Back to Basics #4: What is the Patriarchy?

By: Emma Stuart

Welcome to Back to Basics! In these posts, we break down feminist concepts for readers curious about feminist vocabulary, concepts, and ideas! Today’s question is:

“What is Patriarchy?”

Patriarchy is defined by Oxford Languages as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Due to most modern societies being patriarchal, women are restricted access to the power and privilege that is attributed to men. Feminists and advocates for gender equality have consistently fought against the values that have been enforced by patriarchal societies.

“How am I impacted by the patriarchy?”

The patriarchy affects everyone in many aspects of our lives. It impacts the lives of women and men all around the world in countless ways but here are a few examples:

  • Men are not allowed to show emotions, and if women do, they are ‘out of control’.
  • Women are perceived as objects by the world.
  • Sexual violence perpetrated to and by all genders, and sexual violence committed against masculine people is not taken seriously.
  • Inequity of pay for preforming the same jobs.

“How can I oppose the patriarchy in my life?”

Tackling the patriarchy is not an easy job to do but here are some small ways that we can work against it:

  1. Make sure to educate yourself and keep your mind open to growth.
  2. Challenge the expectation of gender roles but continue to respect all gender expressions.
  3. Hold leadership accountable.
  4. Don’t be blinded by your anger, it is important to acknowledge your anger but don’t let it control you.
  5. Support all women, non-binary, and trans people’s careers, their success is your success don’t make it a competition.

The patriarchy is a constant presence in our lives, and it can be a great burden to bear. However, do not let it control your life and drag you down. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and support you to lighten this load. If you want to learn more about the patriarchy and its effects click here. And if you want to learn about more basic feminist topics check out our post on the myth of “man-hating feminists” , intersectional feminism, and body positivity.

From Dolls to Degrees: How gender norms can be hard to see

by Thea Voutiritsas

A close friend of mine is expecting, and she told me she would be raising her daughter as a feminist. On one hand, I thought, “Well, of course!” And on the other, I thought about what it would be like if I had been raised with that in mind. Don’t get me wrong, my mom has always told me I could do whatever I wanted. She always told me to be strong, to be independent. She always told me I shouldn’t have to rely on anyone, but myself. I should never feel stuck. Those words are beautiful and they are true.

So, why didn’t they stick? Why did I scale back my aspirations, my career options, my degree? Because my mom raised me to be a strong woman, but she believed that raising me to be a woman meant I had to first act like a “girl.” I had hundreds of dolls, hundreds of shoes, toy kitchens, toy beauty shops, and so on. But I never had Legos, I never had a Gameboy, I never had a toolkit or a doctor’s kit. I never believed I could build, create, heal, or save anything. I never got the chance to pretend. I got older, and I believed that girls weren’t good at math and that boys should pay for dates. I believed makeup was a girl thing and videogames were for boys. My high school boyfriend had an Xbox, and a game that he let me borrow. I loved it so much, I asked for one of my own. My mom said no. She said those were for boys, and I was a girl. I didn’t need it and I wouldn’t use it. And my boyfriend must be bored without his game.

From my first year at the Women’s Center

So I never played it. I never got good. I never even got to try. I think about all the things I could have been interested in, every stone left unturned. I let it go, and I accepted the idea that there were things I couldn’t have because they belonged only to men. I thought I couldn’t ask for them, either. The careers, the interests, the freedom – they weren’t meant for me. I tailored my interests to what would be marriage material, because that was my end goal: to be married. I thought that was where my life would both end and begin. My meaning would be defined by my position as a bachelorette, and then by my position as a mother. I started college, and this is where my ideal world began to slip away from me.

I wanted to be a teacher because the salary wouldn’t be threatening, but I found I didn’t like teaching. I thought, well, I’m already an English major, so I’ll just stick with that. That’s still an approachable major. I didn’t talk in class. I didn’t talk back. I got good grades and I smiled. Then I worried that I might be missing something, maybe I should explore something else. Then I thought it could wait. Then I believed it was too late. Then I realized the job market didn’t look so good, because I didn’t like the jobs. And all this time, I never believed I was limited. I argued that men and women were treated equally. I thought feminism was too strong of a word.

In fact, feminism was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because I found freedom and choice. I had the option to be funny, to speak loudly or to whisper. I had the option to frown instead of smile, and to wear the clothes that made me feel powerful, or comfortable, or both. But it also made me afraid that I became a feminist too late. Maybe if I would have known sooner, I would have chosen my passion instead of choosing a norm. But then I remember, being a feminist is about having choices. I will always have choices. My gender, my age, my education and my ability do not have to define my possibilities. I get to choose those, and I get to choose not to let those norms limit me.

The Man-Hating Feminist

by Danielle Lyons

Every time I talk about being a feminist, there is always that misandryone person that asks, “So you hate men?” A movement about fighting for equality is constantly reduced down to one stereotype: the man hating feminist. You know that stereotype. That hairy legged, man-hating feminist strutting around, wreaking havoc with her opinions. The word feminism seems to have a negative connotation. As if this movement is threatening or seeking to take away rights from men. Allow to me to do some clarification.

Man-hating is called misandry. Which is NOT feminism. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, feminism is, “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” How downright menacing. James St. James from Everyday Feminism would like to remind us,

“Feminism is actually here to help men just as much as anyone else, even the ones who currently think they have it made with all of their privilege. Because in the end, patriarchal mindsets are a killer.”