Originally published: 26.12.12
I cooked the holiday meal yesterday. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.
This was my first time hosting Xmas. For various reasons, Mom was invited to the festivities this year, but dad was not.
As we sat down to enjoy the meal I had just made, Mom addressed my partner.
“[smash’s nigel], why don’t you come over here and sit at the head of the table.”
Mom knows I’m a feminist, but this came so naturally to her that she said it anyway.
I informed her that we don’t do “head of the table” at my house, and that she herself might as well sit where she had been indicating, since there is nothing special in my house about plopping oneself in one part of the rectangular table versus another.
But, even if we did do “head of the table” bullsh*t at my house, one might think that the person who had cooked the meal should sit at the “head”—not the dude who is dating the person who cooked the entire meal.
It’s clear to me that Mom didn’t mean to offend me by offering the head/dominant seat to nigel. It was simply natural to her. If we had had the event at her house, dad would have taken the head seat. If dad had been invited to my place, he would have taken the head seat. Since the big ‘P’ Patriarch was absent, the little ‘p’ patriarch would have to do.
In Mom’s mind, she can’t imagine a world where the meal was not Ruled Over by a Male Figure. In Xmases past, she’s cooked the meal many times before, but still, the meal she cooked was Ruled Over by a Male Figure. She bought the presents, the groceries, and decorated the house; still, the event was Ruled Over by a Male Figure.
It’s not just my Mother for whom all big events must be RObaMF.
My grandpa was a preacher, and he often officiated weddings. He passed away several years ago. Grandma bore four children—the first two are my aunts, my dad is the third child, and my uncle is the fourth.
This year, my male cousin married a woman. Since grandpa has died, my cousin had a special request for my dad. Would he, as the new capital ‘P’ Patriarch, officiate the wedding? Even though dad was the THIRD born child, behind two Wonderful Women? Behind cousin’s Mother?
To my cousin, it was very important that this family event be RObaMF.
Perhaps because cousin hoped to someday become the big ‘P’ Patriarch. After all, that’s one big reason why dudes get married– this is a privilege they have been promised since birth. Perhaps it was because he was taught, as my Mom was taught, that DUDES rule the family, and events don’t really count unless they are RObaMF. Whatever the case may be, he didn’t ask his own Mother (the second born aunt)—he asked my dad.
Radical feminists know that the male domination of the family is exceptionally dangerous and we wish to eliminate the cult of masculinity. We recognize that choosing a man to sit at the “head” of the table, or officiate a wedding is a *symbolic* act that is used to convey to the family, and the world, that HE is in charge, and that we are subordinate to him. Sitting in a certain order at the table is a small “traditional” act, but it is an act that is symbolic of male domination, which is of course enacted through male violence.
It is important to notice this. We must open our eyes to the way patriarchy operates in every aspect of our lives.
Let’s remind each other that our analysis may take us to critical places we don’t want to go, but that we must go to in order to determine the truth about our lives as women, and the forces that suppress us.
Let’s support one another throughout this process, rather than condemn.
I know my mother didn’t mean harm by her statement; it was an instant reaction based on the patriarchal brainwashing she’s been soaked in since birth. At the same time, I can love my Mother without pretending away the harm.
When I was young, I asked my Mom, “What happens when you and dad disagree? Why is his word the Final Say on the Matter?”
At the time, she replied to me, “Because someone has to have the final say, or we’d continue to argue forever about it.”
Her answer hides the true nature of heteromarriage; it is built on RObaMF.
My response, as a child, was “Why don’t you get to have the final say, instead of him? Why is it always HIM?”
I was told, “Because, that is just the way it is.”
No thank you. I’ll pass.
Smashes the P: Woman’s Liberationist: I’m a woman’s liberationist who blogs about many topics relevant to women. My feminism puts women first. My blog covers feminism, radical feminism, women’s liberation, women-only spaces, prostitution, the Nordic Model, pornography, anti-BDSM, PIV criticism, female friendship, women’s health, Stockholm Syndrome and patriarchy, male-pattern violence, women’s culture, hormonal birth control/contraception, criticism of MRAs, anti-essentialism, gender, gender critical philosophies, shared girlhood, patriarchy, rape and victim-blaming, pro-feminist men, feminist activism, plastic surgery, feminist media and literature, social media and feminism, family roles, and feminist philosophy. Twitter @smashesthep