Because the mainstream patriarchal outlook is a privileged outlook, it is seen as superior and the way to be. In reality, it oppresses half the population by trying to control women’s bodies, what women do, and the beliefs women have about themselves. It does this by setting up laws to hate us, by perpetuating stereotypes and strict gender roles, and ultimately by condoning violence against us.
And yet, most people just see things as ‘that’s the way they are. They don’t see the truth: that women are treated in a way to keep us beneath men and that this encourages violence against us as an acceptable method of control. The good new is: it doesn’t have to be like this.
When I was younger, I went to Rock City, Atop Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, TN where you can see seven states from a single point. There, they had, and may still have, one lookout point where you could look through different colored glass and see the view through those colors. When you look through a different color of glass, at first it looks different and then after a short time, it’s just the way it is.
I imagine that suddenly seeing patriarchy is like going along in your life and thinking things are as they are and then you look through the blue glass and see them as different and from that point on, you can’t see them any differently. It becomes how the view is.
The world is not as it seems.
Days when I look at committees of all men making decisions about my body or when I see my country pass laws forcing rape of women in order to get abortions, when I see perpetrators of sexual assault walk away free while their victims are blamed, days when I see pop-star men who have been violent against a woman be rewarded, when I turn on the news and one woman after another has been killed and a thirteen year old raped, these are days I feel hopeless.
These are days I want to go back through Rock City and not ever look through the blue glass. I want to just believe I’m happy with life and that it doesn’t matter that my rights and choices are restricted and that I have fewer options for what I do with my life. I want to go back to the time when I believed I could do anything I wanted to do and not be concerned more rights will be taken away. But, I can’t. And actually, that’s a good thing.
Those privileged by Patriarchy don’t usually see the ills of the system because they don’t have a restriction of their rights and they can do everything they want to do. The world is how it is. The crazy thing about Patriarchy is that it doesn’t give women that privilege and yet, many women think things are fine.
Patriarchy has certain places for women: homemaker, wife, mother. There is nothing wrong with these three roles, but they are the only roles allowed for women under Patriarchy. Women can only be these three things and to want anything outside of these three roles is to be subversive and a rebel. Because of feminism and the fight for women’s rights, the changing economies, and the consumer culture where we always want more, women have been able to work outside the home and hold jobs in almost every field around, but under patriarchy, there are still certain jobs designated for women, like teachers, social workers, and nurses. They are all paid little, though they are some of the hardest and most important jobs to do.
If you are a woman and are happy with the world as it is right now, know that not all women feel like that. I want women to have more rights because with more rights all of us are more valued and are more protected from violence. I want to live in a world where opportunities are equal because it gives us all more possibilities. Your daughters may want more than what women have the right to now and the rights we have now are at risk. Your daughter-in-laws may want more. When your children are grown, you may want more. Your grandchildren may want more.
If you believe women should be happy with how the world is for women right now, consider this:
Being given the message that you are smart, makes you feel better about yourself and your ability to make things happen in your life. If you are a girl or a woman, those are not the messages you are given and you do not feel as good about yourself as you could.
If you can dream about doing something in the world that would be like a dream job for you, maybe that’s president, or a doctor, or a writer. If those dreams are really attainable, you feel excited about your life and empowered to be strong in yourself. Again, you feel better about yourself.
If you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to choose a partner to be with who will respect you and treat you well, a partner who is less likely to devalue you and less likely to be violent against you verbally, physically, sexually. If someone does treat you in an abusive manner, you will be more likely to kick them to the curb and move on.
We have been exploited by patriarchy for a long time. We have been working to change this and now many men (not all) are shaking in their boots. They’re unsure about what the world will look like if they have equal power to women and are afraid that who they are will be challenged, devalued, and lost.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine” -R.E.M.
But it’s not the end of the world. It is just the beginning and it is the beginning of the rest of our lives. Which view will we take and how will it all go down? It’s easy to look around and wonder if hopeless is what we should feel. Then we get geared up again for the fight and BAM, we’re hit by an oncoming train.
Patriarchy is huge. It’s not going down easily. But this is all the more reason to Stand UP!
I am not hopeless about Patriarchal Exploitation because I know this is a long fight and that the fight is necessary in order for women to continue to be alive in this world. That is worth fighting for!
Grrl Code: Once you look through the blue glass, it is your responsibility to speak out against oppression against women. If you are not the ‘speak out’ type, speak to your friends and partners, challenge gender stereotypes with children, vote for candidates who support women’s rights. Remind yourself that the patriarchal outlook is a privileged outlook and therefore seen as the best way to see things, then remind yourself that this is a lie. Begin to uncover the lies we have learned about women and to reject them and confront them.
P.S. Tune in this tomorrow for the Weekender with an exclusive interview with one of Slam Poetry’s most radical women, Jessica Helen Lopez, who rocks the mic, our hearts, and our minds.