The Role Patriarchy Plays in Our Contemporary World Situation
By Leslene della-Madre
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For the last 5000 years the global rule of men, or patriarchy, has wreaked havoc and destructive chaos on earth and all her children. This grievous fact is hardly noticed by anyone in our species other than those who are victimized by it-women and children. And even then, those who suffer at the hands of male rule are often blamed for that which is inflicted upon them. We very often hear about injustices of racism, oppression, and classism. While these are certainly cultural and social priority issues, we almost never hear of the injustices of sexism, from which all other "isms" spring, and the misogynist foundations of patriarchal structure and hierarchy that create the unspeakably abusive state of dominance, or power-over. The paradigm of power-over affects every aspect of our being-spiritual, mental, emotional, psychic, biological, psychological, environmental and cultural. This topic is immense, and it is beyond the scope of this article to explore all the effects of patriarchy on our contemporary world situation. I will therefore touch on a few salient points to hopefully inspire further inquiry.

From this writer's point of view, patriarchy is the root of the world's problems-i.e., war, colonization, rape, sexism, racism, destruction of the environment, so-called "domestic" violence, terrorism, pornography, sexual slavery, kids killing kids, fascism, religious fanaticism, and homophobia, to name a few. I am not afraid to say that while it may sound simplistic that I state patriarchy as the problem, it is simply the problem. According to pioneer authors in feminist spirituality and women's culture, Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, patriarchy is disconnection from cosmic oneness. Male rule without the values of female wisdom is completely and unequivocally insane. It can't get much more simple than that.

Because women birth all life, it only follows that maternal values would maintain and nurture the community, which they did in matrifocaled cultures around the world for millennia, and still do in some existing matriarchates, as in the cultures of the Mosuo in China, the Minangkabau in Sumatra and the Berber in Tunisia. Without this very basic structure for life to thrive, destructive chaos and an ever-growing narcissism reign, which is what we experience in patriarchy in many forms. I have named the cold, isolated and desperate mind-set that has emerged from this condition, the patriarchal mind-set, or "pms."

Citing the amazing Devi-Mahatmya, the epic myth depicting awesome female power from 400 CE India, author Ajrit Mookerjee writes, " It is said that Kali sprang forth from the brow of the Great Goddess Durga to annihilate demonic male power." It is indeed time now for demonic male power to be subdued once again. In the myth, the gods alone could not tame the out-of-control asuras or demons, the embodiment of control and domination. The gods had to summon the Goddess, the Great Mother Herself, in the form of Durga, whose name means "Beyond Reach." The asuras were "man-beasts", mighty in their force, multiplying at an electrifying rate, quite like what we see happening in the world today. Our own current government grows more fascist everyday. Author and activist Arundhati Roy speaks of the Nazi-based fascist philosophy sweeping India. Our environment is under constant assault; the connection between the war against women and the war against the environment goes virtually unnoticed by those too entitled to pay attention. Any war currently being waged on the planet is a war against women. The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Israel I have spent time with agree. These out-of-control demonic forces are first engendered in a white male elite whose hunger knows no bounds, giving permission for all men to follow. Pms has colonized wherever and whatever, including women's bodies (ever wonder how women got stuck with the label "pms"?), resulting in what I refer to in shamanic terms as the collective soul loss of the sacred female. This myth is medicine for our times. It is clear the Goddess was summoned because she alone had the power to subdue the demons. Mookerjit states, "We have suffered the consequences of unbalanced power for long enough. Our world cannot any longer tolerate the disruption and destruction brought about by demonic force. In the present Kali Age, Kali is the answer, and she will have to annihilate again in order to reveal the truth of things, which is her mission, and to restore to our natures the divine feminine spirituality which we have lost." In shamanic terms I call this restoration "soul retrieval" of the sacred feminine. (Refer to my presentation "Soul Loss of the Sacred Feminine," available on tape from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, under the name Leslene McIntyre). I feel this very book is a collective effort in summoning the Goddess, for if we do not, there is little hope for the survival of our species. Gaia herself will cleanse and heal in the way she needs to do so. She does not need humans to survive. I feel her patience is wearing thin.

It is profoundly significant that human beings on this planet have lived longer in peace than we have in war, with the veneration of a female divinity at the center of life. Corroborating the work of Sjoo and More, cultural historian Lucia Birnbaum shows in her research that the original deity of our species was a dark woman/mother at the center of life-originating in Africa-- whose values include justice with compassion, equality and transformation. It is her theory that the African diaspora seeded the world with the values of the dark mother, who is also the earth and cosmos (see my article The Luminous Dark Mother in AWe, www.awakenedwoman.com). Based on her research including that of geneticists Birnbaum tells us that there is indeed only one race-African.

Like currents of water rippling out from the toss of a stone, the waves of patriarchal horror have spread out across the earth, only in tsunami proportions. Documenting what she refers to as the Kurgan invasions, the late eminent archeologist, linguist, archeomythologist and scientist, Marija Gimbutas informs us that some 5000 years ago, peoples from the steppes region of the Black Sea descended on the peaceful and apparent egalitarian and no doubt, matrifocaled cultures, of Old Europe, in three different waves of conquest, spreading out over several thousand years. These Kurgans were patriarchal in nature-why, no one seems to know exactly, as they were certainly part of the original African diaspora. Somewhere along the way, the focus of deity changed from mother to father, and the thundering sky god was born, lightening bolt in hand, who for some reason, had a penchant to conquer, dismember and destroy the mother, usurping her myths and co-opting her magic, thereby creating very strange myths of male birth, i.e., a man giving birth to a woman from his rib (Adam) and a man giving birth to a daughter from his forehead (Zeus). With these kinds of myths imprinting the minds of the conquered, a terrible and distorted reality emerged in which the male sky god became the almighty ruler over and his place of abode was somewhere else outside of his creation. This karmic snowball formed into a hierarchical paradigm with males at the top and all "others" on the bottom. In Europe the eventual formation of the church, whose "fathers" seethed in a deep-seated hatred of the Great Mother and Her powers to give life, created one of the most horrific holocausts of our time which goes virtually unnamed in history-that of the witch burnings and inquisition from 1300 to 1700, in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women died at the hands of a male elite in the name of "god." All of the male-dominated religions created by pms, old and new, are based on the same deep-seated hatred at their twisted patriarchal core.

This is one of the most devastating effects of patriarchy on our world situation-male religious persecution and oppression, and male privilege and entitlement that accompany such grandiosity. Because there is a multitudinous number of examples of the patriarchal overthrow and usurpation of the Great Mother the world over, I will not go into detail, as the subject is too lengthy for the purposes of this article. In giving only a few examples, the reader will be able to gain a sense of the immensity of the vast sweep of this pms across the globe and the changes in human evolution (though some refer to it as "devolution") it effected.

In Christianity, the Mother Goddess was relegated to either virgin or whore, modeling for women the only choices for their existence sanctioned and defined by the god-fathers. (Virgin in this sense is associated with chastity. It has since been reclaimed by such writers as Esther Harding and Nor Hall to mean "she who is whole unto or herself" and "belonging to no man."). The Islamic name "Allah" was a late Islamic masculinization of the Arabian Goddess "Al-Lat" or "Al-llat", primal lunar deity of Arabia . Along with Al-Uzza and Menat, they formed together the great religious trinity of the ancient Arabians. It is said that Mohammed once revered the desert goddess of the morning star, Al-Uzza, whose name means "the mighty" or "the strongest", until he turned on her and destroyed her sanctuary of acacia trees south of Mecca. The Brahmans assigned the attributes of the great dark mother, Kali Ma of India, the Hindu Triple Goddess of creation, preservation and destruction, to the male deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Current accepted teachings of Buddhism are made up of deeper layers of wisdom from such goddesses as the Taoist Queen Mother of the West, whose present acceptable patriarchal form is probably the male buddha, Amitabha. There is also considerable evidence suggesting the well-known and highly venerated male deity of Tibet, Chenrezeg, was originally female. The Djanggawo creation myth of the Australian Aborigines tells how the men stole the sacred objects of the women. There are numerous stories and myths of diverse peoples from around the world, such as the Komo from Guinea, the Kalabari of Nigeria, the Pygmies from Africa and the Amazon tribes from South America, all telling the same story of men usurping the power of women by stealing their sacred objects such as ceremonial masks or their sacred musical instruments; in some places women are punished by death if they even attempt to play their instruments. In these few examples, it is obvious the subjugation of women, women's culture and wisdom in the name of religion is a world-wide patriarchal phenomenon. The effects of this degradation are unspeakable.

When women are hated and denigrated, all life is hated and denigrated. This simple truth seems to be a very difficult one for most to grasp. When woman is not allowed to soothe the soul of humanity with her songs and rhythms, the tribe and community break down. The denial of the mother by pms over time has eroded an authentic sense of the sacred, especially for inhabitants of Euro-Western culture. Unfortunately, patriarchal Euro-Western culture is spreading its lies around the world: for instance, the promise of freedom through consumerism and narcissistic consumption and capitalist globalization. According to Johanna Brenner, author of Women and the Politics of Class, global capitalism is undermining older forms of male dominance while at the same time making women's life conditions more difficult. She writes, "women and children, even more than men, are victimized by global capitalist restructuring. Economic insecurity and impoverishment, exposure to toxics, degradation of water, high infant and maternal mortality rates, forced migration, increased hours spent in paid and unpaid work are only some of the indicators of women's burdens worldwide."

Because of the inequities of an inherently flawed paradigm and because of the world-wide treatment of women as second-class citizens, any shifts in the social order moving in the direction to help women are often obstructed by male-dominated agendas. For example, advances made for women in Roe vs. Wade are now being reversed because men continue to assume it is their inherent right to govern women's bodies and sexuality. This constant struggle over who has the power to govern women's bodies, which is ludicrous to be a question at all, comes from the deep-seated fear, hatred and jealousy of women's power to give life-the very same thing for which women were persecuted and burned at the stake centuries ago, the embers of those fires still burning in our collective cellular memory. Brenner points out, "The major forces contesting feminism, for example, within development policy circles and the international conferences through which the United Nations attempts to regulate development policy are not those of the new world economic order, but organizations representing groups threatened by the loss of older forms of patriarchal political and economic power: Islamic governments, conservative Muslim non-governmental organizations, the Vatican and Catholic organizations, the Protestant evangelicals, and the International Right to Life Committee.

The disconnection from the sacred natural order and the changes in definitions of family from matriarchal to patriarchal ("Matriarchal" does not denote the opposite of patriarchy. It is not a system of power-over, but rather power-with) have been some of the most devastating effects of pms on humankind's ability to survive and thrive as a cooperative, harmonious species, living as part of nature. Instead, patriarchy sees and treats the living earth as a machine -something to be narcissistically used by pms and discarded without care. The change from the Mother-Goddess to the Father-God in our human journey upon this earth sounds a death knell that can be heard loud and clear. One way in which this sound reverberates is through the denial of our collective need for a mother. Patriarchy denies such a need, instead stuffing down our throats that "God" is good, male, and of the sky, while woman is evil "Eve", dark, bloody and of the earth. The Father-God is seen as the mothering presence we must all cater to in fear, or we will suffer the consequences of his wrath. No mother in her right mind would raise her children under that threat of fear and punishment. As a mother, I know. I have four children. The mother-child bond of love stands alone. There is nothing stronger. However, the divisive reality denotes women as the undesirable half of the dualistic equation. It is inherent in this view that women, then, are to be despised, as are our bodies, blood and milk-all the true necessities for life to sustain itself. This hatred attempts to break the mother-child bond, which, in the long run, it cannot do. However, in the short run, we are seeing dire consequences from the cold-hearted attempt at its disruption.

One of these consequences is that young males in patriarchy go uninitiated and grow into raging, lost men, acting out their learned disdain for life and women. Exposed to pornography at exceedingly early ages, boys internalize the socially sanctioned "boys will be boys" values of domination. They learn that to be a "man", they must objectify women and see them as sex objects to be used as soon as they are old enough to use one. The psychic, emotional and mental confusion a boy suffers from this is exacerbated by the fact that he lives with his mother, and perhaps a sister, both of whom he is learning to hate and disrespect on a daily basis, not only through the exposure to pornographic magazines, but also by exposure to the dehumanization of women through television, misogynist music, violent and "sexy" video games and movies, as well as the internet. There are no sacred rituals in this wasteland of a culture to support young males growing into manhood to give them a sense of the sacred, their relationship to it and how to nurture themselves in a loving way. They then turn on the mother, and isolate themselves in a terrible imprisonment of the father, whose steel bars tightly prevent the fierce softness of the mother to enter. Because the maternal values of love, justice, compassion and equality, to name a few, are not allowed, boys are encouraged to become hard and rigid, and to push down their sensitivity and tears. There is only one outcome from this-the rising of the out-of-control demonic male ego. And there is only one solution-the summoning of the Mother to subdue it. Imagine how our culture would change if boys were taught that their primary relationship in life is to the Mother Earth, as some Australian Aboriginal tribes teach their boys. Spiritual male traditions in Aboriginal culture center on men's initiation into the knowledge of the feminine principle. According to author Robert Lawlor who lived among the Aborigines for fourteen years, after a man has achieved his high degrees, he is then given an opportunity to enter what is referred to as "women's law," which is considered to be the "highest law." Lawlor observed that Aboriginal culture is based on the earth Mother, the Universal Feminine, and the ground on which men enact their sacred rituals is referred to as "Mother." Lawlor also reports that it is only recently that women have been recognized as being spiritually "higher" than men in Aboriginal society. I do not believe this is a reference to a hierarchical reality. I believe it to be a recognition that women are the older race and are therefore the elders of humanity.

Such an elder from a different part of the world is Canadian-born author Louise Goueffic. As an independent scholar she studied English and other Indo-European languages for over thirty years. In her groundbreaking and courageous book, thirty years in the making, Breaking the Patriarchal Code, for which she received personal threats, Goueffic looks at the gender biases in our language and has created new ways to change them. In studying Goueffic's work, I was stunned to experience, in my bones, the effects of patriarchy on language-English, indeed, is a patriarchal code of a subtle hidden agenda promoting "the idea of male dominance, violence, political gain and control" Goueffic examined over 10,000 words invented by men to describe the world. "She points out the absurdity of trying to describe the female experience using words coined by men." In concert with my earlier discussion of the rise of the father-god, Goueffic brilliantly explains that "the semantic ascent of man from natural father to supernatural father of All is achieved by creating the ultimate dichotomy: Father-Everything and Mother-Zero, showing the archiparadigm Father-Subject lord of Mother-Object. In it the masses of world-be rational men suffer from the deep guilt inherent in delusional male privilege. History is the story of war, the vir (wir); it is man most in conflict with himself." Barbara Walker has shown that the word for "man" is the Sanskrit "vir", and that "man" in Old Norse meant "woman."

While it is difficult and complex to address the effects of patriarchy on our contemporary world situation, one's heart can be warmed by a soothing ray of hope in the way in which women the world over are responding to the destructive wake of chaos we all experience. Even though pms is running amok, there are creative and nurturing actions rising up from the ashes. One very interesting response to the world situation is the creation of the science of biomimicry, a new way of viewing and valuing nature. According to author and devoted nature-lover, Janine Benyus, this science looks at what can be learned from observing the natural world rather than fixating on what can be extracted from it. Benyus simply points out the obvious: "Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature's models and then imitates and takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf." I feel her clarity of vision comes from a deep, female way of viewing and experiencing the world and cosmos. To me, her approach to knowledge is a mothering approach-one that is holistic, compassionate and inclusive, and is actually an ancient viewpoint, very much like the present-day matriarchal culture of the Minangkabau of Sumatra, whose social structure and understanding of nature to culture is based on their proverb "Growth in nature is our teacher." A Minangkabau elder says, "We study everything around us: human life, animals, plants, mountains, hills, and rivers. Nature surrounds us in all the events of our lives. We learn from the good in nature and throw away the bad."

With nature as their teacher, the Minangkabau also live in deep respect for women and the mothering principle: "Matrilineal adat (custom) is in accordance with the flora and fauna of nature in which it an be seen that it is the mother who bears the next generation and it is the mother who suckles the young and raises the child. In nature, all that is born into the world is born from the mother, not from the father." Minangkabau philosopher M. Nasroen suggests, "the primordial emphasis on the maternal and the development of matrilineal adat law were fused because of their fit with the animistic past, in which nature constituted the model for culture." I believe Benyus' work and research is an example of a remembering of the primordial, animistic reality in nature that beckons us to choose the path of creation rather than self-centered destruction.

Another positive spiraling effort swirling out of the dust of the patriarchal storm is what author Johanna Brenner, mentioned earlier, sees as a rising feminist power. She states, " based in part on women's incorporation into wage labor and their access to literacy and education, feminism has emerged as an organized political force. Women from the global South are not only mounting challenges in their own countries but are participating in a global feminist movement that is capable of affecting the policies of transnational organizations such as the UN and the European Union."

Spiritual feminism is also another way in which women are responding to the conditions of patriarchy. Many women are inspired by the Goddess-our original mother, and are waking up and questioning the patriarchal conditions and definitions to which we have been enslaved for 5000 years, and witnessing how we collude in our own oppression. For instance, women are reclaiming the power of menstruation and teaching daughters to love their blood through empowering rituals that celebrate women's bodies and the sacred power of creation uniquely embodied by the female form.

It is time for women to rise and unite our voices, hearts, wombs and minds to change and transform that which does not serve life. The patriarchal event in human history must come to an end. With our collective power, let us call on the Great Mother Durga to help us. The time is now. It is said in the Devi-Mahatmya that Durga's commitment is to "nourish the world in time of need with the vegetation from her own body, and that in her 'terrible' form she would deliver her worshippers form their enemies and bless them." Durga's mysterious appearance in time of need and disappearance when aggression is subdued is considered one of the most profound aspects of the myth, "for the feminine action in the cosmic drama is without retentive, ego-seeking ambition." As women undo the shackles of oppression from male rule and domination, and stand up to patriarchy, both inner and outer, life on our beloved Mother Earth will rejoice in beauty, love, compassion, joy and ecstatic celebration, for this is what the ancestors/ansisters knew, and we shall know again.

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From the website of Leslene della-Madre