Tag Archives: challenging patriarchy

Moving Towards Circles of Equals

In my previous piece, “Defining the Circle of Equals”, I laid out what I see as the basic principles that define this more progressive and highly-evolved (at least in my opinion) than the hierarchical model for organizing institutions in our society. A model based on the the respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person (which also happens to be a key foundational principle of Unitarian-Universalism). As a follow-up I feel it is important to call out some of the ways we can work to support and facilitate our historic transition from a more hierarchical society to one based on egalitarianism and partnership between people.

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Much More & Much Less Than a Boss

Events happen every day reminding me that I am living in times of profound transition. A couple weeks ago something happened at my work that was a harbinger of a continuing cultural transition from hierarchy to a circle of equals, from patriarchy to partnership, from power-over to power-with, or from directive to facilitative leadership… however you want to frame it.

I have been at my current workplace for over a year now, and I work with a great group of people and have a very progressive and egalitarian team manager. I’d call him the more colloquial “boss”, but many of the standard connotations of that term do not fit this person at all. In the anecdote I want to highlight in this piece, he led us through an exercise the other day that is typical of how he approaches his job but is stunning in terms of your typical hierarchical corporate culture.

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Challenging Patriarchy

Coop Headshot 1So once you define the contemporary manifestation of this ancient way of being, and maybe understand how it has managed to perpetuate itself through a couple hundred generations of parents to children, how then do we address challenging and working towards ending this (what I would call) perpetuated vestige of an archaic system for organizing society?

Allan Johnson, in his book The Gender Knot, says the solution starts with acknowledging patriarchy exists as a collective system with its own internal logic, conventional wisdom and “paths of least resistance”, rather than as bad behavior by a bunch of individual men towards women. A systemic problem is not resolved by trying to identify “bad apples” and somehow weed them out or limit their influence. Most men and women participate in this system without consciously intending to oppress or be oppressed, without even being aware perhaps that the system exists. Continue reading →

Perpetuating Patriarchy

Toddler in StrollerSo how does a 5000 year old system of ranking and hierarchy with men inexorably at the top perpetuate itself through hundreds of generations and never get written off as archaic and crumble into the dust of history? Why was I so embarrassed in my late forties when I was deftly tossing a football with several slightly younger men (enjoying a moment of perhaps jocular camaraderie), who then threw it to my teenage son and were aghast when he threw it back to them, as it were, “like a girl”? What ancient warrior ethos had I violated in not properly training my son, an ethos that still somehow held sway somewhere in my subconscious? What gives this system its staying power, and does its longevity speak to its continuing merit? Continue reading →

Captain Patriarch & the Forces of Male Justice

A picture I found on the Net evoking (though drawn with more expertise and detail than) my "Captain Patriarch" character
A picture I found on the Net evoking (though drawn with more expertise and detail than) my Captain Patriarch character
I was one of the few male students at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo Michigan to choose to take “Status of Women” as one of my general studies classes. “You’re taking that?” was the reaction of most of my male student peers, but I must say there were at least a few other brave young men who attended as well. One of the key themes in the assigned reading was the idea of patriarchy as a social organizing principle and a key context for assessing the status of women in our society and others around the world. I was already familiar with the concept, from frequent “lectures” over my teenage years from my “Feminist Aunts”, particularly my mom’s dear friend Mary Jane (with her penchant for making up provocative words to humorously encapsulate topics where needed), who described the commoditization and male control of women’s sexuality and reproductive function as “patriarchal pimperialism”.

So based on this pedigree, and with enough ego still to try and show my professor and fellow students that I was no shrinking male violet in the world of “women’s studies” and feminism, I decided that for my final class project I would take on this concept of patriarchy and how it impacted me in my own life. Rather than write an essay, I decided on the outside-the-box approach of doing a comic strip, drawn with my own style of minimalist stick figures, and titled “Captain Patriarch and the Forces of Male Justice”. (Incidentally, I showed it later to my “Feminist Aunt” Mary Jane and she hooted with laughter, her eyes twinkled, and she indicated that her young apprentice had done well.) Continue reading →