“You need to really commit to Patriarchy Chicken.”
A woman revealed in an op-ed Friday that, in a bid to raise her 5- and 2-year-old daughters to be empowered women, she is teaching them not to move out of the way of strange men while walking on the street.
Inspired by feminist commentary published in the New Statesman in February, titled “How to play Patriarchy Chicken,” Anna Lee Beyer wrote an essay for HuffPo that described the ways she is showing her daughters to flip patriarchal notions on their head.
“Imagine me, a grown woman, with a jumping 5-year-old on one hand and a rogue 2-year-old pulling on the other. We are broad. We take up space. And now we hold that space, especially in the face of anyone who chugs toward us expecting to have the path cleared for them,” she said. “So far only one person has run into us.”
In the original New Statesman article, Charlotte Riley urged her fellow feminists to refrain from making way for men during their daily commutes. “The game is called Patriarchy Chicken, and the rules are simple: do not move out of the way for men,” she explained.
Riley warned that “you do collide with a lot of men.” But she called on women to stay strong.
“You need to really commit to Patriarchy Chicken: don’t let your social instinct to step to the side kick in,” she said. “Men are going to walk into you: that isn’t your fault.”
However, Riley did acknowledge her “privilege” as a tallish, white, non-handicapped person.
“I am an able-bodied 5’ 6” white woman. I move through this world with a lot of privilege. I’m not going to pretend that Patriarchy Chicken would work for everyone,” she said. “But for me, it’s a way of reclaiming a little bit of space, and reminding myself to question some of the other assumptions that might sometimes be holding me back.”
Meanwhile, Beyer claimed that she is not educating her girls to be impolite – but simply to refuse to be “convenient.”
“Now when we are out shopping, taking a walk or engaging in any other family activity, I focus on the children and on our objective. I don’t look around to see how we can make ourselves more convenient for everyone else,” she said.
Beyer acknowledged her newfound philosophy isn’t without its drawbacks, saying she is aware that “simply standing in a man’s way can be dangerous.”
“Like Riley, I know I am exercising the privilege of a white woman in my upper middle class neighborhood where I can be inconvenient without worrying that it puts my children in danger. Too many people take a much greater risk in not yielding their space. When the children are older, we will start to discuss how they can use their privilege to give more space to others,” she said.
But Beyer was nonetheless defiant.
“What harm am I going to do?” she said. “Contribute to a new stereotype that mothers and small daughters are self-focused instead of submissive? OK, sounds great. Raise women who feel entitled to prioritize their own goals? Cool.”
Beyer also dismissed the notion that her daughters are too young to be learning how to “dismantle” the patriarchy. She argued that society is already teaching them to play at “housekeeping and childrearing,” how to be pretty in a “way that men traditionally expect from women” and how “to be quiet and small and out of the way.”
Still, critics might accuse Beyer of perpetuating a militant and bizarre brand of feminism. In a scathing rebuke of the staet of the movement published in National Review in 2014, writer David French argued that contemporary feminism “actually strives to elevate the crazy, the stupid, and the just plain hysterical into the realm of actually relevant cultural and political commentary.”