What Price For A Cultural Paradigm Shift?

What Price For A Cultural Paradigm Shift?

by Don Hall

Unless you’re so completely entrenched with your head up your own ass, the idea that women have had the shit end of the societal stick for pretty much since recorded time and beyond is not news.

I’ll confess that while I certainly have benefitted in ways I may not be able to fathom from this patriarchal and, more often than not, brutally unfair system, I can’t say I understand why it has been that way. I can’t quite get my head around the concept that women even as close as a century ago were considered property, were not allowed any property rights, were not allowed to participate in our electoral process. Given my being raised primarily by a badass mom and having had most of my bosses be women, I can understand our past (and, in many cases, our present) but not fully comprehend it.

The world I want to live in holds every life with no regard for gender, gender identity, sexual preference, race, economic class, country of birth and the host of identifiers we cling to as equal in importance and in value to society. I’d argue that an awful lot of people in this country we call home agree with that.

The phrase that pays these days is “The Future is Female” and, for the most part, I think it’s high time we approach our future with that in mind. In Michael Moore’s last film Where To Invade Next, it is striking to see an almost entirely women-run government and banking system in Iceland and in Tunisia a revolutionary change in how the country views the rights of women. If we are, as it seems, poised to shift our paradigm from Patriarchal to Matriarchal, I’m all for it.

How we achieve this shift, I believe, will determine its long term effectiveness.

I think we need to dismiss the idea that due to centuries of oppression all women are equally righteous, honest, or the best we have to offer. The idea that systematic oppression breeds nobility is as empirically false as the notion that starving artists make the best art or drunks are the best writers. Reality (a state so pummeled in an age of No Truth But Your Own) shows that no matter the gender or race, we are all human at the core and humans are fraught with flaws and the ability to do horrifying things to one another.

Being falsely accused by your own daughter of raping her several times is probably a father’s worst nightmare. Because some of the evidence seemed so authentic, Thomas Kennedy was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After 9 years, Cassandra, his daughter owned up to falsely accusing her father and confessed that the physical evidences of rape were because she had sexual relations with a boy in second grade. The boy, already an adult by the time she revealed the truth, released a statement saying that what she said was indeed true.

***

Although there was no evidence linking Darryl to the alleged rape he was being convicted of, a supposedly racist jury went ahead and convicted him anyway. He served 19 years starting in 1984 but thanks to DNA testing, he was cleared of the rape and is now fighting back by helping others in his position.

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Two years ago former California high school football star Brian Banks, who had spent five years in prison for raping his classmate Wanetta Gibson, was exonerated after Gibson contacted him to apologize and admitted making up the attack. In 2009, New Yorker William McCaffrey was released after serving four years of a 20-year prison sentence for a rape his friend Biurny Peguero had made up to explain her injuries from a fight with several women. In 2012 a Michigan man, James Grissom, was freed after nearly 10 years in prison when the woman who accused him, Sara Ylen, was caught making another false allegation (and faking cancer to bilk money from insurance companies and sympathetic donors).

These examples pale in comparison to the thousands of stories we’re hearing and have heard of women being brutalized and the abusers getting away with it. 

In a conversation with my mother, she can name every employer who pressed his boner on her shoulder, who chased her around the office, who diminished and brutalized her. Likewise, I’ve had conversations with exonerated death row inmates, falsely accused and incarcerated for decades for crimes they did not commit. 

To say, however, that these falsely accused men don’t matter, that to merely reverse the inequity is the way to go misses the goal substantially. These examples don’t matter more but they certainly can’t matter less.

If the Future is Female, I hope it isn’t Margaret Thatcher, the women behind the Tokyo Rose broadcasts, or Susan Smith (who drowned her children and claimed it was done by an anonymous black man.) I hope the Female Future isn’t Aileen Wuornos, Imelda Marcos, or Eva Braun.

If one of the markers of what we call toxic masculinity is aggression and rage, seeing the #MeToo movement go from a genuine expression of pain and trauma to a call for retribution and revenge absent of any reasonable hope of justice is ironic. Perhaps the reverse of toxic masculinity is nurturing femininity and, if that is the case, we’re going in the wrong direction.

I watch from the sidelines as the #BlackLivesMatter movement fights for the rights of innocent men and women murdered by overly aggressive policing tactics. They fight for the innocent. They fight for due process over thug-like prejudgment based on factors that have no bearing on criminality. As they achieve systemic shifts in the culture of policing and oversight on law enforcers, the goal is to protect those innocent of crime as well as those who are criminals (because even those breaking the law have a right to not being executed.)

#BlackLivesMatter provides hope and focus out of the fire of rage and the frustration of people so long oppressed and stolen from, so long murdered and discarded. The movement had a rocky start and had elements associating with it pushing things too far to be effective (calls for the abolition of policing in general were neither reasonable nor feasible and thus spawned nonsense like #BlueLivesMatter and the tone deaf #AllLivesMatter movements.) These were roadblocks toward truly providing change and #BlackLivesMatter has overcome them for the most part.

It is a transformation from protest to genuine activism and fundamental institutional change that evaded Occupy Wall Street and so many others.

The #MeToo movement has the same opportunity. Hope and focus rather than unrealistic scorched Earth tactics. 

Yeah — I got frustrated with the unfair treatment of Al Franken. I vented some. I’m still pissed about the injustice to a man so committed to the causes of true progress, a shining example of what a Senator opposed to the Trump administration should be about, was tarred and feathered for a boorish joke and tales of ass-grabbing which he denies.

I notice that by even bringing up the idea that even if one believes these eight women (I don’t) that questioning whether these misjudgments are predatory is, for the most strident of Rage Profiteers, grounds for excommunication from the Church of the Left. The message from this Leftist version of the Tea Party is that unless you see his indiscretions as equal to the criminal behavior of a Weinstein or a Trump, you’re just as culpable as the 84% Of Republicans who love our President. 

Which is horseshit. Passionate, uncompromising, unrelenting feces from the bunghole of an equine.

We are on the same side of this. We can tear at each other, destroy our alliances in the quest for purity of ideology, become the DNC of the 1980 presidential election — you know, the one where the Far Left candidate (Ted Kennedy) tore open a rift with the Center Left Incumbent (Jimmy Carter) that allowed a B-Movie Actor who wasn’t the GOP favorite by a long shot swing on through and secure the highest office in the land. Sort of like last year. Or we can recognize that while we don’t see exactly eye-to-eye on these issues all the time, stop trying to shame one another and unify the Left and oust the Robber Barons and Warmongers from the steps of Washington.

I fear a Consistency of Dunces. I fear the Politics of Shame and Retribution will continue to drive those of looking for collaboration and compromises in order to affect long-lasting systemic change out of the tribe.

I hope for better. We all want to live in a world that values everyone. I hope that’s enough.

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