This dinosaur is talking patriarchy

 

As we wrap up the final plenary of the 2012 National Sexual Assault Conference, I reflect on the powerful undercurrent pulsing through the rooms. We sparked these three days with the goal “Revive, Rethink, Reclaim,” set forth by this year’s conference host. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault crafted a conference that called the bright and engaged activists in the room to return to the roots of the movement. Let’s get back to feminism. Let’s get back to talking about patriarchy.

Our opening keynote speaker, Cassandra Thomas, stirred the fire of anger and passion. She called for attendees to fuel their outrage over the horror of sexual violence. During this moving address, I heard the first of many references to patriarchy and its curious absence from our work. A perplexed Thomas challenged that “nobody talks about patriarchy anymore!?”

Later, during an intriguing session on the links between pornography and violence, Bob Jensen mused that if you talk about patriarchy, you’re a dinosaur. Patriarchy isn’t pleasant dinner conversation. It’s not something that you open with…

"Hi folks, I’m Ali. Really glad to be here. By the way, there’s a systematic, institutional, and pervasive illness that sickens our culture and stamps on the value and safety of women.”

Patriarchy is disgusting, it’s awful, it hurts people. People of all genders struggle under the oppressive weight of it. Patriarchy girds rape culture. It embraces victim blaming. It laughs at racist jokes. It gay bashes. It tells a child raped by a coach to get over it. It sneers to a migrant worker, “learn English, go back where you came from.” It refuses sex education to people with cognitive disabilities. It sexualizes children in advertising, turns women into objects, glamorizes sexualized violence.

I’m going to take my cue from the revolutionaries at this conference. Let’s talk about patriarchy. Let’s see it, name it, and challenge it. How exciting it is that we are developing alternative visions of this world? This dinosaur is pretty amped to get started.

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