Part 2 – A response to reading “Understanding Patriarchy” by Bell Hooks
I learned quite a lot from reading this text, just from visualising the scenarios from Bell Hooks’ childhood highlighted that I have understood and recognised Patriarchy for many years. However I did not necessarily know how to label it with this definition as eloquently has Hooks has.
Acceptable and unacceptable Patriarchy:
I was able to relate the various scenarios Hooks talks the reader through with my own experiences of understanding Patriarchy. For example, it reminded me of speaking to a friend who’s male cousin had committed suicide and how their family members got uncomfortable talking about this young, male adult with depression (a large contribution to his suicide). On the flipside, my friend’s family deemed it absolutely fine to speak about the same (depression) to do with a female within their family, and better yet, openly speak about this female’s mental health at public gatherings to mock them or define them as weak. This was not to do with age / generations / or traditions in culture, my friend was confused and surprised by the vast range of family members that acted out their patriarchy towards both situations. It is very similar to the story Hooks described when her father angrily told her to stop playing with marbles and her mother almost said ‘I told you so’ after telling Bell quietly to stop playing the marbles
Familiarity is a big friend to Patriarchy:
Again, reading through this text made me think about how I’ve challenged my own review of situations and environments, as those I’ve experienced over the years have broadened. For example, I have grown up visiting India regularly and I can remember the first time I saw two adult heterosexual, male members of my family, walking down the street in Kolkata holding hands, thinking to myself ‘that is uncomfortable to look at’. Now I see it so many times I think the familiarity has taken away the ‘weird’ factor for me, but if I saw that same scene in my home town of Leicester, I would (for a split second) have that uncomfortable feeling return to me – and then think, why? Is it out of fear of local people’s reactions to this scene more than my own? Why is it not ‘weird’ if I see the same in London? Is it because I am familiar with seeing people feeling more open about their gender and sexuality in public (in London) compared to Leicester? Bell Hooks paraphrases some content in her text from ‘How Can I Get Through to You?’ by family therapist Terence Real, in which his sons decided between themselves and their friends, what was appropriate for boys to play. A stern look – body language – communicated that ‘play’ did not include dressing up as a Barbie doll. With this in mind I wonder if I ever received such communication growing up in majority amongst friends in the UK, which embedded patriarchy in me, almost as if it was through a ‘reality facade’.
Having read this text, overall I believe it is always good to reflect on your decisions to design or make a choice that affects others and keep this understanding of patriarchy in mind to who we want it to benefit. I do wonder if, in today’s global society are we largely having struggles internally about gender and patriarchy, as well as acting out our struggles externally? I suspect the internal struggle will always exist to a degree, but I do wonder, can societies ever become fully ex-patriarchic, or fully dispel taboos that any one person might feel towards gender fluid behaviours in themselves and in others around them? I am hopeful that more understanding can be developed at the very least.