The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The definition of a patriarchy is a system of society in which men hold more power and authority and where women are largely excluded from those attributes.
In the Patriarchal society:
- All aspects of society are affected; family, education, culture, relationships, etc.
- Masculine traits are overvalued
- Males are dominant in all aspects of life
- Even when women do hold leadership positions; the earnings are disproportionate (In arts and entertainment, women author 60% of best-sellers, yet captured only 27% of the earnings)
- We all participate in it, whether consciously or unconsciously
I am sure we have all, dismally, heard of the wage gap that stems from the patriarchy, but have you considered the differences in race and ethnicity in addition to sex? For every white man’s dollar, a white woman earns $0.79, a black woman earns $0.62, and a latino woman earns $0.54. Some of this does have to do with years of experience, hours worked, etc, but also is a result of gender-based discrimination. While this was made illegal in 1963 in the United States, it is still a persistent practice, and more so in regards to women of color. For example, a company can exclude a black woman from a job and when faced with accusations of gender-based discrimination, can refer to the diversity they hold within their company. This “diversity” usually contains a handful of black men and some white women. Colored women are found at the intersection of race and gender discrimination and suffer from an overlap of injustices within the patriarchal society.
In a study done by the University of Denver, it was found that in the US across many industries, women hold less than 20% of leadership roles. Lynn Gangone, dean at Colorado Women’s College states that, “Some of the findings in this study suggest that in the highest levels of leadership, women often times remain underrepresented and underpaid, regardless of performance,”. Just a few decades ago a woman couldn’t have dreamed of holding a leadership role in a business, so yes we have made strides since then however, we are still not at an equal standing.
Results of the Patriarchal society
The dress coding and sexualizing of young women is a very prominent result of the patriarchy. The juxtaposition that is the constant attention to women’s bodies yet tearing down of the feminine is a representation of the power that men wield. Women are sexualized and sometimes over-appreciated but feminine traits are considered frail and unwanted. Even in a school environment, shoulders on young women are “distracting” and must be covered up for the sake of the man. Jessica Valentine states in her essay Dangerous Bodies and Dress Codes that dress codes are not only sexist but also sexual harassment, as “What else would you call adults systematically singling out girls, publicly shaming them, and interrupting their education?”.
The patriarchy and it’s beliefs are also found at the roots of gender-based violence. The devaluation of women and dominance of men can lead to a large power complex. This can be seen in the sterilization of Native American women throughout the 19th century even up until the 70s. Doctors on reservations would sterilize these women without their knowledge when they came into the office for something as small as a checkup. This was a result of racial and gender dominance, in an attempt to prevent future generations of Native Americans.
Tangible results of the patriarchy can be as simple as last names. There is no such thing as a last name that originated from a woman. If I wanted to keep my last name when I marry, I would be keeping my father’s last name. If I took my mother’s maiden name instead, I would be taking my grandfather’s last name, and so on and so forth. The patriarchy is so deeply rooted in our society that many things can go unnoticed.
Encouragement of the Patriarchy
- “Boys will be boys”
- “You fight like a girl”
- “Don’t be a wuss”
- “Women should be at home”
- Celebration of the masculine & tearing down of the feminine
- Teaching men to hide their emotions
- Constant attention on women’s bodies (whether that be positive or negative)
Countering these ideas;
To aid in fighting against patriarchal values, educate yourself, listen, learn, and be open to change and growth. Challenge gender roles while still respecting everyone’s expression of gender. Fight against the discouragement of emotions in men. Encourage feminine traits, celebrate them, and have pride in them! And most importantly, remember that the fight against the patriarchy is a fight against an entire system that effects each and every one of us, it is not a fight against men, but rather with them.