Love in the Messy Middle: 10 Ways to Dismantle Patriarchy in Your Relationship/s

Brave Woman at Protest to Dismantle Patriarchy

Love in the Messy Middle: 10 Ways to Dismantle Patriarchy in Your Relationship/s

Tara Thomas

Hey, I'm Tara, relationship coach & couples therapist.

I'm definitely a weirdo, and have never traveled a conventional path-
It sucks because the world isn't designed for misfits, sometimes it's myself I'm rebelling against, and being a weirdo can be lonely.

I swear a lot, think life is too short to waste on drama & bullshit, and dream of a world where we ALL belong.

Tara Thomas

Hey, I'm Tara, relationship coach & couples therapist. I'm definitely a weirdo, and have never traveled a conventional path- It sucks because the world isn't designed for misfits, sometimes it's myself I'm rebelling against, and being a weirdo can be lonely. I swear a lot, think life is too short...

Many of us feel emotional & cognitive dissonance between our commitment to social justice, while still having to navigate the realities of the world we *actually* live in. This is especially apparent in the relational dynamics with friends, family, and partner/s.

Table of Contents

    Many of us feel emotional & cognitive dissonance between our commitment to dismantle patriarchy, while having to navigate the world we *actually* live in.

    Like, yeah, I want to live from my feminist values, AND how do I change paradigms within an existing relationship?

    Tara Thomas & Anna Walsh talk how to dismantle patriarchy within intimate relationship/s, and how that relates to overarching frames of patriarchy and capitalism in the mid-digital age.

    [Full original transcript available to download below, plus heavily edited blog post with additional insights & actions]


    Listen to more episodes of A Woman Charged here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

    Join host Anna Walsh as she interviews fierce femmes from around Australia: entrepreneurs, single mothers, medical professionals and influencers, all with a story to tell and real advice to offer real women.

    With helpful and hopeful advice, Anna hopes to reveal something of the female psyche while she continues to dismantle patriarchy, one episode at a time.

    You can also find Anna Walsh at happymash vibrators for women, IG @awomancharged, and Sexually Healthy Cities here

    Introducing A Woman Charged Podcast

    Introducing Anna Walsh, and A Woman Charged Podcast...

    Anna Walsh:

    A Woman Charged podcast acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we record, the the Wulgurukaba and Bindal peoples whose sovereignty was never ceded. And we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

    Welcome to A Woman Charged podcast, an honest, helpful, and hopeful platform for women to listen and engage in discussion about topics ranging from the taboo, obscure to the unjust and unfair.

    I'm your host, Anna Walsh. My pronouns are she /her. I'm an ex-police officer turned entrepreneur founder of happymash, and I'm listening into guests stories of pain, pleasure, and everything in between, as I embark on my own continuously painful awakening from an induced coma, a deep sleep ... Rousing me to break free from my constraints to dismantle patriarchy.

    Dismantling Patriarchy in the Mid-Digital Age...

    Now in the prep to this, one of the opening lines that Tara offered me was mind blowing. I cannot wait to explore this more.

    She said that she'd love to explore the topic of how to dismantle patriarchy within our intimate relationship/s, and how that sits with an overarching frame of patriarchy and capitalism in the mid digital age.

    Okay. So mid digital age <laugh> that was a big sentence, but for some reason, mid digital age stood out to me. What is the mid digital age?

    And oh my God, I'm in the mid digital age, and what does that mean is in the future? I can't wait to explore that more and also how to dismantle patriarchy within our own relationships.

    So I'm so here for it, you know, how to dismantle patriarchy within an intimate relationship and capitalism in the mid digital age. Like, fuck, I feel like I sound so intelligent just saying that out loud. So let's go Tara Thomas, boom time.

    Note: I've removed a portion of the conversation from the podcast here where Anna & I spoke about; how I started as a coach, my ADHD diagnosis, why I work with "misfits, weirdos, and non-conservative" people. You can still read that in the full transcript, or listen in the podcast, but I edited heavily for those of you who found this post because you want to learn how to dismantle patriarchy.


    Wait, WTF is the Mid-Digital Age (and Why is it Relevant?)

    A psychedelic image with a computer and keyboard
    Image generated by Canva AI from keywords "digital technology influences democracy" in a psychedelic style

    hen I pitched this show, I was a bit of a wanker. Like, I wanted to sound like I knew my shit so that she'd want to interview me, you know?

    "Dismantling patriarchy in our intimate relationship/s within an overarching frame of patriarchy & capitalism in the mid-digital age".

    A mouth full for sure, AND...I chose those words very deliberately.

    Let's break it down;

    'dismantling patriarchy in our intimate relationships...' ~ noticing, naming, and changing behaviours in our relationship/s that are generated by patriarchal influences.

    '...within an overarching frame of patriarchy & capitalism...' ~ instead of blaming self, or other/s, for a belief or behaviour, looking to the systemic influences that created & reinforce those stories and behaviours.

    ' the mid-digital age.' ~ naming the exponential influence that digital technology (the media, the internet, social media and more) has to magnify our beliefs, polarise our opinions, generate discord & misunderstanding, and otherwise influence our perspective.


    When is the Digital Age?

    The 'digital age' refers to the time period where humans have utilised digital technology, (beginning with the PC in the 70s) in the same way that the industrial age refers to the period of time where humans moved from handcraft, to manufacturing & industry.

    The pre-digital age describes the transition phase from tangible physical objects like cassettes, videos, and magazines, into digital products like JPEGs, MP3s, and websites.

    The mid-digital age describes the messy middle (here we go again!) where digital technology is becoming mostly accepted, but there's still serious issues. The rate this is happening means there are huge gaps in our understanding and in the checks & balances required for society to function.

    The post-digital age describes a time when (and if?) using digital technology is so accepted and integrated that we don't notice anymore. No controversy, no competition, just an everpresent background utility like electricity or money.


    What's Your Beef with the Mid-Digital Age?

    The best description I've heard is often quoted on my favourite podcast Your Undivided Attention;

    "The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology." ― Edward O. Wilson.

    What makes 'the mid-digital age' so crucial to how to dismantle patriarchy includes;

    • our perception of the views of others is wildly distorted, we're becoming more polarised based on inaccurate visions of each other
    • our primary sources of information are optimised for attention & profit (not quality nor accuracy nor impact)
    • social media serves you more of what you have already seen, further skewing your perspective
    • how to 'dismantle patriarchy' is a polarising topic despite the benefits for all
    • the pace of change in the digital environment is beyond our capacity to control or understand
    • if we want to collaborate in this work, it requires a level of intention beyond anything humankind has ever encountered
    • the influence of digital technology has now become a meta problem, in that we can't solve any of our other systemic issues without addressing the way that information & power is governed in this space.
    • I'm a determined optimist, and there are incredible thinkers & kind humans working to dismantle patriarchy, we'll get there AND we need to name these broader influences. It's not just about who does the dishes, or who makes more money, or who initiates sex. It's all of it.

    Note: This section is an added edit to provide more context on this piece, it isn't in the podcast (because we didn't have 20 hours!)

    ow Has Couples Therapy Changed Over The Last Decade?

    Anna Walsh:

    Have you seen any changes in the way that couples present, or the problems that couples present with, over the decade that you've been working in the space?

    Tara Thomas:

    I've definitely seen changes in both the people that I work with, as well as the issues that people are talking about.

    A lot of the change in the people that I work with is because of the way that I position myself- I was presenting myself as a couple's therapist in a really generic way... So I was working with a lot of boomers. I was working with a lot of people who had a different set of issues to what really interests me.

    As well in the last, I think three years I've started doing a lot more work with people who are in different relationship structures. So maybe they're opening a relationship, discovering polyamory, or experimenting with swinging. So being a little bit less conventional in that sense as well of their relationship structure.

    But then, you know, even within your cis-het-monogamous relationships, people are also looking at like, how can we do this differently? They don't wanna do what their parents did. They don't want to follow this traditional, patriarchal, gendered role based relationship or even pursue capitalist dreams, but they don't know what to do instead, or how to dismantle patriarchy on an intimate level.

    Women holding anti-patriarchy placards
    Photo by by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

    How Do You Discuss Patriarchal Influences in Couples Therapy?

    Anna Walsh:

    How do you help them identify that? Because in our prep for today, you talk a lot about how to dismantle patriarchy within intimate relationships, how do you help investigate or explore where it does exist? And then what happens after they've identified where it exists?

    Tara Thomas:

    It's challenging. And the greatest challenge I suppose, is that people don't come to work with me for how to dismantle patriarchy, they come to me to solve relational issues in their current relationship/s!

    Even saying the word patriarchy is a barrier. I've stopped saying it because when I say 'patriarchy' or 'feminism' or 'capitalism' it loads up all of these preconceived ideas that someone has and they shut down a little bit. Then I spend the next 10 minutes explaining what I do & don't mean by that word...

    At the moment I'm working with an anti capitalist coach who I love called Bear Hebert...

    Anna Walsh:

    That's cool. I've never heard of that term before.

    Tara Thomas:

    ...they're based in New York and they run courses & coaching for businesses, anti-capitalist courses.

    Bear also does a lot of work in the space of undoing patriarchy and I'm working with them on; how do I structure conversations, and sessions, and the work that I do with people in a way that does begin to unpack and then dismantle patriarchy, without necessarily having to have that explicit conversation.

    Note: I have removed a portion of the conversation from the podcast here where Anna & I spoke about; what is an anti-capitalist coach, and wanting to run away and live on an island, . You can still read all that in the full transcript, or listen in the podcast.


    A white man with a wild eyed look grasping for money like he's about to eat it.
    Image from Canva.

    What is the Impact of Capitalism in an Intimate Relationship?

    The most important thing to note about the influence of capitalism in intimate relationship/s is that your relationship did not generate this problem. Instead, you're experiencing this shit show because of the dominant patterns of thinking in whatever cultural soup you swim in.

    As Laura Pustarfi says in her piece It Matters What Paradigms Paradigm Paradigms, "at the root of this systemic issue is the Western paradigm characterized by capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and mechanistic thinking."

    This isn't the place for me to unpack that in detail, but I'll take a quick minute to list elements;

    Consider the capitalist values defined by Bear Hebert in their webinar series Freely: An Anti-Capitalist Guide to Pricing Your Work; Growth, Scarcity, and Extraction;

    Growth. Under capitalism the economy is only successful if it is continually growing.

    Relationally that plays out as a belief that all things should always be growing. This can look like a focus on wealth accumulation, buying lots of things (and replacing things with 'better' things), working more so you can 'do more', a focus on endless personal development or relational 'growth', demands for others to "do the work".

    Of course growth in itself is not a problem, so long as the growth is toward an agreed & articulated purpose, AND it supports your health & happiness.

    Scarcity. There's not enough for everyone, we are competing against each other.

    Relationally we internalise the belief that life is a single sum game;

    There's not enough love for all of us, we are competing for attention.
    There's not enough time, we compete with our partner over who "does more" and then if one of us feels like we're doing too much, we make it mean our partner is not doing enough.
    We direct our personal dissatisfaction toward our partner/s without examining the bigger picture.

    Extraction. We should be getting the most return for the least output. Relationally this plays out when individuals are looking to "get their needs met" or to find a partner who is "good enough" without "settling", and failing to accept others as whole valuable people. We blame our partner for our unhappiness and expect them to fill the gaps or make things better.

    Some well-known capitalist beliefs about roles in relationships include;


    • making the most money we can is important, and so we should prioritise the highest earner. Their time is more valuable. Their contribution (of money) is more valuable than other relational contributions. Their input to decisions is more important.
    • your value in your relationship/s is tied to your productivity. If you are not working to earn money, your contribution should be tangible and labour based (cooking, cleaning, child care, and other domestic logistics). Being is not enough, you must be doing.
    • people should be "doing the work" and if they're not we should cut them off or out of our lives
    • and oh fucking hell I could go on forever here...

    Note: This section is drawn from my notes for the podcast & didn't make it to air. Mostly because I had 20 hours of content for a half-hour show...

    What is the Impact of Patriarchy in Intimate Relationship/s?

    The most important thing to note about the influence of patriarchy in intimate relationship/s is that your relationship did not generate this problem.

    Instead, you're experiencing this shit show because of the dominant patterns of thinking in whatever cultural soup you swim in.

    As Laura Pustarfi says in her piece It Matters What Paradigms Paradigm Paradigms"at the root of this systemic issue is the Western paradigm characterized by capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and mechanistic thinking."

    This isn't the place for me to unpack those ideas in detail, so here's some quick notes...

    Consider the 6 structures of patriarchy identified by Sylvia Walby;


    1. Paid Work. A huge factor in defining roles in relationships is the amount of time, energy, and attention you each have for domestic tasks.
      The access of women to promotions, and the gender pay gap, means that logistical roles are negotiated to allow the higher earning partner more time & energy & attention for "work", while the other partner is expected to carry the full domestic load.
    2. Housework. Not only are we socialised differently according to gender, but the Western paradigm values linear project type work over the circular caring economy. So... housework is unpaid, outsourced to minorities and those with less access to family money, and not valued.
    3. Culture. Gendered roles in relationships are reinforced continually in the media, through lived experience, and in every aspect of the fabric of society. Those of us who are challenging the status quo to dismantle patriarchy find that the pushback from others can be confronting, and costs ALOT of effort to stay on mission. From the perspective of roles in relationships, that means that there's a serious lack of awareness about choices we can make! If you don't see or hear alternatives, you have to work a lot harder to generate solutions.
    4. Sexuality. The different expectations for behaviour around sexuality create some fucking horrendous role conflict - and not just in the sexual sphere. Those judgements & 'norms' bleed into our self-esteem, confidence, and ideas about what a relationship 'should' look like.
    5. Violence. Patriarchal violence speaks to the fact that "while men are usually exposed to violence outside the family, women and girls are primarily the victims of violence in the home and within the family. This has not only made the violence invisible and placed victim groups at risk but also made it more difficult to provide protection against extensive, systematic violence and oppression" (Patriarchal Violence - an attack on human security)In the context of roles in relationships, this threat of violence (from displeasure and anger, to physical blows) is a barrier to good faith negotiation in a couple.
    6. The State. There is little opportunity for women in political & public spheres, those that do occupy those positions are subject to atrocious attacks, and the legislation & policies that do exist to move towards equality are rarely enforced. From a roles perspective that means that couples may again prioritise decisions based on availability of choice, instead of their actual preferences.

    Some well-known logistical roles in relationships rooted in patriarchy include;


    • breadwinner, stay at home parent, home maker
    • parental discipline / parental emotional support
    • domestic logistics - indoor chores vs/ outdoor maintenance
    • the 'fun' parent and the 'boring' parent
    • social network maintenance
    • decision maker
    • administration
    • care provider & emotional support
    • the one who loves & wants sex
    • the sexual gate keeper
    • and oh fucking hell I could go on forever here...

    Note: This section is drawn from my notes for the podcast & didn't make it to air. Mostly because I had 20 hours of content for a half-hour show...

    A Stylised 1950s loungeroom with a green sofa, wooden framed TV and drinks trolley. There's a middle aged white man, a woman in a floral halter dress, and a young girl on the lounge.
    Image from Canva

    What Language Do You Use to Speak About Patriarchy in Relationships?

    Anna Walsh:

    Quite often, I find I have to do in terms of sex education is reframe a lot of words so that you aren't genderizing them or attributing them to a sex because so often people do feel attacked when you use the word patriarchy, because it is paternal.

    Or when you talk about toxic masculinity say "that does not mean 'all men'" or that it even is talking about men's behavior.

    And similarly, if you're talking about people who identify as a woman, they don't want to always acknowledge the hold that something like patriarchy has had over their lives up until this date, because that's so confronting and difficult to deal with and completely disorienting as well.

    It's almost easier not to even have seen it, as I say, once you see it, you can't unsee it.

    And so, that reframing around language... I would be interested if you have any go-to words that, for instance, you've just dissected patriarchy out and inserted something else in, or do you get a feel for people who you deal with before you decide what sort of language you're gonna use with them?

    Tara Thomas:

    Definitely both of those things. Yeah. I'll definitely get a feel for people;

    If people come to me and they're already talking about living within capitalism and, you know, wanting to dismantle patriarchy, then I'm cool to go there and do a check-in like, "do we mean the same thing on this specific topic?" So that's a certain type of conversation about the issue that's presenting itself.

    If it seems like that's outside of their current awareness, I'll do a different setup.

    For example, if you're talking about chores, instead of talking about gender dynamics or how to dismantle patriarchy, something I would often say is; "if you don't want to have those 'traditional roles', then we need to renegotiate those things".

    But most of the time I would focus in on the specifics of the issue that people are having  and then talk about some of the relational patterns that go with that... Because this gendered influence from patriarchy... it doesn't always happen that way... those same conflicts frequently play out outside of typical gendered roles. Like you can have conflict around chores where stereotypical roles are flipped or completely absent.

    So we talk more about the issue than about the system, and then as much as possible I will also point to the system.


    Do Couples Choose You Proactively? Or as a Last Resort?

    Anna Walsh:

    Do you find that there is a lot of animosity between couples when they come to you? Are they coming to you as a last resort or like really out of desperation?

    Or do you feel like, because they already have chosen someone like you who is a little bit more nuanced and who's talking about things like how to dismantle patriarchy within a relationship, which is probably I'd imagine very progressive for a couple's therapists...

    Do you find, because they're coming to someone like you, then they're more just wanting to do work on their relationship rather than fixing something?

    Tara Thomas:

    Most of the people who I work with come to me, because in some way they feel gridlocked.... It's not necessarily a last resort, like "we fix this or it's over"... but definitely because they've tried to do that work themselves and they just haven't managed to.

    I mean, every relationship is gonna have their conflicts and challenges that are recurring.

    And so your question about how people feel about it is; the longer you leave an issue unresolved, the more frustration, resentment, and anger you're going to have around that issue. Then instead of just having to solve the actual issue, sometimes those emotions get in the way.

    So then the barrier to successful couples therapy becomes; how well can you put to one side that frustration and resentment and focus on what's actually happening?


    How to Dismantle Patriarchy from the Messy Middle

    Anna Walsh:

    When we were doing the prep for today, you gave me a lovely description of what you referenced as the "how" of how to dismantle patriarchy.

    I was wondering if we could go through that right now and try and put that into context for anyone who's listening, perhaps in their notes as well, because looking at the data who listens to a woman charged podcast, the majority of about 80% are cis-het women, millennials, gen X, that age group.

    So bearing that in mind, then trying to put this into something useful to dismantle patriarchy in their own lives.

    You talk about being in the "messy middle." Do you mean that... Is this in the middle of the relationship? Or do you mean in the middle of our lives?

    Tara Thomas:

    For me, the messy middle is about being in a relationship where we have the awareness of systemic influences and we have the desire to create change, but we're not quite there yet. We have an ideal vision of the future, the desire to dismantle patriarchy, and a messy reality in the present.

    I'm experiencing this myself, my partner experiences this, and much of your listening audience, that demographic experiences this.

    We know that we don't want the world how it is. And we want to create change, we're working to dismantle patriarchy, but we're not quite there yet as individuals or as couples or as a society.

    So it's messy because we know we're on the path, but it's frustrating because we're not there yet.

    I have a quote I'd love to read you from this book Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford;

    I think this really captures some of the feeling of frustration or hopelessness.

    Clementine says

    "the gendered conditions of domestic labor are still too deeply entrenched to be anything but a burden for most women living in hetero partnerships, and managing those conditions, whether you're challenging them or conforming to them takes a fuck ton of work.

    Until we can confidently say that patriarchy has been destroyed, women who enjoy sex with men are much better off living alone and inviting them into our houses as guests occasionally."

    I mean, while Clem takes that to an extreme, there are a lot of women who are making that decision in this messy middle, that it's too much work to dismantle patriarchy in an intimate relationship with a man. It's too much labor.

    So looking at a relationship structure where you're friends and/ or you're lovers, but you're no longer doing that domestic component of relationships.

    Many people are making that choice.

    Many others, including myself, are making the choice to pursue a relationship with a man with all of those facets. So including the domestic sphere, and in that messy middle, it is frustrating. As a woman who's been socialized as a woman, I do carry a lot of the energetic and emotional and mental labor of working out how to navigate that. Bringing attention to how to dismantle patriarchy. Women will carry most of that labor.


    It's completely valid to opt out of this clusterfuck. You don't owe anyone anything. Many people opt to start with a clean slate (leave current partner and find one with a closer values match) or choose not to cohabit.


    It's completely valid to choose to stay. Many (including me) are grappling with how to balance the frustration & effort it takes to dismantle patriarchy, with the love & commitment they have for their existing partner/s.This doesn't make you a bad feminist. You don't owe anyone anything.

    Neither of these choices carry ethical or moral superiority. The most important thing is to work out what YOU want.

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #1: Manage Your Shit (Me)

    The central pillar of relational work is maintaining good emotional hygiene.

    That's a catchy way of saying - you need to learn to manage your shit. The work to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship will probs stir up old feels & fears, expose tender places, push your buttons, and generally shake shit up.

    There's a few parts to the work of emotional hygiene;


    1. Develop Emotional Self-Awareness
    2. Practice Emotional First Aid
    3. Develop Daily Practice.


    One of my teachers, Michaela Boehm, uses the metaphor of a cup full of liquid to describe developing capacity to manage stress & strong emotion.

    Our capacity to hold those emotions is dictated by the size of the cup, and the frequency & efficiency that we empty that cup. The fullness of that cup (where a full cup is maximum stress - burnout, panic attacks, shutdown) is managed by both reducing the amount that goes into the cup as well as emptying it more often.

    We can build our capacity both by working on resilience (make our cup bigger), putting less liquid in the cup (reducing stress in our lives), and emptying the cup more frequently (daily emotional hygiene practice).

    A good emotional hygiene practice includes;

    • self reflection
    • embodiment practices
    • supported conversations to process experience.

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #2: Leave Their Shit (Me)

    Good emotional hygiene is not just about managing our own emotions, it's also about NOT managing the emotions of others.

    For people who are highly empathetic, sensitive to their environment, have traumatic histories, and/ or were socialised to "feminine" behaviours, this may be a growing edge.

    Under patriarchy it is the role of 'women' to manage the emotions of others; to make sure others are comfortable emotionally, to soothe, and not to rock the boat. People who have multiple marginalised & oppressed identities have a magnified experience of this expectation. For example, a disabled woman may also be expected to not make others feel uncomfortable about their disability, or their needs, or their requests for care/ support. A Black woman may be judged through the lens of white supremacy, as an 'angry black woman' if she doesn't conform to those oppressive expectations. A neuro-diverse woman may be managing the increased demands on executive function that managing emotion requires.

    Part of this work to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship will be to get clear on where & when you do this, and how to develop your skills in this aspect of your relational patterns. This skills development is relevant to all genders.

    Under patriarchy it is the role of 'men' to suppress their emotions; anger is the only strong emotion that is culturally acceptable for 'men' to feel, but there is little guidance about how to resourcefully & safely process that emotion.

    People who have multiple marginalised & oppressed identities will have magnified and/or conflicting experience of this expectation. For example, an Asian man may also be navigating family & cultural expectations of acceptable emotional expression. A small or thin man may feel pressure to dial up anger or aggression to be seen as 'masculine'. A queer man may feel pressure to suppress emotions to be 'more masculine' or emote more to be 'more queer'.

    Part of this work to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship will be develop discernment so you can tell what feelings belong to you (and require managing), what feelings belong to them (and require both honouring & boundaries), and a clear action plan to work through both.

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #3: Tension Between Rage & Grace (Me)

    Doing the work to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship/s is hard.

    Some days (if you're like me) you'll be in a state of rage; you'll feel really fucking angry at your partner, the situation, your responsibilities, and the system. On those days your work will be to manage your feels through good emotional hygiene. This is also a good time to take action on your Personal Action Plan so that you have tangible tasks to feel more influential: channel the rage.

    It is also important to remember that your partner isn't the problem, the system is (and direct your rage accordingly)! It's you + them against the system.

    Some days (if you're like me) you'll be in a state of grace; you'll feel resilient & motivated to work to dismantle patriarchy & change the world. On those days your work will be to take strategic action.

    Holding the tension between rage & grace helps to balance our dreams to dismantle patriarchy with our reality in the messy middle. Sometimes you wake in grace, move through rage, and find yourself in grace again, all before breakfast.

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #4: Personal Action Plan (Me)

    Helplessness can be caused by a lack of direction, rather than a lack of agency.

    I've found it helpful to develop an action plan for myself so that I know specifically what to do.

    I've used Donella Meadows 12 Points of Intervention to Change a System. That just works for my brain to have some things to do locally (small & immediate) and some things to do on a larger scale. You might just have a list of things you can do on different scales (household, neighborhood, locality, state, national, global).

    Your action plan could include things like;


    • Educating yourself on a specific aspect of patriarchy
    • Reading a book about patriarchy
    • Initiating a specific conversation with someone in your family
    • Doing some self-reflection on a specific aspect of your home life
    • Identifying specific things you will do differently (and working through implementing them)
    • Joining an action group
    • Writing an email to your local MP about a specific topic of concern locally
    • Writing an email to your state member about a specific topic of concern
    • Talking with friends about the things you are learning & work together to dismantle patriarchy

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #5: Rigorous Self Reflection (Me)

    As you explore how to dismantle patriarchy, I invite you to consider the specific tasks & activities that you do in a day/week/month, and reflect on what made you decide to do them?

    Ask yourself;

    Why do I do this? What do I believe about this? What story do I tell myself about why this matters? Who wins when I do this? Who loses when I do this? Why do I think this? Why am I mad about this? Who would care if I stopped? Could I handle that? What does this belief perpetuate for others? Why do I want this? Do I really want this? How does this make me feel? How might I experiment with an alternative? How will I know where my blind spots are? Do I know someone who does this in a radically different way? What kind of a world does this create?

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #6: Dialogue Over Decisions (We)

    I prefer to approach relational issues with a commitment to Dialogue Over Decisions.

    That's because some shit takes a lot of time to work through, some shit is never resolved, and some shit is dynamic & continually evolving. Part of me fucking hates this. Ugh. Do we have to talk about all the things all the time? The short answer is "only if you want them to change". So yeah. Dig in.

    Dialogue Over Decisions means taking time and creating space to have important conversations with your partner. That's especially important when it comes to topics that are polarising, that are deeply rooted in your values, that have the power to load up big emotions, and that matter to you. You know, like working to dismantle patriarchy.

    It's super easy to make a fast judgement that you don't agree, and then make that mean you are incompatible. It's much harder to slow the fuck down and bring curiosity & a generous heart to this person you love to explore hard things together.

    An orientation towards decisions adds a feel of pressure, is likely to further polarise you, and tends to focus on differences and changing someone elses mind. An orientation toward dialogue is a commitment over a long period of time, and tends to focus on learning.

    Those dialogues can include things like;


    • Sharing when you notice ways you are perpetuating patriarchal patterns. It's fine to keep doing things that way! Just do it from choice not chance.
    • Sharing things you learn about yourself, and not just what your partner "does wrong"
    • Sharing gratitude & appreciation for the ways you work well as a team
    • Specific strategising about an aspect of your life together to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship
    • Reflections on how things have changed (or not) over the last 3, 6, 12 months

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #7: Us Versus System (We)

    There's a position in Western paradigms of locating problems in individuals.

    To dismantle patriarchy in your relationship/s you must know that your partner/s is not the problem. (unless they are, in which case you know what to do...)

    Making a decision that it is you and partner/s working to dismantle patriarchy & other oppressive systems shifts the dynamic from Me Versus You, to Us Against the System.

    Here's some examples that are super common:


    May & Jasmine are always busy. May feels like they do more of the household labour, while Jasmine feels like she carries the financial burden. They blame each other for not doing enough in the sphere of conflict. (Me Versus You).


    Tam feels like he is overwhelmed and underappreciated, he is particularly stressed because Leslie is having a really hard time and the emotional support she needs is high. Tam isn't coping but feels like he needs to hold them both together. They both blame each other for the arguments they keep having.




    May & Jasmine are always busy. They talk about their responsibilities & commitments and realise that they have more on their plate than is actually possible to do in their waking hours! They decide to review their household chores and standards to reduce the "shoulds". They open an dialogue about how much money they actually need for their lifestyle and for their future.


    Tam is feeling overwhelmed & unappreciated. Leslie is having a really hard time. They realise they need to reach out for support from the people in their life. It's time to put into place their emergency gap plan, and to find some ways for them both to prioritise their wellness so they can get through this hard time.

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #8: Lifestyle Choices (We)

    We all have a finite amount of time, energy, and attention. Deciding how to use it is the most important thing you'll ever do!

    As a couple/s you can consider;


    • which aspects of your relationship are important to you & align with your values
    • which things you do because you didn't know you didn't have to
    • which things you feel like you should do (but will stop)
    • which things you feel like you should do (and will keep doing)


    When it comes to lifestyle, your work to dismantle patriarchy might spark reflections;


    • can we explore sexuality outside of the roles we are conditioned to?
    • is sex important to us?
    • do we want to be parents?
    • is marriage important to us?
    • what roles do we want in our relationship?
    • does romance matter to us?
    • how do we relate to family & friends?
    • how do we relate to each other?
    • what are our power dynamics?

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #9: Redefine Your Relationship Roles (We)

    Roles in relationships are rarely explicitly defined- most couples fall into roles that draw from the best & worst of their family histories. Those roles aren't reviewed strategically, and are only discussed when frustration or resentment trigger an argument (or ongoing conflict).

    The bulk of the tangible work to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship is here.

    Most often when I hear people speak about roles in relationships, they are referring to domestic logistics-The Who-Does-What in the household.

    Much of that role allocation is informed by patriarchal norms, and to dismantle patriarchy in your relationship requires some reflection on whether that is working for you. It's likely that some of the 'traditional' roles suit your style, and you're good at them. That's great! Keep doing those! It's also likely that others don't suit you, you're not good at them, or you just don't like them. These are the ones to renegotiate.

    I've written about this extensively here: Defining Roles in Relationships: Escaping Relational Fuckery

    Dismantle Patriarchy Experiment #10: Show-Up Outside Your Home (We)

    Discuss ways that you can dismantle patriarchy as a team, in the world outside your home. You might even have a shared action plan!

    That might include;

    • talk about how to address sexism in friend & family contexts. This doesn't need to be heavy, you might just say something like "oh, weird, that's not the kind of couple we are" when someone presumes gendered roles.
    • talk about examples in your community, and brainstorm ways to address those.
    • make gender equality a criteria when you decide on your electoral votes.
    • magnify the voices of others who are unheard in meetings, community, and other contexts.
    • consider how & where you invest your power (your time, energy, attention, money, influence).