Excerpted from the book Sisterhood is Forever: The
Women's Anthology for a New Millennium
edited, and introduced by Robin Morgan (Washington Square
Press, March 2003). Copyright 2003 by Robin Morgan.
Excerpted by permission of Washington Square Press,
a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
I have received a couple of letters from people who
reminded me that I am now an older person, and what
do I think I am leaving to the next generation? They
explained that the world is in worse shape than it
was when I was an energetic middle-aged person. What
would be my-well, if I were a man, it would be patrimony.
So I came to these two interesting words: patrimony
Patrimony and matrimony do not say what they mean.
Patriarchy and matriarchy do. Patrimony, as any reader
probably knows, is what you inherit from your father.
Matrimony is the state of being in a marriage. Now
men live in it-marriage-as weft as women, and it is
therefore a little joke for men that this word is
used about a condition in which women and families
have often suffered the strongest patriarchal oppression.
Matrimony is not what you inherit from your mother,
probably because in history she didn't own much of
anything. This was true at least 500 years ago, sounding
a little more French. It was true in France and England
and pretty much everywhere else. So you see, it's
been a long time since we say that matrimony or marriage
is women’s inheritance. There are probably other
words that disregard their etymological roots in order
to be transformed into the gender-ridden history of
men and women.
If marriage and its historic condition
has been what women leave to their daughters and sons,
what is it that men leave, have left, and continue
War, of course.
To their sons, it's excitement, creativity,
mutilation, and death.
To their daughters, rape, torture,
widowhood, famine, and death.
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