I’ve been involved in a discussion on a LinkedIn professional women’s group that began with responses to an article titled ” Men claim they are victims of the ‘new double standard’,” and which has developed into various threads, one of them being a discussion of patriarchy as the root cause of the abuse of women both in the workplace and in intimate relationships, the connection being that both are the result of male patriarchal power-over tactics being directed at women.
I’m finding it fascinating to hear the wide range of opinions women in this discussion have on the subject of patriarchy, because addressing it in all of its forms is part of feminist shamanic practice.
After a lifetime of attempting to understand what the root problem was in our culture regarding all kinds of abuse, including that suffered by African Americans, Native Americans, other minorities, and women within all of those groups, as well as women in white culture, I came to the conclusion that it is patriarchy. I’m actually embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out, but then, back in my youth, patriarchal abuse was the norm and it wasn’t named. While feminist movements of the 60s and 70s identified male behavior as the problem, there still wasn’t a clear, widespread recognition of its root cause – patriarchy.
One person in the discussion mentioned the Civil Rights movement as an example of how people can band together to bring about social change…a very appropriate connection, I think, as both racism and domestic violence arise from the same source: patriarchy.
I would point out, however, that the Civil Rights movement was a movement…meaning those standing up at that time to abusive patriarchal power-over tactics directed at them by government and society were part of a wide-spread cultural movement for change and had benefit of powerful and charismatic leaders, the very visible and powerful support and backing of large groups of their own people who took to the streets, and the support of many people in mainstream culture as well.
Today, individual women of all races being subjected to domestic violence, women being subjected to patriarchal bull in the workplace, as well as Native Americans and other minorities who are maltreated by government and culture, do not have that kind of widespread social support for their attempts to bring about change. While there are now laws against domestic abuse and in many areas, domestic violence services are available, women today remain largely on their own in recognizing, understanding, dealing effectively with, or escaping from patriarchal abuse, whether in the workplace or in their intimate relationships.
The level of cultural consciousness about the abuses suffered by contemporary women of all races is slowly growing, as is awareness of its root cause, but widespread consciousness about it has not yet been achieved, nor is there yet widespread cultural, social, governmental or religious support or will for change in this area, all of which are necessary to bring about the kind of consciousness-raising regarding the issue that is needed to create real and lasting change. And I would point out that yes, battered women do make choices that may seem to non-battered women to be wrong, but those choices are survival choices, not bad choices.
Perhaps one day all women will join together to support and free our sisters who are being subjected to abuse, and take to the streets ourselves, demanding change, as early feminists and others have done from time to time through our history. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee that happening in my lifetime, because right now the backlash against the gains made by the feminist movements of the 60s and 70s is at its height — or what I hope is its height — as it is so virulent and widespread, as evidenced by the many attempts being made by patriarchal males in Congress and in state legislatures to create laws controlling women’s bodies, their access to reproductive health, and their freedom to make their own choices in that regard. The other reason I fear we may not see real change any time soon is because, unlike those who created the Civil Rights movement, we women have not yet come to consensus among ourselves regarding first, the existence of this issue, second, it’s root cause, and third, what to do about it. Those of us who are speaking out about the abuse of contemporary women are largely on our own right now, just as those who are being subjected to the abuse are so often on their own.