The Patriarchal Dilemma by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

I was listening to a newscast when it was reported that the Ukraine sent missiles into Russia. My initial thought was “it’s about time they took it to the Russians.” The next moment I was horrified at myself.  I am a pacifist.  I think the proliferation of weapons is one of humankind’s great evils and here I was cheering on an attack.  One that could escalate an already nasty war, lead to nuclear weapons use and possibly even a world war. And yet when I look at what is happening in Ukraine, my mind simply can’t comprehend what the people are going through. The trauma of the children cuts particularly deeply. And I can see no sane reason behind the strikes other than rank cruelty.

There it is in a nutshell, what I have come to call the patriarchal dilemma. It’s a no-win situation with no right answer. While life might place us in such positions all on its own, the patriarchal form of this is created by design. It is nasty, it is cruel, and loss of human life and ecological destruction are not glitches but features.

I faced a patriarchal dilemma situation in my life recently. I live in NY State which was considering a cashless bail system. I lobbied for it, and it did pass. But afterwards the other party went into “pushing fear mode.” A tool I have come to see as particularly patriarchal. The local newspapers screamed about “criminals” getting out and committing new crimes. At the last election I can’t tell you how many flyers I got – many each and every day – with the same message: “You will never be safe with [insert name of Democrat] in office because when criminals are caught, they will be let out to continue their crime sprees.” This was an extremely effective message. My area on Long Island is considered the reason the Democrats lost the house.[1] It seemed to scare enough people to pick the “law and order” side. Meanwhile cash bail truly is discriminatory. If we are to live in a system where everyone is innocent until proven guilty, we need to recognize that not everyone can afford bail. Not so common, in fact almost invisible, in the screeching headlines are the stories of people arrested on suspicion of minor crimes, usually black or brown who couldn’t make bail and then were ultimately exonerated. Far too many have had their lives were ruined by the days, weeks or even months they were forced to remain in jail. And even rarer are interviews with children who lose precious time with their incarcerated (and innocent) parents or families who have lost their housing as a result of the loss of income.  

 I believe this was the major issue that turned my whole county politically red, top to bottom, local, state and federal. The district next to mine even has the distinction of electing serial liar George Santos. A similar issue is at the core as well of why the immigration system can’t be fixed. Voices of humanity are drowned out by fear-mongers, racists tropes, and ugly politics. And not only racist but misogynist as well. That is why I feel that the abortion politic feeds so deeply into patriarchal scenarios. 

A recent newspaper headline screamed about how both sides are gearing up for the “coming abortion wars.” I shudder. War and abortion mentioned together! War in relation to women’s most basic healthcare! A war fought in and over women’s bodies! (That is our bodies, sisters.) It is disgusting, violent and reduces women to the sum total of what our bodies can produce.

I read an article about a nursing/medical program in Texas where the students were taught to do D&C’s but had to be careful is discussing them not to connect them to abortions. When lawmakers came to tour the program, they had to be especially careful. Women are being silenced.

In March 2022, even before the Dobbs decision, a 26-year-old southern Texas woman Lizelle Herrera was indicted after she went to the hospital during a miscarriage. Hospital staff reported her to law enforcement suspecting it was the result of a self-induced abortion. How frightened do you have to be to self-induce an abortion? But then to criminalize it? The Starr County Sheriff’s Office charged her with murder for “intentionally and knowingly causing the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.” The charges were eventually dropped. But the indictment did what it was designed to do; send its message of fear and terror, not only for pregnant women but for anyone helping. The Alabama AG has already announced he will look into prosecuting women for using pills associated with abortion.

And what do family members and care givers do now in the face of their own potential prosecution for helping? What if a woman is miscarrying and needs a hospital? Can you imagine the terror? It is a snapshot of the patriarchal dilemma. 

Meanwhile patriarchal legislatures are doing things such as defining women’s dress code (including no bare arms) as in the Missouri state legislature and comparing women’s reproduction to cows such as Jack Nelsen did in Idaho. He has apologized but would you want him legislating what you can do with your body?

The patriarchal dilemma also keeps us in a constant state of trauma making it even harder to stand up to such mistreatment. People who have faced abuse get triggered and are often paralyzed and those facing the harsh repercussions have to work underground or be jailed. 

There are plenty of examples of such actions gone to greater extremes. The governments in Afghanistan and Iran don’t even pretend to care for women’s lives anymore. In Iran there are morality police and protestors are being executed and women and children are starving in Afghanistan where women have been removed from all forms of public life including jobs, school and public parks.

In this country, at least, we need to revitalize the Equal Right Amendment. Why that would be controversial is beyond me.  

[1] A personal note here. I am politically a democrat, but I feel that even they, when given free reign are patriarchal at the core because our culture is so patriarchal.  I j feel that people suffer less, and civil, voting and women’s rights are more respected in the democratic party.

BIO: Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods

Categories: Abuse of Power, Feminism, General, In the News, Politics, Ukraine

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18 replies

  1. Thank you for all the work you’ve done in your amazing life. I wondered how DeSantos was elected.

    When I was learning to write copy for advertisement I was told to play up fear and greed. I wasn’t especially pleased about this, but then was shown all the commericials that indicated exclusivity (greed) or failure to be popular or accepted (fear.) Sadly, these were effective commercials. I eventually left copy writing because I didn’t feel right preying on people’s emotions. Didn’t realize at the time it was part of the patriarchial structure/culture.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Morgan. I am struck by your story and kudos to you that you left copy writing. I think many of us have been in such a situation where we know in our gut that something isn’t right but we can’t unravel just what it is. The patriarchal culture has so infected everything in our lives. I can only hope that by recognizing it and calling it out that we can make substantive changes.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Your piece is chilling. You are so right about the use of fear to keep us paralyzed. Thank you for bringing all these issues together to show the common patriarchal thread.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What is more mind boggling is that WOMEN vote for these hate-filled men.

    Women who occupy political offices also take up political positions that systematically discriminate against other women. Look at Stefanik from NY, Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, and Bobert from Colorado. All of them hard-right women.

    Personally I had three spontaneous miscarriages. Each one was emotionally devastating. In today’s world in a red state I would be prosecuted for murder. Imagine bleeding in a prison cell, mourning the lost child and facing prosecution. We live in a deeply sick society.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh, Janet! You are so right, and this makes me so sad. I’m 75, and sometimes I say to my friends, “It’s a good time to be old!” Society seems to be unraveling. I hope young people can find a way out of this mess. It’s not looking good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with you Katharine. I so hope that young people can find a new pathway. I sometimes despair about our world too but then I think about how creating despair is another patriarchal tool along with fear, and I do my best to not give into it.


  5. “Voices of humanity are drowned out by fear-mongers, racists tropes, and ugly politics. And not only racist but misogynist as well. That is why I feel that the abortion politic feeds so deeply into patriarchal scenarios.” How much more right could you be?…. as far as democrats go I am also one, (this after being an independent all of my life until the other party became what it is today – predicated on a hate machine) but feel just as you do that patriarchy is ruling that politic too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This essay is so insightful and helps us zero in on the core problem of fear. Trying to make the world better can seem to be such an overwhelming prospect, but when we realize that much of the world’s misery is fear-based, we can start to come up with real solutions by asking ourselves “So why do people have fear? If it is because people don’t believe they will have what they need physically, emotionally, or spiritually, then we work on making a world where everyone has these. If we think people have become addicted to fear because it is so pervasive and people don’t know how to live without it, we find ways to wean people off it…” etc. I don’t know that understanding the mechanism makes it easier to create change, but I think it can offer a means to understand practical steps to getting there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great question you point out Carolyn. “So why do people have fear?” I don’t have the answers either. But this I do know, in a world which doesn’t support people who are perceived as “different” – culture, race, sex, gender, religion – you name it, we come to feel so separate with no larger community. That’s a fearful place to be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed! When I asked why people have fear I was more thinking about the people you mentioned in your district and nearby who responded with irrational fear to political fear-mongering. For sure many marginalized people, and everyone, has reason to be fearful from climate change, political polarization and its results, etc. The ERA is a wonderful first step and I agree that it is one we should all be advocating for. It’s crazy that it has been in the works for decades and still no ERA.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yep – it’s a 5,000 year old problem. We seem to be at a transition point in history. The path we choose as a species is yet to be determined – will we continue down the path of fear and power-over which uses fear to maintain that power – or will we veer to the path of love. I’m praying – meditating – manifesting – for love.

    Liked by 1 person

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