Listening to music while cleaning up the kitchen this morning, I experienced a sensation of joy. I have been puzzling over the enigma of why we are here, “surely not to live in pain and fear,” and my joy was a eureka moment. We are here because we want to experience happiness. Duh, huh?
The sensations of the body, limited though they may be in any kind of cosmic sense, allow us to smell the best smells, to feel the most luxurious or sensual touch, to see the most lovely sights, to hear the most wonderful sounds. Anyone can do it. All the ingredients are right here with the starter set – the human body.
So why are most of the world’s resources concentrated in the control of a handful of individuals, leaving millions of people to needlessly suffer in abject poverty, starving to death, dying of painful yet easily treatable diseases? Culture is at the root of it.
Each person is born into a culture that comes complete with a language and set of social constructs that allow for that given society to function. Some cultures are relatively benign, but the dominant culture in America is polluted with masculine hegemony. This collection of beliefs privileges those characteristics which have been (arbitrarily) assigned to males: competition, winners and losers, bullying, getting ahead at the expense of others. The devalued characteristics assigned to females are those very traits which are needed for the survival of our species: cooperation, sharing resources, respect, and we’re all in it together.
In the United States, culture is hammered into our heads from birth; babies are sorted into two groups, boys and girls, strong and weak, interruptive and listeners, manly and feminine. Girls get: pink, glitter, butterflies, unicorns, high-heeled shoes, lipstick, perfume, and pretty little lacy things. Boys get: fighting, dirt, football, wrestling, slugs, snails, and puppy dog tails. Our highly commercialized for-profit media provides us with a never-ending stream of cultural reinforcements – all the women are good looking (i.e. their faces are symmetrical, they are slim, and they have big breasts) and financial rewards accrue to men who are willing to act out aggression and domination in televised sporting competitions. Football and boxing are prime examples.
In America, bullying is a culturally acceptable way to get what you want. Men are expected to use superior strength or influence to intimidate others in order to get what they want. Hazing in sports is commonplace; notorious hazing incidents are not limited to high school football team locker room abuse – high school band members join in on the cultural replication of masculine hegemony on the team bus.
So what can you do to shake it off? How can you climb outside the jail of culture? Reading this essay may have helped you to recognize your willing participation in masculine hegemony, awaking your desire to free yourself of the yoke. Further reading and reflection will help any current gains you have made. It is time to think outside the box of acceptable social justice activism.
Culture Is Not Your Friend by Terence McKenna (short video)
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CEDLF) sponsors Democracy School. I attended the classes and was introduced to the concept that I must think outside the box of acceptable social justice activism in order to effect the change that is needed to save the biosphere from otherwise inevitable destruction. Democracy School explores the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and earth. (Organization)
Parting thought: “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”- - bell hooks “The Will to Change”
ADDITIONAL READING: Juliana Roth writes that the way we view food is dangerously gendered (Alternet/Gender/The Establishment 4/5/16)