Patriarchy: Holding Back Humanity

This is not about two individuals and their testimony to the world.
I was not able to watch. Likewise, I was not able to steer clear. It was everywhere. It felt best not to give in fully. Keep my distance.  Still, it seeped in.  So I spent the night researching #metoo.   I realized that I was unaware of the long list of women who came forward and their countless stories because it hit social media in mid-October of 2017 when I was still down on communication following Hurricane Maria.  There is much that we missed in those months of no phone, no TV, no Internet.

Now, the morning after, what resonates, what can’t leave my skin is the ubiquitousness of girls violated.  It is hard to imagine having lived decades of silence and awkwardness thinking I was broken and everyone else walked around whole.  There in the silence, in the darkness post-storms stories and revelations came to me from my own circle. Some of us wait a month. Some years, some decades. Some die from the secret festering inside.

Today the violation of too many girls, some of us too young, though no age is ever acceptable, turns my stomach and keeps the constant nudge of nausea at my throat like the hurricane did. No place seems safe and that is how I was raised. Still it was not enough to protect me.

Societies uphold the patriarchy by applauding men for being powerful and aggressive. At the same time, I have spent a lifetime being chastised, ridiculed for my softness, my silence, my shyness, my awkwardness.  We are all the bastardized products of lovelessness.  No one’s first instinct is to extend compassion.  Even as an adult, I was chastised for being married without children.  I was blamed for being too selfish, too self-absorbed, too busy to birth, to share life with other humans.  No one thought to offer patience, love and compassion by asking why. Might I have told them?  That I was terrified of becoming pregnant and having to birth through the very site of trauma that I carried on my body.  No one asked because women’s bodies are the sites onto which we unleash all our fears, opinions, criticisms, assumptions, leaving our agency to float suspended.  Pregnant our bodies are celebrated then fall back into oblivion once the baby exits and we are treated once again as our bodies never mattered.

We criticize. We judge. We compare. We offer unsolicited advice. We assume.  Even as survivors we might fall into the horrific egocentric world of victimhood.  No one understands. No one has it as hard as we do.  Lovelessness breeds borders with barbed-wire wrapped into cages that contain our hearts.

In my experience telling always led to more trauma.  Telling solicited counter stories that made mine seem insignificant.  Telling resulted in my having to nurse the other person through the trauma of my having broken my silence and then my being accused of having betrayed them in some way. Or worse of all, telling opened my vulnerability to predators lurking, waiting to exploit.

The barbed wire cage becomes warm and cozy.  Sometimes it is the only safe space to inhabit.

Since working on this part of me through therapy, writing, painting, reading, thinking, healing, my hearing elicits a necessary response.  Hearing that someone has been through this, I can understand many parts of that person that stood in conflict to our relationship.  I can see how their fractured love was severed, fragmented as it was released, pushed past the cage.  In telling, I understand how the cage wires rust, deteriorate in the salt waters of our truth.   I can see us flowing out complete.

I see boys and men whose entire bodies are kept in the cage, contained by the lies imposed on their gender.  I see them falling prey to patriarchy as they are conditioned to uphold it.  I see them in their youthful confusion carrying out its aggression for inclusion, for acceptance. I see some of their bodies violated by the very thing they are taught to protect and perpetuate.  I see others trying to embrace their own truths and freedom and then ridiculed by all around them.  I see them cave in the cage.

I see us all walking in fear.  The barbed wire spikes scrape those who try to get close and love us.  We won’t take them down because they are still needed for the predators.  I see us ridiculing each other’s stories and denying each other’s truth. I see us stamping our own definitions and identities on others without hearing their own descriptions of their own authenticity.

I see us speak of pleasure while still being terrified of intimacy.
I see pathology confused with pleasure. Pathology they spill onto the bodies of children, of sisters, nieces, cousins, mothers, friends, colleagues. I see us speaking for the people.  I see us telling the stories of others.  I see us assuaging our own feelings of guilt and shame by promoting what we raise and donate and blasting images of survivors as personal street cred.  I see us measuring each other’s capacity to liberate and shaming each other for our ineffectiveness without ever considering the deep rooted decolonial work that must go on within to liberate our bodies and hearts.  I see liberation theorists on rhetoric, practicing lovelessness as praxis.  I see our bodies as cages, eventually succumbing to illness.  I see a lifetime of learning how to speak and do so freely.  A lifetime of wondering why you can’t trust others and still not realizing it is because you can’t trust yourself.  Too many of us have turned ourselves off, numb to all around us. But we are told to live fully.  I see people of all ages, unable to change it all, wage war on their own bodies then invite others to do the same.

I see many commenting and speaking as if this is about two people, one seat, one post, of a political entity; a scandal of the news that will come and go.  I see people speaking while hiding their own violations and the ways they’ve been violated.

I envision collective healing that will sprout from each of our own bodies.  Healing like the midwife and doula that squeezed my hips to relieve pain, to open my pelvis to help me birth myself and my children fearlessly, powerfully at home, in a collective womb of women’s wisdom.

detail, Yasmin Hernandez Art, Nena Celestial, 2013, Self-Portrait of my 6 year old self 


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