A Discussion On Patriarchy, Oppression And Feminism

A Discussion On Patriarchy, Oppression And Feminism

Analyzing patriarchy through Rita Gross, Bell Hooks and Deniz Kandiyoti.
3020
views

Patriarchy, by definition, refers to “a social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favor men and withhold opportunity from women.”

This interpretation suggests that men are more socially privileged than women, which directly limits female opportunities. While accurate in particular contexts, this is certainly not the only or even the most accurate meaning of patriarchy.

In fact, if we define patriarchy literally (as Rita Gross does in her work "Feminism and Religion") it comes to mean “rule by fathers.” Gross furthers her argument, telling us, “Men monopolize or dominate all the roles and pursuits that society most values and rewards…furthermore, men literally ruled over women, setting the rules and limits by which and within they were expected to operate. Women who did not conform, and many who did, could be subjected to another form of male dominance — physical violence.”

This portrayal of patriarchy is perhaps amongst the more prevalent representations that arise when we think of the word. However common, this does not mean it goes without being problematic. Men having power over women (ruling over women, to be exact) suggests that in all “patriarchal societies” everywhere, all men dominate all women all the time. All women can be subjected to violence at the hands of men. While we could choose to remain ignorant and accept this depiction, it’s simply not fully accurate. Patriarchy is by no means “black and white” — it has layers, and these layers must be acknowledged.

When we discuss patriarchy, we cannot solely consider our current time period, social class, economic system, culture or political structure. Patriarchy bears different meanings for different people — for example, while patriarchy may take the form of only male presidents in American culture and politics, it can also take the form of subordination of young brides in Islamic culture (as detailed by Deniz Kandiyoti in her work “Islam and Patriarchy: A Comparative Perspective.”) Kandiyoti discusses the life cycle of women in Islamic culture, describing the hardships that they face as young brides and the eventual power they hold as matriarchs over their sons and daughters-in-law. She states, “The cyclical nature of women’s power and their anticipation of inheriting the authority of senior women encourages a through internalization of this form of patriarchy by the women themselves.”

In essence, this suggests that women are more willing to endure whatever painstaking oppression that they must as young brides in expectation of the power they’ll hold as elder matriarchs. Kandiyoti’s example is a clear representation of why the term “patriarchy” itself is problematic in nature; here specifically, we’re introduced to a side of “patriarchy” where it isn’t men that are holding power over women, but rather older women who are enforcing power over younger women. These women actually look forward to getting older in order to assert their dominance in the role they fill. They anticipate the day when they’ll be able to oppress other women. Some may believe that women deserve this power since it puts them on an equal playing field as men, giving them power over women. However, the problem here is not that men have power over women, it’s that women are put in a position where their oppression is required (whether that be by men or by fellow women).

The solution is not to simply put women in the position of men, allowing them to fill male gender roles — this still classifies as patriarchy in itself. The actual problem to overcome, which Gross touches upon, is the gender roles. Further, oppression and sexism are amongst the problems that must be demolished. This is where feminism comes into play.

Contrary to popular opinion, feminism is not concerned with women hating men or trying to “be like men.” What feminism is interested in is “ending sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression,” as Bell Hooks tells us. Hooks’ definition does not mention that the sexism that is to be ended is only female sexism. Gender roles are sexist against both sexes, male and female. If there’s hope to end patriarchy, then these discriminatory gender roles are what need to be removed. We need not concern ourselves with who should hold power and who shouldn’t; what we do need to concern ourselves with is who should not face oppression. The answer to this is simple: everyone. Everyone deserves to remain unoppressed, regardless if this oppression is coming from men or women.

Hooks tells us that a consequence of the socialization from birth to accept sexist thought and action is that “females can be just as sexist as men.” This idea supports Kandiyoti’s account of the elder Islamic women who reign over their sons and daughters-in-law. These women, as described by Kandiyoti, are “just as sexist as men.” This, too, however can be problematic because it assumes that all men are sexist, which is absolutely not the case. Of course, there will be men that are not sexist, there will be women that are, and vice versa. In this way, Hooks’ argument is disrupted, not by Kandiyoti’s example, but by the subliminal gender role implied by her statement. Men are socialized into the position of being sexist despite the fact that they do not all fit this post and that it’s not solely men who are discriminatory against the opposite sex. The next step, then, is the break the links between sexual identity and social roles that we’re all so accustomed to.

It’s important to realize that “patriarchy” takes up different meanings in different contexts — its definition is not set in stone. What is patriarchal in one culture, social realm, political structure, economic system, age, or time period may or may not match what’s patriarchal amongst another. Though there are parallels to be drawn between patriarchies in these different relations, major differences still operate between them. All men do not have (and have not had) power over all women all of the time. All women are not subordinated by all men everywhere. There is grey in this discussion — and a lot of it. What can be attributed to all versions of patriarchy is oppression, particularly the oppression of women. To end patriarchy is to end oppression, not to end “male domination.”

Cover Image Credit: Odyssey

Popular Right Now

A Recent Sports Bra Suspension At Rowan University Has Gotten Female Athletes Outraged

A recent ban was placed on the Men and Women's Cross Country Athletes from using their designated practice facility.

191711
views

UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, Rowan University administration has released a statement ending the sports bra ban and a statement regarding the usage of athletic facilities by the Cross Country team.

If you're running in a sports bra, then you must be asking for it, right? Well, according to a football player at Rowan University, this is true.

I'll have you know the real reason women run in sports bras, and it's not to show off our hard-earned abs. Women, whether they have a six-pack or not, run in sports bras because, quite frankly, it's hot outside. We run in sports bras because our workouts are demanding, challenging, and vigorous.

We run in sports bras because we are confident, hardworking student-athletes.

We do not run in a sports bra as a way to show off our bodies in attempts to distract men.

Out of the 15 Rowan University Women Cross Country athletes, all of them believe running in sports bras at practice should be allowed. Even the girls who don't partake in shirtless runs at practice still believe the other members of the team should be permitted to wear whatever they feel confident in.

The Cross Country team at Rowan is one of the only teams that is not provided with a daily uniform to practice in. With that being said, how is it expected for the women on this team to partake in an non-existing dress code?

A meeting was held with the Women's Cross Country Coach and the Athletic Director to address this issue resulting in the verdict of the women on the team no longer being able to run in sports bras. If that wasn't already enough of an outrage, it was also decided the women were no longer allowed to run on the track.

Women running around the track in sports bras at their own practice were claimed to be distracting to the football players on the field during the same time.

As if the women no longer being able to run in sports bras wasn't enough, now they're no longer allowed to run on the track, period. The girls are now mandated to run on the local high school track on workout days.

In 2015, Rowan University officially finished their new $4.6 million athletic practice facility. The practice facility includes two fields for football, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse athletes. There is a dedicated practice area for each team. The men and women Cross Country teams have their track. Now they no longer have that privilege.

The problem here is not the women on the team. The problem is not the women wearing sports bras. The problem is not women's bodies.

Rape culture is the problem.

The fact that the Athletic Department supports the claim of this being distracting, or the women "asking for it," is disgusting. Mind you, the Athletic Department put together a video involving student-athletes addressing rape culture and how it is not tolerated here. Oh, is that so?

"As girls, we could look at the football team and say that their tight pants showing off everything is asking for it, but we don't. When we are on the track, we are doing a hard workout that requires all our focus, so we aren't looking at them and what they are doing. If they are distracted by us, then their practices clearly don't require their full attention, or they just aren't as committed to the sport." -Anonymous source

In the world of professional athletics, all female Elite runners are permitted to wear racing crop tops. Not only are they non-restricting, but they are a trendy, comfortable, and empowering part of the running culture.

As women, we are constantly reminded that we should be ashamed or embarrassed about our bodies. It's 2018, and yet women are still being objectified with their physical appearance.

As a nation, we are taking a step back into history, and as a University, we are teaching student-athletes that this is acceptable.

The women on this team not only represent the University but the growing community of female runners. It's time women are allowed to embrace their bodies and not live in constant fear of being degraded by men.

Women, athletes or not, deserve to use their voice and take a stance. The future generations are watching. Let's set a good example.


Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

I've Had PTSD, And I'll Be The First To Say I Did Not Need A Gun While I Was Sick

My opinion on gun control not from my political opinions, but from my experiences as a mentally ill person.

41
views

On November 7th, 2018, a gunman armed with a .45-caliber Glock handgun walked into Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California and killed 12 people.

In addition to the 11 slain and 18 injured in the bar, the gunman killed a sheriff's sergeant responding to the 911 call before committing suicide.

The gunman was Ian David Long, a former U.S. Marine apparently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

While all of the 307 mass shootings that make it onto the news make my soul ache, this one particularly hit home for me for two reasons.

One: I lived in California for about five years and had indeed spent time in the area.

Two: these atrocities were committed by someone of whom PTSD had gotten the better of.

Having had PTSD for 15 years myself, it baffles me that he had a legally-owned gun at all.

I know first-hand how much anger can develop when this disorder is left unchecked, and violence is the most delicious release from it all.

From self-harm to physical fighting in school, I looked for any way to curb my appetite for destruction. As soon as my body sensed an opportunity to expel some of my pent-up aggression on someone who'd even mildly taunted the beast, my brain would enter into a hazy fog of emotion and a nothing-to-lose attitude. My fight-or-flight was constantly engaged, and I really had never been much of a runner.

I felt like my temper was a bottle rocket that could be set off at any moment and I had next to no control over whether or not I reacted. I remember loving the power of people being afraid of me and relishing in my ability to win at all costs, especially if it were in defense of myself or someone who needed help.

Since the opportunities to let my feelings out physically were few and far between, my brain provided a platform for the rest of them without an outlet. The majority of my life, I was plagued with violent fantasies as much––if not more––than the sexual ones, which should've been my sole focus as a horny teenager.

In these fantasies, I would be defending myself and others from unknown assailants, escaping from situations where I was being detained as a sex slave, or else exacting revenge on someone who'd wronged me. Every movement of the altercation I would replay over and over again in my head until it was almost a memory.

These fantasies bordered on an obsession while I suffered from paranoia. Every waking and even unconscious moment was filled with the absolute certainty that someone was waiting behind the corner to physically assault or rape me, and I would not entertain the idea of letting that happen.

I used to boast that the next time someone attacked me, only one of us would come out of it alive.

I imagined these him-or-me altercations constantly—before I went to sleep, day-dreaming in class or else in places where I felt especially uneasy—and sometimes the story lines would continue on all week until they finished off with me emerging victorious.

Every fantasy would not be considered complete until I had won and gone insane. For some reason, my brain rationalized that as soon as the inevitable attack came and everyone became aware of it, my mind could finally be at rest.

These fantasies were so intense that I would have physical reactions to them. I was basically powerless to shut them down once my imagination got going, so I would sweat excessively, tremble with anticipation and sometimes even laugh out loud with the adrenaline they inspired. It got to the point where I could actually taste the iron in my mouth, as if my body was already preparing for the taste of blood.

This mindset didn't come without an intense fascination in weapons. My fantasies would include actual weapons, random items I employed in resourcefulness to defend myself or merely fighting to the death with my bare hands.

I collected the few I could afford at the time and ached for the days when I could own my own gun. I had never fired one, but I was entranced by the idea of owning the ultimate fighting utensil; an end-all to any threats that may come my way, with the power to take a life at the tip of my finger.

My gravitation towards violence ended after two years of recovering from PTSD. One day I realized I hadn't thought about it in a while, and just like that, the freakish obsession I'd harbored since childhood was gone.

I experienced all of this, yet the trauma that provided me with the disorder didn't have one single thing to do with guns.

So why on the Goddess' green earth did an ex-machine gunner, who developed his PTSD from shooting people, have legal access to one?

Though California does have a law asserting that families concerned with their loved ones' safety can request their guns be taken away for a period of time, this was not enough to spare the lives of those 12 innocent people that Wednesday night.

I shiver at the thought of what would've happened if I had gotten my hands on a gun when I had wanted one. So based on my expertise, neither Long nor anyone else with PTSD has any business owning a gun.

Who better to weigh in on these issues than the ones posing an obvious threat?

Yet, even after this testimony of how much I wanted to pull the trigger at one point, there will still be people who insist on loading the bullets and cocking it for me.

Related Content

Facebook Comments