Women were made to stay in the kitchen in the 1950’s. The pendulum swung so far to the side of patriarchy that we now have men crying about the “m” word; matriarchy. I have read several posts by three different men on Facebook over the last few weeks about how matriarchy is a diabolical scheme to enforce “reverse patriarchy” on men. Swinging the pendulum back to center and creating a more matriarchal society is not a bad idea. Why are some men, and these are tenured professors with libertarian politics, so damn afraid of women ruling the roost? Why the sudden cries about oppression when they and theirs have been doing the oppressing for so long?
This is exactly the problem. Fear of females. Fear of female anger, which is taboo and is immortalized and personified as wicked, evil, engulfing, the Medusa. Eve ate the apple, it’s all our fault. This anger does threaten the institution of motherhood and, therefore, the patriarchy. Rich states in “Of Woman Born” that any deviation from the norms prescribed by the patriarchy is considered taboo, and sometimes criminal, such as lesbianism, illegitimacy, and abortion.
Perhaps nowhere is this split more pronounced than for black single mothers. Black mothers are oppressed by black men, white men, and white women. Black mothers, as Patricia Hill Collins points out, are praised by their black male counterparts, especially their own mothers (Black Feminist Thought 188). Collins points out that young black girls are “carefully groomed at a young age to become othermothers” (194). I have to wonder what that is like in the context of parent socialization, as discussed in previous blogs. How does this socialization affect these girls? Is this something that intersects with their desire to othermother? Is that even a thought they can think? Is teaching young black daughters to be socialized into the sexual politics of black womanhood, as Collins put it, akin to eating more than one apple? The apple is of course what Collins calls the willful participation in their own subordination ( Black Feminist Thought 198). I don’t know for sure, but it seems like even when women try to lead, they are wrong and society is hostile toward them no matter what. Fear of any kind of woman-centric anything seems to be the problem.
A blogger named Carol Christ wrote a nice post about Matriarchy and what it really means. It does not mean what the men on my facebook feed seemed to think. She cites an author, Heide Goettner-Abendroth, who wrote “Societies of Peace”, and rejects the “common definition of matriarchy as “mother-rule” with the connotation of “female domination. Instead, she argues that matriarchies are societies that honor mothers and consider care and generosity–values they associate with motherhood–to be the highest values” ( Carol Christ Blog). It sounds to me like we need to redefine the word “Matriarchy”, not for the sake of the word itself, but to clarify its meaning. What is truly needed is a balance. The pendulum does not have to swing so far in the other direction that women become like many men have been and start ruling with an iron fist. It does mean that women should make up more than 17% of congress, and the “patriarchal dividend” needs to end. Stephanie Coontz illuminated the meaning of this term in her article The Myth of Male Decine in the New York Times. (The Myth of Male Decline). The fact that any mention of a matriarchy, or any such matrilineal or matrifocal idea is so threatening is so troubling. Women come from a place of collaboration and community, relationalness, and cooperation. Patriarchy would lose its foothold in the world of war, violence, and capitalism run amok. Why is this a bad idea again?