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Tracing the Roots of Patriarchy

Ever since I knew what patriarchy is, I have wondered what brought patriarchy into this world. What made people believe that men should dominate women? Who decided the dos and don’ts of girls and boys? I read a lot, I discussed a lot, I watched a lot and I searched a lot for a good logical justification why patriarchy exists. But nothing that I heard or read wasn’t good or logical enough to convince me that men should dominate women. Let’s look into some historical aspects of patriarchy.

Some of the earliest Chinese, dating to 1200 BC, were found out by archeologists and this is what they found out; On one large rock, it was engraved the question: ‘Will Lady Hao’s childbearing be lucky?’ To which was written the reply: ‘If the child is born on a ding day, lucky. If on a geng day, vastly auspicious.’ However, Lady Hao was to give birth on a jiayin day. The text ends with the morose observation: ‘Three weeks and one day later, on jiayin day, the child was born. Not lucky. It was a girl. More than 3,000 years later, when Communist China enacted the ‘one child’ policy, many Chinese families continued to regard the birth of a girl as a misfortune. Parents would occasionally abandon or murder newborn baby girls.

In many societies, women were simply the property of men, most often their fathers, husbands, or brothers. Rape, in many legal systems, falls under property violation – in other words, the victim is not the woman who was raped but the male who owns her. This being the case, the legal remedy was the transfer of ownership – the rapist was required to pay a bride price to the woman’s father or brother, upon which she became the rapist’s property.

Some of the cultural, legal, and political discrepancies between men and women reflect the obvious biological differences between the sexes. But still every added layer upon layer of cultural ideas, customs, and norms that have little to do with biology. Societies associate a plethora of qualities, features, and jobs with masculinity and femininity which most of the time lacked biological basis. For instance, only very few women participate in politics comparing to men, comparing to men, number of financially independent women are still low. Does having a womb make a person unfit biologically for certain professions or activities? Does this have anything to do with science, biology, and facts? The exact answer to this question is, as Yuval Noah Harari said ‘Biology enables, culture forbids’.

Since the Agricultural Revolution, most human societies have been patriarchal societies that valued men more highly than women. No matter how a society described ‘man’ and ‘woman’, man was always better. Patriarchal societies educate men to think and act in a masculine way and women to think and act in a feminine way, punishing anyone who dares cross those boundaries. Qualities considered masculine are more valued than those considered feminine.

THEORY 1:

The most common theory points to the fact that men are stronger than women, and that they have used their greater physical power to force women into submission.

Now let me tell you the limitation of this theory. First, according to the studies, the statement that men are stronger than women is only true to the average because there are immense evidence that shows that women are more resistant to hunger, pain, and fatigue, and many women around the world can lift heavy weights and run faster than men. Second, then why do women are not allowed to do some jobs that, don’t require much physical effort? and most problematically, women have, throughout history, been excluded mainly from jobs that require little physical effort such as the priesthood, law, and politics while engaging in hard manual labor in the fields, in crafts, and the household.

THEORY 2:

Another theory explains that masculine dominance results not from strength but aggression. Millions of years of evolution have made men far more violent than women. Women can match men as far as hatred, greed, and abuse are concerned, but when push comes to shove, the theory goes, men are more willing to engage in raw physical violence. This is why throughout history warfare has been a masculine prerogative.

If this theory is true, then why we have only a few female political leaders compared to men because what we needed to rule a country peacefully is patience, empathy, and humanity rather than aggressiveness.

INEVITABILITY OF PATRIARCHY:

Steven Goldberg, a Sociologist at the City College of New York published Inevitability of Patriarchy which explains male dominance. According to him, male dominance is a result of our biological makeup.

Again, how does this support all the violence that is faced by women for years? How does it become an excuse to limit our dreams? How will it be an excuse for toxic masculinity?

FEMINISM V/S SEXISM:

Today a lot of men and women laugh or are embarrassed to say that they support feminism and some say that they are not feminists but they are against sexism. Why does this happen? Because many people perceived the meaning of feminism wrong.

Feminism and sexism are 2 sides of a coin. Feminism isn’t a war between men and women but feminism focuses on equality between men and women where men will support women and women will support men to chase their dreams and to live their life on their terms. Feminism looks forward to a world where men and women will move forward hand in hand. So basically, the ultimate aim of feminism is to demolish sexism.

Sexism refers to a belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and inherent inequality between men and women.

The ideas of feminism have challenged and changed many aspects of society, from female political involvement to reproductive rights. Nevertheless, equality for men and women is still a distant vision for vast majority.

THE SECOND SEXISM BY DAVID BENATAR:

David Benatar published a book, The Second Sexism, in which he says that in contrary to the common perception that only women and girls are discriminated on the basis of sex, discrimination against men and boys can also happen, and in some cases, it can be even more evident. Benatar means the wrongful discrimination against men and boys on the basis of sex, which he claims is so unrecognized that the mere mention of it will appear laughable to some.

Benatar acknowledges that sexism against women and girls (which he calls first sexism) is still a more severe problem in most parts of the world. However, he argues that, contrary to popular belief, men and boys can also be subject to discrimination. For example, he discusses state policies and/or social norms that primarily encourage men, but rarely women, into military conscription and combat, causing millions of men to die or suffer physically and psychologically.

A society free from sexism is a society where both men and women can be strong or weak without any fear of being judged. I want every young girl and boy to know that sexism and patriarchy are just a socially constructed ideology with no proper evidence or logical explanation that we are forced to follow. Let’s dismantle myths with facts and sexism with the right sense of mind. Those people who still laugh at the concept of feminism or sexism, you should be informed that, in 2019, 4 lakh crimes against women were filed in India, 76.0% men are employed while only 20.3% women are employed in India, and 27% of girls in our country still get married before the age of 18 years while only 4% of men get married before the age of 18, and this is why we need feminism. Is it our mistake that we were born as girls? Is it a curse? No! The judgmental society is the curse and let’s wipe it off. You can be a girl and still dream big, you can be a boy and still cry in public, you can be a girl and still wear what you are comfortable in, you can be a boy and still wear makeup if you like to, you can be you, you do you, you have every right to live a life that you like, you can follow your heart, you can do what makes you happy. You don't have to live according to the socially constructed norms which are just myths and not facts. Let’s hope one day in the future we will be living in a society free from sexism where no one will be restricted or no one will be forced to do things that they don’t want to do just because they were born as a girl or a boy. Let us hope we will someday have a world in front of us where everyone will be treated as humans rather than men or women, rich or poor, upper caste or lower caste, fair or dark, etc.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Jilsha Mohammed Ali