By Uhuru B. Rowe★
March 9, 2016
March is Women’s History Month and March 8th was International Women’s Day. During this annual day, groups of organizations and individuals hold street marches and other demonstrations to express solidarity with all women and educate the public about issues affecting women all over the world as a result of global patriarchy. It is also a time for us men to reflect on how we contribute to and benefit from global patriarchy.
Patriarchy means rule, control, and domination by men- men who are given more value, privilege, and rewards than women. According to Rosemary Hennessey, Patriarchy is a “concept that explains the systematic gendered organization of all areas of social life- economic, political, and ideological- such that more social resources, power, and value accrue to men as a group at the expense of women as a group.” In its “Eco-Anarcha Feminist Primer” zine, Wemoons Army describes Patriarchy vividly: “Patriarchy is a hierarchy. A hierarchy is like a pyramid…A few at the top have the most control, the people in the middle have medium, and the majority on the bottom have very little. The people at the top control/own the media (value systems), armies, money, law, institutions, corporations, land, air, and water. They keep this control by force (and threat of force), fear, and reward systems. They reward behaviors that go along with their plans and values. The rewards differ. They use the philosophies of sexism and racism to give out rewards diffently…There are more rewards for men, more rewards for white people. White people and men want to keep their privileges. They use their positions of privilege to control others. Men control women. White people control people of color. Straight people control queers. We are all taught to be superior to others and that it is good to do so. But philosophies of sexism and racism keep us against each other so the people at the top can control us all. The few at the top of the pyramid are men and they are sexist, racist, and greedy. They are making all the important decisions about the day to day existence of all of us…The controlling few are men. And the people at the bottom doing unpaid and low paid labor are mostly women and mostly with children.”
As Wemoons’s definition of Patriarchy clarifies, Patriarchy is intertwined with racism and classism so that men are given more value than women, white people are given more value that people of color, and the rich is given more value than the poor- who are most often than not people of color. On a global scale, women have been impacted by the negative effects of capitalist patriarchy in numerous ways, particularly in the Third World.
But what about mass incarceration and how it affects women in the U.$.- especially women of color. With just 5% of the world’s population, the U.$. accounts for 25% of the world’s prisoners, including one-third of all incarcerated women and girls.
According to a recent report released by the Prison Policy Initiative, “with the exception of Thailand and the U.S. itself, the top 44 jurisdictions throughout the world with the highest rate of incarcerating women are individual American states.”
With an incarceration rate for women at “273 per 100,000 residents, or 55 times the rate of incarcerated women in Ireland,” West Virginia leads the pack.
The rate of incarcerating women in the U.$. has grown by nearly 800% since 1980, with New Afrikan (Black) women representing the fastest growing population in America’s prisons.
With more than 70% of incarcerated women being mothers or the primary caretakers of their children before their incarceration, mass incarceration cuts deep in the fabric of the family structure and community. After a felony conviction, these women are permanently or temporarily disenfranchised, denied public benefits, housing, and student loans. With 1 in 4 Black children having a parent with a felony conviction or currently incarcerated, the Black family is disproportionately affected by this crisis.
But the tentacles of Patriarchy reaches far beyond mass incarceration. Each year, in the older white male-dominated political arena, the issue of reproductive/abortion rights is vigorously debated to determine what a woman can or can’t do with her body in a veiled effort to keep women in their place.
Women in the Third World face even more abuse and oppression. While First World privileged (mostly) white feminists demand equality with men for a bigger slice of the proverbial pie, women of color in the Third World have little to no self-determination, as many are not allowed to work, hold political office, drive a car, chose their marriage partner, resist sexual violence/rape, access healthcare or leave the house without a man’s (or boy’s) permission. Many are victims of genital mutilations, sex trafficking and other forms of violence & exploitation. What about the women in the war-torn regions of Iraq and Syria clutching their children as they march through the rubble of what was once their home or trekking across Europe to escape conflict only to be locked behind the razor wire fences of overcrowded, prison like refugee camps. Or the thousands of women and girls captured by so-called terrorist groups and held as sex slaves or concubines.
The struggle against Patriarchy is everyone’s struggle, for it affects everyone because it is intricately intertwined with racism, classism, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, ageism, ableism, and environmental destruction. For those of us who identify as anti-sexist men, it is mandatory that we aid and assist women in their liberation struggles and dedicate our whole lives to resisting and working to dismantle global Patriarchy. LET PATRIARCHY BURN!