Percé Rock and the Crumbling Patriarchy

The French writer and surrealist André Breton wouldn’t have been the first man to think it but he’s the first one that I know of who wrote it. The excerpt below is from his book Arcanum 17:

“The time has come to value the ideas of woman at the expense of those of man, whose bankruptcy is coming to pass fairly tumultuously today.”

That excerpt and the book were influenced by Percé Rock off the Gaspé peninsula in Québec, a place Breton visited in 1944. He was retreating from the destruction and atrocities of the Second World War.

Breton saw the slow motion crumbling of Percé Rock into the sea as a powerful symbol of resurrection. “All things, must, on the outside, die, but a power that is not at all supernatural makes death itself the basis for renewal,” Breton wrote. Out of darkness, hope. Out of death, new life. Out of loss, resurrection. Out of impermanence, change. Such a wonderful example of landscape shaping mindset, shaping behaviour, shaping justice.

To Breton, men were the source of the problem and women the salvation. But he didn’t stop there. He urged artists:

  • “to maximize the importance of everything that stands out in the feminine world view in contrast to the masculine,”
  • “to build only on woman’s resources,” and
  • “ to bring man down from a position of power which, it has been sufficiently demonstrated, he has misused and restore this power to the hands of woman.”

Breton believed in women’s superiority. Others believe in women’s equality. Either way the transformation from patriarchy won’t happen without sacrifice by us men. ‘Sacrifices’ like stepping back, paying attention and acknowledging women for what they say, do, write, teach, publish, present and accomplish. Which will reveal a clear, vibrant and coherent feminine worldview. And the next set of sacrifices. Maybe then the resurrection from patriarchy will happen before the mighty Percé Rock crumbles into the sea.


  1. I’m indebted to the journal Canadian Art for this story. Read more about their account of Breton’s time in Gaspésie here. Even better, subscribe to the journal. Not a week goes by that I don’t learn something unique from it about the Canadian “terroir” of social change.
  2. Today, March 8th civil rights leader Viola Desmond’s picture appears on the Canadian ten dollar bill.


Even the few steps forward woman has taken on the road to her liberation do not prevent her from still being the prisoner of a host of prejudices. The true liberation of women cannot take place without the liberation of men. ~ Thérèse Casgrain, Québec feminist and first woman to lead a political party in Canada.

Musical accompaniment this post is “Le Bonhomme et La Bonne Femme” by the legendary singer/fiddler La Bolduc. She was born in Gaspésie and was known as Canada’s first “chansonnière.”


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Artisans for the Common Good

A Bystander’s Guide to Civility in a Time of Rage

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