The literary works of Imani Perry, Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation presents a unique, powerful, and insightful analysis of the patriarchy and domination in society. Imani’s works borrow from the opinions of theoretical, philosophical, academic, and artistic disciplines to argue its position on patriarch and liberation in the post-colonial era. The book assumes a more conversational approach than a conventional scholarly book. However, this does not prevent the reader from analyzing how power, dominance, privileges, and entitlement work to institutionalize oppression, marginalization, and subjugation as evident in contemporary society.
The title of the book, Vexy Things, invites the reader to the thought of what disrupts one’s peace and normalcy. Vexing implies causing trouble or torment. The title is very suggestive and prepares the reader to associate the issues presented in the book with what is in modern communities. Imani Perry prompts the mind of the reader to be engaged as she discusses through numerous examples the term patriarchy, its meaning, how it is tangled to social values, its application as a tool of dominance, association to property, personhood, and national sovereignty. The text inspires one to analyze the prevailing social norms and perceptions that have normalized patriarchy, gender oppression, and domination over history through imperialism, legislation, and political and social processes. The text also invites a review of the historical and philosophical contexts of different societies. Additionally, the narrative is a skeptical criticism of liberty and independence in the American context in which the naturalization of binary gender categories that are applied to the citizens. Besides patriarchy, American society is characteristic in the way people categorize and organize their society on binary distinctions of being male or female, white or non-white, citizen or non-citizens among others.
The American society, as portrayed in Imani’s works, is a contradiction of the overall goal of achieving a broad human organization that is improvisational, open to change, and appropriately contingent. The mentioned goal is highly evasive as a social organization is patterned around power and domination. Consequently, the reader begins to formulate questions in their minds. One might start to wonder how the current generation avoids structural repetition of past generations and liberate the population from the problems of patriarchy. Who is stands to be counted and who is discounted? What is the fate of those living in the periphery? How do we shape a new perception that is enabling and inclusive without bias and discrimination? The greatest challenge remains in inspiring a wave of change by creating a familiar and agreeable emotional, structural, and ideological stance.
Imani Perry attempts to answer the mentioned questions in her book. She begins by addressing the various ways through which the current generation can emancipate itself from the confines of patriarchy. She asserts that empathetic listening and nurturance, although antithetical in the contemporary generation, are crucial in challenging the association of dominance and oppression. Empathy and nurturance are functional in reconfiguring perceptions of identity in this generation and where people want to be. Empathetic listening requires a shift of the common understanding and awareness of individuals’ independent of, and about the diverse and unique life experience, which relates to the way individuals have endured injustices and privileges concerning oppression and dominance. Empathy and nurturance encompass careful attention, inclusiveness, and transformative concepts. Perry argues that such strategies will radically change the way the individuals perceive themselves, interact with others in the society, and the way the community acts and reacts in ways rooted in unequal power distribution and hierarchies.
Perry’s article encourages the reader to use feminism in the verb form. She asserts that society has normalized feminism as part of dad-to-day life. Adopting more transformative approaches of feminism can be vital in challenging the ideologies and structure of patriarchy. Additionally, it enables understanding the unequal power distribution and its implications on self and society in general. Community dialogues can enhance consciousness and transformative actions that can challenge the existing hierarchies in society. Critically analyzing how society is enticed to the logic of patriarchy and the dominance by part of the community inspires a social movement empowered by belief and action. Imani writes, “Those who seek gender liberation ought to think of feminism as a critical reading reactive in which one reads through these layers of gendered forms of domination” (9). She emphasizes the need to examine the historical background and current generation to inform previous mistakes and provide new solutions for liberation.
Imani Perry in her text highlights the use of ethics of curatorial life, by stating that one can pick, hold, and defend the components that define reality. Moreover, people can apply ethics to shape them as the tools that can liberate society from domination, patriarchy, and the constraints of power. This approach begs the question of how people act and might act and how they respond to perceived domination, create, and survive in such situations. While little evidence is available that this approach can work, society has begun migrating to neutrality by creating and reinforcing equality policies. Neutrality is further enhanced by cultural sensitivity, the language around gender identity, and expression. Popular culture also reflects a migration from traditional perceptions by featuring Trans and non-binary actors. This strategy challenges the notion that everyone assimilates into binary categories.
Perry in her work Vexy Thing successfully manages to place patriarchy at the center of criticism, readjusting it in a contemporary discussion on feminism through social and literary analysis highlighted in cultural artifacts since the era of enlightenment to present day. Throughout her writing she manages to place feminism as the central theme in relationships, everyday life, and institutions to diagnose a greater problem of patriarchy. She introduces patriarchy drawing from numerous sources since 19th century including slavery court cases and historical writings of other authors to present the emergence of patriarchy from industrial revolution, globalization, and modernity. She clearly outlines the association of patriarchy with digital media and technology, neo-liberalism, and security state and how they such factors influence and perpetuate the vice. Perry exposes the mechanisms of domination, which are important precursors of dismantling it by weaving through the past, present, and probable future forms of patriarchy