Dialogue is an important part of the feminist movement. In the past month I have experienced how interesting that dialogue can get. When commenting on a Facebook status that observed that women always end up in bad relationships with men, I commented that this could be the fault of the patriarchy. If we look at society existing on North American soil the past 200 plus years, we’ll notice, at least among the euro-centric cultures that laid claim to this land, an unwavering patriarchal society. Generation on top of generation was socialized and inculcated to favor and disfavor as the patriarchy told them to, up to this day. The patriarchy affects societal mentality to not only encourage women to vote for men, but to discourage them from running for office. The patriarchy affects societal mentality to not only raise women to be victims (i.e. “He pulled your hair? That means he likes you!”), but also to raise men to be victimizers (i.e. “He pulled her hair? Oh, well boys will be boys.”).
The patriarchy uses the media to destroy the self-image of women, and to make men emotionless brutes. The patriarchy is not toxic simply because of what it does to women, but also because of what it does to men, and what it encourages and raises men to do and be. (The effects of media and socialization on women and men alike are well documented in such documentary films as the Killing Us Softly series and Miss Representation). The patriarchy is toxic not only because it’s in our media and government, but because it’s in our hospitals assigning gender roles, in our homes using a broken and oppressive socialization and in our public schools where the weak, the imperfect, the not-correctly-socialized and the queer* get bullied by the students and overlooked by teachers and administrators.
I suppose as of late I have been communicating with fault. And I want to be very clear, my feminism doesn’t mean I hate you because you’re male. My feminism doesn’t mean I automatically blame you for the systematic oppression of others, and yet, it does say that I must recognize my privilege. I am an ally and as a human I am imperfect. If I call my genderqueer friend ‘he’ or ‘she’ when they prefer ‘They’ that is part of the systematic oppression because I was systematically socialized that people were either ‘he’ or ‘she’ and I have to work everyday to realize that isn’t true and to correctly address my friend or anyone who prefers any pronouns other than ‘he’ or ‘she’.
I remain a part of the systematic oppression when I let someone call me ‘sir’ or ‘he’ or ‘mister’ without correcting them.
My feminism isn’t perfect, I argue that no feminism is, and that is why dialogue is important, if we allow that dialogue to involve only pathos – where pathos are important, but should be only a part of the greater dialogue, and where pathos shouldn’t impede or stop dialogue altogether – then divided we remain against a patriarchy that hurts us all.