Thursday, August 7, 2008

i've recently started trying to find a language to talk about patriarchy outside of my scholar/activist/qbg circles. it's easy to forget that catcalls, half-naked women in every rap video, the need to "keep our legs closed" and other forms of heterosexism are "normal" for the majority of people we interact with on a daily basis... below is an entry from one of my blogs that i posted last week:

earlier this week i was riding on the bus through harlem, sitting next to these two beautiful children and their grandmother. the girl reminded me a lot of myself when i was about four or five: wide-eyed, talkative, and extremely inquisitive. she asked questions about everything from why certain people wore certain kinds of hats to whether or not she'd be able to eat her favorite food for dinner. i smiled and couldn't help but watch her in action. her brother was equally active and loud, but (slightly) less talkative. the grandmother seemed agitated... and, though it took me a minute to recognize why, i felt that something about the dynamic was problematic. the grandmother kept fussing at the brother and sister, but most of her frustration seemed to be directed toward the little girl. she kept telling her not to be so loud, yet the little boy was talking at the exact same level. then she told the little girl, "you're a girl. you shouldn't talk so loud." and, of course, the little girl ignored her, yet i couldn't help but wonder how such words will shape her as she becomes a teen and grows into a woman.

i want to propose that patriarchy be considered a form of abuse... that conditioning little girls to behave in a way different from their male counterparts and against their instincts is a conscious way of teaching both boys and girls that girls are inferior, and that their only hope for "positive" social recognition is to distort themselves.... becoming a person who often feels insincere, unrecognizable, incomplete, and/or lost. it is the process through which we come to sacrifice our dreams, urges, and desires to accommodate other people. even more amazing - it is the process through which we learn come to see this unhealthy state of thinking and being as normal, and then police other people who challenge our ascribed roles.

patriarchal abuse is cyclical, passed down with each generation. it is why similar types of unhealthy relationships reappear over and over again. it is done to us by our family and friends, and we do it to each other.

patriarchal abuse is why black men who don't fit the ascribed model of masculinity walk around in pain because they are often unable to feel comfortable around men who seem more adept. why men who seem to fit the model feel it appropriate to become violent with their energy, words, thoughts, and even hands when made uncomfortable by men who don't.

patriarchal abuse teaches boys and girls to measure their social value by the number of people they have slept with, allowing men to achieve their "manhood" through sexual conquests while women are made to feel guilty for each partner. it permits a healthy dialogue around sex, female empowerment/entitlement, and sexual health. it demands one model for relationships: monogamous, heterosexual unions leading to marriage.

patriarchal abuse occurs not just when a girl is physically violated and verbally accosted, but also every time that a girl is told to be quiet, keep her legs closed, not speak her mind, be friendly, change her appearance to be more acceptable, etc., etc.

patriarchal abuse it stifles our creative potential for imagining and creating an alternative world, one that promotes true self love and love of others. one that would liberate us from materialism (i'm far from making the break).

i want to find a way to raise my children differently, but i'm not sure that it's possible...

1 comment:

dark lily said...

beautiful post. funny, i was thinking about this topic of the subtle ways that we oppress lil black girls as i was watching my daughter run around the apartment. she is wearing a cubs baseball shirt and suspenders and her hair is wild and i thought about how my mother sucks her teeth that i dont dress her more girly. think: pink, dresses, and bows and ribbons in the hair. and how much harder it will be as she gets older to protect her own sense of self-expression. how i am just one woman and there is a whole society that already judges her sensuality and loud deep voice...right now she is having dance party time with her papa grooving out to the coup.