He is a man. He loves cars, guns and hitting on girls.
He is strong. He must not cry or care too much.
He is superior. He must keep his woman in check.
He is a puppet of patriarchy. He is not king, but slave.
So, what is Patriarchy?
Collins Dictionary defines ‘Patriarchy’ as “a system in which men have all or most of the power and importance in a society or group”.
The origin of this system is widely believed to date all the way back to the time of our ancestors where biological traits pushed men to take on the role of providers, working outside the home for long hours (often engaging in physically strenuous activity), and women the role of homemakers responsible for reproduction and subsequent childcare. This loose social structure soon resulted in women being viewed as only a resource for managing the supposedly easier and less risky or important tasks than the men.
As the years went by, religious and social norms gave this structure a more concrete shape in the form of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for both sexes. For example, most men are now taught to conceal their emotions and quietly bear the burden of being the sole breadwinners in the family. They are also trained to believe that they are more powerful and intelligent gender and need to be prepared (at all times) to protect “their” women as well as teach them right from wrong (even use violence to do so, if necessary).
Many women, on the other hand, are expected to take care of all domestic chores, so as to enable the men in their household to perform these “manly” duties uninterrupted. This culture has relegated women to a secondary role in society and even convinced many of them that their only importance lies in being self-sacrificing resources to men. It has also compelled them to excessively depend on men for emotional, physical and financial support.
That doesn’t sound like a really good deal for either women or men, does it?
Absolutely! While on the surface it may seem like Patriarchy favours one gender (male) over the other (female), this is actually far from the truth. In reality, this age-old system is detrimental to the well-being of both men and women. That’s because the superficial power that it offers men often causes them to live under constant stress to always perform and excel. It also prevents them from enjoying the ideas and experiences that friendship and emotional (and not just physical) intimacy with women can offer. Moreover, asking men to conceal their emotions can even cause them to suffer from extremely serious mental as well as physical health issues.
The women, however, suffer by having to live smaller lives, where they are not completely free or safe to be themselves and have to live with the fear of being harmed or objectified wherever they go. They have to also constantly find ways to navigate through a society riddled by preconceived notions how of a woman should look, behave, talk, and even dress.
But how is Patriarchy the root cause for most social and workplace issues?
Think about it! Here are some of the leading social and workplace issues that India has been battling for ages: low status of women, mental health issues, child sexual abuse, gender inequality at work, sexual crimes against women, mental health issues, low status of women, female foeticide, dowry deaths and poverty, among others.
Let’s see how the patriarchal mindset is responsible for these issues.
Domestic violence: A survey conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in multiple centres in India reported that “85% of men admit they had indulged in violent behavior against their wives at least once in last 12 months.” The men confessed to “indulge in violence” to mainly establish their power over the “weaker” sex.
Female foeticide: A 2011 study by British medical journal Lancet found that up to 12 million Indian female foetuses had been aborted in the previous three decades. Female foeticide is driven mainly by the patriarchal family structure that forces women to be consumers and unpaid labourers and not direct earners. As a result they are looked upon as liabilities and not assets to a family.
Dowry deaths: Each day 21 lives are lost to dowry across India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2015. Dowry—the money or goods that the bride’s family gives to the bridegroom and his relatives as a condition of marriage—is rooted in the patriarchy culture that expects a woman to reside with her husband’s family after marriage.
Sexual crimes against women: Data released by India’s NCRB also shows that sexual crimes against women in the country, including rape, molestation and abuse, are increasing every year. Speaking on ‘Inequality and sexual harassment against women’ at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Vrinda Grover, a leading advocate in the Delhi High Court said that “the patriarchal society was the main cause of violence against women” (source: The Hindu).
Gender inequality at work: The Monster Salary Index 2016 revealed that women in India still make 25% less than their male counterparts. According to the report, this gender pay gap could be due to the preference of male employees over female employees due to the latter’s career breaks driven by “socio-cultural factors” or to fulfill “parenthood” duties.
Mental health issues: According to the latest World Health Organisation report, 56 million Indians suffer from depression and 38 million suffer from anxiety disorders. In a patriarchal society, mental health is not spoken about openly. Men suffer the most because of this as they are taught even as kids that talking about their emotions or being sensitive is “unmanly”.
Child sexual abuse: Every 15 minutes, there is a child in India who suffers from sexual abuse, reveals the latest NCRB report. Anuja Gupta of RAHI (Recovery and Healing from Incest) in an interview with the Quint, says: “If you are looking at changing anything to prevent child sexual abuse, you really need to question patriarchy as a system”.
Poverty: India’s poverty profile shows that 1 in 5 Indians is poor (source: World Bank group). According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017, an average 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s. Traditional patriarchy norms prevent many women from seeking full time employment and thus, contributing to household finances. This leaves men to bear the burden of earning for the family alone.
Patriarchy is thus a bane to not only women, but society in general. However, the cure for Patriarchy is not to push for more rights for women or impose a matriarchal culture, but equal rights for both sexes. That’s because only a country that values gender equality can successfully address its social and workplace issues and truly flourish.