|Number 5||April 2000|
Deconstructing the patriarchal model
It will surely go down in History that the woman’s battle was one of the most revolutionary and least violent of this century.
Non-violent, because women have never taken recourse to violence to demand their rights. They have always denounced and rejected the fundamentals of the "bomb culture" which is essentially patriarchal. On the contrary, they are bent on de-glorifying the myth of war and virility. True peace workers, it is they who often find themselves battling at the front for matters of life and the defence of fundamental freedom. In this issue, Andrée Michel, Marlène Tuininga and Lilia Santiago each approach the essential role of women in the promotion of a culture of peace from a different angle (see Militarily incorrect women citizens, Building peace the feminine way and Art and culture as peacebuilders).
Revolutionary, because it has been and continues to be a formidable lever for change and upheaval of the organisation of societies where the effects have still largely gone unsuspected. Having broken into the field reserved for men - the public sphere, women have blurred the definitions of sexual identity that were closely linked to the occupation of public or private space. Over and above their reproductive and domestic role that they assume traditionally (in the private sphere), they have proved that they are capable of taking on responsibilities and tasks that are considered "masculine". This obviously caused a deep male identity crisis, as revealed by Elizabeth Badinter (XY, de l’identité féminine (Of male identity), Odile Jacob, Paris, 1992) and was one of the striking discoveries of the Yin Yang workshop (New Delhi, 1997), the founding stage of the Alliance’s workshop on Man-Woman relations (see article).
Sharing the private and the public has become a sensitive and unavoidable political question for women - a necessity for their freedom - all the more urgent as social and economic precariousness increases, as was demonstrated in a recent experience in the working-class districts of Buenos-Aires (see How men and women share the public and private sphere).
If, thanks to contraception, women have acquired greater control of their life and the power to regulate the reproduction of Humanity; if they play an increasingly important role in economic activities, in addition to the invisible work ("unacknowledged") that they have always performed and if, moreover, they demand equal powers of decision-making in the political field, what area of existence remains for men as men?
Resistance sets in: women are listened to with "polite indifference" and males prepare, as good politicians but without any great conviction, to make place for them in Parliaments and Governments (see article by Alain Lipietz). But "women don’t want to share the cake, they want to change the recipe".
For as long as they have not obtained a clear civil identity that gives them the status of full-time players and that grants them their share of social responsibility (see article by Luce Irigaray); for as long as they are excluded from ethical discussions (see article by Arina van der Kerk); for as long as their visibility limits itself to a physical and furtive presence in the public sphere; for as long as they remain objects of barter and consumption in the media (see article by Michèle Dussaut Delorme), women do not have and will never have the desire to participate in a system that is already established and modeled by the masculine order.
More and more men share this vision and support women in their journey of liberation because they too want to free themselves from the oppression that the patriarchal model’s machismo codes of conduct impose on them. The birth in Brazil of the Movement of Men in support of women (see article) on the 8th of March last year or the European Network of Pro-feminist Men that is currently being created testify to this fact (see Partners). They are progressively realising the importance of also redefining their identity in the light of the upheavals introduced by women in society: self "discrimination", self-criticism, relying on each other, exploring the singularity of deep-seated masculinity, these are for Sergio Sinay (see article) the paths that lead to well-being and a real relation with the other sex with perfect acceptance of the difference.
From their side, women need to re-appropriate their history; to develop their capacity to express themselves as specific, independent, responsible and strong beings to men. For the moment, as a matter of priority, they are more involved in preserving the link with life and in defining themselves as a subject by the simple feat of thinking of themselves before thinking for others.
The rehabilitation of woman and the rediscovery of deep-seated masculinity thus calls into question the dominating order and the deconstruction of the patriarchal model. It will only be then that space will be liberated for reconstruction that is shared by both sexes.
* Animator of the workshop on Man-Woman relations (E-mail: email@example.com)