The British Petroleum (BP) oil spill has been devastating the Gulf of Mexico for more than 60 days.
This catastrophic man-made disaster has unleashed unthinkable pain upon the residents and the precious ecosystems of the Gulf Coast. There are many important lessons to be learned from the BP oil spill, and many deep conversations need to be had.
But one of the most important lessons I have taken from the disaster is how closely it resembles and relates to a different kind of spill–the patriarchy spill.
Patriarchy according to the great feminist scholar bell hooks, “Is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially women; and (they are) endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.”
Now imagine if you will, that the millions of barrels of oil spilling into the gulf is the system of patriarchy. Imagine that the millions of barrels of oil destroying lives and wildlife in the Gulf Coast is patriarchy destroying the lives of women, children, and men all over the world.
Imagine that the many warnings against deep water off-shore drilling and the many justifications made for it, were the voices of feminists all over the world challenging patriarchy as the best way for the world to be organzied. Imagine that our insatiable appetites for oil represents our allegiance to patriarchy, despite the many adverse affects of the system.
Feminists and other progressives have pointed out for years that patriarchy poisons humanity and is the source of much human suffering. Like scientists and thinkers who warn about our reliance on oil and its harmful affects (i.e. global warming.)
But feminists who challenge and critique patriarchy–and dream of a new reality where respect for both genders is the way of life–are met with the same resistance as people like Al Gore, who are seen as progressive conspiracy theorists trying to whip everyone into a frenzy over nothing.
There are so many parallels between the BP oil spill and the devastating consequences of patriarchy that it kind of scares me. As long as we continue to support the reckless pursuit of profits at all cost, we will continue to see many more spills, and in a similar vain, as long as we continue to support the system of patriarchy the lives of women, children, and men will continue to be devastated.
Eleven lives were lost, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the gulf, and my thoughts go out to the families of those men.
Our allegiance to patriarchy continues to lead to the deaths of women, children, and men all around the world. The notion that a man must be violent in order to be powerful underlies so much of the violence that takes place in our society.
We have a chance to learn from the lessons of the BP oil spill and think of new ways to approach our energy needs. We also have a chance to challenge and change the system of patriarchy and conceive of a way of life not based on this system.
Derrick McMahon is a senior history education student from Florida A&M University.
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