Tag Archives: patriarchal societies



Stuffed onto rustic rafts and makeshift boats.

Or, trains.

Some survive; others die.

Survive what?

A collective, desperate escape.

Escape from what?

When humans endure stress, put upon them by other humans, they cope in so many ways. Some absorb, quietly, their bodies soon succumbing to disease. Others lash out, becoming chronically angry and isolating themselves from others by their behavior.

But, when entire societies endure stress, sometimes they take the final step: they run.

When we see whole extended families, grasping for their very lives to get away from impossible conditions, do we not stop, and ask ourselves:  How are we not lower than chickens, who peck at their weak?

When will the people of the Earth stop trying to destroy their own kind?

Will it be when they finally realize that this is what they are doing?






© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

9/6/15   Thank you. Sharing only upon request.


The Man In The Room.

I am a woman. Always have been; had no choice in the matter. My fetus did not grow external gonads.

At birth, how was I to know that I would never really be alone? No; wherever I would be, go, or do, there would always be a man in the room.


The first man in the room was late.

He was sitting at a bar, drinking, on a Friday night – shirking the very responsibility for which any woman in his position, at least in those days, would have immediately jumped to respond. He was an obstetrician. He was my mother’s doctor. And, he was definitely On Call.

When the phone reached him, he likely chuckled with the bartender about cervical dilation and other, baser aspects of the female anatomy over which he claimed domain. And, he probably ordered another beer. After all, who was this infant to proclaim any birth rite at prime time on a Friday night in April? It was pouring rain. Time out.

Back in labor and delivery, my mother was practicing female obedience. No woman, in the history of the world, did this better. I was crowning, and the nurses, frantic to enact their version of submission, pecked about, insisting that the doctor would be there “any minute”. To my mother, the directive was unanimous:  “Just  hold ON!”

So, my mother obeyed the nurses, who were obeying the doctor, who was calling for shots by now in the bar. And, she held a birthing baby in her vagina until it felt certain her entire body would explode. The man was not yet present in the room but, at that interminable moment, he was everywhere. He was squeezing my mother’s abdomen, suffocating me, and holding lit matches to every nurse in the wing. What a masterful grasp wielded that drunken sailor on such a wet and inconvenient night.

When he finally appeared, as doctor, the gurney carrying my mother and me was propelled so fast down the hallway toward delivery that it nearly toppled and, at about 8:45 pm (well after the downbeat), the next baby girl was finally permitted entry into the world. Through the caul that draped my soaking face, I screamed bloody, spitting murder at the man in the room.

The second man in the room was just returning from work.

He was my father.

To hear him tell it, I would be the embodiment of his every gift…a “born” artist and musician, a singer like him, his – for all practical purposes – first-born child. He would hold me with tender arms and soft hands, feed me, sing to me. I would love him with my whole heart. He would go to work, come home, bring the money with him, count it on the kitchen table, and share with me a teaspoon of his hot tea with milk and sugar.

On his day off, he would come and go as he pleased. And, he would take me with him. I would sit in the car, singing to myself, while he did what he had to do inside the store or the other man’s house. He would eat his supper after dark, make his lunch, go to bed, and get up before everybody else in the house was even awake to walk to work. He owned his own barber shop, made his own hours and, when his day was over, he was done.

Mom’s day was never done. She’d stay up til after midnight, finishing the sewing that needed to be ready by the next day’s pick up, and get up before we would in the morning to prepare our breakfast, shrieking us awake so that we’d be ready for school before she was nearly late for work.

On the weekends, not otherwise pulling a shift at the machine shop, she’d run the sweeper and dust around us as we tried to practice our piano lesson or read. On Sunday, she’d get us ready for morning worship at the Gospel Hall and we’d all go, to spend most of the day there listening to: men. Mom finally took her nap, on Sunday afternoon, while Dad would spend the afternoon chewing on a toothpick seated on a park bench watching us pet the small animals at the zoo.

The third man in the room reached puberty when I was almost a toddler. He was my elder brother.

A very ripe 11 at my birth, he had been the only child for those first ten precocious years, surrounded by adoring adults substituting for the father who was not yet there. I was an intrusion, a stray dog, a reluctant pet, an object of derision. I was in the spot reserved for him, and this was not to be.

My brother would manifest as the man in the room for the rest of my life in that house. He would ride his bike wherever he pleased, growing to be an active teen with the capacity to socially organize and initiate all manner of events in the basement, where he held court. I grew, too, but the playpen that corralled me was the only point of view from which I could define the world. He was, when not placed in my exclusive care, always outside of the box – and, ever-present, in the room.

If there were rules, they never applied to him; if there was law, he learned to rule it. When I came of age, he dictated to my parents just what the outside world was all about and, in spite of my creative gifts clearly matching or surpassing his, my choices were decreed: for the daughter, there would be no further education. Doctorate degrees were there for the men to take; girls should get a job, learn to cook, and prepare for the husband God had in mind.

God, on the other hand, frightfully busy making more men and the women intended to serve them, tried to present the man for me on more than one occasion. In the first offering, there were other men with power in their laps who determined that the man God had clearly chosen for me should stay away. Because they were in a position to claim their dictates as from God directly, the fact that they weren’t listening to what I was hearing seemed to have no bearing on the outcome God intended. I just chalked it up to the men themselves, and peered at them, from across the room.

From that point forward, the man in the room took many forms. He was a boss, or a hired hand, or a curious customer, or a band mate. And, I was ready to pass his test. When I graduated to the ranks of professional, Union card carrying musician, he became the Maestro – an object of my adoration. If I couldn’t please God anymore, then perhaps I could revere the baton in his hand.


The man is still there. He still waits to tell me when to speak, when to act, and when to acquiesce. He decides my value. He directs my course. He expects me to be there when he needs me, and to disappear when the time is right. He may not have any idea how much power he holds because, to him, he is just in his world – the world he inherited from his mother’s womb.

He’d best preserve that power for as long as he remains strong; a world without a woman in it would change his forever.



© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

2013  all rights reserved. Thank you, sir.


Kody’s Wives.

The Plymouth Brethren were, amongst all Christian fundamentalists, the most exclusive; amongst all Bible-believers, the most scholarly; amongst all patriarchal sub-groups, the most suppressive. They raised me. Clearly, I was conceived in the wrong ooze.

When not at this screen penning my life thoughts for all the world to [endure], and avoiding performance deadlines, I binge the occasional Tv series.  And, Kody’s “Sister Wives” has had me since day one.

For benefit of the uninitiated, Kody is a polygamist. Hailing from some derivation of the Mormon throng, he has, to date, four wives. They share some seventeen children, each wife with her own, newly-built home in a cul de sac in a remote corner of Las Vegas.

Meri is Kody’s first wife. Meri and Kody have one daughter, Mariah. Meri is particular, in noticeable need of some degree of control over her domain; even when a whole house is built for her, with no publicly disclosed financial contribution toward it on her part, she still insists that its every angle and accoutrement be exactly as specified. Meri says to the Tv interviewer that she is completely happy in her relationship with Kody. But, although Meri does not say so, I wonder how content or happy Meri is with her life, taken as a whole. Meri may never fully disclose herself. She reminds me of a man I once knew.

Janelle is Kody’s second. I am not privy to the circumstances which have led to Janelle’s appearance on Kody’s scene, having missed the first few episodes and played catch up thereafter. I do however know, and notice, the stark contrast between Janelle and Meri; Janelle is laid back, accepting of the big picture, never sweating the small stuff. While Meri has somewhat of a designer’s aesthetic, Janelle appears to have no regard for any. But, Janelle has produced several children, close in age, and perhaps her hormone panel is what distinguishes her most from Meri. She reminds me of a girl I once knew. Interestingly, Kody has enjoyed a kind of second honeymoon with Janelle, of late, reasons about which we viewers can only wonder. Perhaps Janelle’s active attempts to get her overweight body in shape have inspired her husband. And, Kody has never tired of her kisses – something he’s told the world.

Again, I can’t comment as to the time lapse between Kody’s marriages, only that I must point out that Meri is Kody’s only legal spouse. The other three wives are spiritually committed to him and the family, recognized as his wives only from within the parameters of the belief system they all share. A belief system, namely one they call a faith in God, their heavenly father, and Christ, God’s son. Go. Figure.

As such, I don’t know when or why Christine joined the family. But, Christine also has several children with Kody and, while she seems to struggle with either personality or emotional mood issues, seems equally happy being mother not only to her own but the entire collective of children. At family gatherings, she is clearly the leader, reveling in entertaining them all with carefully planned games and activities. She reminds me of all the good elementary school teachers I have known. I notice that, when Christine goes into her act, Janelle sits back comfortably in her seat on the sofa, and Meri looks on from what seems to be an emotional distance, perhaps with gracious tolerance of what she would otherwise be uninterested to endure. Meri is not a team player or a social animal, and Janelle is just happy to remain quietly entertained. Christine, however, together with Kody, gets highly involved in all the childrens’ reactions and responses whenever the whole family is in the room.

Robyn is wife number four. We can all tell, those of us who have ever been in love or married or both, that Robyn is still enjoying her role as Kody’s newly-wed. She may also be of the belief that her position is powerful. When Kody presents all the wives their custom made jewelry pieces, she makes each wife’s receipt of his gift a matter of her own interest, exuberantly commenting with praise even as the wife in question quietly opens her own gift. Robyn is probably unaware of her own transparency, and we gently forgive her because, well, to expose her might be hurtful or damaging. She reminds me of myself, at about age thirty four.

That was right before I met my ex-husband, and everything changed for me. Before that, I’d felt socially empowered, my career on the rise, important figures in my sphere taking notice, my personal life showing promise. But, we aren’t talking about me, right now.

Or, maybe we are. I have recently, and with significant surprise, fallen in love again. The man who enjoys being the object of my affections claims the same about me. And, he possesses nearly every trait I’ve ever admired or sought in a man, with the possible exception of a degree of inner peace. About that last part, I should probably withhold judgment as, after all, who ever accused me of possessing inner peace?! Nevertheless, he is very nearly the perfect man for me, and I adore him.

I, on the other hand, having been raised by those aforementioned patriarchs, was taught to assume that men in their trek toward becoming Christ-like could achieve a form of sinless perfection; women, of which I had been born to become, would have a far deeper and more individual struggle for value. As such, I hesitate to reveal to my beloved the full scope of my shortcomings. He cannot know the degree to which I see myself as undeserving. He must never know how disparate the woman I was expected to become is from who I really am.

Meantime, it’s compelling to ruminate about the numerous variations on cohabitation which American society tolerates. What about polygamy? What might it be like to have three or four husbands, on my own cul de sac, in a corner of neverland? I am, after all, completely aware that I am probably as particular and socially wary as Meri; as teacherly and child oriented as Christine; as interested in devotion to my man as Robyn, and a real kisser with encroaching weight issues, like Janelle. But, to spend a lifetime with only me, if history is any indicator, would wear a man down to a shell of what he ever thought he could be. I’d easily share him with somebody else, if only to get him out of the house when we both become intolerable. That, I would do.

But, right now, I’ll enjoy my bliss. It’s been a long time coming, indeed. Maybe society will move its unwieldy ass, in the meantime, toward some broader magnanimity. But, I can wait for that.

“Apres Un Reve” beckons from the music stand and my cello sits, quietly floating in resonant frequency with the room, until I am ready to let it sing. The Plymouth Brethren still meet, fewer, yet much more globally integrated than ever before, a haven for the disenfranchised of every culture, still earnestly dictating reality at every breath. And, outside, mainstream society lumbers along, thinking itself the real mover yet, always, about ten years behind the Bohemians, who really know.

Yes; we can wait. About that, we really have no choice. Or, do we?