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"The Man is the Head and the Woman is the Neck" // A Russian Proverb

// a socio-linguistic reframing of gendered power structures

 Pavel Gitnik is a multidisciplinary writer, speaker, and artist-scientist. He examines and promotes ideas in the fields of linguistics, narrative, and the relationship between reality and expression. He also solved the chicken-or-egg problem.


(Dedicated to my mom, grandmas, sister, and all the women in my life)


I asked my grandma if we lived in a patriarchy.

"No," she said.

"Because that's what they're saying"

"You're not right," she said, disbelieving me.

"We don't live in a patriarchy. They don't say that."

"Then what then?"

"They say, the man is the head and the women is the neck. Where the neck turns, the head will look."

She said this is a common proverb in Russia.

A I couldn't ask for a better visual metaphor.

I honestly didn't know what my grandma was going to say to my cheeky but serious question. As a strong woman, I knew she'd have firm opinions and she wouldn't be afraid to voice them, so I knew I would get an honest response.

But this was such a pithy one!

And one with such physiological and empirical "apparency".

Even for the thinking brain, such logic through literary technique of vivid metaphor scaffolds geometry and mathematical rigor back onto the proverbial terrain.

With one swoop, my grandma made her point about the power of the matriarchs most poignant.

This wielding of language, a female superpower, is precisely how the neck turns to make the head look.

It is our linguistic frames and prowesses that sense-out values and meaning from otherwise shiftless material.

The mythological and, at the same time, most earthly proverb of "neck and head" to illustrate how women direct the attention and interpretation of events, and therefore reality itself, is a model exemplar of this very prowess.

One of communal narrative-weaving and the reconciliation of logical and emotionally-evocative through empirical parables of lived life.

The "neck", my grandma's wielding of linguistic and world-shaping abilities, thus demonstrates in so factum how it cuts through performative "logic ceremonies"  of endless detail and ennui and uses instead the pure "empiricism of the senses" to bring back even the most left-brain skeptic to the truth.

It's somatic grounding in physiological "obvious" reality resonates as truth, as does its application to commonplace observable reality of gender dynamics.

The geometric pattern creates a symmetry that resonates as a standing wave that reinforces itself recursively. Your body informs you of the apparent truth. You body resonating with both the bodily metaphor and the perfect overlay on your sociological experience where mom decided what was what in your house too.

This both explains how your lived reality does have formal linguistic framing.

It allows your to relax and trust your senses, not in small part, but because your mother says it's not only okay, but the good thing to do.

The true matriarchal power of sculping values, crafting stories, and framing linguistics to then teach those same skills to children is what makes or breaks a cultural civilization.

My grandma recognized this formally. It is well-known that women decide what is normal, what is "risky", what is beautiful and elegant or polite in a shared space.

They do it though language.

My grandma and her neighbor, who at ages 70 moved from Russia to the States, learned English, while their husbands struggled to pick up a new tongue.

Biology encourages we encode our most valuable scripts in resonant forms to pass down to our children: Proverbs, Songs, the Poetry of an academic paper --these all construct how we see and feel the world, on a meta-narrative level.

It's the words we choose. The repetition. The tone.

Voice takes us from the somatic into the metaphysical realm.


Where is the neck turning?

So beyond the superficial narrative, there is a message being sent to us:

When we hear the word "patriarchy" voiced in enchanting rhythm over and over, we can rest assured that we can hear between the lines, to the "true" call devoid of the distorted context -- for fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons to return.

- Pavel

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