Women's contribution to Patriarchy
Why aren’t all women Feminists?
The above question has plagued me. I believe that everyone should support the idea of Feminism – men as well as women. Feminism talks of equal rights and opportunities for all genders. And equality as an ideal should make sense to everyone. Of course there is resistance from those who believe that there is a reason why there is a hierarchy in place. Now I get why most men would think this. Owing to years of conditioning, they have got used to it. But what I don’t understand is why women would oppose Feminism!? And I wish this was fiction…something sexists had created. But when I looked back at my life, I realized that a lot of my notions of patriarchy came from women around me.
Patriarchy as a system relegates women as the secondary sex. It is an age old concept. Philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato are considered to have influenced the idea that women must be ruled by men because they were not true rational beings and the only way to perfect themselves [be truly human], was for them to die and return to earth as men [Kasubhai; 1996:37, 47]. If this concept had to become universal and spread across the world since the last 2500 years, then it could not have been possible without women aligning to the concept. I am sure women protested at the beginning but these ‘Tired Feminists’ as I call them, gave up the fight…perhaps too easily and too soon. And that is what we should assess so that the next 2500 years are drastically different.
1) By celebrating the birth of a male child or continuing to have children until one gets a male child
2) By training other women to ask for permission before doing anything
3) By encouraging the gender divide by asking a woman to do and say things that are different from what men do
4) By overtly giving preference to men and normalizing it
5) By propagating the idea that a woman seizes to be a daughter once married off
6) To create the illusive target of ‘work-life balance’ only for the woman and not the man
7) By popularizing the notion that the ‘submissive and sacrificing wife’ is the ideal woman
8) By not raising their voice when they or other women are sexually objectified or assualted
9) By saying that rapes take place because women don’t dress appropriately
10) By calling women who dress unconventionally cheap and blame=ing the roving eyes of men to ‘boys will be boys’
There could be many more instances as the above. None of these ideas would have found its place in society without the support of women.
Are women also misogynists?
As much as I would like to say otherwise, the answer unfortunately is ‘Yes’. Just as there are Feminist men, there are also Misogynist women.
Queen Victoria had famously denied equal voting rights by stating: 'Let women be what God intended, a helpmeet for men but with totally different duties and vocations'. It's not clear how she thought being Queen Empress fitted into this world view.
In America, think tank Demos found that half of misogynistic tweets (which contained the word “whore” or “slut”) came from women.
What are the reasons for women being misogynistic?
There could be several reasons for this. But usually it is because misogyny is internalized.
Some women who have toed the line all their lives can’t tolerate those who won’t do it themselves. They are usually extremely conservative and look down upon women that are like men aligning themselves with the Madonna–Whore Complex i.e. the belief that if women are not as pure as Madonna, then they are whores.
They also find comfort in ‘Benevolent Sexism’. Some women feel powerless; need men’s support and hence don’t raise their voice against the system. They feel a false sense of ‘protection’.
Their making peace with Patriarchy is akin to the Stockholm Syndrome: feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor. This peace however is a make-believe one because it is one that has emerged out of fear. That’s why some women feel that gender norms exist for a reason. They feel that they will give up on some privileges if they came out as Feminists.
Some women also go to the other extreme to hate all men and hence all feminine women who like men! Such radical thought has no place in Feminism since the movement does not propagate hatred against any gender.
Sometimes women in the workplace also show signs of misogyny
I had written about an article on the “Queen Bee syndrome” on Women’s Web – a popular Women’s Forum. The phenomenon talks of women discriminating against other women co-workers as they rise in seniority. This was in response to a study and an article that was conducted that stated that the Queen bees have become meaner.
I had critiqued the original article for popularizing the motion that ‘women are catty to one another.’ I am not denying that such cases exist. But the truth is that there are bad men bosses as well. In order to look for solutions, I tried to come up with some possibilities as to why women could possibly behave in this manner:
- Some women try to behave like ‘one of the boys’ so that they are not seen as ‘women’. That’s why they distance themselves from other women
- Some women who have reached senior positions have had to work very hard to break the glass ceiling and maybe unjustifiably so…but expect very high level of commitment from their subordinates
- Some women fear coming across as favouring other women and hence choose to go to the other extreme
- Some women still question a woman’s authority because there still aren’t enough examples of women in power
If the above are the possible reasons for the Queen Bee syndrome, then I genuinely feel that as more women enter the workforce and realize that they are not a threat to one another, the phenomenon will cease to exist.
How do we change the scenario?
In no circumstance should one continue life without a sense of reasoning or logic. Just because things have worked a particular way does not mean it should ad infinitum. If that were the case, we would not have had any inventions so far. A thinking man or woman questions the world around them and assesses for himself or herself the right way to live. Conformity is not a virtue.
All the above reasons of misogyny have arisen out of insecurity. Either women feel unsafe if they rebel against society or they feel threatened by one another. We need to talk, understand and support one another so that we are united against patriarchy. Women in power must guide and mentor other women so as to make our work environments more representative of the world we live in. Without unity we will not achieve equality and hence will never achieve true freedom or peace.