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Gender Equity Training, Nepal 2010, Photo by 2010 Peace Fellow Adrienne Henck

I wanted to do an update reminder post about why I’m writing this blog. The main objective is to change a system of oppression.

Right now the system we live in pushes some people to the top by stepping on other people and pushing them to the bottom. When we think about gender, we’re talking about women. Women make up half of the population but have very little say-so in the world at large.

We live in a world where women are beaten, raped and killed. Governments, cultures, and even individual people do nothing to stop it and by their silence, encourage it. It doesn’t have to be like that.

Five things are true.

1. All people have the potential to be good happy people who live in a system that doesn’t make them the oppressors or the oppressed.

Institutional Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups. If oppressive consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs, or practices, the institution is oppressive whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have oppressive intentions.”(1)

Women, as half of the population, are a targeted social identity group. Laws, customs, and practices within cultures around the world, as well as in the United States, oppress women. There are a whole lot of people who aren’t doing anything about changing this and are therefore maintaining the system, though they might not be aware how this is problematic and they may not intentionally want to harm others.

2. Right now, we all live under a system of patriarchy that in its very nature makes some people better than other people.

Oppression is the subordination of a given group by unjust use of force, authority, or societal norms in order to have power over them. Oppression works under the assumption that the given target is in some way inferior. (from Wikipedia)

The assumption under patriarchy is that women are inferior. We all need to feel better about ourselves. Even people who benefit from the system, if they are oppressing someone else, they cannot be entirely ‘okay.’ In the very being of who we are, we like other humans and want them to like us. If we are hurting others, that is against our very nature.

3. The system can be changed.

I’m not that old and even in my lifetime, there have been major changes. Look at cell phones. Everyone has one now. It wasn’t that long ago when they didn’t exist. And the internet, that wasn’t big. Look at it now. So things can change. Changing patriarchy has to be a conscious effort, but it can be done. The first step is to stop hating women and respect us. We can do it and it will benefit everyone.

4. If it is changed, things will be better for people overall. This is not about men being at fault or women hating men.

Everyone in the world will be healthier if the system changes. Right now, we are afraid to let our children play outside. We are afraid to talk to strangers. We are afraid of the predator in the bushes, on line, next door. If all people are respected and no one is trying to have power over others, we’ll be able to trust each other and make even more amazing things happen in this world.

Change begins with respect. That means all violence against women must stopped. Laws and cultural beliefs must uphold that. Women must be seen as whole people, not just sex objects, or any carved-out-mold of a stereotype; we must be seen as equal people who have opinions and beliefs and voices to be valued.

Men have to see themselves as good men who respect women and not continue to feel threatened by women who are changing the world to be safer and more equal.

I read something recently by a man who writes about what he calls “men’s issues.” I won’t mention the source so as not to give him any more attention, but he believes that women want to be controlled and dominated and that women killed by serial killers are submissive by nature and go with killers because that’s how women are. Let’s be clear, first of all, that is blaming the victim and second, patriarchy encourages women to think poorly about themselves and that they are second class citizens. The man who writes encouraging men to oppress women believes patriarchy works and that it has to thrive for women to want men and for men to feel good. How sad and mistaken. It was an appalling article to read. That man has some ideas that come from a really hurt place and they are reaching out to hurt others.

5. Change begins with each person committing to uphold respect.

“In sociology, the tools of oppression include a progression of denigration, dehumanization, and demonization; which often generate scapegoating, which is used to justify aggression against targeted groups and individuals.” (from Wikipedia on oppression)

If we respect women, see them as people rather than objects, we will be able to make change. We must speak up when something or someone puts women down or portrays women as less-than.

Grrl Code: We must respect each other and speak out against people who want to put us down or be violent against us. We must believe we are additions to this world, not burdens. Above all, women must unite against things that suggest we are less-than and not worthy.