Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us. ~ Adrienne Rich
Topic #1: Internalized Patriarchy
Ooooh, how this has shown up within me lately. Places and ways in which I default to deeply-held beliefs (even though I no longer believe them) and values (even though I no longer value them) that continue to wield their power in my psyche and day-to-day life. Ick. Ick. Ick!
Here’s a quick example…
My book is scheduled for publication in Fall of 2023. (I know: champagne, confetti, all that!) I’ve struggled in celebrating. Why? Because I’m going a hybrid publishing route vs. traditional. And why would I have any ambivalence around this at all? Well, because of internalized patriarchy! Somewhere, despite my better judgment, I believe that being acknowledged and chosen by the powers-that-be actually matters. I want the value deferred upon me by those same powers-that-be. The potential cash-advance? Well, that validates my value even more, yes? Ick. Ick. Ick!
The internalisation of patriarchy is not a fault. Its unnecessary, unrealised legacy women are carrying. We don’t even realise when and how patriarchy has seeped into our identity so much that we hallucinate its compulsions as our choice. ~ Emila Dutta
I don’t like it!
Here’s what I do like:
Internalized patriarchy — when seen and named — has a definite upside: the places in which we feel the most resistance, the most confusion, and even the most shame (3 markers that signify patriarchy’s presence, to be sure) serve as powerful sources of discernment. The things we dislike and fight with/against the most are the very things that afford us opportunity to listen to and trust our own wisdom, to remember who we truly are, and to say “of course!” as we acknowledge our sovereignty and strength.
Topic #2: Re-visioning and Assumptions
By way of review:
Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.
Rich is right, of course: When WE look back, when WE see with fresh eyes, when WE enter an old text (which includes our own personal texts/stories) from a new, critical direction, we do more than just survive: we finally and exquisitely thrive! And not just us, but all women, all of humanity — past, present, and future!
Mmmmmmm. SO much here, yes? Yes.
But wait, there’s more!
Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves.
“…the assumptions in which we’re drenched.” I love this phrase and it weighs so, so heavy on my heart. Her words describe, in so many ways, what I am always talking/writing about when it comes to the stories we’ve been told, the ones we tell ourselves, the culture in which we live, and so much more. Naming these is what I focus on with clients and strive to consistently name in my own life over and over again. It’s definitely what I reveal (and re-vision) in my book. And every bit of this, to Adrienne Rich’s point, is so that we can know ourselves.
And that? Knowing ourselves? It matters more than all else, is sacred above all else, is worth more than all else.
Topic #3: (Trapped and) Liberated by Language
Again, by way of review, the final sentences within Adrienne Rich’s quote:
And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.
When we re-vision, when we acknowledge the assumptions in which we’re drenched, we cannot help but see and name how language has both trapped us and liberated us. Too often, this happens through language that’s been spoken for us, around us, and about us. Stories. Roles. Assignments. Stereotypes. Value. Worth. These have defined us, shaped us, and yes, (mostly) trapped us.
Adrienne Rich is not alone in naming this. Brené Brown speaks almost exclusively about it in her latest book, Atlas of the Heart:
If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear. This is the framework for meaningful connection.
The key is to make language our own, to claim its power and beauty, to take agency, and to move from being trapped by it to letting it be the source of our very liberation. Ultimately and paradoxically, the very things, experiences, even people that have oppressed or bound us, when named with language, are what enable our freedom.
- When you honestly name and put language to the harm of your past, you can then step into freedom from it.
- When you bravely name and put language to your fear, you can then experience a life that is freed from such.
- When you fiercely name and put language to your truth, you can then begin to live in uncompromising, unedited, and freedom-suffused ways.
All easier said than done. All the work and journey of a lifetime. All deeply sacred.
So, to (finally) wrap things up…
- internalized patriarchy is a real thing — which is why:
- re-visioning matters.
- understanding the assumptions in which we’re drenched matters.
- naming how language has trapped us matters; letting it free us, even more!
- doing every bit of this not alone makes all the difference.
All of this, on repeat and with constancy and dedication, is what can and will change the world. Needed now more than ever, yes?
May it be so.