Been having a virtual mythopoetic journey through the Burren and County Clare with a bit of County Mayo on the side these past few weeks with David Whyte and in the very best of company. It has been a much needed counterpoint to the saturation and inescapable conversation of sexual violence that is permeating every corner of the country. The cellular and elemental nature of fear, anxiety, distrust and the unpredictable appearances of trauma and grief are swirling with gusto like the winds of the Atlantic on western edge of Ireland. There is a litany of names in my heart of women who have been violated, and lamentations are completely insufficient. I find myself wanting to blow things up. I think of the muscular power of a woman’s body which can stretch to its limits sometimes tearing, often leaving permanent scars, bruised and sewn up. The rallying cry is enough is enough and so the line drawn in the sand, calls for a new day, new ways, everything is broken. I am reminded of the cycle of domestic violence and the point that comes when leaving is the only option, anything less is complicity and compliance.
I have done some leaving over the years and experienced the full monty patriarchy panic first hand. While we have our media full of individual experiences of sexual abuse, my mind goes to the systems holding these practices in place. Here is a litany of my own:
- You can’t enrol in this program, it is a full time load and you are about to have a baby
- You can’t hold down that job as there is no support for childcare you can afford
- You can’t come and sit at this table, you are not a man, you are not ordained
- You can’t take on this responsibility you are married
- You can’t bring those thoughts and ideas to this place, the leadership will never agree
- You can’t pray with those words, you can’t sing with those songs, you can’t ritualise with those artefacts
- You are not credentialed, because only men can get that qualification
- Your motherhood is a barrier and your husband and children are your first priority
- You should be home doing the housework
- You can’t bring your female friends here it is unsafe for them, you are married so you will be safe
- Your breastfeeding makes us feel uncomfortable
- Your pain must remain hidden
- You will probably want to do other things like have another baby, I don’t think this is the right time for you
The structural inequalities behind each of these lines are founded on the bedrock of patriarchy. Most of them I have addressed head on for myself and for others and some have even had structural shifts and can only be found in the Australian Museum of Misogyny alongside the CDs and lost mixtapes of Julia Gillard’s speech to Tony Abbott. But it is all just window dressing, the deep wounds of power and privilege translate into power hoarding.
First Nations have been fighting this frontier since the first fleet. Colonialism another layer in the prehistoric origins of what has brought us to this moment. There are calls for a Makarrata and in doing so are calling for a non-white power sharing model, privileging country and place, story and culture. In a small way I noticed the shift that happened when I started using the names of places in their first nation language and stopped using colonial names – a small gesture and one which is catching on. It becomes a constant reminder of what was, what is and what could be. To not be welcome in your own country, to be forced to live by another’s foreign rules, under the flag of your oppressor, taken to their beds and stripped of dignity and justice, to have your children taken from you, to be left for dead, to be beaten, falsely accused, loose hope …. a petering away of hope … working a way into allyship and solidarity that strengthens means getting out of the way, going to a table not created by you and waiting to be invited, being patient to wait for the apprenticeship to be offered, to live in the discomfort of the emergence into something new and in the knowledge you are part of the problem and decolonisation starts inside the head, heart on its way to being translated into plans and action.
So too is this pilgrimage out of patriarchy. Giving up on the messages and the structures that reinforce the messaging of inadequacy, its your fault, personalised and individualised transactions. Rejecting definitions of progress and growth that don’t include those with decision-making power not stepping out of the way is a big piece and a hard one. Think: it’s not all men, its not all white people, mantras. Well actually it is when you take a systems lens. No justice without peace was a mantra in my youth. Meeting this moment: there is no justice without a reckoning.