Annie Banks is an organizer/artist in Berkeley, California, on Ohlone territories. Annie is an active member of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and the Anti Police-Terror Project and is a student at Goddard College. Annie has been a printmaker since high school. 

“The role of cultural workers is important in our movements for justice.” 

ON THE HARMS OF WHITE SUPREMACY TO WHITE PEOPLE, PART THREE: VIGNETTE 2: BY ALL APPEARANCES: ADHERING TO THE WHITE SUPREMACIST HETEROPATRIARCHY.

ON THE HARMS OF WHITE SUPREMACY TO WHITE PEOPLE, PART THREE: VIGNETTE 2: BY ALL APPEARANCES: ADHERING TO THE WHITE SUPREMACIST HETEROPATRIARCHY.

 

ON THE HARMS OF WHITE SUPREMACY TO WHITE PEOPLE, PART THREE: VIGNETTE 2: BY ALL APPEARANCES: ADHERING TO THE WHITE SUPREMACIST HETEROPATRIARCHY.

By All Appearances: Adhering to the White Supremacist Heteropatriarchy

My British and Anglican upbringing maintained a strong emphasis on appearances, whether that be in relation to my conformity to my assigned gender (which I could not and would not participate in as a child) or the covering up of anything that could be seen as a “deficit” in our family: addictions, abuse, being mixed ethnically, or any breakdown of the nuclear family unit. Even though my mother moved out of our home due to her struggles with alcoholism when I was 14 years old, I was not allowed to tell anyone. Instead we lied and told family that she was “at the studio”; this taught me to be secretive and ashamed of any ways in which our family or I did not fit within the conventions of the “perfect family”: two parents, well-behaved children, one house, no problems.

As a child, I was very androgynous. I often went by my middle name, so as to quell the questions that came from announcing that my name was Annie, to which most people objected, assuming I was a boy. I had no shame about my gender non-conformity, at least at that age, as I felt it was more of a triumph than anything – I had fooled everyone into thinking I was something other than my assigned gender. Alas, deeply ingrained heteropatriarchy, the “building block of US empire” (Smith, n.d., p. 5), within White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) culture meant that it was unacceptable for me, as a child assigned as female at birth, to be anything but hyper-feminine, which was the opposite of how I presented from a very young age. Thus, I felt a great, gaping void between myself and the culture that I was raised within, with its strict rules about how I was to act, dress, speak, and think.

Patriarchy, a system wherein only two genders exist and the male gender always dominates the female gender, is employed by colonizing forces in order to neutralize any governance structure that is not “based on social hierarchy” by implementing one (Smith, n.d., p. 5). I knew from a young age that men were seen as more powerful, superior, stronger, smarter, better in every way, than women, who were considered weak, subservient, vulnerable and inferior. Thus my lack of conformity with gender came less from a true place of gender non-conforming but rather came from a desire to not identify with being female, an internalized misogyny. I felt doomed as a female, doomed to the pathetic reliance on men that I saw in my mother, doomed to the bedridden depression and medicated misery that she represented in my eyes. I reflect now on the internalized hatred that I held for women and feel very sad for that young person. And yet now I can begin to unearth some of these feelings as evidence of where our dysfunctional cultural values have led us so astray.

Earlier this year,  I spoke with my own cousin who proposed that the beginning of white supremacist behaviour could be traced to the witch hunts in Europe, where largely female healers, midwives and other spiritual people were hunted down and annihilated en masse, a “ruling class campaign of terror directed against the female peasant population” (Ehrenreich, B. and English, D., 1973, p. 20). This “witch-craze” spanned more than four centuries and was a response to the witches’ “political, religious and sexual threat to the Protestant and Catholic churches alike, as well as to the state” (Ehrenreich, B. and English, D., 1973, p. 20). This craze, wherein millions of peasants, 85 percent of whom were women, were rounded up and burned alive, drowned, and otherwise executed (Ehrenreich, B. and English, D., 1973, p. 21), also represents the kind of inhumanity that would then be required to go on to the “New World” and murder, enslave and torture Indigenous people, Africans and other people of color in order to maintain the dominance of the European elites.

References

Ehrenreich, B., & English, D. (2016). Witches, midwives, and nurses: a history of women healers. Last Work Press.

Smith, A. (n.d.). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy: rethinking women of color organizing. Retrieved from: http://www.cpt.org/files/Undoing%20Racism%20-%20Three%20Pillars%20-%20Smith.pdf

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