Saturday, 28 February 2009

Challenging Patriarchy Within the Movement

Tali Pocket | December 14, 2003

An excerpt from the Action-Medical listserv:

"I am rogue because I no more accept a matriarchy than a patriarchy."

This statement is very disturbing to me.

It is an alarming statement because of the context that it is made in, because of the power dynamic it suggests, because of the lack of consciousness around what Patriarchy is and what Matriarchy is, because of the power that is taken in saying it, because of the power that is ignored in saying it, and because it discredits the strength of women in this movement.

We live in a patriarchal society, and our movement is dominated by men. In the context of this patriarchal society, this alleged matriarchy is being defined by that patriarchy, and thus only envisioned as a mirror of the way that there is patriarchy today. The idea that matriarchy would be the same sort of violence and oppression only perpetrated by women is not an uncontested idea. There are many people who believe that a matriarchy would have an entirely different power structure than a patriarchy, that women have the ability to have power with instead of power over, and there is much history to support this. However, right now, I don't intend to spend more time discussing this particular facet of the issue, for the sake of space, but mostly because I don't really believe that this is an issue of matriarchy vs. patriarchy. I think this is an issue of powerful women being a threat to the patriarchy in our society and our movement. Powerful women are not the same as powerful men within a patriarchal society.

Patriarchy does not share power nor does it give up power. Our movements and Action-Medical in particular are so far from being a matriarchy that I can't even envision what they would look like if there wasn't patriarchy, let alone another sort of a structure. Since I spend a lot of my time trying to keep myself safe from men, not only do I not have time to plot the overthrowing of men, but the alliances I build with women have everything to do with safety in numbers and little to do with these suggested women-attempted macho power grabs. I live in a world where I am constantly threatened with sexual violence because I am a perceived woman. I live in a world where all of my decisions are influenced by my need to survive patriarchal violence. And I work with a movement, with the medics, where I find no sanctity from that threat or from that violence, nor do I find an environment that fosters solidarity with those working to survive and end this violence.

Stating that one does not accept a matriarchy suggests that one exists, and suggests that it is oppressive. Seeing as I haven't ever experienced a matriarchy in my life nor heard whisper of one in my recent ancestry, I must assume that "matriarchy" is referring to women in roles of power. Since we are not talking about specific women, we can't talk about specific behavior that may or may not be oppressive. So I must assume that the issue is not that these women in roles of power are being oppressive, but that they are threatening the men who have power, and guess what, within a patriarchal society all men have power, no matter how much they get off on feminism.

As I think I'm probably making fairly evident, this statement is not acceptable to me. If this is what being a rogue medic is about, than count me out. I want to fight the patriarchy that perpetrates the violence that everyone on this planet is living through (or dying from). I want to work with people who are interested in finding strength, sharing power and supporting each other. I want to work with men who are interested in accountability for their actions and devoted to the life long path of challenging their socialization in violence and the fetishization of power over others.

Not only is this sort of a statement hugely ignorant to the way patriarchy oppresses people and the history and vision of matriarchy, but it sets up an environment where women cannot be powerful or even be loud or even be heard without then being accused of attempting a man-envisioned-matriarchy.

And as to the statement about not accepting patriarchy, I'm curious as to how you all and anyone else who agrees with this definition of "rogue" (and let me say, the dictionary definitions of this word are very interesting), are not accepting patriarchy in your lives, in the medic communities, and in the world?

Fight the Power. Do No Harm.


No comments: