Ok, I think I’ve got it… • 6 October 2008

What is the relationship of authoritarianism and intimacy?

This was the question I was trying to find. Questioning patriarchy isn’t a demand for gender-bending. People express their genders in so many different ways. It’s great! This has to do with personal history; and it has to do with your hormonal profile (seriously, this is fascinating: variations in hormone levels and intimate self-expression.) The energy in my self-expression is more dopamine than anything, equal parts serotonin and testosterone, and kind of low on the estrogen. And I wear high heels and, as they say, lipstick. Anyway. Gender is beautiful.

What I’m bringing to light is this very difficult, basically unseen masculine domination. I’m only doing this because I’m trying to understand a very wise teacher’s insight that yoga is going nowhere as long as it remains patriarchal. It’s pretty interesting, knowing me, that I’ve left this topic alone until now… but that’s why patriarchy continues. We’d rather not bother.

It’s like the editors of Ashtanga News, when I wrote to them about this mind-blowing article exactly a year ago. I asked, privately, why in the world they’d post something so old-school patriarchal and they said “we were just repeating what the previous woman had posted.” Yes. Exactly. This is how masculine domination gets legitimated! It’s passed on as if it’s just great and something to celebrate, and the non-critique is justified by saying it’s not our responsibility. At the time, I let it go. That is kind of bullishit on my part and all others, now that I think of it. Check out the comments on the post, too. It’s pretty amazing there was no real discussion there—only a few women expressing shreds of angst. Great illustration of the barriers to looking at this but also the fact that it's right here in front of our faces.

MM said that patriarchy is more evident in women teachers in this scene than in men. That’s true to my experience as well. In my experience authoritarianism is women’s effort to claim lineage-based authority—that is, authority within a still fundamentally patriarchal lineage. So in its manner, its still patriarchal. I could go all Pierre Bourdieu to argue this, but I have a sense that people will agree. Authoritarianism is pretty much a patriarchal thing. Yeah?

If practice is more about obedience than about self-exploration, what’s the point again? Reproducing domination seems to me to be a really large barrier to inside-intimacy as well as relational intimacy.

Sorry this is all scattered. My head’s in three places. Thanks for the patience as I try to find some traction on this topic… this blog is not normally such a haphazard scene. But it seems like a really good idea to figure out how to talk about this specifically in the context of ashtanga practice, and given the abysmal starting point here, I’m a bit at a loss for how to begin.

BTW, check out the penultimate post at Budismo e Yoga—in the article on ashtanga, there’s this wonderful discussion under the heading “Dharma en el Corazon.” The author writes that it is a great blessing to be able to use the practices of self-study without having to wrestle with the inherited baggage of a Guru system and the superstitions and self-denials this entails. I wrote to this guy to ask him if I can do a better translation of the article since the auto-translation probably isn’t great, and he said he'd be happy to work on that with me. but he did not write back. I’d go ahead and translate it anyway, but that’s a bit imperialist. A certain meaning is always lost in re-interpretation and I hesitate to take liberties with the author’s native language without his permission. I'll try to work up an English version when I have time.