**This episode is also viewable as a video on www.breakingdownpatriarchy.com under the "episodes" heading, and on YouTube on the Breaking Down Patriarchy channel.
Welcome to BDP! I’m AMA, and today we are doing a very special episode, summarizing all the works we read this year and sharing thoughts and lessons learned as well as answering some FAQ’s. And my guest today is fan-favorite, Erik Allebest! Welcome back to BDP, Erik!
Another cool thing is that for the first time, we’re recording video as well as audio. So if you want to see us as well as hear us, you can watch this video on our website or on YouTube.
I want to start this episode at the very beginning - the very first words I spoke on the podcast were from Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy, where she says “Men and women live on stage. Now that I know more about gender, I would rephrase that to say “all human beings live on a stage.” She describes how all of us are up there performing, doing our best to read the scripts we’re supposed to be reading, some have big parts, some small… but in this play, the writer of the scripts, the directors, the people who built the set and produced the whole thing are all men. So even if I, as a woman, get assigned a bigger role, that might placate me because I get more power in the play, but as long as the role has been given to me by directors who are all men (and who choose to keep women out), the power balance hasn’t changed at all.
The rest of The Creation of Patriarchy, and the entire podcast, has been a study to try to figure out how it got to be this way, and I want to start with something that we haven’t been able to do yet: an actual historical timeline!
Highlight Catal Hayuk
From a recent BBC article that I read just today:
“An examination of male and female skeletons show that both sexes ate the same diet, performed the same work, and spent the same amount of time outdoors. In life, they inhabited the same physical space; in death they were given the same kind of burials. There is no evidence for either a patriarchal or matriarchal system. In Catalhöyük a woman’s biology was not her fate.
People have long accepted that political power is man-made rather than god-given. But it’s been different for female inequality. History, religion, science, everything in fact, has seemed to condemn feminism for being against the natural order. Thanks to Catalhöyük, we can say with confidence that there is nothing natural about patriarchy or matriarchy. Society can take many forms and shapes. Sex is genetic, but gender is cultural.”
This highlights a debate between sociologists: is patriarchy “natural” and “inevitable” or is it NOT natural, and we could have just as easily have gone in a different direction?
The fact that all societies all over the world, for all time have been at least in some degree patriarchal seems to be an argument that there is a natural element to it. But if there were thousands and thousands of years of non-patriarchy, then it shows that it’s not natural, not inevitable.
(Quiz: When did early humans leave Africa? 2 million years ago.
When did the first humans arrive in Australia? 60,000 years ago
Arrive in the Americas? 30,000 years ago
So… long time.
But does it even matter if it’s “natural”? Lots of terrible things happen all throughout human societies, so they are thus “natural” too. Just because people everywhere have murdered and tortured and enslaved other people, does that mean we say “oh well! I guess we lean into violence because it’s natural.”?
My argument would be no. So let’s dive into the books:
The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler, 1987 - Malia Morris
Evidence of multiple matrifocal, matrilocal societies. Symbols of goddesses, priestesses, evidence of egalitarianism and peace. These were Partnership cultures. They all existed prior to written records, so archaeologists and cultural anthropologists are making informed guesses about what the evidence means. Which is why it’s so important to have women archaeologists and cultural anthropologists!!
Then came the Dominator cultures. War, death, reflected in their mythology: the powerful goddesses lost their status and became wives or consorts of male gods.
And the Partnership vs. Dominator model is a really useful tool of analysis to apply to power dynamics between humans, even today.
The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner. 1986 (Part 1) - Sherrie Crawford
- The metaphor of the stage
- Men have always written down “history,” and claimed universality for that history. But it has until that last nanosecond of history, totally excluded women’s lives.
- In addition to writing history, men have created the “symbol systems,” like philosophy and religion. (This is what happened and this is what it means.)
- Men have created the laws. The Code of Hammurabi and The Middle Assyrian Laws were some of the first records on Earth, and they are male-centered and so violently misogynistic
Show on timeline
**Many men and women have suffered exclusion and discrimination because of their class. No man has been excluded from the historical record because of his sex, yet all women were. (This has broad application and is a good arrow to have in our quiver when people say “men experience this too.”)
***IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT WHEN WE SPEAK OF RELATIVE IMPROVEMENTS IN THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN A GIVEN SOCIETY, THIS FREQUENTLY MEANS ONLY THAT WE ARE SEEING IMPROVEMENTS IN THE DEGREE IN WHICH THEIR SITUATION AFFORDS THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO EXERT SOME LEVERAGE WITHIN THE SYSTEM OF PATRIARCHY. (the stage again)
“The system of patriarchy is a historic construct; it has a beginning; it will have an end.”
The Gospel of Mary - Dr. Kayleen Asbo
The road not taken:
A woman was truly an apostle to the apostles, there’s a record of it, it could have been in our Bible. But a group of all men decided it didn’t suit the hierarchical structure of the church, so they left it out.
Includes a record of Peter saying to a woman “I don’t believe you.” And Andrew standing up to Peter. This would have been so validating and comforting.
The point is to become more anthropos - more fully human.
Mary, Mother of God - Sophie Allebest
Takeaways: in the New Testament, Jesus is a revolutionary figure who breaks all kinds of rules.
Mary was seen as the “New Eve” - Yay!!
She becomes the Madonna - if real women are supposed to be like Mary, we are screwed! (Or rather, precisely not screwed). Title: Alone of All Her Sex
Also it’s just like the quote by Lerner: Mary “affords opportunities to exert some leverage within the system of patriarchy.” Her power is 100% determined by whatever pope is determining the symbol systems - in history you see her power grow and shrink according to what the men say about her.
There’s a book out right now:
The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth
The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, Gerda Lerner, 1993. - Janette Canare
“Men develop ideas and systems of explanation by absorbing past knowledge and critiquing and superseding it. Women, ignorant of their own history, did not know what women before them had thought and taught. So, generation after generation, they struggled for insights others had already had before them. I illustrate this by surveying women’s bible criticism over a period of one thousand years and show the endless repetition of effort, the constant reinventing of the wheel.”
I gained information, knowledge, and a whole community of women role models and fellow seekers throughout time.
Declaration on the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen, Olympe de Gouges (1791) - Lindsay Allebest
Abigail Adams in the US said “We will not be will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Olympe de Gouges saw her country’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man” and immediately said “NOT GOOD ENOUGH. TRY AGAIN.”
“Women, wake up!!!”
A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) (Part 1) - Dr. Meagan Alder
“Here I throw down my gauntlet, and deny the existence of sexual virtues, not excepting modesty.”
“It cannot be demonstrated that woman is essentially inferior to man, because she has always been subjugated.”
“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. Men have various employments and pursuits which engage their attention, and give character to the opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views.”
her reason… is employed rather to burnish than to snap her chains.”
“On the Equality of the Sexes” Judith Sargent Murray (1791) - Jennie Preece
“As their years increase, the sister must be wholly domesticated, while the brother is led by the hand through all the flowery paths of science. Let there be then no coercion established in society, and the common law of gravity prevailing, the sexes will fall into their proper places.”
Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, Sarah Grimke (1838) - Rebecca Archibald
My hero. My biggest takeaways are about Sarah Grimke as a person, how she lived her life.
What she said, remember she was speaking out about slavery, and was getting violent pushback not just about slavery but about being a woman speaking publicly about anything. So there was this pastor who was worried that Sarah (and women following her example) were getting too much power, so he said “when you have a question, ASK YOUR PASTOR.” So these letters were in some ways a response to that patriarchal model.
So Sarah all the way through claims her own right to interpret scripture as an equal of any pastor. And she says:
“Here then I plant myself. God created us equal.”
"Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1848) - Courtney McPhie
Laws of Couverture: coral necklace story
“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master - the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement. (physical beatings)
- “Women are weak, they need to be helped over mud puddles.” “Nobody helps me over mud puddles. Look at my arm. And am I not a woman?” This still happens. White people say “Woman” and they’re referring to white, privileged women. It’s not right.
- Frances Gage changed her words.
- Rayna’s experience as a Black woman
The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill (1869) - Frances Kay Allebes
“The burden of proof is supposed to be with those who are against liberty.”
“Nobody thinks it necessary to make a law that only a strong-armed man shall be a blacksmith. Freedom and competition suffice to make blacksmiths strong-armed men, because the weak-armed can earn more by engaging in occupations for which they are more fit.”
Then he says it’s unnecessary to make a rule “that certain persons are not fit to do certain things. ...Even if it be well grounded in a majority of cases, which it is very likely not to be, there will be a minority of exceptional cases in which it does not hold: and in those it is both an injustice to the individuals, and a detriment to society, to place barriers in the way of their using their faculties for their own benefit and for that of others.”
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892) - Shannon Johnson
Paternalism! “Oh, my sweet husband, he knows what’s best for me. I don’t know my own symptoms or my own body or my own mind.” Sometimes benevolent patriarchy is even more insidious than more overt forms of patriarchy because women don’t notice that they’re in a cage, being kept in the role of a child for their whole life, because the patriarch is being nice.
The Rest Cure vs. the West Cure - still see this!!
The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1899) - Shauna Rensch
“At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life – that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions. ...She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves.”
And this is what makes her blow up her life.
“The Fundamental Principle of a Republic,” Anna Howard Shaw (1915) - Dr. Amy Cook
Arguments against women’s suffrage - still relevant today!
“Whenever any question is to be settled in any community, then the people of that community shall settle that question. The women people equally with the men people. That is all there is to it.”
Ask yourself if you belong to any organizations where the argument is made that things are fair because the men listen to the women and represent their interests, and that “women don’t want to have added responsibilities.”
“The Morality of Birth Control,” and “The Case for Birth Control,” Margaret Sanger (1921) - Courtney McPhie
Margaret Sanger’s own mother conceived 18 times in 22 years, birthing 11 alive before dying aged 49.
The Comstock Act: In Massachusetts, anyone disseminating contraceptives -- or information about contraceptives -- faced stiff fines and imprisonment. In Connecticut, the act of using birth control was even prohibited by law. Married couples could be arrested for using birth control in the privacy of their own bedrooms, and subjected to a one-year prison sentence.
“A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1929) - Susannah Furr
“Get off the grass.” Interrupts her train of thought - all the ideas wasted
“You can’t come into the library.” Her face burning with humiliation. “I will never go back.”
In the British Library: “Women, relation to men of.” Men are at the center - we see ourselves as auxiliary
Susannah’s explanation of the much better facilities and dining in the men’s college v. the women’s college. “What was behind the thin gravy soup in the plain dish v. the succulent meats and glasses of wine and desserts” Reminded me of the different amounts of money and resources spent on boys and young men in our church v. girls and young women
“Think only of the jump.”
Killing the Angel in the House, Virginia Woolf (1931) - Rachelle Burnside
Separate spheres ideology, men praise women to be the self-sacrificers, the ones who give up their dreams.
Woolf describes that when she would try to write, the angel would constantly say “what will men think of this??” and it was so distracting it stopped her from doing good work/achieving her potential.
Also, that “Affable Hawk” character always saying “women can’t be good writers.” This will come up later - it’s been proven in experiments that when you tell someone they’re not good at something, they perform worse. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why Woolstonecraft and Mill said “we don’t know the differences between the sexes yet, because it’s never been a fair world yet. Men think less of women, and women think less of themselves.”
Bobby Fischer saying, “They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess”
Garry Kasparov: Women, by their nature, are not exceptional chess players.” and “All women are inferior to men.”
“An Open Letter to the Women of the World,” Eleanor Roosevelt at the U.N. (1946)
And “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” U.N. (1948) - Lucy Allebest
“To recognize the progress women made during the war and to participate actively in an effort to improve their standard of life in their countries, and participate in the work of reconstruction so that there will be qualified women ready to accept responsibility when new opportunities arise.”
And that didn’t happen - it went backward really hard, as we will see in The Feminine Mystique.
The Real Wealth of Nations, Riane Eisler (2007) - Dr. Julie Hanks
The etymology of the word “economics.” Dr. Eisler points out that “economics comes from oikonomia, which is Greek for managing the household - and a core component of households is caring and caregiving.” She says “Consider that without caring and caregiving none of us would be here. There would be no households, no workforce, no economy, nothing. Yet most current economic discussions don’t even mention caring and caregiving.”
Instagram user said “that’s stupid - who is going to pay me for cleaning my own bathroom? The government?” And I had the same question - how do we pay caregivers? We probably can’t.
But I think a good place to start is by
- Acknowledging care work as real work
- Treating it as human work, not women’s work. Dr. Julie Hanks calls them “adult tasks.”
- Divide up those adult tasks equitably/fairly among the adults, without preconceived notions about who does what, so that all adults can contribute to the household “economy” and be financially secure in the cash economy, and have the greatest chance at having both fulfilling relationships and a rewarding career.
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1949) (Part 1) - Fyza Parviz
It’s right there in the title - Man is first, woman is second. Man is primary, woman is secondary. Man is central, woman is marginal. Man is in the lead role, woman is there to support him in an auxiliary role.
Immanence and Transcendence.
Jeremy teaching it (and all the other women stuff he taught) and Joe noticing me crying
The Feminine Mystique, Betty Freidan (1963) - Marta Luna Wilde
“The problem that has no name.”
Dr. Abraham Mazlow - “capacities are needs.” People get sick if they’re not allowed to use their capacities.
Keep the Damned Women Out, Nancy Weiss Malkiel (2018) - Christie Skousen
Some men held up signs rating women’s bodies as they walked past. Some men wrote furious letters “If Princeton lets in women, then Princeton is dead.” Some men wrote “WOMEN GO HOME.” Some professors told women they didn’t belong there, told them they were inferior, put photos of naked women into their slide deck.
But some men fought for women and I’ll always remember the professor who stayed up late at night learning the women’s names and practicing saying “Ms.” so he wouldn’t accidentally say “Mister.” And the executives and administration who made the brave choice to let them in, and to say “Women and Men of Dartmouth” at graduation. It makes a difference.
Title VII (1964), and
Title VII: The Civil Rights Act finally disallowed discrimination on the basis of race. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and the “basis of sex” clause was thrown in to try to get the legislation to not pass… but it accidentally did!!
Then “Jane Crow and the Law”: Main takeaway: the story of Pauli Murray. She was force of nature and needs to be more widely known.
Civil Rights movement had a real problem with sexism. This is the topic of my master’s thesis: Frances Beal was in SNCC, the group I’m studying, which was far more egalitarian than anywhere else in the country, and those people are my heroes. But Frances Beal noticed the sexism and went on to become a radical critic of racism and patriarchy and all types of oppression. So Frances Beal is wielding a flamethrower in this essay. As she should.
Biggest takeaway was hearing Rayna’s real experiences.
“Living the Revolution,” Gloria Steinem (1970) - Amy Pal
“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to un-learn. We are filled with the Popular Wisdom of several centuries just past, and we are terrified to give it up. Patriotism means obedience, age means wisdom, woman means submission, black means inferior - these are preconceptions embedded so deeply in our thinking that we honestly may not know that they are there.”
The term “Ms.” - I just emailed the kids’ school about “Mr. and Mrs. Erik Allebest”
The ERA (Ongoing) - Emily Bell McCormick and Kelly Whited Jones
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
If you don’t believe patriarchy is real, just consider that a) women’s rights are not protected in the constitution in the first place, and b) the US has been trying to pass this amendment for nearly 100 years.
Sexual Politics, Kate Millett (1970) - Maxine Hanks
“It is interesting that many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning.”
“Radical” means from the root. That makes me a “radical” feminist, I guess.
Also, one thing I didn’t know from the book was the deliberate, methodical subjugation of women in the Nazi regime!
Our Bodies, Ourselves, The Boston Women’s Health Collective (1970) - Jessica Harder
The fact that this book was written by women, for women, because they weren’t getting answers from their doctors, didn’t understand their own bodies.
From “Women and Their Bodies” to “Women and Our Bodies” to “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”
Jessica was like “you’ll be in SoCal for Christmas - I’m taking you to that nude spa!”
Title IX (1972) - Whitney McPhie Griffith
So grateful to learn about Patsy T. Mink.
So many people said “girls don’t like sports.” Turns out, they do. Goes back to John Stuart Mill. Anyone who wants to try being a blacksmith, or a tennis player or a soccer player, should be able to do it to the best of their abilities, and without being constantly told they can’t do it (and like “A Room of One’s Own” being given inadequate, unequal funding for it)
And then sexual harassment and assault is “discrimination” because it makes it so hard to learn and to focus and to get the education you’re there to get.
Roe v. Wade (1973) Part 1 and 2 - Lindsay McPhie Hickok
My biggest takeaway is: everyone should read the original document. I feel that should be a prerequisite to have an opinion about it.
Next, my sister saying that she has seen women in all different situations regarding their reproduction, and she says “Women are strong. Women are brave. Women are moral. Women are capable. I trust women.” That’s what it comes down to. I trust women to make those choices that literally happen to their own bodies. And the truth is, just like men, some women aren’t particularly good or smart. They still must be the ones to make their own reproductive choices.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, Cherrie Moraga. (1981) - Jenn Lee Smith
Jenn’s story about being at BYU and being in the club “Building bridges across the Pacific.” Better than outright racism, like the Chinese exclusion act, or as long as we’re talking about BYU, some stuff that BY said about Black people. But anyway... it’s a step in the right direction to want to build a bridge instead of a wall. BUT the next step is to realize that those bridges are being built on the backs of the people who are already marginalized and bullied and excluded.
Hearing about white women from the POV of women of color (and straight women from the POV of queer women)
Also, the question “where are you from?”
Women, Race, and Class, Angela Davis (1981) - Brianna Jovahn
Story of Angela Davis growing up on Dynamite Hill, and that her family knew the little girls killed in the church bombing in Birmingham.
Shifting the point of view - what are the ancestral stories that Black women carry around with them, what does American history look like from a different POV
Brianna’s story of getting excluded from the club in LA with her friends. I cried over and over again with my friends of color, hearing their stories.
Ain’t I A Woman?, bell hooks (1981) - Manuela Zoninsein and Ashley Jackson Beal
This is a book I have on my nightstand, and I have read it over and over and over, especially as I write my thesis.
During enslavement, Black women were not spared from laboring right alongside Black men. Image from slavery - they would hollow out a bowl shape in the ground for when they would whip pregnant women.
So they worked in the fields alongside men, and then after Emancipation, they worked outside the home to help make ends meet, sometimes because no one would hire Black men. So women worked as nannies and cooks and seamstresses.
This creates this really difficult position for Black women: on one hand, they have always worked, they’re seen as strong. But on the other hand, they can be stereotyped as too strong - Moynihan report written by a white man in the 1960’s that laid the blame of the breakdown of Black families on women, because he said the Black community was a “matriarchy” and Black women emasculated their men, so it was Black women’s fault. Not the legacy of enslavement, not Jim Crow, not ongoing discrimination and hate crimes, not police brutality, not incarcerating Black men for petty offenses, taking them out of the home, not redlining so they’re ghettoized, not egregiously low investment in Black schools, not intergenerational trauma, NO. It’s that Black women ruined Black men. **Be careful with the word “matriarchy.”
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde (1983) - Suzette Duncan
The title: Sister, Outsider. The story on the subway
The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (1990) - Vanessa Loder
So cool to see authors in conversation with each other!! Betty Friedan established how in the 1950’s advertisers were - on purpose - capitalizing on women’s insecurities as homemakers - “buy this new washing machine! You have to have this brand of floor wax to have the shiniest floors!” And Naomi Wolf shows how advertisers then took this same tactic and applied it to women’s bodies and faces!! Making money off of women’s socially-fueled insecurities.
Story of Rachel’s friends
Gender Trouble, Judith Butler (1990) - Maxine Hanks
Butler is most famous for talking about how gender is a performance
Judith Butler’s intersex uncle being institutionalized/incarcerated!
Beauvoir said gender was constructed. Butler says even biological sex is constructed! (“Gonads” on RadioLap shows how.) But sex isn’t socially constructed like gender is.
Maxine Hanks’ story about the professors’ debate: “What difference does one little flap of skin make?” “When I’m on the delivery table and my baby is crowing, it makes a hell of a lot of difference!”
People have different bodies and different brain chemicals and different life experience, and to some it doesn’t make a difference and to some it makes a big difference. There is still a lot we don’t know; be nice to each other.
WomanSpirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion (1979 & 1992) and Weaving the Visions (1989) - Maxine Hanks
Women have been betrayed by and excluded from religion. (Pretty much every religion)
Feminists in the 70’s and 80’s were leaving religion en masse
These authors said “religion is important.” So we can stay and say “I’m adding my voice.” Some will do that by reforming what is there (remodel the house), some want to take the house down jackhammer out the foundation. So reform vs. revolution. You see both approaches. And then in Weaving the Visions, reclaiming ancient practices of our ancestors.
The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Paula Gunn Allen. (1992) - Sherrie Crawford
The sin that it is to cut people off from their ancestors and their posterity. The sacred hoop of mother to daughter passing down stories was broken by European colonizers. Sherrie didn’t even know who her ancestors were. And a lot of the history we learn about them - even the Thanksgiving story - is from the point of view of the oppressor. “To the victor go the spoils” and the right to write the history books. Gutted.
**Please read more indigenous people’s stories. It will make you sad - you’ll see Thanksgiving differently and your pioneer ancestors differently and the land your house is built on differently, and maybe even the way you vacation differently, but be an informed adult and wake up. And then look up ways to help and support indigenous people.
“Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women,” (1993) - Elena and Abby Gonzalez
The fact that the UN took until 1993 to even address this issue!
“Violence against women” needs to be changed to “men who commit violence”
The courage and resilience of Elena and Abby
The Gender Knot, Allan Johnson (1997) - Kasey Cruz
Most men in patriarchies are not powerful individuals and spend their days doing what other men tell them to do whether they want to or not. At the same time, every man’s standing in relation to women is enhanced by the male monopoly over authority in patriarchal societies.
Also, Kasey’s family stories from the Cherokee Nation and from Guam. So interesting!
LGBTQ History and rights: A four-part series - Matthew Nelson
My essay: I told Matthew that story four years ago and he told me to write it, and I tried and tried but never could. I’m so glad I finally did it.
Episode 52: Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)
“By virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives.
Episode 53: Critiquing the Patriarchal Script for Life: The Trouble with Normal, Michael Warner (1999)
Gay people are still made to feel that something is wrong with them. Wanting to assimilate into patriarchal norms, always trying to prove “I’m just like you! I’m normal! I just want to live a consumerist life in the suburbs and drive a minivan!” is still insulting, and often not true, and straight people have a lot to learn from questioning those values.
Episode 54: Further critiques: No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Lee Edelman (2004) and Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity José Estaban Muñoz (2009)
Heteronormative temporality. Now that I know that term I keep noticing people assuming that everyone is straight, and wants to go to prom with the opposite sex and get married to the opposite sex and have biological kids.
Having to hide, pretend you don’t exist, not hold your partner’s hand in public, not produce your Art, be marginalized and hidden “for the children.” A bunch of adults never being able to just be free and who they are, for the endless succession of children whose parents don’t want them to know that queer people to exist (or that sex exists, honestly). Never thought about it that way.
*Just knowing some of the history, like Stonewall, and the AIDS epidemic. Thank you, Matthew.
Feminism Is For Everybody, bell hooks (2000) Gina Haney
“When contemporary feminist movement first began there was a fierce anti-male faction. ...Individual women came from [abusive] relationships angry. And they used that anger as a catalyst for women’s liberation. As the movement progressed, as feminist thinking advanced, enlightened feminist activists saw that men were not the problem, that the problem was patriarchy.”
Men need to be shown what an alternative masculinity (that isn’t based on the “dominator” model) might look like.
Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay (2014) - Setareh Greenwood
Rape jokes aren’t funny. Blurred Lines, misogynistic rap songs, even Led Zeppelin. “Animals” by Maroon Five. Tell story of “Natalie” at High Fitness.
Setareh: When people say “well you should feel lucky you don’t have it as bad as people in Iran.” What does that help? Are they doing anything to help women and queer folks in Iran? No. Just keeps people from doing good where they are.
Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit (2014) - Malia Morris
“That’s her book.” The bigotry of lowered expectations. We do it to people of color, we do it to women, we do it to men about caretaking.
Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter (2015) - Neylan McBaine
Debate between Sandberg and Slaughter. Lean In requires women to work their butts off and never see their kids. Women still can’t have it all - not because there’s something wrong with women, but because our society doesn’t support families the way other developed nations do, and because women and men are both socialized to assume that women will assume a disproportionate portion of care work and domestic labor. Everybody needs a reboot to see
Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein (2016) - Natasha Helfer
Girls and women who are otherwise super empowered and confident allow themselves to be used in the bedroom.
“Don’t you think there’s a difference between slutty because you’re unempowered and slutty because you’re empowered?” “Sure. How do you know the difference?”
Men need to be aware of how girls and women are taught to please. The Morning Show. “I didn’t rape anybody!” The freeze response.
Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, Angela Saini (2017) - Chantal Dolan
Are women’s brains different from men’s brains? Yes. SUPER IMPORTANT caveats:
- It’s barely perceivable
- We still don’t know what’s nature and what’s nurture: Stanford study.
- The difference within the group is way bigger than the difference between the groups, i.e., if you’re measuring something like spatial reasoning, the range of women is much wider than difference between average women and average men
A lot of the ideas we think of as “givens” re: gender are going to turn out to be just as wrong 50 years from now as the ideas people had of gender 50 years ago. Have some science-based humility and human compassion and STOP TELLING PEOPLE WHAT THEY ARE GOOD AT AND BAD AT BASED ON THEIR GENDER.
Women and Power, Mary Beard (2018) - Louisa Gillett
Telemachus telling his mother Penelope to stop talking, because he is a man and so it is his right to speak. Right of passage of Telemachus - he was her child, but now that he is a man he presides over her. She does it! She shrinks and goes to her room. I have seen that modeled for me over and over and over again in my life, and reflecting with Louisa on the ways I have also done that helped me resolve to never ever do that again.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez (2018) - Barbie Harper
Some of our texts have claimed “men and women are not different!!” This one is all about the ways that they are different, and that not accounting for those differences harms women.
Biggest ones: heart attack symptoms, crash test dummies, toxins. (“There’s tons of data about health risks for coal miners; almost none for health risks for house cleaners.”)
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda Gates (2019) - Sara Abbasi
We should have humility - America is not the center of the universe.
We should have gratitude - America doesn’t live up to its stated ideals and has a long way to go, but we have soooo much to be grateful for, especially as women.
Definition of a feminist: “Being a feminist means believing that every woman should be able to use her voice and pursue her potential, and that women and men should all work together to take down the barriers and end the biases that still hold women back.”
For the Love of Men, Liz Plank (2019) - Jenny DeGraaff
“From Toxic to a More Mindful Masculinity.” The version of masculinity that is toxic harms boys and men. It’s like saying “polluted air.” It’s not saying that all air is polluted, it’s saying that some air is unfortunately polluted. And of course the toxic version of masculinity - the “dominator” masculinity hurts everyone else, including all the other boys. That’s the way patriarchy works. A few dominators at the top hurt everyone else, including all the other boys and men.
Example of West Side Story: “I’ve known you since you were little boys, and you have become rapists.” And Chino - such a gentle man - ending up in a gang where he kills someone. Why do some little boys become rapists and murderers?
When people say “patriarchy isn’t real anymore because look at the way all these men are hurting!” don’t argue with them. What they are saying is true. Men are hurting. But most likely, it’s actually patriarchy that’s hurting them too! This is such good news - we can be on the same team.
Untamed, by Glennon Doyle (2020) - Lane Anderson
The touch tree. When you get lost, come back and center on your own intuition, your own inner wisdom, inner knowing. All the experiences we’ve had, all the wisdom we’ve gathered, make a rich soil for our tree’s roots. No other person or institution should be your touch tree.
Unwell Women:Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World, by Elinor Cleghorn (2021) - Cassy Christianson
All women’s ailments are blamed on the uterus, and without even understanding how the uterus worked!! Midwives were often accused of witchcraft when something went wrong.
The torture of enslaved women - doctors practicing on Black women without anesthesia for procedures they would perform on white women with anesthesia.
Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés (1989) - Bergen Hyde
When I was little I kept my children’s Book of Mormon in a fancy, lacy pillowcase, and I would wrap it up so reverently. We were told to “liken the scriptures unto ourselves” and to be like the heroes in scripture. What if I had grown up in a world where my treasured creation story had a woman participating in creating the world? What if I grew up hearing a cautionary tale about a bunch of girls and women being told not to do investigating, but the moral is “be a seeker! Look in the dark, difficult places! Grow up! Be an adult woman who is not afraid of the scary stuff!” Or Vasalissa the wise who brings back fire from the old crone, or a cautionary tale about a little girl who gets separated from her true, natural self. Sunday school lessons about how to liken those stories to myself and grow into a strong adult.
This new Bible doesn’t need to replace the old Bible - I love the Good Samaritan and the Sermon on the Mount. But I needed these new stories too.
Questions from listeners
- How have you changed since starting the podcast?
*I’m not scared anymore. I have answers to my questions. None of the crappy stuff we hear is new, and people have been responding to it for centuries. I see the Matrix now.
*I’m not alone anymore. I am in the company of all these authors and seekers and I sometimes feel them with me. Some of them were so much more alone than I am. (See myself)
* I know so much more about the experiences of women of color and LGBTQ+ people. Thanks to reading partners and to authors. (See others)
- How has it changed your relationships?
*I have a better relationship with my body.
*I have a better relationship with my inner knowing
*I have such a better relationship with myself. I had a setback in an area of my life that I’ve been working on and I started to get discouraged and thought “oh no, am I backsliding?” and I woke up the next morning and felt this inner voice say “YOU’RE DOING GREAT. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU’RE DOING WITH YOUR ONE SHORT LIFE. KEEP GOING.” It was this powerful goddess voice - my own voice. I am so much stronger now.
*Relationship with you: so much more honest and real now.
*It’s given me so much more compassion. There are a couple of women who have really hurt me by lashing out - reading books from the time period before and during when they grew up has helped me see how thwarted their lives were from patriarchal restrictions. It’s all they know, so they defend it.
Same with men - I used to see them as “above” me, “presiding” over me. Now I see them simply as fellow travelers on this earth. If a man were to lose his temper at me now, I would recognize his emotional stuntedness, “oh, you probably think you’re supposed to control me, and when you can’t, you get enraged. Bummer.” If a man were to corner me at an event and tell me how wrong I was and correct me I would say “I sense that you think that you have the answers to this. You may know more than me on lots of topics because you have studied them a lot, but in this topic, I have a list of books I’d like you to read before we have this conversation.”
- What do you suggest as starting points to effect change? It’s hard/overwhelming to learn everything and not know what to do to make a difference moving forward.
Concentric circles of influence. Start with inner work. Then spouse. Family. Then community.
Think of things that come up often in your life. Is that work? Church? Think of an
, prepare something to say, then speak up and say something. Say it with love and respect and dignity, and also firmness and confidence. SPEAK UP. If people never insist on change, surprise! Nothing will ever change.
Don’t let yourself be silenced - think of Women and Power. Think of Dame Mary Beard being such a lovely, kind, compassionate person and also not holding back her brilliance and making herself small, and saying she can look any man in the eye about demanding equal rights and equal representation.
Also, legislation. Do your research on Roe v. Wade. Read the history about the ERA when it was first introduced in 1921. Do research on childcare policy in our country
- How to approach these topics with men - getting them to take the issues seriously vs. checking out mentally, feeling threatened, and or being dismissed or discounted as an “angry feminist”
-“I feel” statements
- What are some frequent challenges you hear from men, and how do you answer them in a way that they will hear?
Whatever the challenge is, I try to get underneath to patriarchal foundations. For example, I recently had a discussion with a man of my dad’s generation about clothing modesty requirements in the LDS church, which are similar to other very conserative religions.
-I could get into an argument about whether the actual requirements are legitimate - are tank tops or two-piece swimsuits for girls “immodest?”
-Or I could go deeper: He argued that boys have modesty requirements too, so it’s completely fair. And I said “but they impact boys inequitably - they are much more restrictive to girls because they are so different from traditional girls clothing - how hard is it for a boy to find suitable clothing for a school dance vs. how hard is it for a girl? How much restriction does it cause for boys’ swimsuits or boys’ sports uniforms, vs. for girls? It’s extremely different.
-But deepest of all is this: show me a picture of the group of people who is making the decisions about girls and women’s clothing. I will not participate in a system where it’s a group of all men making decisions for everyone else.
In this case, it is similar to unjust racial systems, like Pauli Murray “Jane Crow and the Law.” Jim Crow laws were unjust at their foundations because it is not a viable system for white people to make rules for Black people, even if they do make them “equal.” They almost never do make them truly equal anyway, but even if they did, the fact that it’s a group of white men deciding what schools people can go to, and what restaurants and what drinking fountains… just NO. Unjust foundations. I wouldn’t buy into a system like that in the workplace or government; I will not be buying into it anywhere.
Abigail Adams: “We will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” It actually doesn’t matter whether we like the legislation they come up with or not.
Talking about religions, if a man says “there are women in those meetings” ask if the men are structurally compelled to count their opinions as votes. If they’re not, then suggest men read “The Fundamental Principle of a Republic” by Anna Howard Shaw. The exact same arguments were used against women’s suffrage that are being used now in religions who deny women voting power in deciding policy.
Talking about the secular world, men very often say “women don’t want to be in those meetings; they have full and free access already and they choose not to go into politics/business because women don’t want leadership” I might refer them to the historical timeline. It’s going to take a lot longer to see what women are actually capable of and what we actually want, since things were a certain way for sooooo long and it takes a long time to change. Plus, it’s not like we’ve arrived at a place where everyone can make all the choices as easily as straight white men can. We still need legislation to make it possible for mothers to even consider staying in their careers once they have kids. We still need religions to stop indoctrinating girls to suppress all their own talents and desires and function as 100% facilitators of other people’s lives. So that’s actually a ridiculous claim.
Which leads us to…
- Your thoughts on Jordan Peterson and his writings.
I agree with Jordan Peterson on a lot of things: Take charge of your own life, identify what you want out of life and then make a plan and work toward it - be honest, stand up straight, etc.
He says women have no reason to complain about anything - sexism ended 10 years ago. On what planet???
And he perpetuates the sexism himself! He says men have always been in charge because men are more competent.
His book 12 Rules for Life is subtitled an Antidote to Chaos. He is a scholar of archetypes - he knows full well that the Greeks and others saw “order” as masculine and “chaos” is feminine. And he leans into that. Slide with a dragon on it. He says “women may not like it, but that’s the way it is.”
The association of the feminine with chaos is A) not true in my life, B) not true in anyone’s lives - sometimes women behave in chaotic ways, sometimes men do. It’s not because they’re women. C) this is a misogynistic belief that perpetuates harmful actions against women.
He identifies a problem of men who are sexually frustrated and they take out their anger on women because no woman has chosen them as their sexual partner. I agree that the sadness of these men is real and we should think about them and take that pain seriously. Peterson then says that INCELs are justified and it would make sense to have “enforced monogamy,” which means women should be married off to men against their will so that no man is lacking a sexual partner. That’s the solution.
He read The Feminine Mystique and said “quit whining and get a damn job. ” He shows absolutely no awareness of the social conditioning and pressure girls have to not work outside the home. Especially in conservative religious contexts, which is the context of a ton of his followers.
He says white privilege doesn’t exist.
He says he “loathes” the language of the sexual spectrum; refuses to use people’s preferred pronouns.
He has no humor and no empathy and no compassionate curiosity about what other people might be experiencing.
So he might be right about some things, but I see him doing terrible, terrible damage to me and to people I love. He punches down, and I can’t respect someone who does that.
- How to be a good parent to girls
-Don’t praise their looks or their clothes; ask them questions about what they think about things and what they love to do, and when you ask about their future ask them about marriage and parenthood as often as you ask your boys about marriage and parenthood -“West Cure” not “Rest Cure.” Girls can do hard things. Help them build fortitude and resilience
-Listen and be a safe place
- How to be a good parent to boys
-Be tender, help them develop a rich vocabulary to express their feelings so they can work through them in a healthy way
-Teach them how to be antisexist. Stand up in the locker room, in the workplace, say “that’s not funny.”
-Listen, be a safe place
- What have you learned from the podcast, and how would you help other men get over their resistance to listening to it?
- How to effect big change (without sounding bitter or angry or pushy). I can feel others shutting down when I start the conversation… and I am not pushy.
I wonder if one good tactic would be to ask a question. “I sense that you’re uncomfortable with this topic.”
- One woman said “this is women speaking about men in the exact same way that men have historically spoken about women.” Thoughts?
Agree that I want to be careful
I would LOVE men to be talking about this more!! (but typically they don’t engage, or when they do, it’s hard)
False equivalency of “in the exact way men always have done to women” Sexism = Bias + power. Look at the timeline. Women aren’t even capable of doing to men what men have always done to women.
- “When women are critical of men, they’re just doing exactly the same thing men have always done to women.”
On an individual level, that can be true. Some women do bully men. But talk about “reverse sexism” and how that’s impossible
- How can your listeners help you share the importance of this work with others?
Share, post, mention it to family and friends, write a review on Apple podcasts. We’re so lucky we don’t need donations - our family is funding the books, microphones, and two employees. So instead of a donation, just spread the word!
- What are some other books you recommend?
Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. More Than a Body, by Dr. Lindsay and Lexi Kite.
A few things I forgot to mention in this interview:
Dates for all the books!
I wish I had remembered to use Judith Butler’s they/them pronouns. Butler is fine with she/her as well, but I would have liked to use they/them.
I was exhausted by the end, and forgot to thank some people. Here is the whole list:
Every single reading partner. Especially several of you who have very full lives and unbelievably tight schedules. Thank you for your generosity.
Brianna Jovahn, for editing every single episode, and for being a support and friend.
Lindsay Allebest, for running our social media, and for offering valuable feedback as a Gen Z and a History major
Stanford University’s MLA program. Dr. Linda Paulson, in her roles both as dean and professor, was a mentor whose belief in me - especially as a writer - made a world of difference. Dr. Jeremy Sabol, whose lectures on Beauvoir, Woolf, and a feminist aspect of Shelley’s Frankenstein lit my path. His support of my Neitzsche essay (even though it was a mess) and encouragement of my extracurricular writing were life-changing. Anne Firth Murray, whose class on International Women’s Health and Human Rights set my course without me knowing it at the time. Dr. Beverly Allen, whose class on the Sacred Feminine introduced me to Gimbutas and Eisler and the sacred triangle. Dr. Denise Gigante, who encouraged me to paint and write poetry for my final, which led to one of the most profound artistic experiences of my life. Dr. Charlie Junkermann, whose enthusiasm about my paper on the women of Concord led to a deep dive in American women’s history. Dr. James Campbell, for his continuing mentorship as I write about women in the Civil Rights Movement, and whose refiner’s fire of Google doc comments is making me a better writer. And most of all, Dr. Bruce Elliott, who gave me confidence at the very beginning of my journey and continues to check in to make sure my feet are still finding their next steps. Hearing “I have four kids too!” and “I went back to grad school late too” as we walked into your Continuing Studies class made all the difference for me.
Christie, for checking in to make sure I was writing 12 years ago. Without you I would not have gone to grad school and I would not be doing what I’m doing.
My mom, for teaching me how to read when I was 3. My dad, for teaching me obscure vocabulary words and asking me interesting questions to challenge my thinking.
My siblings, for being my band of buddies from cradle to grave.
And most of all, my family. Erik said “YES. DO IT!!!” from the very first moment and supports the project financially and in every other way. And my kids, whose “You can do it, Mom!” and dogpiles on top of me when I flop on the floor exhausted keep me going and are one of the great joys of my life.