#MeToo: Don’t just say sorry, smash the patriarchy!

Following the allegations against Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, women who have been sexually harassed have been tweeting or posting the hashtag “Me too” to show the mind-blowing magnitude of sexual assault.

And men are also showing they are prepared to listen and believe the women who report harassment and assault, and to say they’re sorry for the abuse they’ve experienced. It feels like a new day is dawning, a day in which men are finally acknowledging the scale of sexism and mistreatment perpetrated against women.

This week, Christian blogger John Pavlovitz, speaking for all men, wrote,




But I wonder whether mere acknowledgement is enough. Will anything substantive change while ever we operate in a patriarchal system like ours?

 

WHAT IS PATRIARCHY?

It’s not just that our society is male-dominated, or that most of our politicians and CEOs are men. And it’s not just about the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling. These things are symptoms of a more pervasive system called patriarchy.

We live in a patriarchy because our society has been shaped by European culture, which was organized around the centrality of paternity. The lineage of the great houses of Europe was determined by who your father was. European citizenship was based on your “family name,” which in reality was your father’s name.

So it was absolutely essential for you to know who your father was if you were to make your way in the world. And since so much depended on your paternity, then it became necessary for men to control women. Wives effectively became the property of their husbands, because controlling women was the best way for society to be able to determine everyone’s paternity.

By “locking up” his wife a man could keep an eye on any offspring he produced. He gave those offspring his name and maintained control over them. He “gave” his daughters to other men to do likewise with them. Certain rights and freedoms were afforded to men that weren’t offered to women in order to maintain this system of paternity.

So the chief characteristics of a patriarchy aren’t just male domination or sexism, but more insidiously, patriarchal societies by necessity became societies of control and separation.

Over generations, this control and separation has seeped into every aspect of society.

We separate from self, from others, and from nature. The fundamental structures we have created over millennia are based on dominance and submission, and the worldview we have inherited justifies these things as necessary to overcome both our basic nature and the natural world (seen as separate from us).  We pride self-control and frown on “emotionality”;  organizationally we operate in terms of command and control;  we treat nature as a thing to exploit, use, subdue, and, most recently, convert to commodities for sale;  and often we treat others in the same way.

In other words, patriarchy is the superstructure of human society. We have become so habituated to this state of affairs that most of us don’t even see that it is our own creation.

 

IT’S CHRISTIAN TO USURP THE PATRIARCHY

While men seem prepared to acknowledge the depths of Harvey Weinstein’s crimes and repent of their own complicity in a sexist society, I wonder if we’re ready to let go of the patriarchal values of control and separation, dominance and submission. Can we let go of a society where people use each other?

Compare this system of dominance, exploitation and regulation, with Jesus’ remarkable vision of human happiness from his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10):

  • Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Happy are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Happy are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Happy are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
  • Happy are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What Jesus called the “kingdom of God” is the mirror image of patriarchy. It is about relinquishing control, submitting to one another, and fostering hospitality, justice and kindness. Even when Jesus spoke about marriage he did so in a way that undermined patriarchy, by condemning men for divorcing and discarding wives who couldn’t give them sons (or any children at all).

The early Christians understood his teaching to be about mutual fidelity and devotion, not control and separation. But more than that, they understood the world Jesus was creating welcomed the widow, the orphan, the childless woman, the outsider, into a new family of God.

The reign of God is only a patriarchy to the degree that God is our Father. It is an unimaginable realm in which God rules over a redeemed society of mutual submission, justice, and love.

Fighting the patriarchy shouldn’t be merely a second-wave feminist agenda. It should be a Christian project, one in which we seek to overturn a system of control and dominance. To smash patriarchy is to usurp a system where human beings have made themselves the masters of their own destiny, a world where both men and women thought of themselves as separate from others and from God.

There’ll be more Harvey Weinsteins in the future. Men like him flourish in societies where others are seen as  things to exploit, use, and subdue, and where the more powerful a man you are, the more your ability for exploitation and subjugation is enhanced.

Saying sorry helps. But undermining the patriarchy will help much more.

 

 

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The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Morling College or its affiliates and partners.

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23 thoughts on “#MeToo: Don’t just say sorry, smash the patriarchy!

  1. God is seen as male because of patriarchy. There is scripture that presents the feminine nature of God.

    1. It’s because Scripture was originally translated by men for a man who hated women. Or maybe it’s because God wants to be called “Father”.

    2. YES, YES, YES.

      “Mind-Control and The Imaginary Authority”

      As long as god is a man, man will think he is god.

  2. Thank you for this. Check out Jackson Katz. He’s the first man I’ve ever heard say that sexual assault and violence against women is a mans peoblem. There’s hope.

  3. Mike, you are right that sorry isn’t good enough. It is however a good place to start. Here’s my attempt at apologizing (and beyond) from a blog I wrote that Red Letter Christians published. After we listen to the “Me Too’s” we men must dare to admit how we have participated in the problem of patriarchy–not just in social structures but also in soulish structures justifying entitlement, exploitation, and objectification. Keep up the amazing cultural commentary. https://www.redletterchristians.org/plea-women-forgiveness/

  4. It’s so good to see men talking to men about the patriarchy and why the way of Jesus is to smash it!

    In regards to whether or not the reign of God is a patriarchy, if you haven’t read Dr Tim Bulkeley’s book ‘Not Only a Father’ you might find this blog post series interesting: http://sacraparental.com/2013/04/01/not-only-a-father-1-whats-wrong-with-this-picture/

    1. Ooh, that looks interesting. Thanks.

  5. I have long been an advocate of the abolition of “Mrs/Miss” and women taking their husband’s name on marriage for these reasons. Not getting much traction in the Christian community though…

  6. The advertisement associated with this article involved women in bikinis in sexualised poses.

    (That’s my fault because l do want a new pair of bathers, and cyberspace can read my mind).

    But it does exasperate me that while on the one hand we ARE changing legislation and workplace practices that lead to greater equality… on the other hand pornography (including much violent and degrading pornography) is so easily accessed and so pervasive. Children are getting their sex education via porn and it’s profoundly shaping the way women are viewed.

    I’ve seen a bit of hand-wringing but very little will to make cyberspace a less degrading environment.

    (And yes, there is pornography that is degrading to men also, but we know trafficking and sexual assault disproportionately impacts women and children.)

    1. Fair point.

      What can we do besides banning pornography?

    2. Fair point.

      What can we do besides banning pornography though? The sex positive feminists would likely oppose this as well.

  7. Mike,

    In general agreement with your concern but I’m still left with asking what does smashing, or overturning patriarchy look like? How do we do that? When will we know we have achieved the elimination of patriarchy?

    In addition, what is the real cause of sexual harassment and abuse? Is it patriarchy, or is there something deeper? I am not a proponent of patriarchy but I am also not convinced that it is the real enemy here. Patriarchal systems are not of necessity abusive, oppressive, or domineering. Indeed many are, but once again I ask is patriarchy the real problem? The Apostle Paul did not seem interested in toppling the numerous corrupt political and social systems of his day. What he was interested in was the new birth. As those new believers were discipled they learned to love, respect, and submit to one another. They lived that way as patriarchs, slave owners, and tax collectors.

    Fighting sexual harassment and abuse is a fight truly worth engaging in, but for us to see real success we must ensure we are attacking the real enemy. Just my thoughts. Peace

    1. “Patriarchal systems are not of necessity abusive, oppressive, or domineering.” Can you identify any patriarchal societies that aren’t?

      1. Fair question. I have observed in my travels that they can be found in virtually all societies throughout the world. We only hear of the abuses, and unfortunately there are plenty of those to cite. But those aside pick your place, for patriarchy is found in virtually every society. In my experience especially so in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. That’s a bug chunk of the globe. There are within these societies families and pockets where men use their power and position in ways that serve, protect, and nurture. I’ve seen it. This is especially true in places where the gospel has taken root and men begin to discover that they have a Master to whom they are accountable to and true greatness is found in service not lordship (Matthew 20:24-28).

        Once again, I am not defending patriarchy. I am simply contending that the abuses perpetrated by men within patriarchal societies are essentially heart matters expressed through that particular societal structure. The cure for male aggression, oppression, and abuse is not egalitarianism. It is the gospel. When the gospel is embraced it creates new thinking that, as it is grown and nurtured (discipled), produces love, justice, and humility whatever the societal structure. Peace.

        1. I see egalitarianism as one of the tangible expressions of the Gospel.

          I believe that the Father-Son paradigm was important under the Old Covenant because of the expectation of the Messiah being born into this world. He had to come through Adam, Abraham, and David’s line, as the Seed of the woman.

          This took place about 2000 years ago, when a young virgin named Mary conceived the Son of the Father by the Holy Spirit.

          Since that time, and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Who, let’s face it, continually smashed societal expectations of how men were to interact with women), the only patriarchy that matters is Who our Heavenly Father is and how much He loves us through His beloved Son, Who gave Himself for us. How do we teach people (male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free) in this lost and dying world this knowledge?

          In other words, how we were born the first time is not even remotely as important as how we are born again. And we must all – no matter our station, gender or religion – be born again.

          1. I so agree with your emphasis on the need for the new birth. That is in fact what I hoped to communicate in my comments. When one is born again and grows into a disciple (taught to obey Jesus’ commands), then love and service becomes their modus operandi whatever social structure they are in. Can that mean the “smashing” of patriarchy? Sure it can, but that should not be the goal.

            My whole argument on this matter is simple – to try and replace patriarchy with egalitarianism…if that is even possible… is misguided and no cure for male aggression and abuse. Let’s preach the gospel and grow Jesus followers. That is our charge (Matt. 28:18-20). The Spirit of God does the change in us. Peace.

      2. How about Sweden?

        They’re European and have not reached gender equality in leadership roles across all fields yet.

        Sweden seems like a desirable place to live though, for men and women.

  8. Of course you cite the “Beatitudes”.
    Jesus has a well known liberal bias.

  9. God intended is to learn how to use things -wisely-stewardship and also to learn how to Love people -our neighbour as yourself 2nd Commandment, summarised by Jesus in Galatians 5:14 + Love God – who is Love 1 John 4:8. 1st + greatest Commandment. So when we love people and use things, rather than use people and love things, this is the right way round. “God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5. Abuses in patriarchy show darkness contrary to God’s commands. Genesis 3:16 “he will rule over you” is a disastrous description of the results of sin with disobedience after the Fall into sin by breaking God’s Commandments. We need to work to overcome these disasterous consequences, and not repeat them. Women as “Eve” need to overcome wrong “desires” for men with unhealthy dependencies and needs, fuelled by Rince Charming fairy tales and romantic Hollywood movies! ! ! Sadly, female dreams are shattered when Pronce Charming turns into Lord Lustful with painful consequences. Movies which portray men as sexual predators in using and abusive roles and the whole pornograhy business have warped and disastetously Mis-educated our boys and men. Satan teaches how to kill, steal and destroy. Men are taught to desire +emulate power, status and position – the opposite of how Jesus lived and brought in the Kingdom of God. Power came from his Heavenly Father to be used for good, to heal and liberate captives. Jesus “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8. Quoting Theologian Phyllis Trible 1973 “In sexism we all die, both victim and victor; in liberation we all live equally as Human Beings. “. Depatriarchalising in Biblical Interretation. JAAR 41. 1973 Also “Eve and Adam Retead” Andover Newton Quarterly May 1973. Heavenly Helen

  10. […] to be heard in, in this moment. Ladies, first. Just like chess; there are rules. And we are in a patriarchy; everything has to be tactical. […]

  11. […] Aussie christian leader, Mike Frost, believes followers of Jesus have a moral duty to usurp patriarchy, and references Jesus’ Beatitudes in support of an attitude of serving rather than domination. There is much we can do. […]

  12. Any chance you could credit the hammer image? I love it and wanted to know it’s origin.

  13. The greatest and freest society the world has ever seen needs to be “taken-down”? Take a look around you and see the other countries in the world and really think about it. The norm is fascism and autocratic rule. Thats whats going to happen here if you tear it all down people. I truly hope you are unsuccessful in your horrible endeavour. Your marxist power-struggle has been tried and MILLIONS died. Stop it!

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