Getting to the Roots

I collect words. About a week after my last post, I found a new (to me) word , in my mail box. The word is deracinate. It literally means: to pull up by the roots. But has come to define the process of isolating, or cutting off, an individual from his/her given culture. It is most often seen as a negative action.

As a former gardener, I’m quite familiar with the process of weeding a garden. When you pull out a plant, roots and all, you clear, and clean the ground for new plantings of your choice. I couldn’t help but think about what I had written in my last post. How much better to eradicate a culture, then to deny it ever existed? At the very least, to shroud it in darkness and cast a shadow of extreme doubt that it ever was a reality? Then replace it with another that is heralded as being only natural, due to its obvious superiority?

But, who defines what is superior? From what I have gathered in exploring the concept of a matriarchy, that culture is most often defined as more egalitarian. That means that the skills and abilities that most supported and allowed the culture to flourish were rewarded, regardless of gender. Female and male were seen as equals, most likely their roles differed, but each role was seen as important to the continuation of the culture itself. And those roles were handed down from one generation to another. The parental figures taught those skills to their offspring. A good example of that can be found in The Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean M Auel. Yes, it is fiction, but a great deal of study went into the work.

We need to get back to that concept of definition, and who decides what is good, bad, right, or wrong, and what will most likely allow the culture to flourish and continue. The elite, those who hold power, also create the rules concerning and defining good citizenship within that society, as well as who, and how, wrong behavior will be punished.

Thus, we can see how the patriarchy totally redefined the concept and position of women. Being territorial, it applauded physical strength and battle readiness, but at the same time, redefined woman as something less than. She was the “weaker” sex, therefore in need of protecting, and was not allowed to learn the skills that might allow her to defend herself. Because she gave birth, her place was in the home, taking care of his property, and to a great extent, became viewed as his possession right along with all the other household items and whatever animals he might own. She was far closer to nature, and thus must be controlled and trained. And because she was closer to nature, she didn’t possess much ability for logic, being far more emotionally activated. Simply put, she could not be trusted and, for a period of time, was even fitted with a locked metal chastity belt, when her husband was off fighting the good fight, with the single key to that belt kept in his pocket. This was to ensure that her offspring were his and only his, and that his property would descend to his male children.

Of course, there were a few individual women who rose above that definition. Leadership roles, such as queens and heads of convents, and the like. Women who shepherded their households while husbands were off fighting “Holy Wars”, making sure that husband still had a household to return to. They were most often seen as unnatural creatures, anomalies, even witches with dark powers earned through associations with demons and such.

A good example of that would be Sophia, the older sister of Peter the Great of Russia. Peter, and his younger brother, were too young to take the throne. Sophia (a decidedly intelligent and ambitious woman) became Regent of all of Russia and ruled until Peter came of age. She was instrumental in opening trade with a much larger world than the closed Russia that had existed until then. When Peter came of age, one of his first actions was to lock Sophia in a convent cell, where she was stripped of all power, including her name, and where she remained until she died. Peter expanded on those first tentative moves to let Russia join the rest of the world, and is given credit for all of it. Strangely enough, the name Sophia means wisdom, while Peter means rock (as in stone).

I did a twenty page paper on Sophia in College. It took a great deal of digging because, at first, the only quote I could find about her, was from one of the first foreign journalists she had invited into Russia’s closed society. In his words, she was an unnaturally, ugly woman, grossly obese, with a wart on her face that sprouted long hairs. 

This is all to say that the patriarchy, over the course of hundreds of centuries, redefined woman as something else, something different, something other than itself. And over those centuries, women came to view themselves in light of that other definition. If on occasion, she raised her voice to express another opinion, she was more than likely told “not to worry her pretty little head about such matters,” which were obviously beyond her understanding.

But then, the patriarchy made a mistake. Within the past century, it gave her the vote. Perhaps because it believed that wives would automatically follow their husbands preferences, and giving her the vote might actually shut her up. It didn’t. In fact, it had just the opposite effect. She now has a voice and is using it. Not just on her own behalf, but in making her world a better place for all of its members.

Here are some of the synonyms for that original word deracinate: abolish, annihilate, eliminate, erase, expunge, exterminate, extinguish, stamp out, uproot, weed out, wipe out, abate, demolish, efface, extirpate, liquidate, obliterate, off, purge, raze, scratch, scrub, squash, torpedo, total, trash, waste, blot out, do away with, mow down, root out, rub out, shoot down, take out, uproot, wash out.

I also stumbled upon an interesting quote, I thought might be germane to this discussion. What is your response to these words?

No one is ever a victim,
although your conquerors
would have you believe in
your own victim hood.
How else could they
conquer you?

__Barbara Marciniak

 

About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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13 Responses to Getting to the Roots

  1. annell4 says:

    A nice bit of history, I wonder about the quote? I think sometimes we are victims…but maybe we use it for our own purposes? I am not sure?

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1sojournal says:

      Annell, that is exactly why I posted the quote. At first, I reacted the same way you have. But, then had to think about it and finally realized that it prompts a very telling question: Am I here because I choose to be here, or because I’m too afraid of what will happen if I leave? When I finally realized that I was staying because of the fear of whatever was out there, somehow that made the decision to leave immediate in some ways.

      Elizabeth

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sherry Marr says:

    The quote reminded me of a man who destroyed my life (temporarily), telling me it was my fault because I let him. Nice way to absolve himself of responsibility. I am hoping the rising of the women who march, the student marches, and the many women running for office indicates a shift from this current awfulness to a more woman-centered society. Heaven knows, the men have had power long enough and have set us back a thousand years. A very interesting post, Elizabeth, as yours always are.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1sojournal says:

      I had to smile at your comment Sherry. Same here. On our first anniversary, my ex said that it takes ten years for a man to make a woman into a good wife. He doubled that on our tenth anniversary. I divorced him just short of the twentieth, and told him I much preferred being “just a good woman.”

      While in College, I did a minor in Women’s Studies. Back then, they didn’t have it as a Major (I find that interesting as well). But, my Degree in History has stood me in good stead. It only confirmed, in many ways, what I was learning in those Women’s Studies classes. I prefer the idea of an egalitarian society, where the individual, regardless of gender, rises because of skill and ability, and does it with respect for others. I think a woman centered culture could be just as bad as our male dominated society has been. After all, there is also the desire for retribution, which would be difficult to control. I have been called a Feminist by others, and I most often say I am a Humanist. There really is a lot to be learned from the past.

      And thanks for the compliment. This is definitely a topic one can sink one’s teeth into.

      Elizabeth

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  3. I found this fascinating, from the “new” word you found through the history of Sophia and Peter, which I had not known about before. The quote reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt’s . . . No one can make you feel inferior without your consent . , . I am still working on that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Sarah, this is the third in a series of posts that will eventually take a look at three myths and their possible meanings. At the moment, I’m trying to establish a general background and the history that surrounds those myths, because myths are handed down stories, that change somewhat over time. They carry a great deal of meaning, much of it symbolic.

      I had to write the paper to make up for a snafu on a midterm exam in Russian History. When the prof asked me why I wanted to write about Sophia, I laughed and repeated the quote from that foreign journalist. Pointing first to my short overweight stature, then to the wart on my upper lip, I told him it was out of aggravated sympathy. He just said, “Oh, my, this should be interesting.” It was, lol, for both of us.

      I really like the E.R. quote. It is a softer version of the one I stumbled across. And I find it to be true. There is a reason that the Jewish people had to wander through the desert for twenty years, before finally getting back to their homeland. During those years they had to relearn what it meant to be free, no longer slaves to another culture. That, in turn, means they had to learn to fend for themselves, and to take responsibility for their own choices. And I believe that is true for most women growing up within the confines of a male dominated society. That might begin with the redefining of what it means to be a woman.

      Elizabeth

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  4. ZQ says:

    Interesting Argument. Well presented.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1sojournal says:

      Glad to see you here, ZQ, and thank you. This was my first blog, and I think of it as home base. After being placed on disability, I was fast becoming a couch potato, so created this space out of fear of losing whatever skills I had. Later, found the poetry prompt circuit and couldn’t resist, as poetry was how I really got into writing.

      Back in College, we were told that one must choose to either be a poet, or a prose writer. It was, and still may be believed, that if one tried to do both, both would suffer and not be considered good writing. I’m a rebel at heart, a North Wisconsin Hillbilly. That means I saw that statement as a challenge, rather than a rule that must not be broken. I was a History and English major in College. And both of those categories demand writing skills. I really like research, but also like the incredible flow to be found in poetry. So, I still do both and enjoy my freedom.

      Hope you come back and continue reading,

      Elizabeth

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A very good debate, Elizabeth. Of course, it suites males to push females down and make them nonthreatening. In Africa, many women are still abused by their men and the practice of paying lobolo or “bride price” helps maintain this outlook of ownership of wives by men.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1sojournal says:

      I agree with you, Robbie, but only in part. It wasn’t just women who were defined by the patriarchy. For centuries, men have been told they are the “head” of the household. And it is their responsibility to oversee what goes on there. That is a pretty hefty burden to try to live up to, on so many levels. It isn’t only women who have been harmed in this one-sided outlook. Far too many men never find out the true meaning of “help-mate”. It strongly suggests an equal partnership.

      And I think you have just helped me with the next step in this discussion. Thank you,

      Elizabeth

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I actually overcame the stereotype of men being the stronger sex. In my younger years I worked at a natural gas company in the plant department repairing and installing gas lines. I had a tough time proving myself to all the men. No woman had succeeded there ever until I came along and many had tried. I held my own running a 110 pound jackhammer, backhoe, dump truck and much, much more. I worked my way up to running my own crew of men. They couldn’t break me and it was one of the biggest challenges/accomplishments in my life. Thanks for bringing back the good ole days!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 1sojournal says:

    Hi Diane, and congratulations, that is quite an accomplishment. I think women have come a ways in defeating that “weaker sex” definition. However, the shadow of it still exists in places where it does more harm than good. Psychiatry tells us that every individual possesses both male and female elements within the psyche. The male element is defined as the “active” energy, while the female is referred to as “passive”.

    When I was in high school, we were asked to write a paper about the profession we would like to seek. I wrote about being an Architect, and drew up a scaled plan for a house, with several bedrooms, as well as an outside view of the structure. Although I got a good grade for the paper, the male teacher wrote a note at the bottom of it, telling me that although my writing skills were good, I should consider a more appropriate career as Architecture was definitely a male calling, and I probably couldn’t even get into such a school.

    Almost twenty-five years later, in College, I took every poetry class I could. The first one ended on a really poor encounter, and I almost quit writing. The professor harassed me, because one of the first poems I ever wrote, before taking any classes, won first place in the first writing contest held on the campus, the previous semester. He was one of the judges. I kept all of my assignments from class, and they held his hand written comments that started with “nice work”, and ended with several that said, “excellent”. So, you can imagine my surprise, when I got a grade of B-. I went to his office and asked him why, showing him the papers with his comments. He gave me a schpiel, about how Creative Writing was different from any other class on campus, then explained that he could only give a few A’s in any class. And that there were a few very promising young men in the class who would actually seek to make a career in writing. And, as I was a middle-aged woman, still raising her kids, I’d never do more than write an occasional poem, like other women knit socks (for gift giving). When I got up to leave, he couldn’t resist taking one last shot, and said with a sneer, “What’s the matter, Elizabeth, did I poke a hole in your perfect 4.0?” Total mistake, I wasn’t an 18 year-old freshman. I opened the door, turned around and grinned at him, saying, “No, someone else beat you to it, honey-child, and I respect her far more than I could ever do the same for you.” It must have really distressed him when a few years after graduating, I was invited to teach Writing classes at that same institution.

    Elizabeth

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