The tragedy of patriarchy

I touched on this briefly day before last in the post I shared from the Facebook smack-down, and I wanted to clarify my observation a bit.

I said that the tragedy of patriarchal societies is that men are possibly victimized by it more than women. When you think about who truly gets the short end of the stick, it seems to me that men are the unwitting recipients in every worst way.

First, I need to define what I mean by “patriarchal society”. It’s not completely accurate to say “a society dominated by men”, because that doesn’t really describe it. In practice, it’s more like “a society dominated by an impression of what masculine-driven power desires should be”. From an evolutionary perspective, men are charged with providing food, shelter, protection for the tribe, and keeping the histories. Women are charged with care-giving, food preparation, healing, and keeping the mysteries. Together, they create a whole social structure that functions well in relatively small groups – and even in our current version of civilization with massive cities and sprawling uninterrupted population, we tend to create our “tribes” through friends and business arrangements. When a society becomes patriarchal, the tasks of the men are considered to be more important – more valuable – than the tasks of women.

While the origins of the shift might be based in a momentary need to rally against an enemy or to feed a sudden expansion in population, the failure to return to balance creates a dangerous climate the likes of which we are suffering through right now.

But it is not the collective decision of all men to create this imbalance. It is the work of a relatively small handful of people (mostly men) who make the decision and then, tasting the illusion of power, fall into the trap of greed, believing that to keep all of the power to themselves, they will continue to be “more”.

The illusion of power and the structure that emerges is supported by and propagated by sowing distrust between the genders. The “temptation of Eve” and the stories of succubi are classic examples. The preposterous notion that women are the properties of their husbands or male relatives is further evidence. (And who would think to truly control someone less powerful? There is no need – unless the secret truth is that women were acknowledged from the very beginning as being at least if not more powerful than their male.counterparts.)

Men in the general population are taught to distrust women, and men often feel “distrust” as very similar to “threat”, and how do men traditionally deal with feeling threatened? They intimidate and present violence. This puts women, in turn, in a place to distrust men – and, even worse, to distrust themselves if they have bought into the religious and mythological foundations of the distrust.

Here’s where the wound happens: Women do not share the mysteries with the men. They do not feel safe speaking the same language or talking about private things, and men are left feeling isolated from their women, knowing on some intuitive level that they are not receiving full communications.

And so more distrust is sown.

Women, however, know the nature of secret things, and they support each other well through unspoken rituals that men do not have. Even under extreme repression, women will mostly tend to find ways to keep their true power separate and sacred as much as possible. Because they did not teach the men the nature of mystery, men do not have this. (Men, likewise, do not tend to teach women the ways of force and power, which seems at first glance an appreciable trade-off, but it’s not.)

Women find comfort in each others company in a far more intimate way than men do between themselves, but intimacy is a human need, not gender based. Men feel the lacking, like a craving for a food they can’t identify, and they must force themselves out of a mode of existence defined by a refusal of intimacy (the norm) if they will have any kind of lasting happiness at all.

This is why I insist that gender equality is a human rights issue, not a “battle of the sexes”. It hurts everyone within that society, and repressing one part, no matter how seemingly small, robs the whole of what should be inalienable rights.

I personally want to share that real power and intimacy with a male counterpart as I do with my women-friends, but that cannot happen without trust, and even the most well-mannered male raised in a patriarchal society will be suspect.

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