Patriarchy Problems

I already know this post will be a bit of a multi-topic mess, but sometimes the dots just connect themselves…

I recently finished reading a lovely novel called Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Much like Adichie herself, the protagonist of Americanah is a young Nigerian woman who comes to the United States in pursuit of a college education. I really enjoyed this book, not so much for the love story at its center, as for the glimpse into what life is like for an African in America (as opposed to an African-American).

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see the uncomfortable truth in the feminist trope that we white males in America spend our lives enjoying the benefits of patriarchy without acknowledging — or even realizing — that it exists. Parts of Americanah really brought that truth home for me. (Along with more than I ever wanted to know about black women’s hair.) I found it fascinating that something written in English could be so foreign to me.

Speaking of patriarchy, a couple of weeks ago, while I was in the middle of reading a Nigerian writer’s novel, Nigeria was in the news because of a mass kidnapping in the town of Chibok. The Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram attacked a government girls school, shot the guards, loaded 234 teenage girls into trucks, and disappeared into the forest.

The name “Boko Haram” loosely translates as meaning “Western education is sin.” That’s right, their entire reason for existence is to keep people ignorant. Especially the women. They are neanderthals that use religion to justify treating women as property.

Which brings me to this AlterNet article I discovered this morning using my google-fu. It’s two years old, but still very topical. The author delves into why our very own religious conservatives are constantly fighting against contraception.

Until the condom, the diaphragm, the Pill, the IUD, and all the subsequent variants of hormonal fertility control came along, anatomy really was destiny — and all of the world’s societies were organized around that central fact. Women were born to bear children; they had no other life options. With a few rebellious or well-born exceptions (and a few outlier cultures that somehow found their way to a more equal footing), the vast majority of women who’ve ever lived on this planet were tied to home, dependent on men, and subject to all kinds of religious and cultural restrictions designed to guarantee that they bore the right kids to the right man at the right time — even if that meant effectively jailing them at home.

No surprise really, just as with Boko Haram, it’s all about keeping the women folk in line. Otherwise, bitches get uppity.

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