A good friend gave me a bumper sticker for Christmas. I love this bumper sticker with a love that isn’t holy.
It is clever. It is true. It makes you think. It leads men to roll their eyes and inspires women to wait by my car, just so they can tell me how much they love it.
I often hear people say we don’t need feminism anymore. They say the older women, on whose shoulders my generation stands, fought all of the battles for us. They say we can set aside the fight and just be nice. They say we don’t have to struggle, or protest, or burn bras, or whatever was involved in being a feminist.
And that’s a great idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of the battles had been fought, and we could just sit back, enjoy our non-fat lattes and talk about zumba class?
But here’s the thing. While the battles have been fought, they haven’t been won. Patriarchy is alive and well, even if it seems subtle on first glance.
I encounter patriarchy frequently because my career path has led me into roles traditionally held by men. While the members of my congregation don’t seem to have any problems with having a female pastor, I have realized people have a hard time letting go of long held gender roles and stereotypes and assumptions. When I am strong and confident, I’m warned not to be a bitch. When I first negotiated my salary, someone told me “you don’t need to make that much money. Your husband has a good salary.” The illustrations are myriad.
So, I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy. When women make the same salary as men for the same work, when men stop with the “mansplaining”, when men stop trying to tell women how to dress, what to do with our bodies, and how to be responsible for men’s sexual urges—then I’ll be post-feminist.
I put this much loved bumper sticker on my car, but I didn’t get one of the corners down quite tight enough and it started to peel. (No need to mansplain how to apply a bumper sticker, thank you very much…) And then, last week on vacation, I went to open the trunk and noticed the bumper sticker wasn’t there. My husband told me it had come so loose in a bad rainstorm we had just driven through, so he removed it.
My first thought when I heard the news?
Patriarchy silenced me and took away my bumper sticker.
I kid. Sort of.
I don’t really believe patriarchy caused the rainstorm that battered my poor sticker.
But the thought crossed my mind because it is such an insidious and quiet beast, patriarchy.
This week, for example, after it sneakily removed my bumper sticker with the freak rainstorm in Oregon, it introduced some legislation in Texas. You might have heard of it. SB-5. Conservatives in the Texas legislature couldn’t get restrictive abortion legislation through in the regular session, which required a 2/3 rule to be introduced. In a special session, called by the governor to address particular issues, it only requires a simple majority.
So the conservatives brought it up in the special session. And they had the votes to pass it. And it would have led to the closure of most, if not all, of the abortion clinics in the state. It would have dramatically reduced women’s access to health care.
And the reason it started to stink of patriarchy to me was the rhetoric of the bill’s supporters. Just before Texas sent its 500th citizen (and a woman) to the death chamber, Gov Rick Perry said, with a straight face, “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn.”
Lt Gov David Dewhurst put this gem on Twitter: “Please be in prayer today for the Senate as we work to protect women’s health and defend the preborn.”
Doesn’t that sound nice? Isn’t it great that they care so much for the lives of women that they wouldn’t allow a life-saving abortion if medically needed? Their concern for life is evident in their support of the death penalty, used in Texas more than in any state.
Isn’t it special that these two men know more about what women should do with their bodies than we women know ourselves?
Don’t we all feel better knowing how much they care about women’s health as they try to enact legislation that would dismantle women’s health care?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.
Because it is time to stand up and say “enough”.
And, thankfully, someone did just that. Senator Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for over 10 hours, which required her to stand without assistance or without breaks, speaking to the issue the entire time. She, her colleagues, and the supporters in the capitol were able to delay the vote until after the special session had expired at midnight.
Watching her stand there, listening to the live feed with over 100,000 of my closest friends, and following the Twitter feed reminded me of the difference one person can make.
It appears that Gov Perry will get his bill passed because he has already called another special session of the legislature next month. But I think we’ll see the impact of Senator Davis’ filibuster in the months and years to come.
Because the people who crowded into the capitol that night saw what she was doing and decided they, too, could stand against that legislation. People became engaged and had to follow the story online because the media ignored an 11 hour filibuster and instead discussed muffins. People were thankful that someone was willing to stand up for them, to make sure their voice was heard. The elected leaders can choose to ignore the voice of the people, but when they do, it brings the patriarchy into the spotlight and exposes it for the destructive force it really is.
And so I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.
Until then, I need to stand up to patriarchy, to call it out when I see it, to shine light on it so it can be revealed as the ugly force it is. Because when one person stands up to it, as Sen Davis did the other night, we get a glimpse of a better future for all of us.
Patriarchy is clearly limiting to women. By denying them agency and full humanity, it keeps them from living their best lives. But patriarchy is also limiting to the men who benefit from it. When you can’t recognize and accept the giftedness in another human being, how can you accept your own?
I’ll keep working for equality, for all of us. And I’ll watch what happens next in Texas. But first I need to go buy a new bumper sticker.