The Final Wave:
Dismantling Patriarchy Through Freeing Feminism
I may have been a victim of sexism throughout my upbringing,
But could have accepted it as part of my life.
We began this book with the idea that women are people too, and together we’ve found that although people agree with this idea in general, a lot of people struggle with the concept of equal rights, and especially with women’s rights as human rights. From philosophy to biology, politics, customs, and law, women have been viewed as inferior beings in need of the man’s authority “for their own good.” The most surprising element over the years has been women’s own agreement with this assessment. Or, perhaps it isn’t such a surprise. As with most movements that seek to change things, people like to embrace the end results but distance themselves from the movement itself due to potential embarrassment; we want the rights to be there for us without having to fight for them. Especially women like the things feminism provides, such as the vote and shorter skirts, college education and their own bank accounts, but at the same time they have a tendency to reject feminism as intrinsically evil and immoral—feminists are angry women who hate men, and what kind of woman wants to hate a man? Because of this negative stereotyping, feminism was relegated into the dark corners of academia right next to ancient philosophy sometime after the seventies, for as we have been told to ask ourselves, did Socrates or Steinem ever do anyone any good other than to stir trouble wherever they went? In the process of this distancing, the rights that other people fought to give us became self-evident truths and no longer merited a conversation as to their origin. Why talk about feminism now that all the good things are here to stay? I’d say because rights are like relationships: here one day, gone the next, unless we pay attention. Or perhaps they are what anatomy can never be—they are our true destiny.
Speaking of anatomy, if patriarchy is right in saying that anatomy is destiny and women should have children because they have a womb, should they not also have ideas and independent thoughts because they have a mind? Isn’t the brain with all of its synapses and grey matter part of the human anatomy too? Because the answer is such an obvious yes, one of the greatest insults patriarchy has thrown at women is this idea that women’s minds are somehow deficient, that women are just pretty little heads with a lot of empty space in between their ears, that they are suited mostly for dull, repetitive jobs that no one else wants to do, while they are being told that men don’t want smart women, that they should hide their intelligence, because in the end it’s all about the man and what he wants. And so the woman’s womb became her destiny instead of her mind, and her body became the man’s playground and her dreams and wishes and aspirations became the source of endless jokes for philosophers and comedians alike who wondered why women would ever want to do anything other than to cook and clean for the men in their lives.
But we do.
As a result of the persistent stereotype of the mindless woman, we find people regularly wondering why we spend so much of our resources educating young women only to have them spend their days doing menial chores. This if of course ludicrous even in the eyes of patriarchy, which is why the education of girls is usually cut short in most patriarchal societies, and the only reason why western countries still keep on spending twelve to sixteen years educating their girls is because our modern philosophical foundation is based on equality. But just because the patriarchal machine isn’t able to prevent women from getting an education, it is still able to convince women to use their education as little as possible and this is where religious patriarchy shines like a bright star in a dark night sky. It has done an absolutely superb job convincing women that their “role” in life is homemaking and that careers are for men by the order of God Almighty. But although the proof of the pudding may be in the eating, the proof of the joys of homemaking isn’t in the doing, for no matter how many days or years you do it, nothing makes it more palatable or enjoyable; it’s a rather depressing and monotonous way to spend one’s days. And this begs the question, why would God design women to spend their days in such a way? The answer is as short as it is sweet—God didn’t. God gave women a mind and God expects them to use it. No matter how much patriarchy claims women’s brains aren’t as evolved as men’s brains, perhaps if men spent less time fighting women who try to use theirs they would find their argument misguided, and quite honestly, foolish. If women were truly less intelligent than men, all we would have to do is have men and women take the same test and watch the women fail every time, the way they would fail if they were to compete against men at sports events due to their lesser physical strength. Instead of failing, millions of girls, and young (and not so young) women compete in the intellectual realm every day and thrive, and perhaps this is the cause of all the annoyance as the man’s reason has been the source of the man’s rule for a long time now. All of this begs of course the question, if men and women are equally intelligent, why should a woman be restricted to a life in the domestic sphere if she has the intelligence and ability to send a space shuttle to the moon? Yes, why indeed.
Words have meaning, and as humans we build our lives around words and concepts as seen in Descartes’ famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am.” Because words affect our minds either in a positive or a negative way, a lot of words are designed to make us feel insignificant and small. We are told we aren’t smart enough, good enough, worthy enough. When we absorb negative words, they become a permanent part of who we are, and we begin to act accordingly. To combat the effect of negative words, we need to hear lots of positive, loving, and affirming words (we need to hear at least three times more positive words than negative words). We need to hear that we are capable, strong, and worthy, and we need to hear those words often, for just as it takes only a split second to create a stain, the washing machine takes an hour to get rid of the stain; the words need to soak in. This is why empowering women with positive words is so important and why patriarchy insists on a very different message. In fact, hearing that we are important and valuable is even more important than giving women equal opportunities, for without the impact of positive words women are less likely to use those opportunities. One of the most crushing truths of our human history is that women have used their own words to convince other women that they aren’t worthy. Patriarchy divides women in order to conquer them, but feminism teaches women to create strong bonds of sisterhood; we need less Cinderella stories, more affirming stories—our own stories.
Patriarchy considers subjection to be benign and for the benefit of the one being subjected, but subjection that doesn’t allow you to be who you truly are, doesn’t allow you to follow your own intuition, your gut reaction, your own wisdom and knowledge, is far from benign. And although this kind of subjection may exclude bodily harm, it is harmful to the mind, for it forces the mind to accept something it would otherwise reject. Feminism frees, not just women, but all of us from the need to control others. Yet, although feminism benefits everyone, it can only be experienced by women, as only women need to affirm their own humanity in a patriarchal world that denies women’s humanity in a thousand ways every day. As women we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace feminism. We need feminism to know and understand that we are primarily humans and secondarily women, just as we are primarily human and secondarily rich/poor/white/brown/black/red/yellow/tall/short/clumsy/brilliant/lovely/gentle/kind. It may seem self-evident, but think of all the little things that have happened in your life, the thinly veiled insults, the disrespect, the catcalling, the lost promotions, the inflated mechanic bills, the time you were told to mind your own business and go back to the kitchen, all the moments when you wished you were a boy instead of a girl. By now you may be so used to it that you hardly notice any of it, or you may be seething with rage. No matter what your feelings, feminism is for you, for you have a right to receive equal respect, real respect, for a woman is not a doll, or a drudge, or an object. A woman is a human being and therefore worthy of the same respect all humans merit just by the virtue of their own humanity. There is no reason for women to be given any less respect than men and be treated as if they were only half present here on earth. Women belong to the human race, not to something above or below, for we don’t consort with devils or sing with the angels, nor are our faces frozen works of art that should not be sullied with real thoughts and feelings. We don’t belong in the artless world of platitudes and mindless conversation, a world void of real and true conversation. We don’t belong in the boredom of the home void of the company of other grownups, and in the endless hamster wheel of housework. We do belong in the places of business, education, and finance. We do belong behind the pulpit, behind the bench, behind the counter. We belong everywhere the man has always been, but this is exactly the problem: if men would allow us to occupy their space, they would have to occupy ours, and that’s not something they are willing to do quite yet; the dishes do still seem to stack too high for the male ego. Women (and slaves) are the global mess cleaners, the ones who spend their days tidying, washing and scrubbing everything that is dirty, while children and men make the messes. No wonder then that so many philosophers and theologians have been obsessed with the ideas of purity as there is something in us that resists the idea of cleanliness. But just as with our modern obsession of cleaning everything, they tended to go overboard until everything was dirty: sex, bodies, women, words, thoughts. They had to all be sanitized until there was nothing left other than the hollow shell of a life void of passions and feeling. To express the forbidden feelings and thoughts, people had to hide in the shadows and deny them in the open. It created a society ruled by lies and deceit. One of the goals and aims of feminism has been to reduce the deceit by reducing the items that are considered dirty. Sex was a top priority because of what the perception of sex as dirty does to women: when sex is dirty, a woman who wants and enjoys sex becomes herself dirty and therefore worthy of less respect, much like the infamia of old Rome. Men have been allowed to enjoy sex, but not too much, for a man who appears unable to control his passions in the realm of sex cannot be trusted to control himself in any other matter, especially if he is easily swayed by the beauty of a woman. But what are we saying here, really? Aren’t we saying that feminism has a wonderful ability to cut through all the hypocrisy and deceit and lies and get us to behave like real human beings, the way we were meant to live and be? And this leads us to the question, why would anyone want anything different?
Theologically speaking, the reason patriarchy has lasted this long is its ability to feed our “lower nature,” that part of us that is egotistical and seeks only to gratify our selfish feelings and thoughts. This is possible because patriarchy has no love, and because it has no love, it has no ability to see other human beings as worthy of love and respect. We all struggle with this, men and women alike, and it is as universal as the daily sunrise, but the cure isn’t more patriarchy, for patriarchy has no answers, it has only problems. The only cure to the problems created by patriarchy is feminism, abolitionism, and social justice. Change begins with the recognition that here is a better way of doing things, one that includes all of us instead of just the few of us who desire to rule the rest. We need to safeguard everyone’s rights and freedoms, and to do so we need to ensure that our laws, customs, and institutions are impartial and work for everyone. We need to change how we speak about humans, where we expect them to be. In other words, we need to re-write our collective human narrative. Our humanity is what patriarchy denies when it restricts our movements and aspirations, and demands we obey men. Yet, feminism isn’t an ideology that can be used to force others to conform. It is not a set of beliefs or behaviors intended to set a moral standard for everyone to follow. Feminism is for you and me, because subjection is a mindset. It’s not outside of us. It’s inside us, in our minds; we believe others have the right to tell us what to do, and we obey. Some men (and some women) rightly complain about being forced to adopt (what they believe is) feminism. No one can be forced to accept feminism—but neither can anyone be forced to accept patriarchy. If a man truly wants to find a woman who will obey him, we cannot prevent him; if a woman truly wants to be free, we cannot stop her. The rejection of conformity is not about feminism or patriarchy; it is about justice. Justice requires that we refrain from causing harm and actively seek to prevent situations that cause harm, and this means we must let others live in accordance to their own beliefs. Although we should all be free to live according to our own values, too much personal freedom takes away from the freedom of others. It isn’t enough to allow everybody be who they are if they cannot be who they wish to be because of oppressive laws and customs that others were free to create.
In our eagerness to free ourselves from patriarchy, we have tried to put the cart before the horse: we have tried to create a just world through feminism and free ourselves through other ideologies. For example, although finding faith can be one of the most freeing experiences a human can experience, the purpose of faith is not to free us as women. The purpose of faith is to make us into just people, and justice has to do with how we treat each other. Feminism cannot create a just world because feminism is about you and me as women, about our humanity, not about how we treat other people. In other words, feminism isn’t the antibiotics or the fix-all cure that heals all the ills of the world; every ill needs its own remedy. When we begin to attach distinctions to feminism, however insignificant in our eyes, it begins to resemble patriarchy and suddenly feminism becomes just another excuse for the oppression of women. To put it succinctly, there never has been nor can there ever be such a thing as white feminism; there are only feminists who are racist. The modern White women who talk about their rights while expecting Black and Latin women to serve as maids are just like the Roman matrons who expected their slaves to do all the work while they spent their days beautifying themselves in front of the mirror and their evenings at parties. Women are not immune to this kind of thinking, and the more patriarchal the society, the more everybody grows up absorbing and accepting these kinds of ideas and behavior patterns. We need to fight racism, but we must do so as free humans, having realized our humanity through feminism, not as feminists, for racism doesn’t deny women’s humanity; racism denies the humanity of People of Color. We must fight racism by affirming the humanity of all of those who have had their humanity questioned by racist policies. This is a work that needs to be done by all of us, but it has to be led and organized by People of Color, just as feminism must be done by women, for women. Any other arrangement is just another form of paternalistic patriarchy.
And so we end this book with the affirmation that every woman needs feminism, for as women we need to learn to love ourselves, to appreciate our bodies, and to celebrate our minds, to understand that being a woman is not a shameful thing, it’s a creative thing. Dr. Wayne Dyer has the following advice to offer and I hope you’ll take it with you:
After all, what could be better than the freedom of going through life without feeling that people and circumstances control you without your permission.
Patriarchy insists control is love, but what kind of love demands you renounce yourself? As women we are all worthy of a life that is uniquely our own, and we all hold in ourselves the power to create not only a new life, but a beautiful life when we free ourselves through feminism. But we cannot stop there. As free humans we need to work towards the liberation of all humans. Until every human is free, no human is truly free. Live free, love freely. This is the message of the Final Wave.
 “As a computer, she [Katherine Johnson] calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Even after NASA began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7 – the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth. She continued to work at NASA until 1986 combining her math talent with electronic computer skills. Her calculations proved as critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program, as they did to those first steps on the country's journey into space.” (Katherine Johnson: The Girl Who Loved to Count. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/katherine-johnson-the-girl-who-loved-to-count) [Accessed 12/30/2016].
 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/the-most-dangerous-word-in-the-world [Accessed 12/15/2016]
 Although I speak of feminism as something that is for women, I recognize that feminism is beneficial for both men and women, just as patriarchy “works” for both men and women.
 Freedom without love creates the illusion that we are free to ignore others.
 Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao [Hay House, 2007] 123.
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