Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Unraveling Our Own Patriarchal Demise

“So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”

–Hebrews 13:6

"You better think (think) 
Think about what you're trying to do to me
Yeah, think (think, think) 
Let your mind go, let yourself be free..."

–Aretha Franklin, Think

It was the Sunday school coloring pages of Jesus smiling with open arms that still haunt me today. Jesus and little children gathered around him, all smiling back, seemingly safe and sound.

And Jesus was a man. 

And God is a father.

And Father knows best.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

But they most certainly do. It's a man's world, for God's sake.

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family, and while to date I don't have a problem with the idea of a benevolent and loving God, I do have a problem with its human roots in patriarchy and its history of oppression -- a system of society, religion and/or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.

A system of control that has enabled horrible atrocities to continually occur. The latest grand jury report out of Pennsylvania on abuse in the Catholic Church revealed that at least 1,000 children had been abused by 300 priests and accusing senior church officials of covering up abuse complaints. 

Not just that it happened, but that the church officials covered it up for decades. Men have been doing this for other men for thousands of years, and it's so entrenched in our social and cultural DNA, it's no wonder the unraveling is so painful for us all, especially for women and children.

For men and fathers like me, and I know there are many of you out there, we are finally understanding that deconstructing patriarchy and its ultimate oppressive control is how we can help prevent systemic domestic violence and sexual assault on women and children (and even other men).

We can be part of the solution, to work together with women to transform their communities and shift gender stereotypes, end rape culture and deconstruct the patriarchy. That’s just what we’re attempting to do in Santa Cruz with the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women (CPVAW), holding a one-day awareness and prevention conference called Transforming Together on Saturday, October 6, 2018, at the Louden Nelson Community Center.

According to data collected by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.

And in 88% of the sexual abuse claims that Child Protective Services (CPS) substantiates or finds supporting evidence of, the perpetrator is male (mostly parents and relatives and others trusted by the children).

The statistics go on and on and the stories of children being sexual abused continue (like the recent migrant children in Arizona).

The sexual and emotional abuse I experienced as a young boy at the hands of my first step-father, one who told me each time it happened that it was "our little secret" and not to tell anyone, especially my mother. I never repressed it, and I knew it was wrong, but I didn't talk about it for years.

Kidpower teaches that problems should not have to be secrets, and that sometimes grown-ups have to touch kids' private areas for heath or safety, but it should never have to be a secret. Otherwise, other people are not supposed to touch private areas, nor are they supposed to ask you to touch their private areas, or to show pictures or movies about people and their private areas. 

Kidpower is the global non-profit with a mission to teach people of all ages and abilities how to use their power to stay safe, act wisely, and believe in themselves, and one organization I truly believe makes a difference in the lives of children, teens and adults around the world. (For an important related read on protecting and empowering children, check out Doing Right By Our Kids.)

I also know that many religions, their respective institutions and the people who belong to them do many good things for their followers and their communities around the world. I also still believe in a loving, benevolent (and genderless) God. However, as a child I wanted so desperately to believe in those pictures of Jesus loving and protecting the children. And yet, I was let down again and again by lesser, more fallible men pimping out patriarchy in the name of their heavenly Father for their selfish pleasures at the expense of women and children, just as they continue to do today. We will do everything we can not let that happen to our daughters, to empower them to protect themselves.

This may be uncomfortable for some folks to read, but change for the better doesn't come from acquiescing to the status quo and believing its God's will. Because it's our will, and it comes from confronting the very discomfort we've allowed ourselves to live with, the defaulting to faulty male leadership for generations. I'm angry that this destructive male dominance continues to subdue love, freedom and yes, feminism. A feminism that has nothing to do with being anti-male and everything to do with ending oppression, domestic violence and sexual assault (thank you, bell hooks and Aretha Franklin).

"The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

"You better think (think)..."

Anything he wants. So, I'd argue being a real man today is all about unraveling our own patriarchal demise.

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