Women hold up half the sky – Mao Zedong
I do not like the idea of ’empowering women.’ Hear me out. Hold the firing squad. When we speak along those lines, we suggest that women are inherently powerless. We suggest that there is something within womenfolk that needs to be corrected to grant them agency. We ignore millenia of cultures and policies that were designed to strip women of their inherent power. We ignore the way women have withstood these efforts and persisted and what women have achieved despite real and indirect violence. We put responsibility for change solely on women. Without putting responsibility for change where it should rightly be, we cannot see real and lasting change.
Most men do not realise how they are socially conditioned to be violent. Jamie Utt wrote a very instructive article on men’s blindspots to socialised behaviour which could be potentially abusive. It is worth a read.
Someone else worth reading on this is bell hooks, who talks about ‘dominator culture.’ She says:
“Dominator culture teaches all of us that the core of our identity is defined by the will to dominate and control others. We are taught that this will to dominate is more biologically hardwired in males than in females. In actuality, dominator culture teaches us that we are all natural-born killers but that males are more able to realize the predator role. In the dominator model the pursuit of external power, the ability to manipulate and control others, is what matters most. When culture is based on a dominator model, not only will it be violent but it will frame all relationships as power struggles.”
bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (Atria Books, 2004) 115
Put very simply, she is saying that our global value system is based on violence and not virtue. Biologically men are stronger than women, so we as society give men more value – establishing patriarchy. The richer you are the more able you are to assert all forms of violence against the less rich – establishing classism. The social constructions of race mean that the darker you are, the more likely you are to be subject to violence – establishing racism. Dominator culture can never achieve community. It is a culture better suited for destruction.
We have constructed a world based on false values and prioritised violence.
The history of the world is a history of violence. A history of domination and oppression.
Reform that attempts to correct the oppressed but not the oppressor is doomed to failure.
And our skies will keep on falling, because half the world is holding down the other half.