How do you deal with the patriarchy?

When powerful interests thwart you at every turn, what do you do?

By Cary Tennis

Published December 7, 2011 1:00AM (EST)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

This is a simple question. How do you (as in you, personally and also you as in "one") live with the rage that the patriarchy evokes? I know there are many ways to define patriarchy and also many connotations associated with the word, but what I mean is, how do we live dignified lives knowing we are thwarted so often (at every turn?) by the powerful who are intent on crushing the powerless?

Best wishes,


Dear Lisa,

No one says that you have to work to change the world or better yourself. If you choose to work to change the world then you have enemies who will try to defeat you. Even in trying to just be yourself and live a good life, you will have enemies. They may be of a certain age and ethnicity; they may make a certain income; they may have certain beliefs and mannerisms. What is important is that you are in conflict. I have been in situations when I kept losing and I wanted to kill myself.  I got through those periods of time but there is no guarantee such things won't happen again. This is what we are offered in life, and there does not always seem to be a clear and perfect reason for it.

But there are practical, everyday things you can do. I would suggest that you never overlook an opportunity to gain more strength, that you surround yourself with people who support you, that you exercise and do things that make you feel good.

If you are thinking too much about this perceived enemy, this perceived enemy is winning. He has gotten "in your head" and is gaming you. So do not think too much about this perceived enemy. Instead, envision what you want to achieve and work toward it. Bring it into being. Act in accordance with your highest self, and be generous to your friends.

Changing the world is hard. We don't have to try to change the world. The world will go on without us. We will die and be forgotten and our houses will be covered in dust. Meanwhile, there is dignity in honest choice. We can quit. We can leave. We can commit suicide. There are laws against it, but truly, if we are alive today it is because we choose to be alive. The ones who truly did not want to be alive have already killed themselves.

As long as we choose to be alive, we will have enemies and we will face conflict.

Me, I live my life as though looking back on this time from a thousand years hence. I think I am not supposed to do this -- I think I am supposed to be paying more attention in class. But I do this anyway. I drift. I think about what this time will look like to those in the future, how they will marvel at our stupidity and backwardness, how they will laugh at our folly.

Do I still get dragged down by it all? Of course, sometimes. But mainly I look for holes in the wall to wriggle through, and keep going. What else is there?

We keep going. Or we kill ourselves. It's our choice.

This rage you speak of is best burned piece by piece as fuel. If you burn it all at once, nothing is left but ashes.

So that is how I deal with what you might call my rage at the patriarchy. No matter the definitions: I know what you mean.

One final thing. Through a typically circuitous Web search that began with my Googling my name and "patriarchy," I arrived at this, which, though tangential, is also riveting:

Cary Tennis

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