What do you personally do to bring down the oppressive system of patriarchy? This is the question I posed to the attendees of the Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering this August.
As the voices of the women photographed reveal, there are infinite answers! 25 original ways to smash patriarchy are pictured here.
The Women’s Gathering is a DIY, non-corporate campout that welcomes women (in the broadest definition) from the East Coast region and beyond. It has been organized and hosted by Twin Oaks, an egalitarian intentional community in Central Virginia for the last 32 years.
The Gathering honors women in all our strength, wisdom, intelligence, creativity, uniqueness, spirituality, and joy. It is not explicitly about smashing patriarchy. But it does.
By creating a positive female space, we consciously free ourselves from the oppressive dominant paradigm. Empowered and inspired, we are energized to nurture sisterhood and push forward feminism for the rest of the year.
This year at the Gathering I wrote “I SMASH PATRIARCHY BY…” on a whiteboard and asked women to fill in the blank with one strategy they would like to share with the world. Some women knew their answer immediately and others spent hours wording it perfectly. The resulting chorus of voices demonstrates the broad array of ways we reach small and large goals that whittle down the dominant paradigm of male-supremacy.
Let us inspire and challenge you.
The prompt was not meant to imply that we are each individually responsible for changing the entire system. Rather, we each have the power to make a difference. The work of eliminating patriarchy should not be left to women alone. However, women’s perspectives on the subject are important because, as with any oppressed group, we should lead our own movement.
Why smash patriarchy? Nobody at the Gathering batted an eye at the concept. The ways patriarchy intersects with other systems of oppression brings its destructive power into focus. It intersects with racism to objectify and devalue us, with classism to dehumanize us, with capitalism to disenfranchise us, with colonialism to exploit us, with ageism to dismiss us, and many other inexcusable treatments.
If you’d like more ideas about how to turn patriarchy on its head, take some cues from Twin Oaks Community, the host of the Gathering, which has been defining its own cultural norms for the last 50 years. Twin Oaks holds as its founding values to “eliminate the attitudes and results of sexism, racism, ageism, and competitiveness.” As a visitor to the community, I can say that Twin Oaks smashes patriarchy in practices that feel remarkably comfortable to me as a feminist.
Here are a few examples: at Twin Oaks all work including childcare and cleaning is valued equally. People of all genders may choose the work they prefer free of stigma or extra reward. There is a free daycare system and parental leave is provided. The community actively resists both the slut shaming and over-sexualizing of women that are rampant in mainstream culture.
Both men and women at Twin Oaks value women-only space. This includes a permanent all-women’s residence, periodic women-only events, and the annual Women’s Gathering. When male visitors ask why there isn’t men-only space, Twin Oakers calmly respond, “Isn’t the rest of the world men’s space?”
The Women’s Gathering was many things for me, a weekend to connect with nature, a time for critical self-reflection in challenging workshops, fun evening performances, and an approachable pagan spiritual space that was deeply grounding. The Gathering began and ended with an easy dance, holding hands and walking in a spiral pattern. We were connected, honored and empowered in the beautiful song we all sang in the spiral dance:
We are a people at the full height of our power,
Now is the time and this is the hour.
We recognize our sacred worth,
We have the power to transform the Earth.
It is with this spirit of affirmation and grounded activism that I share the voices of 25 of the many women who are working to end the oppressive system of patriarchy.
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