Sonia Johnson once said that the most radical thing we can do is to LOVE ALL WOMEN. We don’t have to like each other, or let anyone hurt us, but if we want to live in a better world, a place to start is to learn to LOVE ALL WOMEN. By that, I think, she means to come from a place of basic compassion and expectation of good will.
An analogy I’ve come up with is that if you are on a crowded bus and someone suddenly lurches into you and steps on your toe, you might be angry at them. Your toe hurts and their actions caused it to hurt, and you’re not having the best of days, so you might lash out at them. You want them to take responsibility for the pain they caused you. But what if you had seen that someone shoved them into you? What if, instead of the person who stepped on your toe willfully abusing you, you saw that they were rudely shoved into you by someone else? Who would you be mad at now the person on your toe or the jerk who shoved them?
In my view, patriarchy is that jerk shoving all of us into each other, especially all women. When a woman, in her pain from all the shoves she’s received in her life, lashes out at me, I don’t get mad at her I GET MAD AT PATRIARCHY. Patriarchy makes us ALL hurt, in pain, angry. Sometimes we even think we are angry at each other. Sometimes you even find yourself angry at me. And I do stumble. We all do. We let each other down and that hurts the most because we expect better from each other. We open up and trust each other the way we’d never trust some jerk on the bus. But when we fail each other–when I fail you–it’s never just we who fail. Always remember there’s a jerk behind us pushing us around. Always remember that we were pushed. Patriarchy is always there, inside each of us, pushing us to hate ourselves and each other.
Another analogy. Bulls don’t naturally fight in bull rings. Picadors repeatedly stab them with swords to goad them into fighting with the matadors. This bull refused to fight, even though his back is bloody from the many painful swords still hanging from it. When the matador realized the bull was refusing to fight him, it changed the matador’s life. This picture was taken as the matador was experiencing this profound transformation. Look at the compassion in the bull’s face. That former matador now fights to end the practice of bull fighting.
And so, I pledge to you, my sisters, that even when you cause me pain, I will try to see through your actions to the real cause of both our pain: patriarchy. Even though it’s going to hurt like heck. I know you will hurt me. And I may often fail, but I will try to remember those thousands of wounds patriarchy causes each of us, each day, and to get mad at PATRIARCHY not you. I might say, “ouch! you’re on my toe,” but I will try hard not to express that as anger at you or, if I can help it, to add to the wounding you already carry. I will try to help each of us see that you were shoved into me, even if neither of us can see the jerk who did it. You did not cause me pain.
And I will fight for all women–women in this group and women not in this group–because no matter what the picadors or matadors of this world want me to feel, I choose to feel compassion for ALL WOMEN. Starting with myself. I will try to forgive myself for the pain I’m in, and through the haze of that pain, I will do my best to ask, “can I help you?” Because I know there are swords in your back, too.
So I say to you:
I WILL NOT FIGHT YOU.
I Will fight FOR you.