In some recent reading and studying, I’m found some interesting findings. In many ways, some of us will openly criticize and denounce an ideology, a particular system or view. However, we fail to realize that we are supporting that in which we oppose. So, our virtues aren’t consistent. They fluctuate. If we lack the insight of seeing our active or passive participation in an ideology or system that oppresses, strips away or threatens individuals or things then we are just as guilty as the system itself.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
— Maya Angelou
In breaking down this claim about our virtues not being practiced consistently, I believe an example by feminist bell hooks will provide an interesting look at how we can support something we don’t believe in. bell hooks gave an example that if she went around neighbor-to-neighbor asking men if they believed in hitting women then they would say no and abhor such a thought, but these same men would have a hard problem with the obliteration of patriarchy since this is the source of many of the social-ills present in many societies, globally. In the system of patriarchy, there is a concept that men are those in control with women being in an inferior role which subjugates women to: domestic-violence, sexual abuse, lower work-wages, lack of education, lack of economic freedoms and legal rights. In this example, it is easy for someone to say that they don’t support such a system, but if someone (man or woman) believes that a woman should know her place and that a man has rights to placing her in her “correct” position then this enforces and propels gender-violence. This is similar to the argument that if a woman dresses a certain than she is deemed as being a “slut” or “asking for it”, thus perpetuating “potential” rape by her male counter-part within her society. This thinking is deemed patriarchal because it subjugates the woman to a role of inferiority with the male in the position of superiority to impose his violence against the woman. So, if we believe that a woman is “asking” for rape due to her choice of dress than we are passively, if not, actively participating in patriarchy.
Patriarchy is a system/ideology that continuously entraps men and women into oppression. Every single time a woman is told that she should know her place is not within education is dealing with the issue of patriarchy. In preventing a woman from getting education, she is prevented from gaining knowledge, expanding her view(s) of the world and from being able to get a degree. In being prevented from knowing more about the world and being taught to critically think, she is restricted in thought. She becomes a slave mentally and sometimes physically. She is trapped.
So, as individuals within societies we have to understand that feminism shouldn’t be bashed or scolded as a whole. Instead:
“Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and preactice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.”
— bell hooks
In continuing this important topic of choosing our role(s) within our societies, I will take a real example from my own life. In going to school, I have found myself repeatedly questioning the education I receive. In most of my textbooks and books I have found that the information is Eurocentric. The texts are aimed in propelling White Patriarchal Western imperialism. It’s this constant socialization and exportation of White cultural values and views. There is hardly any mention about women, people of color and non-Western countries. There is this constant urge for me to decolonize myself from what I am told to be in order to search for the authentic me that isn’t colonized. So, I struggle with this because I haven’t actually started a rally, started a petition or declared a protest on my English-department’s lack of diversity. Yes, there are courses I have taken that are centered on Blacks or women, but many times they weren’t requirements within my degree-program and were just electives. So, am I actively participating in a system that perpetuates Eurocentricity? Maybe. Possibly yes.
In thinking about our passive/active participation in systems and ideologies that are destructive/oppressive/subjugating/ to humanity, It just takes alot of courage and truth to stand behind our principles. Sometimes we just give up and think its easier like that, but who are we hurting? We are only hurting ourselves and the society we are living in. We become active participants and players in these social-ills that lingers within our communities.
So, we have to:
“Don’t assume, ask. Be kind. Tell the truth. Don’t say anything you can’t stand behind fully. Have integrity. Tell people how you feel.”
― Poet Warsan Shire