The Origin of Patriarchy
A fable in the style of Rousseau’s fable, “The Origin of Inequality.” Inspired by divisive nature of the social media conversation about misogyny following the Santa Barbara shooting. This story is to prove why the cause of defeating patriarchy should unite us, not divide us. (Trigger warning: rape, violence.)
When time had freshly dawned and humans were new to the world, there lived a little village called Innocence at the edge of a wide blue river. Life was quiet there, but peaceful. The men hunted and fished, the woman wove and gathered. Tragedy was rare, although it did occur from time to time. A man named Hugh, for example, was born with a twisted leg.
Unable to hunt with the other men, Hugh did not abandon himself to despair. Instead, he limped everywhere, observing the world with his keen green eyes. He saw the beauty in the wing of every bird, in the bloom of every flower. He spent many days on the banks of of the river seeking out the sleekest beds of clay. And in time, he invented, for all the world, the art of pottery.
His bowls and pots and vases were blue and green and gold and smoother than the curves of the lazy river from whence the clay came. And the woman of the village marveled and said that no man was as clever as Hugh. But Hugh was very humble, and only blushed at their praise. He was a small, slight man who brought home no meat, and he did not expect to receive any honor.
When Wenda, the daughter of the village chief, asked to learn from him the miraculous art of pottery, he thought only of how to teach her his craft. He guided her hands on the wheel and taught her all the secrets of his manifold colors. He was innocent of Wenda’s heart until the day she asked him to marry her. And on that day Hugh was flabbergasted, but full of more joy than he could say.
For Wenda was not only the daughter of the village chief, she was the most beautiful and the most intelligent of all the women in the village, and the mightiest hunters were always knocking at her door.
One hunter, by the name of Rolf, could not bear to attend the wedding of Hugh and Wenda. “It is disgusting,” said Rolf, “That Wenda should stoop to marry such a half man- such a small, slight, twisted cripple, when she could have the mightiest hunter in the forest. When she could have ME!” But Rolf farted loudly and his breath always stank of garlic, and Wenda had never been the slightest bit interested in him.
Rolf’s friend Jacob patted him on the back and sympathized with him. “I know,” he said, “It is very hard to be rejected. But it is, after all, Wenda’s choice.”
“Is it the choice of the deer, when I bring her down, the arrow in her throat?” said Rolf. “Is it the choice of the fish to be caught upon my hook? Is it the choice of the barley the women gather, to be pulled, to be uprooted from the fields? When I hunger, I reach out with my hand and I reap my harvest of sweet, bloody flesh. That is what it means to be a mighty hunter.”
And Jacob was concerned and disturbed at the dire madness that had overcome his friend. He shrunk back from Rolf in fear, in foreboding. But Rolf paid no heed to his shrinking friend, walking as he was with bold strides to the hut of the chieftain of the village.
He entered the door of the hut with a mighty bang, and Chieftain Eric looked up with surprise and pleasure, for he and Rolf were friends of old. “What can I do for you today?” he asked.
“I want to sell you a deer I killed in the forest today,” Rolf said. “A fat buck, venison to last you a month or more.”
“Take in exchange my barrel of apples and my woven basket of nuts, and we will call it a fair trade.”
“Furthermore,” said Rolf, “I want to sell you the hide of a mighty mountain lion.”
“I will take it and gladly, and wear it as a cape on festival days,” replied Eric, Wenda’s father. “Take in exchange the pot upon my mantelpiece, the one with the streaks of blue and purple. I don’t want it. Hugh made it, and Hugh annoys me. He talks too much of flowers and stars, I never understand anything he says.”
“I do not want the pot. I share your opinon of Hugh. What a charlatan. He says grand things to make himself seem intelligent. He even calls himself a poet. But it is just to make big strong men like you and me feel stupid. He’s overcompensating for his weak leg,” Rolf replied, and Chieftain Eric grunted in relief, relieved to be confirmed in his dislike. Then, with a big smile he offered Rolf his finest hunting knife, and they sealed the deal for the mountain lion pelt. Then the chieftain offered Rolf a leg of lamb and a seat by the fire.
“I would like to make one more bargain with you,” said Rolf, after a long period of grunting and chewing.
“What bargain?” said Chieftain Eric, sipping his glass of wine and feeling mellow.
“I would like to offer you my hut and all my lands.”
“In return for what?” said the Chieftain, rising from his chair in shock.
“In return for your daughter Wenda’s hand in marriage.”
The Chieftain was disturbed. He began pacing back and forth. “It is a very unusual bargain,” he said. “I feel very strange about it. Never, in the history of the world, has such a bargain been made before.”
“It is fair- isn’t it? And more than fair. Surely my hut (the biggest in the village) and my lands, (the best lands beside the river) are worth more than one slip of a girl.”
“I never thought about my daughter’s WORTH that way,” said the Chieftain doubtfully.
“What does she do for you? She makes pots. She picks berries. She sews. If she worked for you the rest of her life, she would not produce one quarter the value of my house and lands. This is how you may judge her worth.”
“But, you see, she’s my daughter,” said the Chieftain. “And I want her to be happy. Isn’t that worth something?”
“I will make her the happiest woman in the village,” Rolf boasted. “I am tall, handsome, a mighty hunter. Her interest in Hugh is misguided, delusional. You know she couldn’t REALLY live a long happy life with that freak.”
The Chieftain thought about it. He thought about Rolf’s lands. He thought about Rolf’s hut. He thought about how much Hugh annoyed him. “Well,” he said, “I suppose I really am doing what is best for her. How can a young girl like that know her own mind?” And ignoring the queasy feelings in his stomach with a loud righteous inner roar of self-justification, he shook hands to seal the deal.
Rolf burst into Hugh’s hut, where Hugh was quietly kissing Wenda. He knocked Hugh over with a single blow of his mighty fist. He meant only to frighten him, but something terrible happened. Hugh’s head knocked against the corner of the mantelpiece. His skull cracked open, the bloody brains spilled out.
When he saw what he had done, Rolf was seized with panic. He thought, “Wenda will never like me now.” And the anger and sadness which roared up inside him burned in his head like fire, wiping away all speech, all thought. He rushed forward like a wind that moves upon the plains.
And he took Wenda. And he threw her to the floor. And he ripped her clothing from her. And he thrust himself inside her, and beat her body savagely inside and out, to punish her for the way she had defied him. When he had finished, he lay there listening to the sound of her sobbing and told her that her father had sold her.
Wenda tried to escape several times, but Rolf restrained her, until finally she fell asleep. But Rolf could not sleep. Lying there, alone in the dark, smeared with Wenda’s blood and tears, Rolf was terrified. The village would never put up with a crime of this magnitude. Unless he could… unless he could change their thinking. Find others to share his crime. Then there would be too many to punish. Rolf thought of his friends within the village and began to plan. He also buried Hugh’s body in the forest where no one would find it.
When the morning came, Rolf tied Wenda to the bed so she wouldn’t go complaining to her father. Then he went and visited all his hunter friends one by one. At least, all his hunter friends who had ever been rejected by a woman. And he explained to them that they had been mistaken. They had believed women were like them. But women were actually more like deer- or fish- or warm barley bread fresh from the oven. Sweet flesh to be eaten, to be seized by the man who was the wealthiest, the mightiest, the most deserving.
That day Rolf and his friends attacked the houses of all the women who had ever rejected them, and carried the women off to caves in the mountains to rape. And they told the women, “You belong to us now.”
Jacob had been eager enough to carry off his love, Penelope. But when she started crying during sex, he got spooked. “This feels wrong,” he said. “This feels wrong.” And after he finished raping her, he rocked back and forth, swaying and shaking his head. “I shouldn’t have let you guys talk me into this,” he said, the tears glistening on his own cheeks.
Rolf whacked Jacob upside the head. “You fucking little pussy,” he said with a brusque kind of affection. “I got you the wife you wanted, didn’t I? Don’t go soft on me now. This is for the Movement. You owe it to the rest of us to show the village how to put women in their place.” And Jacob was terrified, and disgusted, and sick to his stomach. But he felt that to disagree, would be to lose all his hunter friends he had grown up with all his life.
In reality, most men in the room felt somewhere between Rolf and Jacob, some more like Rolf and some more like Jacob. But the ones who felt like Jacob hid their feelings for fear of being mocked, and tried to turn their hearts to stone.
The village was shocked by the new order of things. Wenda screamed for justice for Hugh. But Rolf had a different version of events. Hugh had tripped on his lame leg and fallen into the river, to be carried away by the current. It was ridiculous to take the word of a hysterical woman over the word of a well-respected hunter.
And even if people noticed something fishy about Rolf’s story, they felt it unwise to say him nay. The men who had created the new order were big, and they were strong, and from the outside they appeared united, even if on the inside they were full of doubt and guilt and fear. They talked loudly about their new philosophy, and grew angry whenever anyone questioned them, perhaps because inside they were questioning themselves.
And the village learned how to smile, and placate, and be tactful, and pacify this angry group of mighty hunters. They were in too much shock to resist, and everyone feared for his or her own safety. And that was how the Village called Innocence became the Village called Fear.
What happened in the Village called Fear?
Eventually Jacob could no longer stand looking into his wife Penelope’s sad blue eyes, and he hanged himself to get away from their gaze.
Eventually Wenda gave birth to a son named Elliot– but he looked too much like Hugh– and Rolf dashed “the bastard’s” brains out against the wall.
Eventually, Wenda gave birth to Rolf’s daughter. When she saw it was a daughter, she cried out in fear and despair. “If only it had been a son!” she wailed. Because she could not bear for her child to suffer the way she had suffered. “Better dead,” said Wenda, “Than a woman’s life in the Village of Fear.” And she killed her daughter, to save her daughter from the world.
A few years later, Wenda gave birth to twin sons. One of them, named Joe, grew up big and strong like Rolf, talking dirty and bragging about how many woman he would sleep with. But inside he was rotten with fear, always worrying about how everyone would perceive him, especially his father.
The other one, named Sean, was more like Wenda, and followed her around everywhere. But his mother sometimes frightened him, with her dark moods and the days at a time she would spend crying. Sean was a gentle soul and tried to ease the path of everyone he loved, but he didn’t have much luck.
And the Village of Fear continued and continued, right into the present day.
We will never return to the Village of Innocence. But in this day and in this age, in the dawn of the Internet times… is it possible we may achieve the Village of Wisdom? After all, it is no longer so easy to ignore the heart and the soul of another. Not when those hearts and souls pour relentlessly in words across all the thousands and thousands of screens.
We feel hope, in these days, the first hope in a very long time. Hope that #YesAllWomen and #AllMenCan end the system which endangers us both.
And we must end the system. If it was just Wenda alone, that would be reason enough to stop the violence.
But it is not just Wenda.
We must end the system for the sake of Hugh, the MAN who was kind and creative and humble, and made beautiful things with his hands, and lived with his head in the stars.
We must end the system for Elliot, the (male) child who didn’t deserve what his stepfather gave him, and for the unnamed girl who didn’t deserve what her mother gave her.
We must end the system for Sean, the sweet little boy who wanted so badly to save his mother, but never could.
For the sake of these innocents, we must end the system. If it was them, and them alone, that would be reason enough.
But it is not just the innocents who suffer.
We must end the system for Joe, the scared little boy hidden inside the big swaggering man, trying to earn somebody, anybody’s approval, slapping woman’s butts and calling them names, hoping that they will never know the raw naked truth of the insecurity inside of him.
We must end the system for Chieftain Eric, who could never meet his daughter’s eyes, afterwards. He died alone and empty, instead of with a loving daughter at his bedside.
And yes. We must end the system for Jacob. The man who defied his own instincts, trying to keep his friends, trying to keep his place in the social order. The man who couldn’t live with what he had done, and tried to wash out his sins with blood.
And finally… although it chokes me to say this…. we must end the system for Rolf. For he was never happy either, no matter how many times he told himself he was.
**** FINIS *****
AFTERWORD: Rolf and his friends are very loud with their beliefs, because they hurt in their cores from carrying all that falseness inside of them. We have seen them kicking and screaming and shouting against the #YesAllWomen hashtag this past week. They say it is men against women. They say that to honor a woman’s pain, is to call a man a monster. They say, “Men, defend yourselves!” How dare we call men monsters, they fume.
It is not men against women. That is the Big Lie.
It is not Rolf vs. Wenda. That looks like the truth, but it is a lie.
So what is the conflict then? It is the part of us that is human, fighting against the inhuman power of a monstrously wrong idea.
Rousseau said it well: “The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: “Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”
Although, if I may take it upon myself to humbly correct the great philosopher, replace the words “plot of land,” with the words, “a woman,” and the words, “the earth” with “womankind.”
Peace and love be with you.