Overcoming Patriarchy Calls
From May 2017 through April 2022, the Overcoming Patriarchy Conference Calls provided an opportunity for people to engage with themselves and with others on the deep questions that arise as we reflect on the ways that patriarchal thinking, habits, and systems affect us. Our hope in holding these calls was to engage in ongoing conversation, exploration, and active challenging of self and other based on the commitment to see and transcend all the ways in which we have internalized patriarchal thinking to increase our collective ability to notice and act with choice.
Why Focus on Patriarchy?
The focus on patriarchy emerges from the understanding that patriarchy plays a foundational role in everything. Yes, I mean it: everything.
Patriarchy is not the same as sexism; patriarchy is to sexism very much what structural racism is to (interpersonal) racism: it’s a system that runs independently of any one person’s attitudes or behaviors. As I understand it, patriarchy is the original separation, and it restructured both institutions and thinking. At its core, it’s a separation from life, from self, from others, and from nature. Capitalism, racism, and all the other forms of exploitation, oppression, war, and now environmental degradation, could only come into being because patriarchy already primed us for them.
These calls at the same time were premised on maintaining a distinction between what is an acute issue and what is a root issue. In the US, and in many other industrialized Global North countries, the acute issues are global warming and racism/xenophobia. In some other parts of the world, acute issues may be starvation. And there are places where the most acute issues directly relate to women. Whatever the acute issue is anywhere, it makes sense for it to receive the direct activist attention. The hope fueling these calls is that whatever the acute issue is, those taking action for change will do this with an analysis that recognizes the root cause, which is just about always patriarchy. If activists don’t, then even if they succeed they will end up reinforcing patriarchy, sometimes even using patriarchal methods without knowing it or even on purpose, as in “by any means necessary”.
In the absence of a direct focus on patriarchy, even work that directly aims to support women will be diminished. Thus it is that feminism has been reduced to a struggle for individual women’s rights, and even those are often narrowly defined in ways that focus on the acute issues of white middle class women who are not, at the same time, affected by the additional devastation of race and impoverishment. A focus on patriarchy allows us to see it as a system that sustains all division, separation, oppression, scarcity, powerlessness, and so much more.
If we use patriarchy as an analytic lens and overcoming it as the active lens, then we can maintain a commitment to right away do things differently, regardless of what the issues are that we want to engage with.
For more information and grounding, you can read the following:
Why Patriarchy Is Not about Men
Who Are These Calls for?
These calls are for all people of all genders, since gender oppression, of any sort, is rooted in patriarchy. Our primary focus was on patriarchy as a system.
Overcoming Patriarchy Call Recordings
You can access the call recordings here.