bell hooks, (2013) ‘Understanding Patriarchy’

February 9, 2017 in uncategorised

Given the untenable and insulting nature of the demands placed on men to prove themselves in our culture, why don’t men revolt?…Why haven’t men responded to the series of betrayals in their own lives—to the failures of their fathers to make good on their promises–with some thing coequal to feminism?

I have never considered this question before, but it’s a good one: given that men are also damaged by the restrictive patriarchal system, why have they not struck out? It was interesting to read that hooks’s ‘bond’ found himself conforming to a patriarchal masculinity when he realised how it benefitted him- how seductive it must be- and this reminds me of the ways patriarchy benefits me, too, and recalls me to be mindful, and to resist.

What can dismantle patriarchy? It seems impossible, because the system-“imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, to borrow hooks’s words- is the basis of the Western democratic political system, of the global capitalist economy, and of everyday social relations and what is considered ‘normal’. What toehold do small and significant gestures like Real’s patriarchy-free household have, when his son’s friends can bring shame into the room with a single look?

One thing that gives me hope is the groundswell of awareness rising, of women and men telling stories that push back, and of men and women taking to the streets and marching together. Two films are in cinemas at the moment that I was thinking of as I read this article: Moonlight, about a young gay black man in America, and Fences, about a family dominated by a frustrated patriarch, disappointed in life but persisting, and his relationships with his fierce wife and their son. I’m dying to see both.

And I was also thinking of my sweetest ex-boyfriend, who once told me about how he used to love sewing. As a kid, he stitched an old towel into a skirt and wore it proudly around the house. His mom took time enough to take a photo to chuckle over later before telling him he could never wear things ‘like that’. His dad was disapproving. It became a family myth, and I never saw the photo.

 

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