By Ananya Arora
Patriarchy, which literally means “the rule of the father”, is a system that establishes the dominance of the father or a male elder over the other members of the family, and women specifically. A patriarchal ideology tries to justify this system as a result of biological differences between men and women, and it presents itself in the form of male dominance (as in a patrilineal society) and oppression of women. Patriarchy as a concept has affected a vast number of communities. While its most common victims are thought to be women, its effects ripple out towards many other people, including people from the LGBTQIA+ community and even men themselves.
Because patriarchy enforces the rule that men are superior, feminine traits are considered to be less important, thus popularizing a misogynistic viewpoint. In this sense, it can be said that misogyny affects anyone who portrays “feminine” qualities. Discrimination against women is probably the most common form of prejudice that can be found in everyday life, and one that starts before a girl is even born. In many countries, selective, illegal killing of female fetuses and infants is common. Having a boy is celebrated, as he’ll be able to carry the family line forward, while girls are considered to be a liability. These stringent beliefs negatively affect a woman throughout her life. Traditionally feminine jobs like a teacher, a nurse, or a stay-at-home mom are considered to be worthless. Even though we have more women working professionally than we did a few decades ago, they still have to work twice as hard to establish their legitimacy in the workplace.
Another important form of discrimination that stems from a misogynistic viewpoint is that against the LGBTQIA+ community. Queer people— especially gay men— are considered to be inferior becasue they might not display the masculine qualities that are expected of them and are often not considered to be “real men”. There might not be a “dominant, masculine half” and a “submissive, feminine half,” in these relationships, which form the very basis of traditional, heteronormative families. Another common victim of this form of discrimination are transgender people. They don’t fit into the neat little binaries of a male and female that have been created, becoming an easy target for misogynists. Even many feminists (like trans-exclutionary radical feminists) don’t include trans women in their definition of a “woman” and hence, they’re not seen as someone who need’s to be a part of the movement for equality. Since patriarchy views gender to be binary, it also harms people who don’t fit into these 2 roles, including those who are genderfluid, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.
It can’t be said that this system benefits men either. From a young age, boys are constantly told that being masculine is the norm and is preferred. “Boys don’t cry,” and “Why are you playing with a doll? Are you a girl?” are common and seemingly innocent phrases that later bury themselves in men’s belief system. They grow up believing that men who don’t display these qualities are the outcasts, and ridicule them for not conforming to these standards. Anything that expresses their superiority over women is accepted, with many men believing that “rape is a badge of manliness,” and that “men have full rights over their wife”. Such ideas are very harmful and perpetuate unfair stereotypes. They establish unrealistic expectations for both men and women- men are supposed to be the breadwinners of the family while the female has to balance all the household tasks and also take care of her husband and kids.
A common argument given against this discrimination is that the opinion of one person doesn’t matter. We can just ignore what they’re saying and mind our own business. But that doesn’t work out well for these marginalized people. When enough people start believing that something is wrong, they can change the way things are. For example, Roe V. Wade did get overturned when enough people thought abortion is immoral. Gay marriage is illegal in most countries becasue people believe it is wrong+. The idea is to acknowledge anyone who’s adversely affected by these ideals, and not create more divisions in this already discriminatory system.