“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had ..spoken …. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.... What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language."
I began to ask each time: "What's the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?" Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, "disappeared" or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.
Next time, ask: What's the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends, and realize you don't miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. …And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
― Audre Lorde
Welcome to Season 2 of Breaking Down Patriarchy! I’m Amy McPhie Allebest. During Season 1 of this podcast, we laid the groundwork for understanding Patriarchal systems and how they’ve functioned in Western Civilization, mostly focused on Europe and the United States. And we read Gerda Lerner’s observations that for millennia, small groups of men were recording what they called “History,” but this record was really only the stories of men, by men, about men, for men. Small, exclusive groups of men also devised all of humanity’s laws and religions, politics, sciences, arts, and they kept for themselves all roles of leadership over every field of human endeavor, including presiding over the home. In the meantime, Lerner says,
“Women’s creations sank soundlessly into the sea, leaving barely a ripple, and succeeding generations of women were left to cover the same ground others had already covered before them.” (The Creation of Feminist Consciousness)
For all of recorded history Patriarchal systems continued nearly uncontested, passing along their ideology from generation to generation. It has only been within the very recent past that people have begun to speak up and change things.
And so much has changed in recent years. But much is left to be done - in many realms of society patriarchal systems remain the default, and as Audre Lorde points out, it’s hard to speak against the status quo. It is devastating to be yelled at by a family member, to be frozen out of a social group, to be interrupted and put down and dismissed by strangers and by family and friends. But this is the way the world changes. This is the only way the world has ever changed. It takes individual people being brave enough to tell their stories, to speak their truth, to say “this system that we’re all perpetuating and defending - it harmed me. It harms others. We need to do better.” Whether it’s sexism or racism or homophobia or classism or ableism or ageism… the more people speak the truth, the faster things will change for the better. And conversely, if we remain silent, as Audre Lorde says, “The tyrannies [we] swallow day by day …[will cause us to] sicken and die of them, still in silence.” These silences are poison to us, and they also allow injustice to continue, and thus we participate in passing them onto the next generation.
So Season 2 is about speaking. It’s about stories. In contrast to Season 1, which mostly followed a chronological timeline and was anchored in academic texts and legislation, Season 2 will feature a wide variety of topics, all of them demonstrating aspects of Patriarchy that the speakers have witnessed in their own lives. We’ll hear stories of women on construction sites, in engineering fields, in war zones, in chess tournaments, and marching in the streets. We’ll learn about the divine feminine and sacred rage, fashion and feminism in Saudi Arabia, the fight for equality in Iceland, 5th-century Irish saints, and we’ll even go behind the scenes in Hollywood boardrooms. We’ll listen to coming-of-age struggles and feminist awakenings, to poetry and to science, to deeply personal confessions and astonishing research and dozens upon dozens of unique voices - men, women, and nonbinary voices - some well-known, some not well-known, some anonymous, all of whom have spoken their truth bravely, and have come together to help us create this incredible new season.
Our first speaker, next week, is a woman named Abby. She is an active-duty marine and she will discuss the daily challenges and triumphs of women in one of our nation’s most patriarchal institutions. The following week we will hear from Dr. Lindsay Kite of Beauty Redefined, who is on the front lines leading the charge against harmful beauty standards. From there we’ll continue our season of incredible stories, (pause) and to give you taste of what’s to come, we’ll fade out with a sample of a few of this Season’s brave voices, which will not “sink silently into the sea,” like so many of our foremothers’ voices, but will instead impact all of our lives as we learn from their experiences how to break down the patriarchy in our minds, in our homes, and in our society’s institutions. Listen all year to these and many other voices, on BDP.