All those companeros, however radical they may be in cafes, unions, and even affinity groups [FAI], seem to drop their costumes as lovers of female liberation at the doors of their homes. Inside, they behave with their companeras just like common “husband.”
Recently my comrades and I felt there was an urgent need to address the issue of patriarchy in radical movements. Some of my comrades experience misogyny on an almost hourly basis in the very struggles that claim to be for equity. There is much work to be done in a post-sexist world. I say post-sexist facetiously because any radical feminist will tell you that the struggle is far from over.
Some comrades with masculine privilege think that they are feminist or not misogynistic or patriarchal because they refrain from speaking or behaving that way. This is a similar stance for many well meaning white folk when it comes to the topic of racism. “I am not racist because I do not engage in racist activities. I am Not racist because I do not say racist things. I am not racist because I have disdain for racist people. I love all people equally.”
As with racism, there is an idea among some folks with masculine privilege that believe that patriarchy and feminism are equal to the good vs evil dynamic. Both patriarchy and racism will be discussed as an individual problem and not as a systematic problem. Being called-in on this kind of behavior is not the same as being called an asshole. Your behavior is a sign that you have some work to do, just like everyone else. Your reputation is not under attack. When someone tells you there is food on your face they are not saying you are sloppy, they are informing you that you missed a spot.
"When someone tells you there is food on your face they are not saying you are sloppy, they are informing you that you missed a spot."
Working closely with my companer@s has been educational and great for my personal development. Every day I am confronted with my own misogyny and internalized patriarchy. I have to catch myself and correct my behavior constantly. My labor does not end with myself, that is barely the start. I have had to call out other comrades on their own misogyny. It creates a lot of discomfort and animosity, and it should.
Companeros will rally together against you, you will get excluded from the boys club, you will be ignored. Confronting patriarchy is partly abandoning the safety of your masculine privilege. You will be heard and you may even shut down the situation but you will have become a threat. Good. All those things are good. You want to dismantle patriarchy that means losing something that should not have been yours. At one point I thought. “Darn, now nobody likes me.” As if the only comradery and approval that mattered was what came from the companeros. It is hard to get away from patriarchy as a man, it is a nightmare for companer@s.
"Confronting patriarchy is partly abandoning the safety of your masculine privilege. You will be heard and you may even shut down the situation but you will have become a threat. Good. All those things are good. You want to dismantle patriarchy that means losing something that should not have been yours."
Marginalized people will be made to feel uncomfortable and devalued by people that have privilege over them. It is hard to see one's own privilege. Folks with masculine privilege in general do not know what privilege they have and so we assume that comrades without masculine privilege are overreacting or not understanding our motives.
In Black Man's Burden by John Oliver Killens, the author points out how Afrikan folk understand white folk better than white folk because they have to understand them to survive in a world ruled by them. Women have to do this to survive, some will even imitate men to be “one of the good ones” or “one of the guys”. This barely works superficially when being a person of color navigating a white world. I have masculine privilege so it is hard for me to gage well this works for women but I would guess not very well.
I have observed my participation in patriarchy when I asked comrades without masculine privilege for materials to do a presentation on the topic. One comrade suggested that for my own personal development and so not to engage in patriarchal behavior by exploiting femme labor, that I should create my own presentation. I am very grateful for that advice and observation. My Adrienne Cabouet was correct and I thank them.
From that labor and research I created my first slide show presentation called Killer Sister: Women Using Violence Against Patriarchy. The presentation was intended as a way to pump up the companer@s I organize with, encourage them to organize and support their need to express their anger and frustration. I opened the presentation with some agreements that needed to be made.
The first agreement would be that the audience members with masculine privilege would save their comments and questions for the end of presentation.
The second agreement was that the audience members without masculine privilege would feel entitled to comment and react at any point in the presentation. Sadly there were few men in the group but they stuck to the agreements and when they were given space to talk they were considerate.
I hate being interrupted but in this space I made the effort to stop talking and surrender space when a companer@ was about to say something. The presentation was well received and the group engaged and shared personal experiences and views. People were made themselves vulnerable to each other but I could see a strong camaraderie growing. Based on comments made during the group discussion segment I have made some modifications to my presentation and will continue developing it. One change that I keep thinking about was the use of the word victim. Victim can be degrading sometimes, survivor is much more empowering. Victim is better left for those that do not survive.
It is those that benefit most from patriarchy that must teach themselves and their misogynist colleges about patriarchy. The survivors do not have to train their aggressor, the survivor is too busy breaking their aggressor. We must support our company@s, not just with words but with action in the form of auto development, study, and action. We with masculine privilege must be accomplices that listen and work to destroy patriarchy. It is not about us, it is about destroying a system and doing it now.
"The survivors do not have to train their aggressor, the survivor is too busy breaking their aggressor. "
Men living today are not responsible for the patriarchal system we live in just like European folk with white privilege living today are not responsible for the creation of systematic racism. We men must be the ones to weaponize our masculinity and use it to destroy patriarchy with the direction and consent of our comrades that do not share in the same privileges. Those with power over another must surrender their power or be neutralized. Saddly, most of those with power will never surrender their position or bounty. Eventually it will have to be seized and by force. What will kill capitalism will kill other forms of oppression. Be a an acomplice and break patriarchy!
Note: 8/10/16 When it comes to Survivor or Victim one word is not better than the other but one should be mindful of when, how and where it is used.
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