Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Men are not the Patriarchy

There's been a lot of patriarchy bashing going on lately, and I feel the need to completely explain what I'm talking about when I blame the patriarchy (tm Twisty Faster). Men are not the patriarchy. The patriarchy is a cultural and social system, which imposes roles and expectations on both men and women on the basis of sex. I believe this system and any system that does not recognize each person's humanity as an individual is harmful to everyone. Men are hurt by the patriarchy as well. Now, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about patriarchy's consequences on men because as a whole men have the Kleenex of money, power, respect, authority, etc. with which to wipe their tears. However, as a decent human being I hate to see any person suffer regardless of the type of gonads he or she is toting around.

So, let's use a completely inflammatory and provocative allegory to illustrate what the patriarchy does with the ideas of "male" and "female." Think of an abusive husband and his battered spouse. To be clear - the man in this scenario is not to represent the patriarchy. Nor is he intended to represent individual men. Rather he is serving as the idea of masculinity under the patriarchy. By the same token, the spouse is not meant to represent what most individual women experience, but what it is to be the feminine in a patriarchy.

Now, let's look at things from the man's point of view. He is an utterly horrible, hateful person but he is an emotionally destroyed utterly horrible, hateful person. All those things that healthy people experience in a relationship - trust, mutual support, unconditional acceptance - he is absolutely incapable of enjoying. The only way that he can relate to his fellow human beings is in terms of power, control, possession, and dominance. He is a broken and twisted person.

Then, let's think about her. Why does she stay? First of all, she's more likely to be murdered if she tries to leave. It's hell on earth to be beaten and beat down by someone who's supposed to love you and take care of you, but the consequences of trying to escape can be deadly. Secondly, she truly believes she loves him. She wants to figure out how to make it work. It's a huge burden, but she feels the responsibility to try, no matter how humiliating and painful it is. She twists and contorts herself trying to be lovable and acceptable, but she can never, ever get it right. The expectations are always changing, never consistent. One day she's beaten for being a nasty slut. The next day she's beaten for being a frigid bitch. One day, she's beaten for spoiling those damn kids. The next day she's beaten for being a disgraceful, neglectful mother. And she completely believes it's her fault. If she could just be better, smarter, prettier, less of a "bitch" he would stop; he would approve of her, and listen to her, and treat her like a human being. But, she will never be good enough, and he will never stop.

Who wins under the patriarchy? In terms of human potential for interpersonal harmony, emotional health, and spiritual well-being, no one wins. Everyone is pitted against everyone else in a stupid, brutal struggle for scraps of approval and acceptance. But, if you're talking about power, wealth, respect, etc. men come out on top. Because of those rewards there are men in this world that will use every nasty tactic in the book to uphold and defend the patriarchy. However, the patriarchy could not thrive without the complicity of women. Why would any woman buy into the patriarchy? If, as a woman, you jump through enough hoops - if you're skinny enough, waxed enough, slutty enough (but not too much) - the patriarchy throws you a bone. And, if that's all you've ever known, it seems good enough to beg for.

But, do we even live under a patriarchal system?

Well, this is interesting to think about.

As is this. Although I like how they managed to frame it as a positive. Nearly 80% of Americans aren't outright sexists!

This isn't really "interesting." It just sucks.

P.S. I've preemptively decided to moderate comments on this one based on some weirdness over at Holly's. I'm probably over-reacting, so I hope you'll prove me right. Also, this is my blog for me to say what I want to. The internet is wonderful at facilitating some unlikely dialogues, but not every page everywhere exists to give everyone free rein. If I need to, I'll take some time to think about what you have to say (assuming anyone bothers), and if I decide it doesn't contribute to the general asshattery of the world I'll post it. Or, I'll post it and call you an asshat. I haven't decided yet.

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