Public Citizen ~ Larry Barnett

Larry Barnett Larry Barnett lives in Sonoma where he was elected to three terms on the City Council and served twice as Mayor. A thirty-three-year resident, he currently serves as Chair of Sonoma's Planning Commission. He has been married for 48 years, has two daughters and three grandchildren.


A not so grand theory of herstory

Posted on December 9, 2019 by Larry Barnett

History is written by the victor, and for the past 10,000 years that victor has been men. Accordingly, history (his story) concerns itself with power-based theories of patriarchal social order: styles of rulership, the role of warfare, and economic systems.

Herstory (not his story) is largely unwritten, or at least not well-acknowledged. Buried below the discourse and explanations of men, the global history of women is one of silencing, disempowerment, and relegation to man-serving roles. In modernity, western culture has evolved enough to allow women to vote, own property, bear (or not bear) children, and inherit wealth, but in 2019, even these entitlements are under assault by patriarchy.

History (not her story) includes a variety of patriarchal rationales, ranging in views spiritual and materialistic. Author Riane Eisler explored this territory in her book The Chalice and the Blade, as did Robert Graves in The White Goddess. Both books recount the origins and effects of the 10,000-year war on women that has consumed us. It is not a simple gender war, however; as seen in bias and bigotry towards the LBGTQ community, the rejection of the feminine is not gender specific. From the patriarchal perspective, the feminine displays weakness and duplicity — both deemed dangerous — and claims to power that must be suppressed.

Eastern religion acknowledges the legitimacy of both feminine and masculine principles, the former generally expressed as the “receptive,” the latter as the “active.” Yet eastern societies are expressly patriarchal, underlining a history of hypocrisy. The feminine has been relegated to a subordinate position, the principle of “receptivity” perverted into acceptance of submission. “The weaker sex,” as western society has conventionally called women, “requires” the assertion of male power for protection and guidance; eastern society is equally culpable in this betrayal.

Some religious sects explicitly advocate that women subordinate themselves to men, wives follow the orders and dictates of their husbands, and that women limit their own roles to those of  “traditional” housewife and mother. Such brainwashing of women can be seen in their attraction to men of “strength and power” rather than the exercise of their own. In her book In a Different Voice, Psychologist Carol Gilligan explains this “silencing” of women and the commensurate replacement of an authentic voice with that of the patriarchy. Punished and suppressed for so long, a version of Stockholm Syndrome forces women to find a voice by mimicking that of their oppressor.

Masculine objections to the “likability” of Elizabeth Warren are an example of the fear that forthright women bring out in men. The male horror fantasy is the “vagina dentata,” the emasculating, all-enveloping feminine from which men once “escaped.” Draping the feminine in costumes of “the muse” or “the whore” to mask the reality of fully-empowered women, men continue to find ways to denigrate powerful women like Warren and Pelosi, but it’s a charade. Pandora, an Ancient Greek myth about man’s creation of the first woman from clay who later releases misery into the world, speaks to the fearful projection patriarchal society placed upon women, and it continues today, unabated. Cruel sociopaths like Donald Trump draw upon fear and anger fueled by 10,000 years of anti-feminine rhetoric and behavior. He finds company in men cut of the same cloth: Putin, Mohammed Bin Salman, Erdogan, Duterte, Kim Jong Il.

Herstory, regrettably, remains a silenced discourse about a world that might have been.

One thought on “A not so grand theory of herstory

Comments are closed.

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA