It started in my 20s when I was interpreting a Women’s Studies class for a Deaf student and my whole world was cracked open.
Patriarchy? Oh, this explained everything. Feminists not a bunch of man-hating lesbians? Ho-ly shit.
That was 20 years ago and I’m still unravelling it all, becoming incredulous at the obvious injustices of our society; noticing all the places The Patriarchy insidiously creeps in.
Since getting married and having babies my identity as a Feminist has been challenged in more ways than one. There was that time I realized that I was expecting my husband to be able to support us on his income alone and I was secretly angry at him because we were struggling. Suddenly, there I was, staring at my own entitlement, stunned.
Then there were all the times I felt trapped by motherhood—as if all my choices and freedoms had been pulled out from under me. I felt like a caged animal, furious and resentful: a deadly combination. There I was, tangled up in generations worth of untruths about what being a woman and mother ‘should’ look like; putting myself in the very cage I raged against.
Then, most recently was the time I went off the deep end after I’d watched a video poem about what women want; a poem which, ironically, was created by men. It sent me into a feminist tailspin. To me, it was a representation of many of the things I had been working to deconstruct and recreate within myself around partnership. Through my eyes, this poem was a repackaged Prince Charming tale- and I have worked damn hard not to be the damsel in distress waiting for a man to rescue me. What I want, more than anything, is to be my own heroine; to stand proud in my own Divine sovereignty.
The intensity of my anger, and simultaneous despair, at this poem set off an alarm bell that something within me needed examining and when I came to see what my part was, well, there I stood, mouth agape-watching myself waiting for validation from The Man as if somehow it would prove I am ‘right’ and give me permission to be me.
Worse still, I expected other women to agree with me; as if they ‘should’ feel the same way. As if they didn’t have a choice as a woman but to be on my side!
Whoa! Wait-I questioned: is this my brand of Feminism now? Wanting everyone to fit in a box?
No. I’m a Feminist because I believe Masculine and Feminine energy are equally valuable. I believe we all carry these qualities within us and that everyone has a right to explore and choose how to express gender; to decide which gender roles they will or won’t take on and which ones they’ll tailor make to suit their lifestyle.
I’m a Feminist because I believe that whatever individual choice is made, the world should be a safe and fair place for all.
Yet, when reading the comments about this poem, I found myself coming from that Patriarchal view: I know better than you. I am the authority.
Not anymore. As hard as it is from my standpoint, I honor those men and women who want the version of partnership this poem reflected.
What I’ve learned from this experience: the most important thing as a Feminist is deconstructing Patriarchy from within in all it’s insidious forms.
I refuse to wait for men- or the system- to change first so I can finally have permission to be me; to claim all those parts of me that I’ve locked in a cage so I could fit the mold. It’s up to me to keep asking: “How am I going to embody ME today? How can I move through this day guided from within, no matter what others think? How am I going to show up and claim the power that was always mine?”
That, my friends, is how I’m gonna #smashthepatriarchy.