What Does the Term “Patriarchy” Mean to Me? « Clarissa's Blog
I am helping my father write his memoirs -- and all the tragedies and disruptions in his life appear to have been caused by patriarchal processes. Let us start at the beginning.
1. His newly married father goes to war (WW2) and is killed. My father, a young baby, is left without a male parent. War is a patriarchal activity, whereby men prove their courage by serving the empire.
2. His single mother, suffering from grief and denial, has no patriarchal breadwinner. She has to find another man to take care of her fast. There is no social welfare system in the colony, only the patriarchal system.
3. She marries quickly, in order to resolve her unhallowed status of being a single mother, and to obtain the patriarchal breadwinner as soon as possible.
4. She is unhappy in the marriage. The newly appointed husband turns out to be very cold towards her son and keeps reminding him he is “adopted”. He shows no human emotions. The mother feels resentful against her son for putting her in a situation where she had to get married to someone who wasn’t wholly suited to her needs.
5. My father is sent to boarding school at the age of five. He experiences this as rejection.
6. He grows up and gets married himself, and things go okay for a number of years, but there’s something not quite right. Deep down, there is a bitter and seething resentment against women. Sometimes this erupts as angry aggression against my mother. I recall one instance where he refused to allow her to have her name on the outside of the family property, along with his, since he said this wasn’t in accordance with his beliefs about “holding the family together”.
7. There are unpredictable bouts of anger whenever he feels like we kids aren’t cooperating with his expectations. Sometimes these expectations are reasonable, such as washing dishes. At other times, they are unreasonable, such as his expectation that we read his mind and automatically know what we should do in an entirely novel situation, without being told.
8. My father develops hostility to me around the time the country falls apart. His mind also falls apart. He begins accusing me of things I haven’t done. My mother also becomes extremely anxious and suspicious of my spending too much time alone. Teenagers are not to be trusted.
9. We migrate to Australia in 1984 and things are quiet for two or three years. Then the religious persecution starts. “The family is falling apart!” — Yes, well, I was reaching maturity, and trying to understand the world on my own terms, which meant leaving the Christian religion.
10. My father decides to stop my independence by whatever means, in order to “keep the family together”. He engages in shaming, threats, attacks on my identity and occasional physical violence. He starts hearing “messages from God”. His behavior is unpredictable and frightening — moreover, he has managed to convince others in my family that I, being the only atheist of us all, had somehow managed to cause his behavior.
Anyway, so far as I can see, these outcomes were all linked to his original trauma that had to do with his mother not being able to take the time to marry the man of her choice, due to patriarchal moral and economic pressures.
You can also see what I had to overcome in order to turn out okay.