Last week felt like a tipping point. I realize that, over the years, there have been many moments that felt this way, but last week really (REALLY) did.
So, can we finally talk about sexism and the ways to combat it and change the course of our future in an open, honest, and realistic way? Is it finally time for those of us that have been shouting about feminism and the need for the fall of the patriarchy to finally have our voices heard? Is it time for feminism to embrace intersectionality and come together as one voice to stand up for what is right? Finally? After years and years of struggle can we finally see a light for all those who are marginalized?
If you think that Hollywood is the only industry where sexual predators exist you would be wrong. Sexism exists in every industry in the world. That’s right – it isn’t just an American problem, but we certainly take it to new levels of disgusting. The only way we can ever fix the problems that we have across industries is to dismantle the system that is holding women back from true equality. We need to topple the patriarchy!
1. a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging to the father’s clan or tribe.
2. a society, community, or country based on this social organization.
3. a social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favor men and withhold opportunity from women:
The corporate glass ceiling is one consequence of patriarchy in education and business.
4. (often initial capital letter) the men in power in a society (usually preceded by the):
The Patriarchy is vested in maintenance of the status quo.
source: Dictionary.com definition of patriarchy
The patriarchy is not an inanimate, nebulous thing that is casting a shadow over our world, but a strategic set of systems, put in place thousands of years ago, to continue the oppression of humans that identify as female. Feminism seeks to right the wrongs of the past by bringing equality to all humans. Feminism, as a concept, is relatively new in human history, but the fundamental understanding of fighting for equality has been around since the beginning of time. Women have always struggled to be equal to men. Women have circumvented the system in order to bring about more equitable circumstances, but that has never been enough.
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
3. Older Use. feminine character.
source: Dictionary.com definition of feminism
In the waves (are we up to 4th wave now?) of modern day feminism, the concept of intersectionalism has been de-emphasized. Giving space and voice to WOC, Lesbians, Trans women, and disabled women is an important, and necessary, step toward full social justice. If we do not include the voices of all women, we will continue to bear the burden that comes with our separate struggles. WOC, Lesbians, Trans women, and disabled women have to deal with additional levels of marginalization that white women don’t even think about. The privilege that is afforded to white women in the movement needs to be examined and broken down. White women need to listen to marginalized women. The act of listening requires silence from white women. It requires all women to create a dialogue in an atmosphere where all voices are magnified and all women feel trusted and heard.
1. the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively):
Her paper uses a queer intersectionality approach.
2. the oppression and discrimination resulting from the overlap of an individual’s various social identities:
the intersectionality of oppression experienced by black women.
source: Dictionary.com definition of intersectionality
In the 1960’s feminists took up the act of gathering in groups and sharing stories, which began the act of consciousness raising within the movement. Although the concept was not new, as there had been a long history of talking circles in India and Native populations of the Americas, feminists found that sharing stories allowed them to be enlightened by each other, sometimes seeing something of themselves in other women’s remembrances. Unfortunately, these consciousness raising sessions were usually homogenous and therefore did not benefit from the gains that could have been made in a truly intersectional gathering of feminists. The 1960s also saw anti-feminist factions drive wedges between groups of women that had previously been united, festering resentment across the movement. This tactic was successful in splitting apart a struggle that had been united in the fight toward equality for all women. In our current day feminist struggle, we need to find a way to dispense with the wedges that have kept us apart and work together toward equality. Women are a force to be reckoned with, but only when we are united toward a common goal, keeping in mind our differences and additional burdens, and working in an intersectional manner toward justice.
“It was the first time I witnessed the ancient and modern magic of groups in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time. I had no idea that such talking circles had been a common form of governance for most of human history, from the Kwei and San in southern Africa, the ancestors of us all, to the First Nations on my own continent, where layers of such circles turned into the Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Talking circles once existed in Europe, too, before floods, famines, and patriarchal rule replaced them with hierarchy, priests, and kings. I didn’t even know, as we sat in Ramnad, that a wave of talking circles and “testifying” was going on in black churches of my own country and igniting the civil rights movement. I certainly didn’t guess that, a decade later, I would see consciousness-raising groups, women’s talking circles, giving birth to the feminist movement. All I knew was that some deep part of me was being nourished and transformed right along with the villagers.”
Steinem, G. (2015). My life on the road. p 36.
After raising our consciousness as a united group of women, the next step is to deconstruct the structures in our society that have been keeping women down for so long. In order to truly dismantle the patriarchy and break down the barriers to success for all, we have to start taking a long look at all of the industries and organizational structures in our world. This is not just a problem of Hollywood or Silicon Valley or the Media. The problem exists in offices large and small, where women still make up a small percentage of senior staff and an even smaller percentage of C-level positions. The problem exists in the home where women are still expected to work a “second shift” (Hochschild, 1989) to keep the household running or to simply work in the home as an unpaid labour force. The problem exists in organized religion, where women have been made subordinate, for centuries, by dogma and male interpretations of sacred text.
Until women can hold places of power in all industries and institutions, we will not be equal. Until the work that women do in the home is valued in the same way that work outside the home is valued, we will not be equal. Until power is evenly distributed across sex and race, we will not be equal. Until we are able to open the doors of opportunity to every citizen of the world, we will not be equal. And until we are equal, the acts of abuse, harrassment, assault, and rape that are committed by so many men in power, will persist.
One other thing though – until women who gain power can stand up for other women, we have gained nothing. There are still women who believe that it is better to stand behind a man than to help their fellow sisters. There are still women that are willing to be shills for the patriarchy. There are women that voted for the current predator-in-chief, knowing that he is unworthy of the White House. There are women who will cover for abusers and harrassers. There are women who are apologists for men that cheat. Perhaps some of these women are afraid, and to them I say that there is help out there. There is someone that is willing to help you come away from the person that is dragging you down and move forward with your life. There are people that can assist you in deprogramming from the crap that you have been fed your whole life about being inferiour. There are resources available to move away from the hatred that is the patriarchy and to move forward, surrounding yourself with people that care about equality.
And there are men that care about equality as well. You don’t have to stay with an abuser or continue to be an apologist for the men in your life that abuse others. You don’t have to stay with a cheater and continue to be lied to and deceived in the service of someone else’s inability to be faithful. You don’t have to vote the way the men in your life vote and you don’t have to take their shit. There is a network of people that believe in justice for all and that network is made up of feminists. Feminists are the only people that will ever, in the end, fulfill the real promise of the United States and bring about liberty and justice for all. Join the movement and together we can topple the patriarchy!
Chantale (aka hippiegrrl)