Breathing Patriarchy

Breathing Patriarchy

“Men have no idea what it takes to be a woman. To grin and bear it and persevere. The constant state of war, navigating the relentless obstacle course of testosterone and misogyny, where they think we are property to be owned and plowed. But we’re not. We are people, just like them.”

I was overcome by shame when I read this piece on the experience of women in our culture - It was easier to give in than keep running. My heart aches with the awareness of my role in perpetuating patriarchy. You don’t have to be a rapist to be part of the problem. We swim in a patriarchal ocean, patriarchy is found in every crevice, it threatens to define each of our micro-interactions. We practice patriarchy with our gaze, with the energy that we bring into a room, with the sexualization of a friendly smile.


I think back through every stage of my development and I have to contend with the centrality of patriarchy through each and all of those stages. I think of the slow and grinding effort to undo patriarchy in myself and of the ways the beast can move from gross to subtle, from obvious to hidden, it is persistent in the ways it rears its ugly head. If it wasn’t for the powerful women in my life I would still be a bumbling fool unconsciously thriving in a system that aims to oppress more than half of us. I have had the privilege of learning from and being held accountable by some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, and I still find ways of falling on my face.

It is impossible for a man to place himself in woman’s experience, articles such as this one give you a glimpse into how painful and inconceivably unjust this whole thing is. Listen closely and carefully to the women in your life and you will not have to read an article. Embedded in the language of everyday you will find the myriad signs of oppression, resistance and resilience that define an experience that men create but don’t have to bear.

The author concludes by stating that “The job won’t be over until equality permeates the air we breathe, the streets we walk and the homes we live in.” It makes me have to ask myself about ways to redouble my efforts, how can I battle this beast in all spaces of my life? How can I contribute to permeating the air that we breath with a way that is radically pro-woman?

How can I practice from my relationship with my wife, to the spaces that I facilitate, to the late night of drinks in the hot tub? Because that is what we mean when we talk about every space - we are talking about every space, no exceptions. We are talking about walking down the street, sitting on a subway, conducting a transaction, making any and all decisions, co-creating social space and and fully enjoying spaces that we have reserved for pleasure.