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In Palermo, is it the fault of patriarchy?

Why do power systems influence gender relations?

In Palermo, is it the fault of patriarchy? Why do power systems influence gender relations?

Recent cases in the news are loud and clear, even screaming. The gang rape of a 19-year-old girl by seven of her peers in Palermo is a shocking incident that has sparked widespread debate. But that isn't all. There is the case of Jennifer Hermoso, the Spanish national football player who was kissed on the mouth without consent by the president of the Spanish Football Federation during a party. And then there are the ongoing femicides in Italy, which seem to have increased even more in August 2023.

There is outrage on social media. Some look for causes, others for punishments, while some distance themselves from these so-called "monsters" who aren't monsters at all. When Non Una Di Meno in Palermo holds up a banner reading "The rapist isn't sick, he's a healthy son of the patriarchy" during an angry protest march after the recent events, he gets to the heart of the issue.

So what is patriarchy and how does it affect us all?

Patriarchy is an overused term that is often stripped of its meaning in social debates. It refers to a power system in which men traditionally hold the power and women are subjugated. In this system we're in, there is femicide, violence, harassment and all kinds of injustices - from pick-up lines in the street to wage differentials, nothing is exempt. There is no room in this system for anything other than binary thinking, a legacy of our ancestors. All men are active members of the patriarchy, even if they're unaware of it, even if they say "not all men" It's not about monsters, and it cannot be solved with chemical castration (rape isn't about lust, it's about power) or social outrage or sharing photos of the perpetrators with comments highlighting their vile sides. The days of Lombroso are over.

What actions and behaviours contribute to the pyramid of patriarchy?

Every time certain language is used, every time you actively participate in a conversation where friends use possessive language or show a desire to be owned, every time you call a girl "bad" for not being present or being unlikable, you're giving the patriarchy a high-five. If you remain silent when these terms are used around you, it's the same. When women are viewed only in terms of their reproductive potential, their ability to bring life into the world, that also contributes. These subtle, imperceptible aspects permeate our lives and social dynamics and are all the more insidious because of it, but they all lead back to one thing: patriarchy, which needs to be dismantled, starting with those who benefit from it, the men.

Sometimes, because of their upbringing, culture, self-protection, unconsciousness (internalised misogyny) or gain ("stooges of the patriarchy"), women themselves adopt these patriarchal behaviours or use the same power strategies as men towards other women, including the language used. This may work, but only for a time. In a binary system that allows no exceptions, a woman will never have the same power as a man and will eventually be as subjugated as others. Moreover, contrary to what one might think, patriarchy also harms men. Some examples? If crying or expressing feelings is considered "feminine", a man isn't taught the emotional maturity to express himself without machismo, explosive anger or suppression of his feelings. And if the woman's role is to raise the children while the man works, any judge will favour the mother in a separation or divorce. Patriarchy, like all systems based on a power imbalance, is a cage for all involved, and violence is a sad but predictable consequence. Misogyny is its companion and familiar and natural. Rape culture is one of its manifestations, and feminism (with its myriad manifestations since 1848) is trying to get a grip on it, offer solutions, contain it or destroy it. If the events of August have taught us anything, it's that the work must begin with the deconstruction of men, which must be complete and conscious. How do we do that?

How can the patriarchal system be dismantled and deconstructed?

We can start by highlighting some recent examples where famous men, singers, activists, influencers and many more have spoken out about the events in Palermo. Some have done better than others, but intention is what counts. Tananai, for example, shared a tweet collecting the worst news of the month, Ermal Meta got involved in a deeper discussion and interacted with the victims who shared their stories. Benjamin Mascolo and Francesco Cicconetti posted stories. These actions, some more effective than others, are attempts. Attempts, sometimes awkward, to take a step forward, to expose oneself, to reflect and question oneself. The goal is not destructive, but deconstructive, and the key lies in the difference between these two terms.

Of course, this work must begin immediately, be communal and profound. It must permeate every aspect of daily life. While the responsibility should lie with adult men (perhaps with the help of therapy), the emotional and sexual education of children should start early, both at school and in families. It should be reflected in the media, on social platforms, in books, on billboards, in flyers - everywhere. The solution is not to empower women but to disarm men, thus emptying the patriarchal system and making it obsolete for the benefit of all.