By: Lessa Leigh
Recently, Jess and I did a podcast entitled “The Problem with Patriarchy.” As we see it, Patriarchy is the king, and symptoms of patriarchy like racism, sexism, misogyny, ethno-centrism, homophobia, classism, religious fundamentalism, militarism, nationalism, and hyper-capitalism are all members of the court. The point of this analogy is to show how patriarchal thinking influences and defines our society in terms of “winners” and “losers.” We’re all in competition within these systems, whether it’s to be the most religious or the wealthiest or the purest.
The shame of patriarchy is the lie essential to its existence: there is a hierarchy and only one person can be on top. It’s a head-scratcher because if you think about it, no one gets to the top on pure talent, intelligence, inherited wealth alone, with the exception of dynastic structures that favor the eldest child in each generation. Even within a dynasty, the person maintaining control has to be able to assert authority and steer the country or the business or the family in the right direction. Everyone has help. John Donne correctly stated that “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent”, meaning that we’re all a part of the collective whole.
It’s easy to see the patriarchal influence on the United States of America. From our robust militarism to our long history of racism and sexism to our hyper-sexualized patriotism, we’re all about being the best, the brightest, the most successful. For several hundred years, even if someone pointed out the fallacies of our thinking, we were on the upward trajectory. Only the losers were complaining, and if you just worked hard enough, played by the rules, and powered through, everything would be fine. However, in the past few decades, the cracks in the façade have grown larger and are starting to reach the foundation of our society. Plenty of people rightfully point out that they’ve worked hard, they’ve played by the rules, and they’ve powered through only to be on a sharp downward trajectory not of their own making.
The patriarchy doesn’t like to admit defeat, though. It has doubled down with increased military spending, more fervent language couched in religious terms, more restrictions on women’s rights, more attacks on anyone who isn’t a white, cishet, Christian male. Yet, they’ve convinced themselves that they’re the ones under attack, as they desperately try to protect themselves from refugees, grandparents, children, and the infirm. They’re the victims here, you see, and it’s really cruel of you mention that their suffering is from their own power structure.
We would like to think these are the death throes of an aging and broken down beast, but it’s hard to rule out the power structures that have existed for millennia. Our argument would be that we could try something different. Something that was collaborative, that honored all contributions, that saw the humanity in all of us. We would call that something a matriarchal society, but it doesn’t matter what it’s called. What matters is that we recognize where we are and then make changes that benefit everyone, not a few.
Does this mean that men will suddenly become soft and weak and “beta”? No. Absolutely not, and what does “beta” even mean? We’re not a pack of dogs with an alpha; we’re humans, all with our own talents and perspectives to offer. Does it mean women will suddenly become the aggressors, stomping around in construction boots and storming into boardrooms hell bent on shareholders’ rights? Probably not. What it does mean is that we will work toward a society that doesn’t have so many people, who feel so threatened by each other.
Life is not a zero sum game. There’s no balance sheet on your death bed. We have abundance. We have enough for everyone. Our current system is hurting more people by a large magnitude than what it is helping. There’s an imbalance when the top 10% in this nation hold 76% of the wealth. That kind of inequality is dangerous for a multitude of reasons from civil unrest to increased competition for resources among the 90% vying for the 24% of the pie left to them.
We know better. We can do better. One of the ways we can do better is to reach out a hand and help another up. Support those, who are different. Celebrate our differences and then celebrate our shared humanity. Let the patriarchy die its uncomfortable death. Replace it with something better for everyone.
ETA: The featured photo is a heart made with two hands with a view to the horizon. On the surface, it has nothing to do with patriarchal structures, except in this way: It is the antithesis of everything the patriarchy stands for. Love, created by our own hands, looking forward, and with no idea whose hands are represented, is the only way we smash patriarchal thinking. It will take all of us, joined together, to achieve this goal.