Women under patriarchy are too often defined not by their own personal development and accomplishments, but instead by the stage they have reached in the patriarchal, heteronormative narrative of dating, boyfriend, live-in, engaged, married, children. We find that we and our wider circle of female friends are constantly subjected to questions regarding where we are on this timeline. This is a means of judgment and a primary way that others participate in socially pressuring you to conform, by constantly reminding you what is expected. If you reject these questions or are not making what is deemed as the right progress, you are punished, othered, and excluded for your non-participation. In patriarchal society, single women are pathologized, especially as they get older. In contrast, being in a long-term relationship with a man is seen as “success.” But just being in a relationship doesn’t mean you are doing well.
In full-blown patriarchy, citizenship equals masculinity; and since modern states are descended from patriarchies, there is still a strong connection. This is manifest in the dominance of the public realm, in almost all parts of the world, by men. A few years ago, I noticed in the statistics of parliamentary representation that the percentage of men in public office was rising, not falling, globally. I think it probable that the process of capitalist globalization, under the control of corporations almost wholly controlled by men, will, to a considerable extent, outflank the gains made by women at the level of local welfare states. The liberal state that developed in Europe and the colonies of settlement in the 18th-19th centuries was built against an Ancien Regime legitimated through religion. This new liberal state asserted against that a legitimacy based on the consent of the governed. Thus, liberal states in the nineteenth century developed a sharp contradiction between exclusive citizenship and their need for legitimacy; this was the point where liberal feminism gained leverage, in the form of the suffrage movement. There was a massive contradiction when groups who were governed but not represented began asserting claims to citizenship, as was done by colonists, workers, and women.
Unlike the liberal state, today’s multinational companies do not have a massive need for legitimation. They get their way mainly by simple coercion, and the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship has paradoxically cleared the ground for a reassertion of global patriarchy. States may become more woman-friendly; I think the Scandinavian states have gone a good way in that direction. But I have yet to see a woman-friendly money market, and it is global finance (stock exchanges, bond markets, futures markets, currency markets, loan markets, etc.) that is increasingly calling the tune in world affairs.
Aamer Rahman on Australia Day
Instead of waiting in her tower, Rapunzel slices off her long, golden hair with a carving knife, and then uses it to climb down to freedom.
Just as she’s about to take the poison apple, Snow White sees the familiar wicked glow in the old lady’s eyes, and slashes the evil queen’s throat with a pair of sewing scissors.
Cinderella refuses everything but the glass slippers from her fairy godmother, crushes her stepmother’s windpipe under her heel, and the Prince falls madly in love with the mysterious girl who dons rags and blood-stained slippers.
Persephone goes adventuring with weapons hidden under her dress.
Persephone climbs into the gaping chasm.
Or, Persephone uses her hands to carve a hole down to hell.
In none of these versions is Persephone’s body violated unless she asks Hades to hold her down with his horse-whips.
Not once does she hold out on eating the pomegranate, instead biting into it eagerly and relishing the juice running down her chin, staining it red.
In some of the stories, Hades never appears and Persephone rules the underworld with a crown of her own making.
In all of them, it is widely known that the name Persephone means Bringer of Destruction.
Red Riding Hood marches from her grandmother’s house with a bloody wolf pelt.
Medusa rights the wrongs that have been done to her.
Eurydice breaks every muscle in her arms climbing out of the land of the dead.
Girls are allowed to think dark thoughts, and be dark things.
Instead of the dragon, it’s the princess with claws and fiery breath
who smashes her way from the confines of her castle
and swallows men whole.