DE-CONSTRUCTING PATRIARCHAL LANGUAGE!
We hear and see it, but we rarely process the messages about gender it sends us. Casual conversation often cloaks the patriarchal gender roles in what many consider to be business as usual, but what if we could de-construct the patriarchal expressions we use on a day to day basis? How would that go? What would it look like? I’m going to attempt to do just that with this post.
In my opinion, to de-construct patriarchal expressions we must first identify the unnecessary patriarchal language inherent in the expressions that we use. In my examples I will write a patriarchal sentence, and then replace it with a de-constructed version of the same sentence which we could refer to as the “feminist revision.” I will then indicate in bold font the words that I deemed patriarchal and unnecessary.
Sounds fun right? Well let’s begin shall we.
1.Patriarchal Expression: “A real man provides for his family.”
Feminist Revision: “A man contributes to the vitality of his family.”
Unnecessary Words: “real” and “provides.”
The usage of the word “real” to describe men or women is arguably a divisive word used to portray some people as legitimate and others as illegitimate. People have a right to self identify as a man or a woman without others deeming their manhood or womanhood as illegitimate or less than. The idea that a man has to “provide” is rooted in patriarchal notions about the role that men and women play in relationships. There is no “I” in team and thus a man should work on the vitality of the family in conjunction with his partner, and not solely as a “provider” which indicates increased responsibility or superiority.
2. Patriarchal Expression: “If the only thing you offer to your man is pussy, then you aren’t worth anything.”
Feminist Revision: “Unless agreed upon, sex organs alone should not be the only thing you offer to your partner.”
Unnecessary Words: “pussy,” “worth.”
I would suggest there’s no need to put the burden of offering solely sexual organs exclusively on women as it should apply to both sexes, and furthermore there is no need to bring “worth” into the conversation as that borders on judging someone for their sexual behavior and choices. Also we must respect the right of people to arrange their relationships how they choose, and if sex organs alone are sufficient then we must respect that.
3. Patriarchal Expression: “You need to man-up.”
Feminist Revision: “Be responsible.”
Unnecessary Word: “man-up.”
While its possible that “man-up” is simply saying don’t act like a boy. There are many mature boys who shouldn’t be used as a way to get adult men to handle their responsibilities. Furthermore, no one ever says that women should “woman-up” indicating that it also has to do with men distancing themselves from women. A better way of conveying what you want would be suggesting that the person in question handle their responsibilities. This way you can avoid scapegoating young boys or denigrating womanhood. I would suggest there’s little need to tie being responsible to any particular gender.
De-constructing patriarchy isn’t an easy task to undertake, but with effort and consciousness of the messages conversation sends you it is possible. The ultimate goal of this lesson is to teach critical consciousness, and if anyone recognizes the patriarchal scripts they or others are acting out, then we have made progress.
Readings to help understand patriarchy and sexist conditioning:
We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks
The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, Love by bell hooks
Confessions of a Recovering Misogynist by Kevin Powell
Makes Me Wanna Holler: Nathan McCall