I read this article by Christiane Northrup and this line really spoke to me:
“When I say patriarchal society and programming, I’m referring to the belief that the masculine ways of being (and doing) are superior to the feminine ways of being (and doing).”
Patriarchal conditioning is widespread and sometimes pretty difficult to weed out. Many people often assume that only men perpetuate patriarchy. Women are equally guilty of reinforcing these norms and a lot of sexist behaviour comes from women!
- I clearly remember our neighbours telling my mother that it was unfortunate that she had no sons.
- I was about 9 when an old lady told my mom why girls today were wasting their time on education instead of learning to cook.
- Aunty K was super patriarchal.
You are a woman.
Learn to cook.
You must learn to live in a joint family.
Get married. Don’t study too much.
Why do we have girls if not for doing the cleaning?
Don’t wear short clothes because if you wear them now, how will you adjust after marriage?
Women should not read the vedas.
I have observed that she was very critical of her DILs & daughters but would overlook the same thing done by her sons. All the girl kids would be assigned duties of cleaning up but not the guys. The women would have to wash their plates after eating but men would just leave their plates on the table after eating and the women were supposed to pick them up & clean up after them.
- Women telling you to ‘cover up’ and wear proper clothes.
- Another paradox (not). At the outset, east Asia seems more developed and gender equal. Women wear short clothes, work, date & they do not have arranged marriages. Despite being ‘developed countries’ for many years, patriarchy is ingrained in collective consciousness of the society.
There is no obvious reason for wanting a son*, but so many people want and try for a son – having 3 kids till they get a son, aborting when it is a girl, trying traditional medicines and some have about 9 years age gap between the son & the daughter.
* in term of safety for women, having to give dowry, spending on a wedding, women having to live with her husband’s family, women being a financial burden or not working etc.
Did you know that Japan, despite being a developed country is very patriarchal and most women do not work after marriage or children?
The saddest part is this overarching sense of inferiority of being a female & lack of self worth without a man. There is a strong need for a male authoritative figure in their lives. A father. A boyfriend. A husband. A boss. Even Jesus. Advice by a woman is rejected but the same advice coming from a man is taken.
- In the same vein, why are so many women are critical of stay at home moms/wives [SAHMs]? They feel that she is ‘wasting’ her education by not working & doing nothing by being at home. In some ways, they consider the feminine inferior to masculine roles. Isn’t that patriarchal as well?
- I have noticed this many times :
When a male boss/colleague is a jerk, he is a jerk & nobody evaluates his relationship status. When a female boss/colleague is a jerk, everybody will jump on to judge her on the basis of her relationship status.
“She is a bitch because she has no man in her life.”
And these kind of statements are mostly made by women.
Patriarchy is so ingrained & reinforced constantly in our collective psyche, that it often goes unnoticed by us. The first step is awareness. Next comes change.
Action – Watch your thoughts, words & actions. In what way are you reinforcing patriarchy in your life?