Season Four: Introduction

Season Four: Introduction
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Season Four: Introduction

As I was getting ready to launch Breaking Down Patriarchy in 2020, I asked a podcaster friend of mine for advice. He said, “Always keep your target audience in mind. Who are you doing this for?” I thought for a second, and then I said, “It’s me.” It’s me at age 27, sobbing in my minivan in the parking lot of the LDS Temple in South Jordan, Utah. At the time, I was a stay-home mom to two little kids whom I adored, and I was so devout in my church. I was so earnest in my desire to do what God wanted me to do, and I so did not want to make problems. But I just kept noticing the hierarchy of men over women, and my journals at the time were full of gut-wrenching wrestling with scriptures and with social norms. I was terrified and so alone. I was seeking help through all of the “appropriate channels” in the church, which meant male leaders. And so I drove to that temple one night to ask the temple president if he could help me understand the language in the temple ceremonies that subordinated women to men. I remember so clearly him looking at me from across his big wooden desk and telling me that I was seeing things that weren’t there and that none of the women in his family felt that way, so he didn’t know what was wrong with me.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me either. And I went out to my minivan in the parking lot and I sat there and cried and cried and cried. 

It would be 15 more years of writing and wrestling and sobbing in my car or in my closet wondering if I was the only one who felt that way, and being told by various men that I was wrong, either because patriarchy didn’t exist anymore and I was making it up, or because patriarchy did exist, but it wasn’t oppressive. Then finally, I discovered John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women and The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner. These books blew my world open and helped me finally see the matrix that I’d been living in this whole time. I then started reading all kinds of other books, including Gerda Lerner’s other book, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness. And as I was reading the introduction of that book, I came upon this passage that says:

“Men develop ideas and systems of explanation by absorbing past knowledge and critiquing and superseding it. Women, ignorant of their own history, did not know what women before them had thought and taught. So, generation after generation, they struggled for insights others had already had before them in an endless repetition of effort, the constant reinventing of the wheel.”

This was exactly my lived experience. And sure enough, in all those books that I started reading, I discovered women’s thoughts and struggles and social critiques that were just like mine. Women had been struggling and crying and wrestling for hundreds of years, and they had been writing it down the whole time. But there I was reinventing the wheel, just like thousands of women before me, because women’s history isn’t taught the way men’s history is. So when I’m working on Breaking Down Patriarchy, which is sometimes a full-time, very stressful job, I see my past self sobbing in my minivan and I say to her, “Just hang on, it’s going to be okay. You’re not bad and you’re not crazy and you are not making things up. And you are not alone.” So to all of you who have ever been that woman, I’m doing this for you. 

In addition, I’ve gathered more folks whom I imagine listening as I send these podcasts out into the world. Here are a few examples:

A young woman I know who endured years of sexual abuse in her marriage because her husband thought that his wife’s body was his property, there for his pleasure. And she also thought her body was his property, so she just clenched her teeth and went along with it, destroying her self worth and eventually destroying her marriage. If you can relate to this, then know that I am doing this for you. 

An older woman I know adamantly defends patriarchal systems, saying it is good and right that she obeys her husband because men feel lost if they’re not in charge. And she will be happy to “worship her husband in heaven.” This woman is one of the most depressed, unhappy people I know, but she’s in her 70s now and she’s sacrificed everything for patriarchy, and I think it’s probably just too painful to consider that she might have been happier and more peaceful, and shocker, a less resentful wife and mom, if she had cultivated herself as a whole person. Honestly, her husband would have been happier too. If you can relate to this, I’m doing this for you. And if you know a young woman who is starting on this path, I’m doing this for her. Send her a link to an episode. 

Here’s another one. A man wrote me an email that said, “How can I help my wife? She raised our kids and really loved doing that, but now she’s in a catatonic depression because she doesn’t have any purpose or direction. We both chose to sacrifice her education when she was young, because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do. But I really regret that now. I keep telling her to find something that makes her feel alive, and I totally support her. But she feels like it’s too late.” If you are a woman who can relate to this, it’s not too late. I’m doing this for you. And if you are a man who has seen your wife struggle with patriarchy and sexism but it’s been hard to understand what she’s feeling, this will help. I’m doing this podcast for you. 

Here are some more. I know a couple of men who are unable to work outside the home to provide financial resources for their families. And although they do provide for their families in countless critical ways, just because they can’t provide money, their self-esteem is wrecked and they feel like they’re not real men. If you are a man who can relate to this, I’m doing this for you. 

Here’s a different one. I’ve heard from women who chase success in advanced education and in the corporate world, and they found that they had to play the game of intense competition, constantly hustling for the approval of the men in charge, and being sexually objectified and even harassed in the workplace. If you can relate to that, this podcast is for you. 

Also, this past year, I have been helping a refugee family from Afghanistan get settled. And as I took them to a new apartment to sign their rental contract, when the wife in this family was asked to sign the contract, she looked shocked to be asked for her involvement. And then she was so proud to be treated like an adult on the same level as her husband. And then I sat next to her as she shakily took the pen and signed an X for her name. I know that that exists, but I’d never seen that before. So for any woman out there, for any woman anywhere who’s been kept from realizing her potential by a patriarchal system, I am doing this for you. 

There are so many more, but the last one I want to say is to all the women of color who have been excluded and mistreated by white women, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the books and the conversations that continue to show me my blind spots. White women, please continue to listen to the episodes that resonate with your lived experience, but please also click on the episodes that show you the uncomfortable truth of how you might also have been in the role of an oppressor and help you know what you can do about it. Just like we can’t deconstruct patriarchy without men being on board, we can’t deconstruct white supremacy without white people doing the work. White people who want to do better, I’m doing this for you. 

So, stay tuned to Breaking Down Patriarchy this year. We have an incredible lineup of guests, and we’ll soon be on YouTube with the most amazing shareable videos. We’re also starting a whole new approach to social media, we’re updating our logo, and I’m so excited to reach more and more people this year. Please help us do that by passing along these episodes to family members and friends so that they can benefit from this life-changing information and stop reinventing the wheel. Also, if you’ll take a quick second to leave a five star review on Apple Podcasts, that would really help. Thank you so much. I’m so excited to have you with me for a new season of Breaking Down Patriarchy.

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