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Obedience

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a workshop and the speaker intertwined the topic of democracy and what it takes to be a good citizen into his topics.

One of the things he pointed out was that a good citizen stands up for what they believe in even though everyone around them disagrees. We have a responsibility to call people out when they are hurtful and doing the wrong thing. It’s our duty to uphold the greater good. Obedience is a key part in that.

Reading the politics lately, I have had a heavy sadness follow me around. The fact that a woman can get the death penalty for an abortion is barbaric. The fact that a man can rape a woman, even a minor, and gain custody of the baby is barbaric. What does that have to do with obedience?

The speaker said that more atrocities in this world are created by those who are obedient than those who are critical thinkers. These atrocities towards women rise out of obedience to an ideal- to an ancient belief system that women are “less than” in so many ways.

When a man has control over a woman, that control gives the following messages:

-You are incapable of thinking

-I must do your thinking for you since I am superior anyway

-You must be obedient

When one is commanded so, as in a controlling relationship, there are only two options for the person being commanded: obey or disobey. Disobedience carries far reaching consequences, for since control is a violence against someone’s soul and spirit, punishment is the next act of violence to be committed for those who disobey.

Control is a mechanism by which people demand that another person act AGAINST not only their own free will, but their principles and ideals. They are being forced to comply with something they adamantly oppose in order to keep peace in some way, most often, in their home. This exercise of power over someone else’s right to contribute and flourish is the very definition of abuse.

Being so abused creates in the abused an angry, dependent, and passive-aggressive person. Most often, as part of dependence, and according to gender roles, a woman launches into “fawning,” which is one of the responses to trauma (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.)

The very hopelessness I’ve felt as a result of the latest politics has been tempered by the fact that if we don’t fight back and speak up, this shit is going to keep happening. It’s not just abortion, and my nearly 8 years in family court has shown that to me.  When I think of how my PC has so easily been puppeted by my ex, how he has directly taught my daughter that men have control over her body, how he has worked with the judge to diminish my influence, it angers me to no end. Women as a whole are not valued.

There is this notion we cannot get rid of in this society. “The Angel in the House” is a haunting, insidious, abiding notion of woman as pleasing and obedient. Written by Coventry Patmore, it depicts an ideal woman of the Victorian Age:

Man must be pleased; but him to please
Is woman’s pleasure; down the gulf
Of his condoled necessities
She casts her best, she flings herself.
How often flings for nought, and yokes
Her heart to an icicle or whim,
Whose each impatient word provokes
Another, not from her, but him;
While she, too gentle even to force
His penitence by kind replies,
Waits by, expecting his remorse,
With pardon in her pitying eyes;
And if he once, by shame oppress’d,
A comfortable word confers,
She leans and weeps against his breast,
And seems to think the sin was hers;
Or any eye to see her charms,
At any time, she’s still his wife,
Dearly devoted to his arms;
She loves with love that cannot tire;
And when, ah woe, she loves alone,
Through passionate duty love springs higher,
As grass grows taller round a stone.

 

See how an obedient woman becomes grass growing round a stone? Who hasn’t divorced a narcissist that feels like they must become this woman to survive? To take the blame- to become grass growing around a stone- to yoke your heart to an icicle or a whim? To become so completely meaningless and ineffectual you get used to the bleeding inside?

The personal is political. It starts at home.  It’s time to exercise our citizenship even louder. We must rise out of the obedience inflicted on us by patriarchy and demand that men stop obeying their notions of superiority.

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