, which I was pleased to include….and continue to promote and pray for!
Here’s to you, Riane, and your partnered realization of so many bold dreams. Your inspiration will live forever.
My column at Ms. Magazine, Women Unscrewing Screwnomics, has highlighted her work at Bretton Woods and her latest neuroscience research in her book, Nurturing Our Humanity, written with anthropologist Douglas Fry. When I created a new educational nonprofit, An Economy of Our Own (AEOO), Riane generously agreed to serve on our advisory board and then somehow found the time to join us, first in a Zoom conversation at Vermont’s “Womanomics Camp,” and then in October 2020 in an AEOO Zoom we called The Invisible Woman, about the real wealth of caring still unseen by the GDP.
I was deeply touched when during that conversation, another young panelist and prominent feminist activist, Khara Jabola-Carolus, held up a well-worn copy of The Chalice and the Blade, and publicly thanked Riane for her life-changing work. So many of us could do the same and hold up one or several books of hers—all with evocative ideas and passionate, convincing proposals—made real and larger by Riane’s on-the-ground partnerships.
Her engaging smile and daring vision will be visibly present with a new generation of caring smart women when I present a video collage of our AEOO conversations at a second NOW Conference on Aug. 1, and at The Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom National Congress on Aug. 14. I’ll share how Riane has helped to foster a new educational resource and alliance. And I’ll tell them about The Center for Partnership System’s imperative global work on a new SWI Index.
All the women and organizations at An Economy of Our Own are honored and proud to serve in collaboration with The Center for Partnership Systems, I know. So here’s to you, Riane, and your partnered realization of so many bold dreams. Your inspiration will live forever.
—Rickey Gard Diamond