Patriarchal Conditioning


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?

9 thoughts on “Patriarchal Conditioning

  1. Really excellent post. Patriarchal conditioning is so ingrained…I know with my MIL she had a very hard time with her father, he would not pay for her education and constantly tell her that she was a burden, she ended up getting a scholarship but could not afford to pursue dance and singing, although that was her passion…and he father certainly was not going to pay for those “extra” stuff. Sometimes I wonder if she was conditioned to be a caretaker of everyone.
    Also I have noticed traveling in India and abroad in Indian communities, the presence of sindoor – If I do not wear it I am treated like crap, and if I do wear it, I am treated like gold. All because of this little dot!
    Especially now that I am a mother I also notice so many mums judging other mums – like on the most trivial and personal choices. Like who cares who stays home or who works (staying at home is also working!), or who cares what methods you feed the baby. The same judgements would never be shoved on the dads!
    I have also noticed with friends that many Korean families are uber-patriarchal as well. Like, it’s the mom’s job to handle the kids only.
    The problem with patriarchy is it does nothing for men either – it does not encourage them to be good father or good husbands, it does not encourage them to express their feelings and emotional intelligence, it sticks them in a box too. In patriarchy, everybody loses!

    1. Absolutely. Everybody loses even the people perpetuating the system.

      Koreans are generally very patriarchal. Have to listen to daddy even if abroad alone for 10 years which is lame.

      There are differences in how various cultures show patriarchy, I did not want to go into them for some reasons.

    2. As you so rightly said, patriarchy does nothing for men either…What if a man wants to stay at home and look after his house and kids? Not possible especially amongst Indians…’Well wishers’ ‘ will make his and his wife’s lives hell…

      1. True, men also suffer from patriarchy – they cannot marry who they want, cannot get close to their wives etc. but in patriarchy, men do have it a better than women in most instances.

  2. I don’t have brothers and was brought up away from extended family so was spared the worst of it.

    Still, I had that one aunt who made me sit at the entrance of her house when I had my period and served me only at the end. I was 14. I got up and went out in tears to the street, I was so angry that my mother wasn’t standing up for me.

    Also, when I was 17, my male classmate informed me that women should be homemakers for the ‘sake of the kids’. I had the satisfaction of scoring much higher than him in the Boards, only to be told that I was ‘wasting’ a medical admission that could have gone to man.

    1. Exactly. Even though our immediate family does not practice it, these patriarchal conditioning is reinforced via extended family. Just for this, I feel sorry for people living in joint families.

  3. Most of the times it is difficult to differentiate between patriarchal n non patriarchal thoughts.. we r programmed as u said to think tat way.. even a five to sseven year olds will start the “training of being future daughter in law” .. if the grls refuse to listen den der r comments “kaaheki ladki hai.. ladkiyon ko aise rehna hai. Sar pe dupatta daale rehna hai.. zor se hasna bolna nahi hai.. kisi ki baat ka bura nahi maanna hai.. ” in short u r just lik a dead body.. feel nothing n work lik a slave..
    once we start dreading tis kind of mindset we dread staying at home doing nothing. . Fear of being financially dependant n also we never see a “stay at home dad” .. y shud I do it if my husband cant..
    If u r not patriarchal u appreciate ppl doing wat they want to , even being a stay at home mom. Bt as I said ders sometimes confusion in differenting

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