Patriarchy

Patriarchy is a nightmare. It is a system of terrorism. I don’t care about hyperbole. It is a system that has destroyed many lives. It is a system that has brought many of us to the brink of death. And it is a system that needs to be completely obliterated.

Patriarchy is a system based on cis-het-male supremacy. When I was born, I was assigned male. I quickly learned as soon as I left my parents clutches to attend first grade at age 6 that I did not fit the cultural definition of a boy. It was not until Women’s Studies in college years later that I learned that I was a victim of patriarchy. Patriarchy hates women, queers and trans people. It is a system that delights in dude bros, the most toxic variety of masculinity you can imagine.

Patriarchy is a theoretical concept. It names the system of male supremacy we live under. It is not only a word of Women’s Studies or feminism, but it is heavily featured in both. There are some who may see the word patriarchy as second wave or as dated but I believe it is timeless. As long as there is sexism and misogyny there will be patriarchy. I actually look forward to the time when there is no need for the word patriarchy because it will finally be destroyed.

Men are the primary agents of patriarchy. They benefit from it and they revel in the privilege they receive from it. They hurl their hatred at women, queers and trans people every hour of every day. It is difficult to list all the ways that men foment patriarchy because the list is endless: through violence, rape, battering, exploitation, gas-lighting, LGBTQ bashing, economic domination, emotional abuse, employment discrimination and hyper-normative gender roles. Women, queers and trans people face a lot of time having to heal from the violence: physical, mental and financial that men commit against them.

Are women agents of patriarchy? I am not sure I would use the word agents. But women are very much affected by patriarchy. There are some women whose minds are colonized by patriarchal ideology. There are some women who have severe internalized oppression. So they act in collusion with patriarchy. Even though it goes against their own personal interests, they have internalized dominant ideology and hope to curry favor with the oppressor. The same goes for LGBT people who collude with heterosexism and cissexism. It is sad when women and LGBT people don’t realize how they are aiding and abetting patriarchy.

Patriarchy is world-wide. It plays out differently in different cultures, but the persistence of gender inequality is stunning. I don’t see an end to patriarchy in my lifetime. But I do see people rising up and fighting back against patriarchy. These are people called women. These are people called feminists. These are people called radical queers and radical trans folks. The Time’s Up movement and the #MeToo movement are encouraging signs. Women are stepping up and speaking out. Feminism hasn’t gone anywhere, but it has been strengthened. We may not end patriarchy, but we will commit a full-frontal assault on it.

 

Feminism

When I was 20 years old, I took two Women’s Studies courses. They both changed my life. I flipped my major from English to Women’s Studies and my life as a feminist was born.

Feminism is a revolutionary movement. It is also one of the most successful movements of the past century. The amount of changes that have been ushered in by hard-working feminists is awe-inspiring.

The dictionary definition of feminism is the movement for the social, political and economic equality between men and women. Needless to say, this old-school definition leads a lot to be desired. For me, feminism is a revolutionary, intersectional movement to eradicate oppression and exploitation of all kinds, with a particular emphasis on masculinism, male-supremacy and patriarchy. But race, class, trans, disability, age, weight, appearance, religion, etc. all intersect in vitally important ways with feminism. As the internet slogan goes, our feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

I am a third wave feminist through and through. Ironically, I was raised on second wave ideology because the third wave was just beginning to happen when I was being schooled in feminist theory. I am a third wave feminist in the same way that I am a Gen Xer. It is my generation and I am proud of it. We have accomplished a lot and made quite a contribution to the movement. We build on the shoulders of the first and second wave. In addition, we build on the shoulders of all the women of color who may or may not have been involved with feminism. Feminism is a movement mired in white supremacy, historically and contemporarily. While strides have been made in combatting racism in feminism, it still continues to be a serious problem.

In addition to racism, feminism is often transphobic and trans-misogynistic. I have felt this from so-called TERFs as well as from more mainstream feminists. My relationship to feminism has not been a bed of roses. I have never walked away, but there have been times I have thought about it because of the transphobia and transmisogyny I have encountered. I would ask: Am I allowed to be a feminist in the same way that my cisgender counterparts are? White, cis women have a lot to answer for when it comes to the inclusion of trans people and women of color in Women’s and Gender Studies and in the feminist movement.

Feminism, in many way, provides the foundation for my social justice work. For papers and essays, I often implore my students to explore a given problem through the lens of intersectional feminism. Feminism done right is thoroughly intersectional and able to provide a rigorous analytical reading of any number of socio-cultural problems and crises. Intersectional feminism is the go-to magic for theory and for activism. Intersectional feminism must include critical race theory, queer theory, crip theory and more, as well as insights from Black Lives Matters, queer organizations and disabled activist collectives among many others.

I should get a tattoo that says “Feminist Forever.” I hate patriarchy, male privilege, male dominance and masculinism with a passion. It is destroying our society and destroying our planet. Even with its problems, feminism provides a framework for thinking about all of these problems that desperately need solutions. As Nancy Hartsock said, “Feminism is a method of approaching life and politics, a way of asking questions, and searching for answers, rather than a set of political conclusions about the oppression of women.” I would add the oppression of people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, etc. but you get the point. It is a sophisticated theoretical apparatus and it is an equally sophisticated approach to on-the-ground activism. Between its rigorous theory and grassroots activism there is no telling what progress feminism will continue to make in the coming years, decades and centuries.

 

 

Love

Love is hard work. We live in a world where hatred, malice and disdain are the norm. There is constant snarkiness and coldness. We are a country dedicated to “independence” at all costs. We walk through the world like an automaton cut off from our deepest and most vital emotions. As with the previous entry, crying, we don’t know how to love. And when love is talked about, it is almost always talked about in the romantic sense, which is such a narrow way to conceptualize love. In this entry, I would like to talk about the importance of love and the need to re-conceptualize love and think about it in a radically different way.

Why is love important? Ideally, everything in society would have love at its very base. It would be the first thing and the foundation. The reason for this is that love produces the best results. If we are not in love with that which we are doing, we are not living up to the potential that God has laid down for us. I believe that God wants love to be at the core of who we are and as the foundation of everything we do. Throughout every religion, we hear about love again and again in scripture. We need to treat each other with love and we need to lead with love in our actions in the world. Love is most important entity because it is associated with kindness, sweetness, generosity and inclusiveness, among many other noble characteristics.

We don’t manifest love nearly enough. The reason is that our society is not set up for it. Our society is set up for coldness, cruelty, greed, stinginess and exclusion. Hatred is far too common, and apathy is ubiquitous. The fact that our society is set up for these negative characteristics makes it hard to manifest love. We must go against the tide, and that is never easy. But given the hatred, greed and destruction we see all around the globe, the status quo is not an option. Social, economic and environmental justice must be guided by love, must have love within its very infrastructure and must have love as a blueprint for social change.

We must also change love away from the exclusively romantic sense. The tyranny of coupledom makes those of us who are “single” feel like love is not a part of our lives. I call this type of love the “Valentine’s Day Love.” It is characterized by flowers and chocolate and a kind of hollowness. I do not discount the love between couples. But I am calling for a revolutionary love that includes everyone, whether or not they are in a romantic partnership.

Revolutionary love is collective and it is geared towards liberation. This liberation is for all. Because of its liberatory goals, this type of love is radical. It is distinctly anti-capitalist and anti-greed. Its abundance is not measured in money but in freedom, in winning justice for as many people as possible. It also carries with it responsibility. It carries the need for people to work together for liberation, freedom, justice and a more collective society. Society right now is very much based in independence. This focus on independence is selfish and dysfunctional. We are not independent, nor are we totally dependent. We are INTERDEPENDENT. We all receive and give help every day of our lives. We are, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, inter-being. How exciting it is to think of love in this new way. To re-conceptualize it and re-purpose it to be for everyone in a radical and unrepentantly political sense. In the next entry I will queer love, and talk about the revolutionary potential of a radical re-working of love by and for queer folk.