Essay: Patriarchy Promotes a Five-Star General

On Amy Coney Barrett

The goal of feminism is to destroy patriarchy. 

It is not to stand at a podium on a White House lawn flanked by President Grab Them By the Pussy on one side and Supreme Court Justice Sexual Harasser on the other as they anoint you Five-Star General of the Footsoldiers of the Patriarchy.

Amy Coney Barrett is no feminist.

Feminism is a daily revolution which looks patriarchy in the eye and vows “I will fucking destroy you.” Feminism does not take dictation from the patriarchy, interjecting only to ask “How high?” when it hears “Jump!”

It does not giggle when a misogynist shit of a senator asks “Who does the laundry in your house?” during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into your nomination for the Supreme Court, for which your most stellar credential, we are told again and again, is that you are the first “mother of school-aged children.” 

Amy Coney Barrett is no feminist.

Feminism aims a Molotov cocktail at the powers that uphold patriarchy and promises to obliterate them; it does not promise to support a woman simply because she is a woman. Is that woman a fellow feminist revolutionary, fighting alongside us to destroy patriarchy and its attendant oppressions? Or is she a Footsoldier of the Patriarchy, enforcing and upholding the barricades of patriarchy? 

Amy Coney Barrett is the Five-Star General of those foot soldiers.

Buy 7 Necessary Sins For Women and Girls

And feminism calls bullshit when conservatives appropriate the very thing that they claim to despise: identity politics. 

When feminists point to patriarchy and its attendant oppressions--such as misogyny, homophobia, classism, ableism, transphobia, ageism--conservatives accuse us of being “obsessed” with identity politics. They complain that we play victims by--rightfully--pointing at our various identities that are discriminated against and which are used against us. 

And here they are not just playing identity politics but claiming victory (in a game they claim they despise) for the elevation of Amy Coney Barrett, a mediocre judge, simply because she is a woman and a mother of school-aged children to boot. 

Amy Coney Barrett is a mediocre judge who was elevated because she’s a white mother of school-aged children who will do white supremacist patriarchy’s bidding in a country that hates mothers and children who are not white.

How richly hypocritical that in the middle of a pandemic, the administration that has done so little for mothers of school-aged children around the country, especially Black and women of colour, who are being pumelled by triple work loads, demands that we celebrate a privileged white mother of school-aged children. 

How cruel - because that is the ultimate adjective of the Trump era - that the administration that insists we celebrate that Barrett is a mother of school-aged children is the same administration that has ripped apart migrant mothers from their school-aged children in concentration camps at the border.

Motherhood is to Amy Coney Barrett what self-effacement was to Gina Haspel when Trump nominated the latter to be the first woman to head the CIA: an attribute that allows patriarchy to safely elevate a woman to an unprecedented position with the understanding that she will not threaten patriarchy but instead do its bidding. What could be less threatening than a mother of school-aged children?!

Gina Haspel. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) via Washington Post

Tellingly, in the run-up to Haspel’s Senate confirmation hearing, among the attributes that her supporters extolled in articles urging her appointment were that “she is a paragon of humility with zero political ambition,” so said the conservative author Mark Thiessen, who has expressed his support for waterboarding and once served as speechwriter for President George W. Bush, under whose presidency Haspel tortured and destroyed evidence of torture

Translation: Patriarchy is rewarding Gina Haspel with elevation to an unprecedented position for a woman, but patriarchy understands that Haspel will not threaten it with ambitions of her own. She will take what patriarchy gives her.

Carmen Landa Middleton, former deputy executive director of the CIA, went further in an opinion column in which she described the nominee to head the agency as a “generous and self-effacing individual.”

Translation: Haspel is without ego and will play nice with the boys.

Patriarchy is reluctant to allow women to be powerful outside the lines that patriarchy has drawn for them and independently of the roles it has assigned to them. Be without ambition, it tells them; be without ego, be unselfish, and we will extend an unprecedented amount of power (for a girl) to you. 

It is impossible to imagine a man about to make history by taking an unprecedented position being described the way Thiessen and Middleton described Haspel. One wonders why such a man--without ambition, self-effacing, etc.--would be worthy of elevation to such a history-making position. 


What better way to fuck over everyone who is not a wealthy, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied Christian man than by completing the conservative domination of SCOTUS with the confirmation of an obedient white, cisgender, heterosexual Christian extremist mother? 


The woman allowed power by patriarchy must essentially be a blank slate on which patriarchy paints what it wants. It helps of course--especially with the “self-effacing”--that the CIA is such a secretive entity and that much of Haspel’s tenure there, including her role in torture and the violations of human rights, is classified. 

The confirmation of Barrett to the Supreme Court is the crowning achievement of concerted and zealous political power play by conservatives since the early 1970s at least. What better way to fuck over everyone who is not a wealthy, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied Christian man than by completing the conservative domination of SCOTUS with the confirmation of an obedient white, cisgender, heterosexual Christian extremist mother? 

White supremacist patriarchy raises its girls well.

It was not lost on those of us who opposed Barrett and Haspel’s nominations, that their boosters were so vehemently pressing them as feminist victories because their gender was a convenient way to deflect scrutiny from their shortcomings: the dangerous extremism of the former and the torture record of the latter.

The goal of feminism cannot be simply the elevation of any and all women. What a vacant and meaningless goal that would be, without also destroying patriarchy. Patriarchal fuckery is no more palatable because it is delivered by women.

The promotion of Barrett and Haspel are no victories for women. Revoking Roe v Wade will not be any less enraging because that long-term goal of conservatives was realized by a woman. My feminism does not demand that a woman have an equal opportunity to torture, alongside men. Upholding racist and bigoted rulings at the Supreme Court will be no less wrong when done so by a woman - a mother of school-aged children! - and torture is no less wrong because a woman, not a man, carries it out. 


I am the sister of every woman who looks patriarchy in the eye and vows “I will fucking destroy you.” I am the best friend of the woman aiming her Molotov cocktail at the powers that uphold patriarchy and promising to obliterate them.


Feminism must work to dismantle patriarchy and its violence--whether it is sanctioned by the state, as torture is, or by the judiciary, as racist and bigoted rulings are, or practiced at home, in the form of intimate partner or domestic violence.

And feminism is not about supporting a woman merely because she is a woman, especially when she is a dangerous extremist like Amy Coney Barrett. I do not support a woman who has benefited from feminism only to now work to cut feminism at its knees.

To demand I support a woman simply because she is a woman, with no regard to whether she upholds or works to destroy patriarchy, is to reduce feminism to a Sorority of Pinky Swears - a hollow and toothless mockery of the goals of feminism, a mockery that benefits only those who benefit from patriarchy: white women like Amy Coney Barrett. 

I am the sister of every woman who looks patriarchy in the eye and vows “I will fucking destroy you.” I am the best friend of the woman aiming her Molotov cocktail at the powers that uphold patriarchy and promising to obliterate them.

I am not here to be friends with the Footsoldiers of the Patriarchy and their Five-Star General or their Spy Chief. 

I am here to terrify the patriarchy. 

Share

——————————-

Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.  

FEMINIST GIANT Newsletter will always be free because I want it to be accessible to all. If you choose a paid subscriptions - thank you! I appreciate your support - you are helping me keep the newsletter free and accessible to all. If you like this piece and you want to further support my writing, you can like/comment below, forward this article to others, get a paid subscription if you don’t already have one or send a gift subscription to someone else today.