At some point or another, you have likely been exposed to some half-hearted analogy about pushing a boulder uphill or continually trying to change an outcome with the same actions and effort. It is 2020, a woman of color running for the second-highest political office in a country that is supposed to be a bastion of democracy had to assert her right to speak on an international stage and women everywhere are adopting “I’m Speaking” as a viral and temporary response to her place in the margin. Why are we buying T-Shirts rather than smashing the patriarchy?
It Isn’t Working
We have stood at the bottom of this hill for centuries, pressing forward uphill with the impossible take of changing a system that was built for us to fail. We continue to reinforce position, expectations and paradigms that only serve to fortify our shoddy position in society.
Why keep trying to push that boulder up the mountain?
I would posit that we are rebranding rebellion in a million different ways without making a great deal of progress. Any version of feminism over the years has been radicalized in conversation, dismissed with terms like “militant” or diminished by assertions about how our foci of complaints simply do not exist.
Relatively little progress has been made in retrospect. Women and allies have toiled in iniquity all over the world since the dawn of time to establish a foothold for women, both of the cis and non-binary persuasion, to exist in the same forums as their male counterparts. We recently lost an icon of these efforts in the United States when Ruth Bader Ginsburg left us and hope died a bit more.
But, you have more rights…
Sure. Those in the gender margin have achieved a great many wonderful things over the years that we could not enjoy historically — the ability to seek education and learn to read without being stoned to death in the streets, the ability to maintain a job, at all, and also to keep it after we become pregnant, the loosely protected right to make their own medical decisions (although in states we still have to ask a man for permission for certain obstetric procedures).
If you watched the Vice Presidential debate on October 8, 2020, you might have noticed a series of faces that Kamala Harris made while listening to Mike Pence drone on and on about unrelated distractors. Those faces have reached viral meme status because they speak to the faces women often make in society while something is being mansplained or while we take a back seat to some dude’s ideas. This concept is hilarious until you realize that it is painfully true and women are often asked to shut up and listen, regardless of expertise or experience. My wife asked me recently…
Why do we have to demand the same rights that men are already given by birthright? Women have been silenced for years, quietly rearing generations of leaders who will ignore the toiling and effort that made them. Women do not need to flaunt their roles or posture with ego in order to maintain their place in society.
She was excruciatingly right. We wait with endearing patience for grown-man children to stop throwing tantrums in the form of legislation, politics, law enforcement and defense. Speaking your mind should not be at the expense of retribution, of judgement, of questioning your feminism, calling to the carpet the measure of how ladylike you are.
We still exist in a sphere, although larger than the kitchen these days, that is limited by acceptance and permission rather than an agent of access of equality. And we just keep shoveling that sphere uphill in order to make inroads, bowing and hushing and waiting and pushing against the confines of the roles we have been given. Perhaps a different approach?
Hear Me Out
No, really, listen…I’m speaking, right?
Rather than teaching women to say “I’m speaking”, let’s teach the other half of the conversation to leave space in order to avoid having to assert the simple fact that we can participate equally. We continue to ask permission to be at the table by repeating mantras. “I dissent” was the flavor of the last few weeks.
I object…I oppose…I am troublesome and rude
There shouldn’t be anything we have to object to. A conversation does not always have to be an argument. We continually allow this amorphous, narcissist blob of gaslighting jerks to fill the space our voices should be filling. If all the members listened to each other with the same gusto that we used to interrupt one another could you imagine the progress we could make?
The First Step To Recovery
Establishing that there is a problem, admitting it, is the first step to repair and recovery. We are still at the dinner table throwing dishes trying to get the head of the table to see that the food is poisoned. Stop breaking plates and use one to feed him.
Teach organically, the lessons might be hard, the resistance will be abundant. However, we will never make true progress if we do not change the culture from the ground up. Our educational system needs an overhaul, our country’s pick-and-choose Puritanical approach to politics needs to die in a fiery crash at the intersection of openness and individual rights.
Our reliance on an Oligarchy to define our roles and personhood in the greater human community has to stop. All of these common idols are agents of oppression — the constructs of patriarchy. We continue to accept the idea behind these daily occurrences rather than working together to question their usefulness and evaluate how we can do better.
Politics, religion and social constructs are concepts that directly define the stations of races, genders, sexualities and other categories we use to decide what box to fit someone in and separate them for holistic personhood. You’ve heard the term systemic quite a bit this year. These are the bricks upon which the foundations of systemic disparities are built.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Miguel Bruna on Unsplash