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