A Punishing Patriarchy | Things That Make us Say, “Youch!”

Patriarchy and matriarchy. The systems of Othering, besting, power wielding. We are marred by these systems. Complicit in their long reach for manipulation and control. And free to choose a life outside of the cages they demand we remain within. And so, a few rage-y thoughts by a gal gently growing away from matriarchy, patriarchy, and so much self loathing.

Patriarchy: Is it as boring as the word implies?

I notice that as I settle in to put words to paper on things like patriarchy and matriarchy, I want to protect. Protect the men and women in my life that have propagated insidiously hateful systems. Protect myself from the knowing stares of those who have been wounded by the ways I’ve spread the same. So, before I begin, an acknowledgment that we are all wounded. And wounded people sometimes wreck the people around them.

Healing people? Well, they might heal, support, and champion their fellow wounded. If there is a prayer, a wish, a longing here, it is that we might all find our way Home to the Truest essence of who we are by design. Before the Wound. Before the crushing, punishing ghost of patriarchy had its way with our vulnerable, vibrant Selves.

And yes, Patriarchy is a dullard and a droning mundanity. Even while it continues to carve its hateful scar into the landscape of our We Are So Done With This hearts.

To the man who lived by my mailbox corner

I don’t notice, until I walk away from you, well down the block, in fact, that I am trembling. My stomach is in tight little knots. My burning chest is telling me, “Danger! Danger!”

I mean, you pose no threat to me.

You bluster and posture and harumpth and declare.

Surely l’il ol’ me knows nothing of What Matters.

You tell me All of the Very Important Things.

You puff up and nudge nudge and hyuckyuck and eXpoUNd.

Certainly even just-girl me can see how very manlymanlymanly man you are.

Sanctimonious, slithering, leering thing.

You pose no threat to me.

Anger and outrage drum-thrum a steadying pulse of self-preserving dignity in the face of your looming, grey, dark patriarchy. How dare you force yourself into my generous, expansive, compassionate space?

Back up.

Back. Up.

Back. Up.


And why would you?

I stand patiently, still, intentional. Listening affirmingly as you spew your EndlessStreamOfBanality. I laugh in all of the right places. I smilesmilesmile.

The inside-voice part of me that knows that danger can surface at any moment insists, “Don’t move, Girl. No sudden moves. Maybe he won’t actually see you here.”

And you don’t, of course. You do not see the thinking, alive, purposeful fellow human standing within three feet of you.

What do you see? The cloud of your own All Knowing verbosity? Steaming out of you in some glorious, golden plume of toxic hallowed gas wisdom?

I am trembling, my tummy in tight little knots; my chest shrilling, “Danger! Oh, Girl, runrunrun from this Danger.”

You become a piece of my interior landscape for the next minutes, hours. I can’t seem to shake you off. Out-manoeuvre you. Face into you and send you skittering back to your throne of pomposity.

There is no one memory that I can wrap my heart arms around – nothing identifiable that I can turn toward to say, “Hey, Girl. You’re okay. You’re safe. That man…those men…pose no threat to you. You’re okay. You’re safe.”



You’re okay, Girl.

You’re safe.

Those men pose no threat to you now.

No threat to me now

Pastor, teacher, doctor, kin.

Girl-hating patriarchy made its boot print on you. Somewhere. Somehow. Is there a girl inside of you that still trembles in the presence of thinly veiled misogyny? Longlonglong after the boot (the stethoscope, the pulpit, the Family First!) has been lifted?

What is this like for you? Are you capably out from under the bludgeon, the coercion, the neglect of it all? Do you wear it like a shield or a raging hate?

Do you wonder what it would be like to …bird cage…door is open…..

The passing of patriarchy

"As long as both men and women regard the subordination of half the human race to the other as “natural,” it is impossible to envision a society in which differences do not connote either dominance or subordination. The feminist critique of the patriarchal edifice of knowledge is laying the groundwork for a correct analysis of reality, one which at the very least can distinguish the whole from a part. Women’s History, the essential tool in creating feminist consciousness in women, is providing the body of experience against which new theory can be tested and the ground on which women of vision can stand.

A feminist world-view will enable women and men to free their minds from patriarchal thought and practice and at last to build a world free of dominance and hierarchy, a world that is truly human."
— Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy

Shaking off the cobwebs of tired old ways

A disruptive thing happens when a gal who is entrenched in heart-crushing systems is invited awake by Love.

First, she’s invited to think – to think her own deep, disgruntled, disjointed thoughts. Dangerous stuff, that!

Next, the dissociated state of being subjugated, set aside, and subservient begins to crack and thaw and break off. Slowly. Painstakingly slowly. Awakening just happens. This is taking many years for me. I was in really deep. It’s a long, slow climb out of one oozy, slimy, slippery slurry of living life vaguely. Half asleep. Wishing for permanent sleep.

Then, while she’s thinking and cracking open to life, she begins to feel Wonder. The whiff of Free. The full-gale-force of, “Not that! Not that any more!”

This all feels particularly angry in the face of patriarchy and all of its coercive, manipulative structures. Can anger = free? Or, might anger be a finger pointing the way to Free?

Exploring the Wonder and the Angry

Turning inward with a lot of zazz and honesty and, “What if…?” makes room for shuffling understanding. A new knowing. Re-imagined experience of God, faith, spirituality, Self, self, purpose. The way through, of course, is in. Inward. Into the bright light of who we truly are; into the shadows of the same.

Anger, grief, loss — the bruising and slashing of what patriarchy has marked us by — can be our champions. To patiently pay attention to what rage is saying as we move, break, grow away from old systems of control? That is part of the cycle breaking that we must engage in.

To be clear about where injustice and subjugation has done its smothering work in our vulnerable selves is part of the cycle breaking we are invited to engage in.

I have not been able to do this alone. For me, spiritual direction has been the way over the hurdle of self help (Good gosh! We try so, so, so hard to become well, right?), and into some uncomfortably beautiful-awful truths. And beyond. Not arriving at any kind of finishing place. Everything is always beginning again…and again…and again. But into a way of being that allows collaboration with Mercy. Not meanness.

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