By Julianne Malveaux
Our nation, these United States, is founded on the principles of racism and patriarchy. They are reflected in our very constitution, where enslaved persons were counted as a fraction of a person and only men of property were allowed the right to vote. The filthy inequality at the foundation of this nation has now bubbled up and boiled over, polluting every aspect of our lives.
Patriarchy places men at the center of life and women at the periphery. It suggests that women do not matter. It allows for the subjugation of women when they attempt to enter public spaces that have previously been earmarked as “male” spaces.
Thus, there were no restrooms for women legislators in the U.S. House or Senate, even as women entered those spaces. They were only created when women demanded them. Of course, restrooms are just a minor manifestation of the hegemonic patriarchy that rules our nation.
A great picture of our nation’s racist patriarchy was the visual of doughy and dissipated white men interrogating the amazingly composed Anita Hill as she reviewed her experiences with now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Though Hill was persuasive, she was attacked in the vilest of terms, accused of nonsense like “erotomania,” and even recently harassed by Thomas’ unhinged spouse who was still seeking apology after two decades. Note to Thomas: take the phone from your wife when her meds are not working.
In any case, Thomas is on the Supreme Court because white men chose to disregard the word of a Black woman — a decision that then-Senator Joe Biden says he now regrets. Thomas was confirmed by the narrowest margin in history 52-48.
Here we go again.
By the time this is published the matter of 45’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may be resolved but the issue of pernicious patriarchy will not be.
Regarding Kavanaugh, he has been accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault from more than 35 years ago, when both were teens. She disclosed her accusations in a letter that California Senator Dianne Feinstein received in July, but did not share with the FBI until later, mainly because Ford asked for confidentiality.
Ford has requested that the FBI investigate her assertions, yet the Senate Judiciary committee is still fast-tracking their vote on Kavanaugh. The outcome, while necessary, is not the bottom line. The issue is the way that racist patriarchy makes some offensive and illegal behavior acceptable.
Privileged white male culture allows and encourages excessive drinking and obnoxious behavior toward women. It is excused because “boys will be boys.” But which boys? Black boys, even when accused of “reckless eyeballing,” are fair game for lynching! White boys on rampages are excused for assault, rape, and attempted rape.
Can I call the name of Recy Taylor, the young Black woman who was walking home from church and raped by a gaggle of white men who thought her body their right? Can I remind us of the Texas gubernatorial candidate, Clayton Williams, who said that if rape was inevitable, a woman should “lay back and enjoy it”? Ann Richards beat him, but that wasn’t quite the point. The point was that some man thought that rape was inevitable enough to “enjoy.”
Privileged white male culture allows a man who should not have been elected President to denigrate women on a regular basis. We are “fat,” “dogs” and “liars.”
He bragged about grabbing women’s genitals, and our society is so poached in pernicious patriarchy that 52 percent of white women (and 41 percent of all women) still voted for him. They thought he was joking because, for too many women, patriarchy has so seeped into our consciousness that the abuse of women is a joke.
If we women were honest, we would say that we have all cosigned patriarchy in the interest of keeping it moving. We have deflected the sexist comments that come our way, even as we cringe from them. We smile at men that we abhor because they may have decision making power in their hands. We dress up or dress down depending on the occasion and the way we have to play the game. We know the system is slanted against us, we know we still have to play, and we decide when we choose to blow the whistle, a whistle we could blow every single day.
#MeToo is the tip of the iceberg because it fails to deal with race systematically, but also because it manages the evident and personal, not the institutional.
In addition to being #MeToo women, we are mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives (hello Julie Chen Moonves), so some of us want to justify patriarchy for “our” men. Our sons, husbands, cousins, brothers “didn’t mean it” and could not be that bad.
Wake-up call — if they violated a woman, they were THAT bad. If they raped a Black woman and you turned away from the accusation, you are wrong, you are horribly and complicity wrong.
Tearing down the walls of pernicious patriarchy means attacking the very foundation of our nation. When we attack patriarchy, we also attack the racism that is also part of our foundation. Many have lined up to support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. How many are equally willing to attack the pernicious racist patriarchal roots of our nation?
Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy”
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