©DEV VIRAHSAWMY AND ICJM
If matriarchal or matrilineal societies existed in the past, there is no doubt that in our present world, patriarchy, a male-dominated system allied to capitalism, is the main source of all our troubles and worries. It has total economic, political, social and cultural powers, including religious powers. This explains why in spite of progress in the field of gender equality, we are still horrified by events all over the world. Did we not believe, to some extent, that Hollywood was the land of greater gender equality, that female actors were symbols of sexual, social and cultural emancipation? Recently, it became shockingly clear that ‘labraget’ culture was still going strong. Did we not think that the great international institutions were symbols of freedom and equality? How wrong we were. Recent findings have revealed how entrenched sexism and phallocracy are. Gender equality must still top the political agenda and we must beware of lip service. We must also beware of opportunistic women who jump on the band wagon to satisfy personal interests.
Why is that so? Patriarchy is a crafty system, expert at make-believe and concealing the truth and as good as capitalism in mind-conditioning. A few examples will help to make this clear.
Look at “Pater Noster”, the main Christian prayer which begins with “Pater noster, qui es in caelis” (Nou Papa dan lesiel) So God is male with beard, balls and all. Where is the Mother in all that? Patriarchy believes that the male ‘gives’ life but strives to forget that the female nurtures life, that males and females are complementary. This message is passed on generation after generation at home, in schools, at work, everywhere. It will certainly be argued that “Pater Noster” was the prayer said by Jesus. No doubt! When through ‘avatar’ God takes a human shape, they (He/She) will use the language of the day. Jesus was born through a woman in a patriarchal society in which a slave had more rights than a woman. The fact that God chose to come to us through a woman is full of meaning. Remember that, after resurrection, He first visited Mary Magdalene who called Him ‘Rabbouni’ (according to some scholars it also means ‘beloved’ and not only, ‘master/teacher’). Lord Jesus brought us a powerful pro-gender-equality message but patriarchy chose and still chooses to ignore it.
Look at Lord Jesus’ speech style. It is full of maternal idioms of the type “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34 and Matt. 23:37). In my humble opinion we should pray “Mama-Papa dan lesiel”.
Language also is loaded with terms and rules which reinforce the sexist reflex. Look at this sentence in French: “Un million de femmes et un chien sont VENUS” (masculine/plural). Children learning this rule of a prestigious language, will conclude that one male dog is grammatically more-weighty than a million women. English, as a language, is slowly moving from gender-sensitivity to gender neutrality. ‘Chairman’ has been replaced by ‘chairperson’; ‘fisherman’ by ‘fisher’; ‘fireman’ by ‘firefighter’ etc. Very often we hear a woman say, of herself, “mo pa travay, mo res lakaz” or “je suis femme au foyer”. Macho males love this for women are indulging in self-deprecation. These women are in fact ‘home-managers’, a title which men deny them.
Caryl Churchill was among the first scholars to suggest that the struggle for gender equality and against capitalism should go hand in hand. Feminists and socialists should bear this in mind.