There is a post that I’ve been pondering publishing for a long time now. It’s not one that I’ve had written, but one I’ve harbored in my heart, afraid to speak or even allow my mind to put words to. It’s too personal, and personal mixed with controversial is just asking for it.
But for the sake of mutuality, it must be known what kind of damage patriarchy can inflict upon the female soul.
You see, patriarchy has created a culture of fear and shame for us women. In this culture, it’s okay for guys to be egotistical pricks who belittle femininity and the female “roles” they claim to see as separate but equal. It’s okay for men to think they’re awesome, but when women start talking like that we get accused of being liberal man-eating feminists. In patriarchy, men refuse to take the blame for their own sexual thoughts and behaviors, so they find ways to blame it on us—turning our bodies into sources of sin and guilt for making our brothers stumble. Patriarchy teaches women that their lives should be defined by men—fathers, pastors, and husbands. It doesn’t leave much room for every day realities like women who, try as they might, just can’t fit the mold.
Patriarchy squashes the power of female sexuality so that it fits into a neat little box mistakenly referred to as “biblical womanhood.”
I say mistakenly because of how poorly the women of the Bible would have actually fit into that box, in spite of the strongly patriarchal culture in which they lived. God seems to have high praise for powerful women.
At church, no one really taught me about my own power or how to access it. No one showed me the importance of exploring myself and knowing myself. I learned to be afraid of myself. My body was not treasured, but shameful. My mind and voice were often unwanted; I left every youth group leadership meeting feeling more stupid than the last. My strength often went unrecognized if not suppressed; I still remember clearly how my youth pastor looked me in the eyes and told me that there was no place for me in youth ministry because I am a woman.
In patriarchy, feminine equals weak; I assumed I had to be masculine to be strong. Except my experience taught me that masculine equals a really big dick who belittles you and will probably end up abandoning you. Yet I still bought into patriarchy, because I thought the Bible made it so clear. It was devastating when men hurt me or made a joke out of my supposed “weaknesses.”
We all have our own compensation methods and defense mechanisms. It’s that tightrope we so carefully skim across because no one bothered to show us how to make a bridge; it’s how we put a band-aid on our insecurity. I’d wager that a lot of women have control issues for this very reason. For me, control issues hooked up with all of the shame I felt about my feminine sexuality and birthed years of disordered eating that climaxed in a full-blown eating disorder early in college.
You see, women were meant to rule, too. When that gets taken away from us, many of us turn to becoming control freaks about stupid things like our appearance, our home’s cleanliness or decor, meddling in the lives of others, or the behaviors of our husbands. There must always be an outlet. When we get mocked for that too, we settle with a state of being locked in a “battle of the sexes,” making jokes about it as a fact of life and always demeaning one another.
But men and women shouldn’t be at war with each other, and nobody should be content with that. War is not a joke. War destroys everything, and this war is contorting our hearts into shapes we’re just not meant to be in. It is killing us, body and soul.
We need peace. We need mutuality.