Sunday, June 5, 2016

How I Am A Patriarchy Enabler

A guy brought a flamethrower to the garden. Already that sounds bizarre. He began his stated intention to use it on the entire 60 feet of his section of community farm, but his nozzle broke. I smelled the burn before I saw it. Shocked, I brought another man over to take a look at it. Was this an accident? Nope. Looks like he used weed killer and then started to burn the poisoned field. The guy I asked sounded impressed, called it a controlled burn. The farmer across the way told me about the failed nozzle. He was okay with it. I went to city hall to ask about flamethrowers in public gardens, and got more of the same from the fire chief. To be clear, there is no burning allowed within city limits. But all the men were fine with it. Including my father's home health worker. Doesn't see what the problem is. And my father was okay with telling me that his HHW was okay with it. I'm tangled up in this flaming stuff. Who even thinks of flamethrowing a garden? Guys. I looked at a site that sells these things, and the video shows the outfitted flamer setting fire to couches, a car with paint cans on top. What's it good for in the text? Clearing land. Getting rid of pesky insects.

Herein lies the enabling piece: the guy who knew that no one would object to him torching the ground. The fire chief who knew he could get rid of the woman at the desk who approached him to ask the question (and he tried to shoo away). The me standing there in my dirty coveralls insisting he deal with this. That ended in him handing over his card, and dismissing me with "call me, ma'am, if you have any other questions." Scram, li'l lady.

We did this. I've done it. By not speaking up. By playing along to get along. By not reporting that boss who threatened me with my job if I didn't sleep with him on a business trip. By raising children who are entitled, and dismissive of those who question that privilege. By not teaching and insisting that people in our lives abide in community with all others.

My dad pitches in with any household duty only when he knows I'm pissed. Then there's a perfunctory and short-lived effort. He sits at the table waiting for dinner to appear in front of him, and watches me cook. Then I put dinner on the table in front of him. And I stew. This is how he was taught to operate in the world. Women are taught to put the dinner on the table. And not stew. Patriarchy isn't good for any gender. Men go to war because that's how supremacy and colonialism works. Guns are an epidemic in America because of patriarchy.

And gardeners are fine with flame-throwing a garden plot. I wasn't going to pursue this. I was going to swallow it, and tamp down the corresponding flame in my belly. Why? Because I am afraid of retaliation. Because that's another thing patriarchy encourages. Women understand early in life the consequences of speaking up and out. Patriarchy counts on that mightily. When we don't speak, when we are silent and afraid, we are enabling the flamethrowers of the realm to run our world.

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