The piece I was going to write was going to be titled “Dedication To The Women That Got Me Through Life.” But it suddenly struck me to write about another subject: patriarchy. Yes, patriarchy. A couple years ago I really didn’t know what patriarchy was, and I bet many of you didn’t either. So, here is the definition:
1: social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2: a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
As a Black man, I had a difficult time processing the idea of patriarchy. This country is primarily governed by White men, even though a brother is the president. Our families are fractured, and the Black female has been the centerpiece and rock for generations, in my opinion.
And then, I didn’t quite understand how it pertained to me. Keeping it real, I feel like I’ve been a comrade to women, especially Black women, with whom I’ve shared struggle. Far from perfect, I’ve employed many women in influential positions and worked alongside them on many things. But patriarchy still lives and breathes, lurking in the shadows of racism, terrorism and other societal ailments. Men pretty much ignore it.
Let’s get down to it, guys. Here are seven ways you, the regular Joe, can help purge the national idea of men dominating women.
1. Men must be open to the fact that they may be unaware of everything patriarchy encompasses. Have an open mind and open ears. Furthermore, leave space for the women in your life to speak up and encourage open dialogue. Honestly, because Black men already go through so much, it may be tough to grasp. Nevertheless, you have to do it if you want transparency in your life and relationships with your women friends.
2. Do not take things personally when women talk about patriarchy. This is what I know I did early on because I definitely didn’t think certain criticism pertained to me. But, I thought of it like racism. Notice how the non-racists quietly benefit from systemic prejudice and so-called White supremacy–but don’t say anything against it? Don’t be that guy.
3. Do not give women permission to do things. I remember a few years after my dad died, some man my mom dated tried to tell her what she should do with her money. She dumped him like a hot potato. Obviously, if you are in a partnership or a martial situation, things work a bit differently, but you still have to hold the individual in high regard. Learn to respect a woman’s autonomy as well as their preferences.
4. Read a book by a Black feminist or womanist. I have a couple books by bell hooks, but I have to admit, I didn’t finish yet. (Blame my ADD for that one.) Click this link for a list of other Black feminists. Get to know them.
5. Talk to other men when you see them doing something out of pocket to women or when they speak foul about them. I remember my homeboy used to call his girlfriend all sorts of things. I am proud to say that I talked him out of that madness over time. I get it. He was extremely frustrated with her and they had a lot of work to do. Plus, that’s the language of our culture, too. I’m glad to say that they have been married for 15 years now and have a great partnership. He’s an entirely different guy now.
Bonus: Seriously, men, think about how your mother, daughter or any woman might receive your words or actions before putting them into effect. Think about how you might want them to be treated but also think about how they want to be treated. This oftentimes, can be a challenge. Honestly, it’s downright confounding and seemingly contradictory. But you can do it.
I believe Black men have difficulty grasping these concepts because we too have been marginalized and stripped of our power. So, what do we do? We often exercise might upon those closest to us, in places we can control like our households. What is refreshing is seeing young brothers educating themselves on patriarchy and breaking these cycles. Older men too.
We have plenty of work to do, this I know.
We can do it.