We have identified one of the more salient causes of this social sickness of identity estrangement – the enforcement of pre-made narrowly-defined gender roles for Women that must be in profound lifelong service to Men and by extension Patriarchy. It is by far not the only one – for example, Woolf also notes how the gendered division of labor inside a patriarchy – as exemplified by the silent testimony of women’s Elizabethan-era tombstones - also contributes to the distancing of Women from their authentic selves ). This cursory understanding of the malady’s pathology is a necessary first step; to locate one’s authentic Self, one must first know the false construction one is forced to occupy instead, for “until we know the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves” (Rich 35) and therefore most strip away the centuries old dust and layers of lacquer to discover what’s underneath.
Because this deconstruction of traditional gender roles – what Rich describes as a “challenge to the myth-making” (36) – occurs within the framework of a male regime, it becomes “a drive for self-knowledge, (that) for women, is more than a search for identity: it is art of our refusal of the self-destructiveness for male-dominated society” (Rich 35). Therefore the next step of self-discovery potentially becomes a politically-defiant act of reclamation. Make no mistake – in a patriarchal regime which seeks control of Women through their “hearts and minds” and especially their bodies, this is confrontation. The act of recovery of Self by digging deep for the roots of Self sets up a potential upheaval of the seemingly permanent structures of hierarchal gender with the hope of new understandings through ...
... middle of paper ...
...lf-discovery, for defiance against patriarchal gender norms, and to add the knowledge of women by women and therefore for women, has a snowball effect, adding voice upon voice until:
the fact of being separate/enters your livelihood like a piece of furniture
– a chest of seventeenth century wood from somewhere in the North
It has a huge lock shaped like a woman’s head
but the key has not been found
In the compartments are other keys
to lost doors, an eye of glass.
Slowly you begin to add your own.
You come and go reflected in its panels.
You give up keeping track of anniversaries,
you begin to write in your diaries
more honestly than ever
(excerpt from “When We Dead Awaken” 6)
A chorus is formed; a choir sings. While it may be convenient for some to ignore the songs
being sung, for the singers themselves it becomes a long awaited remedy to an age-old illness.
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