I’ve been living in my heart this week, watching as some mighty structures crumbled and fell all around us. They looked so strong, didn’t they? Strong as the Capitol building. Strong as the Supreme Court. But they were flimsy all along.
Living in my heart in the past days has meant taking myself off to soft places where I can curl up around my body’s softest parts. My belly. My reproductive organs. My heart.
This feels like safety to my body, even if it looks like passivity and powerlessness.
This is what I’ve been grappling with. As I watch people around me raising their fists to fight injustice, I keep wishing I could do that too: fight. I want to step up alongside these these glorious warriors and march forth towards freedom. I know my fury and outrage is an echo of theirs.
But my heart just doesn’t work that way.
a broken roof
A couple of days ago, I flipped on a podcast and ended up having a little breakthrough. In this episode, Amanda Doyle brilliantly lays out the legal landscape and also makes a great concrete case for intersectionality in reproductive rights. Along the way, she also happened to give me a mind-blowing metaphor.
I think for a lot of us, it felt like the bodily autonomy we had under Roe as a constitutional right… felt like the roof over our heads. It was the security that made our lives run… And now the roof is caved in, it’s caved in on our heads and we are standing in the rubble of shock, but a roof can only stand if the wall is holding it up or sturdy. And we have, as a pro-choice movement, focused on the state of the roof, because that was what affected us the most. And we have stood by as the walls beneath that roof crumbled. (Transcript)
It’s hardly news that our culture—especially here in the US—has reached a point of no return. We can no longer pretend that the fever dream of the Trump years is over. His ghostly orange form is still reaching into our lives every day and trying to grab us by the pussy.
And so at times, I have to fold in on myself under a blanket that’s very soft.
So what are we supposed to do with the crumbling edifice this culture has become? In the new moment we’re all living inside, how do we reimagine the fight?
My life changed the first time I read these words by my hero, the Black feminist writer and activist Audre Lorde.
(I don’t want you to miss this, so I made it big.)
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
The tools of patriarchy will NEVER bring down the patriarchy. They can only recreate its facsimile, over and over. But oppression won’t solve oppression any more than war can end war. In other words, we’re not going to escape this nightmarish system by using the same structures, strategies, and hierarchies that built it.
As Amanda Doyle suggested, this isn’t a repair job. We can’t patch up this flaming mess with Gorilla Glue and drywall. Instead, we have to make and wield our own tools. Because this white supremacist patriarchy has to go—before it grabs the pussy of everything that’s good and kind and soft about humanity.
Then we can make something new.
One thing I know about the patriarchy is this: it worships toughness. And it teaches us from early childhood how to hold its tools. We learn to hustle, fight, conquer. To win, no matter what. Even if we didn’t get the votes. Even if we lied under oath to get there. Doesn’t matter, dude. We won.
I was just thinking about the statement: I’m going to beat you. How it it implies that the method I’ll use to win is to hurt you until you stay down.
Yeah, that’s not my tool.
When we take up these methods to fight oppression, we are re-forging the tools of this hardened husk of a culture which says that some of us are seen as intrinsically superior to others. We’re recreating a monolith so lost in its own calcified mythology that it can’t even see soft anymore.
Which is fine, because it won’t see us coming.
My wife Martha Beck once made a video in our living room (with fun props!) about how the patriarchy will fall. She says the system is already crumbling and it doesn’t even know it. This is good news, though, because of what it’s crumbling into.
So what do we do? Fight this, kill it? Vanquish our enemies? No. Those are the master’s tools. Our tool is that we can encompass the forces of oppression. What an incredible, transcendent power: to absorb terrible things without becoming them. That’s soft’s superpower.
the revolution is water
I intend to retain and reclaim all that’s soft in me as I step into this next collective moment. To stay loving and compassionate and empathetic, and not allow myself to be hardened by hatred. I’m not going to fix a steely gaze on the horizon as I march; I’ll look at the space around me and see who needs help right now, right here. I’ll refuse to become what I despise, and I’ll keep on loving the world until there’s nothing left but love.
You want to try grabbing that pussy? I double dare you.
This is where I’ve found my strength. In the recognition that what we’re building isn’t made of steel and stone. It’s made of water.
Like our bodies, with their salty ocean of blood. Our bodies that know the rhythms of the moon, that can mark time and move with the tides. We can even make life itself—when and if we choose to do so.
Because these bodies contain the secret of being soft and strong. And as these heavy old structures crumble around us, I can hear a drumbeat beginning to rise. It sounds like the tired pulsing of all these radical hearts.
With ALL the love.
PS It’s not just about gender. Here’s one of my favorite cis white guys showing what a radical heart looks like—and he’s right at the core of the system.
This article originally appeared on Rowan’s Wild Inventures substack newsletter. To subscribe and get all Rowan’s posts in your inbox, head over to Wild Inventures on substack now.