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What can we do to destroy patriarchy?

Where to start to dismantle a secular system, for everyone

What can we do to destroy patriarchy? Where to start to dismantle a secular system, for everyone

On November 12, 2023, the Viminale (Italian Ministry of the Interior) updated data on homicides that occurred in Italy this year. According to these data, 102 women have died from January to November. Of these, 82 were killed in a family or emotional context, and 53 by a partner or ex-partner. Adding Giulia Cecchettin, the count rises to 103. Faced with these figures, it's challenging, at least initially, not to feel that all is lost and that these things will continue to happen undisturbed. The frustration is immense, we are feeling alone against everyone, with impotent institutions, a divided and unaware public opinion, and the term "monster" used to distance ourselves, as if it helps identify a huge and frightening problem. After an initial moment of dismay, abandonment, and apathy, it is up to all of us to fight for those who remain and try, in our own small way, to dismantle those deep-seated, centuries-old unconscious mechanisms that allow these tragedies to occur. In our own time, gradually but also aware that this is the only way to bring about change, and that we are on the right side of history: the side that educates and protects. Anger is not just a negative feeling; if channeled, it can become valuable and constructive. The goal? Dismantling, brick by brick, the patriarchy and its mechanisms of power and oppression that, at the top of the pyramid of misogynistic behaviors, culminate in femicide.

Knowledge is power

Minutes of silence leave much to be desired. What must be done here is exactly the opposite: speak. Before speaking, however, the problem must be identified. Girls know it, feel it, understand it on their skin, with years of stories (theirs, their friends', their grandmothers' and mothers') to share, if they feel up to it. They can also amplify the voices of activists, their campaigns, and initiatives. Those on the other side can listen, try to understand what it means to feel oppressed at work, in danger on the street and public transportation, online, trapped in dangerous relationships, left alone and isolated by a possessive ex-boyfriend. The internet is our oyster, but it might also be useful to browse through some books for a deeper understanding. There's something for everyone, from essays to graphic novels, from children's books to more structured ones. Just ask your trusted librarian. The goal? Understanding different types of violence, what causes and legitimizes them, how to address the issue, how to talk about it with others, explain and discuss, challenge. Strong, unfortunately, from our experiences and, fortunately, from our knowledge.

Never Stay Silent

Once this painful awareness is internalized, one must resign oneself to never staying silent again. This step, precisely because of the patriarchy—which has put itself in a position to protect and self-defend and is therefore challenging to destroy—might be particularly difficult for girls. How many times have we tried to express an opinion or a thought in a room full of men, whether at a bar table or during a work meeting, and been ignored or intentionally belittled? Being allies to women is precisely this: using one's position of power to say things that wouldn't be heard if they weren't said by a man. A form of alliance that could work, but only if, at the right moment, the man steps back, leaving his place to a colleague, friend, relative, or acquaintance. It's not a matter of lacking machismo or not being masculine enough, but of no longer being complicit in a sick system, proudly opting out. This movement could be challenging, a rupture. It might alienate someone, exclude you from your previous group of friends. It might, however, also bring about a new sensitivity. When you hear someone joking about consent or harassment, do you intervene? The answer should be yes.

A Matter of Manner (and Lexicon)

Words are important, indeed fundamental. The term patriarchy carries a plurality of instances that need to be clarified and spoken out loud. Avoid non-inclusive language, don't speak of "True Women" and "True Men," don't fall into gender binary (in this article, women mean anyone who identifies as a woman, without exclusion), don't use terms like "monster" or "exception," don't pull out disgusting expressions about having a mother or daughter and learning that women have value because of them (and before?). Expressing your thoughts is important, but weighing your words is too. On social media and in our daily lives. 

The Fight Against the Patriarchy, If Not Intersectional, Does Not Exist

Patriarchal violence affects all women, some of them with particular vehemence. We are talking about non-white and racialized women, trans women, disabled women, queer women, women who, for any reason, do not conform to standards. Patriarchal violence does not exist in a vacuum and cannot be isolated; it is the child and symptom of capitalism, which relies on oppression, which, to function, must have a part that commands harshly and a part that obeys, disadvantaged. If these nuances are not made clear, it is impossible to understand. The discourse must be expanded, issues united, support given on social media but also in life, participating in demonstrations, donating time and money, loudly asking institutions for help that is not superficial and triggered by the latest crime news but systematic, in emotional and school education.

Deconstructing Oneself to Deconstruct the World

This effort of deconstruction is not only directed outward but also inward. For us girls, this is effectively summarized in the term "internalized misogyny." We must undergo a severe self-examination, without discounts or indulgences, and try to eradicate from our thought patterns any judgment against another woman related to her adherence or not to patriarchal models. An example? Discourses on body and beauty, fatphobia, slut-shaming. Reject any form of competition, team up in all contexts. Fight against ideas of possession, for a deep understanding of what consent means. Don't treat jealousy as normal or healthy, as a sign of interest. Build relationships on trust and emotional sharing.

Asking for Help, Demanding More

Never be afraid to ask. Firstly, for help. To a therapist, if you feel in conflict with a part of yourself that you perceive as violent and don't know how to control it, if you want professional help to distance yourself from toxic masculinity models. To a friend, to associations that tirelessly act on the territory every day. There's an embarrassment of choice. Di.RE, for example, is a national network that associates and keeps in touch all the local realities. You can turn to them to find the one closest to you. Moreover, MamaChat relies on many psychologists to assist women remotely and completely anonymously, and associations like Frida or Cadmi have special assistance methods for victims of online violence or women experiencing economic violence. Report, shout, make yourselves heard. Accompany your friends in doing so. Secondly, demand. More data, more courses, more free coverage for mental health in hospitals and schools, more funds for counseling centers.

The Road Is Long

It will take a while. To accept that the reality we live in is this, to accept that we may have been advantaged until now, even without realizing it, that life has been a bit easier for some and a bit harder for others, to accept that our other sisters may endure what we have endured. The road is long, challenging, difficult. Arm yourselves with patience, a chisel, constructive words, a desire to build on the ruins of a world that proves increasingly inadequate, challenging, disappointing, with good anger. To reach the next International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and still be all together