p.s. on March 1/14: a much later post on patriarchy here (hint: it includes a mind-blower of a prayer about patriarchy from Matthew Fox.)
I’ve mused on patriarchy (& discussed it with friends) a lot in the past several years. Big topic!?
It’s difficult or impossible to really do justice to such a large topic in a short essay – so forgive me if I really only scratch the surface here, alright? (I’ll recommend a couple of books, too.)
Patriarchy as a topic doesn’t seem to come up very much in conversation.
We talk about wars & violence, poverty & discrimination, cancer & the environmental crisis – & many other crises (there is no lack of crisis, is there??) – most of us having no idea, I suspect, that our 5000-year experiment with patriarchy (having men “run the show” & “call the shots”) is actually the underlying cause of all of this stuff; the force that birthed all these scourges.
Lots of us don’t realize there was a time when the female qualities of motherhood & nurturing – a female leadership style – held sway. When our ability to give birth – give life – & nurturing to everyone around us – was valued very highly indeed. That there were goddesses, & goddess worship.
A book I cannot recommend to you highly enough – especially if you were not aware of the problems & long run of patriarchy – & the fact that an alternative paradigm is possible – is The Chalice and the Blade – Our History, Our Future, by Riane Eisler.
Well. I have to keep this short or I’ll lose my audience, hmm?
After thousands of years of denigrating female qualities & relegating women to roles of subservience (& convincing us all, female & male alike, of the lack of value of “women’s work”), even most of us women no longer truly value what I’ve come to see as our finest qualities – the ones that, truthfully, make life worth living!
Instead of turning things around & encouraging the adoption of more “female” (i.e., more peaceful, loving, cooperative, nurturing) ways of running things on the planet, an awful lot of us have come to view motherhood as virtually a disposable commodity. It isn’t “important.”
In my books, motherhood – giving birth to, & nurturing “the next generation” (which after all, is the one that will parent all the ones thereafter, really!) – is not only important, it’s the whole freakin’ deal!
And here we’ve been apologizing for it, now – downplaying its importance – for, well…generations now!
Patriarchy says men (& “male” qualities) have all the answers. That “might is right.” That war & violence are acceptable “solutions” to problems. That “bigger is better.” That motherhood & mothering & nurturing are not “important.” That a woman who is without a man is not fully a woman.
And so on.
Of course, lots & lots of us now see the folly (did I say folly? Evil might be more the term) of the patriarchal mindset.
But it is deeply, deeply entrenched in us. In our religions, in our institutions, in our ways of doing things, in our minds, in our language…and in our daily lives.
Patriarchy has done – continues to do – horrific damage to all things female. All things, period!
It has done even more damage – if you ask me – to men. And boys.
Patriarchy is a curse, & a scourge.
I cannot see us making the kinds of transformations needed on this planet without a more universal understanding of how terribly deeply patriarchal ways of thinking & behaviour are rooted in us.
As already mentioned, The Chalice and the Blade can really open your eyes. A must-read!
So is Becoming the Kind Father – A Son’s Journey, by Calvin Sandborn (a review of which you will find at that link!). Definitely also a must-read – by women and men – but only if you want to be able to understand, from the in-side out, how patriarchy has been damaging men for generations. And how we can all begin putting a stop to it – starting right now, with our very own thoughts.
p.s. I think there are some men who take personal offence when patriarchy is criticized. Please understand: patriarchy is a system. Criticism of patriarchy is never, ever, ever to be construed as criticism of individuals. I think it is only as individuals, though, that we begin to wrestle with it, “get” how it works & what it means – & begin to dismantle its outposts deep inside our own heads – our own attitudes. Of course, having conversations about it is also pretty darn helpful & illuminating!