Big fat pause here to disclaim everything I’m saying for womxn goes for people of color, queer, trans, and nonbinary folks. The following list reflects my own personal experiences, so I will be focusing on feminism, but EVERYONE who has experienced discrimination, for no reason at all other than to ensure the patriarchy can continue to comfortably lounge on the sofa of society with its greasy hands down its sweatpants, deserves so, so, so much more.
I was an American Studies Major in college. I’ve always been fascinated by the hypocrisy of this nation – how gallant values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness somehow coexist with the gruesome practices of displacing, enslaving, and abusing entire populations of humans. It seems as though we all agree that our proudest moments as a nation involve innovation, determination, and freedom. Who doesn’t love being the hero of their own story? American Revolutionaries. Space race champions. World War II ass-kickers. Manifest destiny junkies. Fuck yeah, ‘Merica. But just about any piece of literature or Marvel movie will tell you heroes aren’t perfect. They make poor choices on the reg. BUT, they learn from those mistakes and make better choices, thereby retaining their hero status. America always tries to skip that part of the story. The fervor with which our country has swept its own hypocrisy under the rug has always surprised and disappointed me. Still, I felt like the dial was slowly but surely turning toward a more progressive society. But ever since Trump’s lying ass started treating the Constitution like toilet paper, I am more than surprised and disappointed. I’m disgusted. If we’re going to be flushing shit in this country, let me make a quick case for why it should be the patriarchy instead of democracy.
1. Fifty-Two Percent
I was devastated when Trump won the election, and my Mexican wife was like “welp, just another day in America.” The fact that I was crying and throwing shit at the TV while she was trying to figure out what to eat for dinner showed me that I still had expectations that the government owed me something as a tax-paying citizen. Audrie scoffed at me – you’re just now realizing the government could give a rat’s ass about you? I felt like an idiot. Then I found out the number of white womxn voters who cast a ballot for Trump, and I felt like an even bigger idiot. Some of these womxn are my friends, some of them my relatives. Some of them gung-ho MAGA moms, some of them hardcore Hillary haters. Whatever the case, I racked my brain and just couldn’t understand how ANY womxn could vote for a man who has so openly disparaged and disrespected womxn. Enter the patriarchy, a system that says womxn don’t deserve respect. Listen, I’m not really here to lay blame on anything or anyone other than this system. People make the best choices they can for themselves, and that’s why voting is so cool. But as one of the voters within the white womxn category, I am deeply disturbed by 52%. It is a number that demonstrates to me how womxn's ability to make choices is impeded by a society that teaches them from birth that their interests are not as important as cis men’s. Those choices are further impeded by a society that conditions womxn to believe there is only so much room at the top for womxn. At least you’re in the boat, Becky, best not rock it. 94% of Black womxn voters called bullshit. Now, that’s a number to be proud of. Fifty-two percent is embarrassing. Election night made me realize that just because I have a leg up in this rigged system doesn’t make it any less rigged. Fifty-two percent makes me feel a greater sense of obligation to tear down the system because of my semi-comfortable position on the relative org chart of female discrimination. It’s not good enough to leave well enough alone. I’m talking to you, 48%.
2. Gun Violence and Toxic Masculinity
Why is it so hard for reporters to say, “white male” and “terrorist” in the same sentence? If mass shootings in this country are 98% cis male and 59% white, why are we not banning cis white men from purchasing or owning weapons (or at least putting up a zillion obstacles in the way)? Why are we so quick to explore his psyche after he kills hundreds of innocent people (mental illness!), yet so adamant about restricting his emotions and belittling his feelings from a very young age (boys don’t cry)? The patriarchy, that’s why. Could you imagine if womxn were shooting up movie theaters and concerts and schools and churches at this rate? First of all, you can’t imagine it, because killing scores of innocent people isn’t generally how womxn process their emotions. Secondly, if this were the case, the government would straight up not allow womxn in public without a cis male guardian or some shit. Bottom line, cis men get away with murder, quite literally, because the patriarchy is not set up to hold them accountable for shit. All the more reason to get rid of it. Let’s start with taking their guns. You can let the womxn keep theirs. And not to go off on a tangent, but let’s demilitarize law enforcement while we’re at it. At least until we’ve raised one full generation of cis men who are 100% A-Okay with wearing pastels, crying, apologizing, playing with dolls, and doing push-ups on their knees.
3. Pigskin Protests and Power Dynamics
I mean, I have just had it with the stupidity of this one. If there’s one thing the patriarchy hates, it’s admitting its own abuse of power. It will stop at nothing to squash a reasonable protest, even if it means having the balls to tell marginalized members of society they should be grateful for the freedoms they do have, knowing full well those members don’t have anywhere near the freedoms that our system affords cis white men. Like, if you can’t admit to yourself in 2018 that it’s dangerous just to be Black and near a police officer, I don’t even know where to start the conversation. If you think standing for a flag salute helps veterans more than a government taking care of its veterans helps veterans, I feel like you’re missing the bigger picture. But if, on top of all that denial and hypocrisy, you assert that “respecting the flag” is more important than protesting the violation of freedoms said flag is supposed to represent, I just want to start screaming into a pillow. I know I’m veering off into other forms of oppression, but it’s all connected to feminism, and I just keep thinking how differently the whole situation would be handled if womxn were in charge. Perhaps we would applaud Kaepernick for using his position to show society how it was possible to discuss and advance social justice in a peaceful, civilized manner. Maybe we’d commend him for protesting nonviolently since it shows so much more poise and restraint than going guns-blazing into a public venue, or thumbs-blazing into the Twittersphere. A womxn president certainly wouldn’t send a womxn VP to stage some sort of childish protest-the-protest bullshit. Seriously, dudes? That’s the best you’ve got? You’re still turning everything into a pissing contest? If any tax-paying American citizen has a grievance, don’t our elected leaders owe it to that citizen to hear them out and find a sensible solution? You know who’s good at listening and finding sensible solutions? Womxn. We’d probably be well on our way to lower police brutality rates as we speak. And on our damn lunch hour, we’d probably make some calls and change the racist-ass lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner. Call me crazy, but I think it’s poor form to leave the word “slave” in a song that’s supposed to represent liberty and justice for all.
4. Unsolicited Opinions
If you’ve been following me on social media for any significant period of time, here’s where I will sound like a broken record. I don’t think the majority of cishet men understand that it’s inappropriate to offer unsolicited advice and opinions. I can’t tell you the number of times they (usually white, usually complete strangers) have happened upon something I’ve written or shared on my digital real estate and taken it as an invitation to educate, disagree with, or downright insult me. I’ve heard the argument that “I’m asking for it” by posting my opinions on a public forum in the first place. Where have I heard that before? The argument that if I exist in the world, I somehow deserve to be messed with? Look. Your unsolicited opinion is the conversational equivalent to a dick pic. I have no use for it. Unless I specifically say “hey, what do you guys think about this?” – I’m actually not asking for anything at all. I need nothing from you. Guess what happens when I come across shit I don’t like on the Internet? I delete, I block, I ignore, I report, or I keep scrolling. (Unless the person is an elected official, because they get paid to hear what I have to say). And you know what? No one dies. Again, I’m not here to lay blame so much as point out flaws in our system. Sometimes men are unknowing victims of the patriarchy, too. Just as womxn have been conditioned to think their opinions aren’t valid, white cishet men have been conditioned to think theirs are paramount. When I do call them out on this, they usually accuse me of being sensitive or not willing to hear out alternative views. Where’s that pillow I was screaming into? How will I ever be able to put this in terms they will understand? Let’s see. It’s like if you walk into my house, uninvited, with a six pack of beer. Horrified, I demand that you leave, first and foremost because it’s my house, secondly because I don’t know who the hell you are, thirdly because I never asked you to come inside. As you leave, you call me derogatory names and accuse me of kicking you out because I didn’t like the kind of beer you brought. Who’s the unhinged one in that scenario? The patriarchy says it’s me so as to not hurt your feelings. But…but…but…how come I don’t bite your head off when you say something nice or agreeable? Using the home invasion scenario, a non-creepy compliment is not an uncalled-for intrusion of space. It’s an acknowledgement. A wave hello from across the street. Plus, every time you acknowledge a womxn's point of view as valid, the patriarchy dies a little bit, so I allow it.
Last week I had a lovely breakfast date with my friend Sharisse where we talked about all things feminism and patriarchy. She told me how it’s pretty much a weekly occurrence for cis guys to call her a bitch or a cunt. Just for existing. On a walk. At the store. Online. I hope you will believe me when I say, no, she is not asking for it.
That night, I went to a songwriter meetup where Shelly Peiken – co-writer of the Meredith Brooks’ hit “Bitch” – was a guest speaker. When Peiken began talking about the song, I got a little misty-eyed. (I’m proud to say I held it together much better than that time a couple years ago I openly wept at an Alanis Morissette show). When I was a young girl, witnessing womxn musicians own their strength gave me the courage to start sharing my own songs and stories. Call me a sensi bitch, but that shit gets me emotional.
Peiken went on to give a bit of context about writing the song. In a nutshell, she was feeling PMS-y on her way home one day, and thought to herself, thank goodness my boyfriend is willing to put up with me when I’m like this. Nothing against the song – it’s a great song. I don’t want to take away what it did for womxn artists at that time. It’s a big deal for womxn to be unapologetic in art. But really digging into the context and the lyrics proved yet again just how the ever-present patriarchy has its talons even in feminism, even in art. People lost their DANG MINDS when this song came out. Brooks is still on random internet lists as one of the “angstiest” women in music. For this song!? A song where a male partner is essentially awarded a lyrical trophy for being a decent human who accepts his partner as a multi-faceted person. SHEESH. You wouldn’t want it any other way? I sure want it some other way. I want a society that doesn’t set such a low bar for acceptable behavior, that doesn’t thank or reward cishet men for hanging out at the baseline of human decency, that doesn’t universally blame womxn for cishet men’s repeated failure to reach that low bar, and that doesn’t punish or demean womxn for expecting more.
6. Abortion and Unwanted Pregnancies
Last week, I came across Gabrielle Blair’s viral Twitter thread about abortion. If you haven’t read it, please abort reading this article and read hers instead. I’ll wait. Okay, you back? If I were a lawyer pressing charges against the patriarchy, I would submit this extremely thoughtful piece of writing as a part of my case. This article activated dormant layers of feminism within my brain I didn’t even know were there. I was surprised that common sense could sound so radical. But patriarchy be patriarchin’ like that. Even if you don’t read Blair’s article, here are two excerpts to ponder when it comes to the abortion issue:
“As a society, we really don’t mind if women suffer, physically or mentally, as long as it makes things easier for men.”
“In summary: STOP TRYING TO CONTROL WOMEN’S BODIES AND SEXUALITY. UNWANTED PREGNANCIES ARE CAUSED BY MEN.”
Seriously, chew on it. All this time we’ve been fighting over whether or not abortion is ethical and whether or not it should be legal. Why don’t we back that uterus truck up and move the fight over to the penis loading dock where it belongs? Look what happens when womxn take on complex issues. They come up with effective solutions! All we have to do is raise our baseline expectation for acceptable behavior.
7. Kavanaugh & The Supreme Court
Speaking of acceptable behavior, I’ll close on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a man who is interviewing for the job of a lifetime. Literally, if appointed, he will rule on cases that impact all of us for his entire lifetime. The stakes are high as shit, okay? We’ve heard partisan arguments about timing. Sneaky Democrats and their last-ditch efforts to railroad Trump’s hand-picked nominee. Weasley Republicans and their desperate attempt to “plow right through” with the nomination before they lose power. It’s par for the political course, right?
Here’s the thing, though. Even if the Democratic party is crying wolf on a monumental stage – whether to payback the GOP for a Garland no-vote, to protect Roe, or even to keep a President in an ongoing criminal investigation from appointing his own personal get out of jail free card – even if Democrats are evil, whiny, snowflake brats, it doesn’t matter. We don’t owe it to Democrats to thoroughly investigate Ford’s (and this just in – Ramirez’s) claim.
We owe it to womxn. This is how we change the culture. This is how we dismantle the patriarchy. It’s not about taking cishet men down. It’s about raising the bar for acceptable behavior. Because until we raise that bar, we’ll continue to live in a society where “we really don’t mind if women suffer, physically or mentally, as long as it makes things easier for men.” I mind, y'all. I hope you mind, too.