Skip to content

Reels, Wheels and Cycles

April 16, 2010

Getting real with wheels and meals

In the future, the world will go round.
Not talking about rotations on axis or revolutions in orbit.
I’m talking about circles.

Lots of different kinds of circles.

Sewing circles.
Baby-sitting circles.
Spinning circles.
Charka reels a-winding and bobbins bob-bobbing along.
Electricity producing, treadle operated charkas. And sewing machines.The making and shaping of fabrics can and probably will come back into women’s capable hands. Because as long as women have the primary child care and elder care duties, they can blend those duties very well with web-making of all kinds. Fish nets. Hammocks. Sock knitting machines. Knitting boards.

Water filtration cloth.

Did you know that four folds of sari cloth can filter out most of the cholera germs in untreated water?

And water pasteurization by means of solar troughs and a WAPI borosilicate glass/melted wax temperature gauge can do the rest. Simple water pumps in every village so the daily round trip of water toting is measured in yards, not in miles.

In Ursula LeGuin’s Lavinia, the manor house of the proto-Roman king is divided into the women’s rooms and the men’s rooms. The women spend a lot of time making, dyeing, decorating, using, washing and re-purposing fabrics. And so it will be in the future. Not just for kings and queens but for villages and suburbs and Chicago tenements–women working together with children underfoot or hovering, or shooed into the corner where they are learning counting and alphabets and songs and geometry.

Circles are not all we will see in the future. There will be squares and triangles. Quilts. Looms. Tablet weaving and inkle looms. Stacked rectangles of rag paper drying on the verandah. Lots of geometry in the world’s future.

But in the main, lots of turning, churning, wheeling, and whirling is what I see.
Like girls on bicycles in Namibia.

Together with round-robin cooking duties, women-only co-ops will rely more and more on jointly owned distributed power generators and vehicles, river-based microhydro water wheel power, whirligigging windmills, solar steam power, fat-bellied rocket stoves and oval solar ovens, and multifamily mealtimes.

What used to be called cottage industry can, via co-ops, become the raised bed of healthy soil that nourishes a deeply rooted prosperity and self-sufficiency for women–in or out of marriage. Whether single, married, thrice married, divorced, widowed or just plain separate, every woman needs to have a way to make a decent living other than unpaid housework. Hence, co-ops, or women’s circles, are one way the work of the future will be most efficiently done. Fewer wedding rings and more Drupal rings.

And, since women get a boost of oxytocin from doing small tasks together, the tedium of work that is presently performed separately can be relieved by a little hormonal magic. The tend-and-befriend response that makes women’s lives less stressful is mediated by oxytocin in women and vasopressin in men according to Laura Cousino Klein and Shelley E. Taylor.

Source: Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000). Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight” Psychological Review, 107(3), 41-429.

Less of this nucleated one-man, one-castle mentality and more of the women’s compounds fenced to keep children safe from wandering off and the goats out of the garden. Why have one washing machine per mom when a cluster of five chock-full-o’-children households can share a bank of 3 machines and save money? There’s nothing stopping us except patriarchy. Put it aside and step forward into a true labor-saving future. One where you don’t to have to go to the grocery store–it comes round to you. Perhaps on a Green-Go Cargo Quad, wo-manned by a gaggle of teenaged grrrrls with high-powered ’bent trike courier smarts.

Brilliant red Twike electric assist HPV three-wheeler

It’s a Twike! All right!

more about the Velorution

And, speaking of cycles, what about those Menstrual Cycles? How many church ladies’ co-ops does it take to make enough reusable menstrual pads so girls in Africa can go to school every day? This is not the opening for a joke. Sewing circles, the world over can turn rags into gladness for many a girl.

Or if not, maybe a circuit teacher can come to her. So many things do travel in circles, or in cycles. Why not New Moon Teachers? They can show up to give lessons in hygiene and health every month.

Throw a nicely rounded wooden sabot into those business models that do not serve women’s real, basic and recurring needs. Bend those bottom lines to fit our wide-hipped butts.

ODO Principia

On-Demand-Only = ODO

ODO in Process

ODO manufacturing is that new wavy line: On-Demand Only manufacture. You don’t make it till somebody asks for it. You don’t keep active supply trains, you sustain RELATIONSHIPS with people who keep stores of parts and raw materials. You know–women’s work: maintaining relationships.

You don’t own the tools of production except in common with your co-op and your cousin’s co-op. You share space. Girly stuff like that. None of this fencing off territory and defending it to the death. That’s for the birds. We’re more like bonobos: the alpha females band together to protect their privileges.

Sure, there will be squabbles.
Hormones are like that.

But there comes one more turn in this tale.

Take life cycles: old women. Old women who once held the decision power in their wrinkled hands: to war or not to war. They–unlike the old men who cheerfully send their sons to war–are past the rounds and ups and downs of hormonal flux. They have a much heavier investment in the chief products of their labor: namely children. Old women know what it really costs to go to war. And those who know the value of peace learn how to make peace–even between a screaming mad premenstrual teen and a lank-haired, irritable, self-righteous and justifiably exasperated prima donna of a primipara.

Old women know how to bring people round. Old women whose hands are too worn to do the actual knitting anymore, they can knit up ragged souls. They can be the ones who spin the long, entertaining tales–they will span the story cycles.

That’s what I see in the future: the world going round. The round bellies of women bearing young–the round of daily chores, lightened with the choral round of gleeful voices as the labor follows the pace of the slow cycle of a human breath: not the rapid hammering clatter of a coal-fired machine.

In Non-Euclidean geometry–world-shaped geometry– the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. In the future, the shortest way to happiness will be found by following a curvy, woman-shaped line.

G. Kay Bishop tends to think in circles. And she thinks that is a good think. Your kiloarcs may vary.

  1. April 17, 2010 4:54 am

    LOVE THIS! It was like a beautiful, skin tingling poem. Filled me with joy and hope. Thank you.

    • G.Kay Bishop permalink
      April 17, 2010 5:41 pm

      Thanks Voracious Vegan.
      Among all the good round things I should have mentioned the delicious round lentils and onions in your mjadrah recipe. BTW. do you have a step-by-step method for carmelizing onions?

  2. April 21, 2010 3:27 pm

    A woman at my Mom’s memorial service started to share her memories of my mom, and she began “Circles…” then she started to cry. Again she began, “Circles…” and once again she began to cry and could not go on. On the third attempt, she stopped there, and motioned for the next person who wanted to share to go ahead. It was perfect. And complete. And I agree. Circles.

    Wonderful article, G. Kay.

  3. farley griner permalink
    May 2, 2010 10:55 am

    G.Kay, I love your writing (have missed reading it!). This inspires hope along with many questions. Now I’m thinking a few circles around how we can consciously value women’s work, particularly when we do it together.

    • G.Kay Bishop permalink
      May 16, 2010 10:06 pm

      Thanks, Farley. Native elders recommend groups of five to seven people to perfom specific tasks. Larger group labor congregations (quilting bee, barn raising) are held as one-off’s, not treated as sustainable over the long haul. Even the 5-7 group is considered temporary and task specific. For long-term, multi-function small groups, check out the Okinawan concept of moais.


  1. Deaths « Extractiv
  2. Introduction to New Media, the Arts and Social Change Series « Gender Across Borders

Comments are closed.

  • Previous Series at GAB

  • TWITTER: What’s going on @GABblog

  • Top Posts

  • Recommended Reading

  • We participated in Blog for International Women’s Day 2010.

  • NetworkedBlogs

  • %d bloggers like this: