Patriarchy and Female Subjugation
By - Rashika Aggarwal
“I'm a good girl. I am pretty. I am always happy-go-lucky.”
― Louise O'Neill
Indians live in a society where they are continuously striving for acceptance and acknowledgement. In lifestyle, relationships and even in families, what people care more about than themselves is the opinion of society. While most women writers point out the male ego as something that affects women's existence in society, it is often neglected that even women have the same idea as compared to men when it comes to marriage and personal life.
This is where the idea of patriarchy and female subjugation comes up.
Now the question is what is patriarchy?
In simple terms, patriarchy is the prime obstacle to women’s advancement and development. It's true as despite differences in levels of domination it is the men who are in control.
In this way, feminists use the term ‘patriarchy’ to describe the power relationship between men and women as well as to find out the root cause of women’s subjugation.
Modern civilization is the result of the joint action of men and women. No nation can progress without the help of women. Nowadays women are seen in positions of power. this does not change the fact that the system is male-dominated and women are merely accommodated in it in a variety of ways. So the main purpose of this report is to analyse patriarchy and women’s subordination.
The concept of patriarchy is defined by different thinkers in different ways. Mitchell, a feminist psychologist, uses the word patriarchy “to refer to kinship systems in which men exchange women”.
Walby defines “patriarchy as a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women”
Patriarchy, in its wider definition, means the manifestation of male dominance over women and children in the family and even the extension of male dominance over women in society in general.
It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. However, what it does not imply is that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence, and resources which is a common interpretation in this modern era.
The Origin of patriarchy
Regarding the existence and origin of patriarchy, researchers do believe that men are born to dominate and women to be subordinate. They believe that this hierarchy has always existed and will continue, and like other rules of nature, this one too cannot be changed. There are others who challenge these beliefs and say that patriarchy is not natural it is man-made and, therefore, it can be changed.
Female subjugation- the consequence of the patriarchal system
The term ‘women’s subjugation’ refers to the inferior position of women, their lack of access to resources and decision making etc. and to the patriarchal domination that women are subjected to in most societies. So, it means the inferior position of women to men. In other words, the social situation in which women are forced to stay under the control of men.
Being a woman and feeling this powerlessness, discrimination and repression perfectly portray an instance of this subjugation in daily life.
Patriarchy is a system whereby women are subjugated in a number of ways. The repression that is experienced at a daily level, regardless of the class we might belong to, takes various forms – discrimination, disregard, insult, control, exploitation, oppression, violence – within the family, at the place of work, and in society.
In this system, men and women behave, think, and aspire differently because they have been taught to think of masculinity and femininity in ways that condition differences. The patriarchal system shows that men have, or should have one set of qualities and characteristics, and women another. Such as ‘masculine’ qualities (strength, bravery, fearlessness, dominance, competitiveness etc.) and ‘feminine’ qualities (caring, nurturing, love, timidity, obedience etc.).
After marriage, a girl goes to her husband’s house. So our families think that girls are a burden for them. Sons will earn and will look after their parents. So the oppression of a girl starts from her family. As a wife comes to her husband’s house after marriage, her husband thinks that she is in a subordinate position and he is more powerful than her. So, here a girl is also oppressed and discriminated against. This experience of subordination destroys women’s self-respect, self-confidence and self-esteem and sets limits on their aspirations. And most women, subjected to this cruel society, have readily accepted it as their fate.
Bangladesh- a case study
In the last two decades, discrimination against women emerged as one of the most visible and articulated social issues in Bangladesh. This issue cannot be tackled by just making laws.
Women in Bangladesh are apparently guaranteed gender equality by the constitution of Bangladesh and the general law. But these laws don't stop women from being treated so inhumanely. But the patriarchal interpretation of the law continues the dominance of patriarchal attitudes.
Some examples of patriarchy in Bangladesh are as the following:
Wife battering is quite common in the country. Patriarchal norms that naturalize domestic violence are not freestanding, they are embedded in a larger culture of discipline.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is another common feature. Many women workers are thrown out of their job when they are not willing to give in to the demands of their bosses.
In most cases, women have no right to choose their husbands; rather the male members of their families impose decisions on them. After marriage, women are traditionally not allowed to provide support to their own relatives.
In our patriarchal society, the woman has to cover herself fully with cloth which is called purdah. We know the justification for purdah, beyond the Quranic verses on modesty which are clearly applicable to both sexes. But the patriarchal structures operate this purdah on women’s voice and movement to keep women in a private place.
In all these cases despite that, the instances of female foeticide, the burden of household work, and lack of education weren't even talked about.
The reality of the women of Bangladesh is that they remain a vulnerable, marginalized group that is yet to enjoy equality in status and access to services and resources with their male counterparts.
Talking about India, even our country doesn't lack in cases of male dominance and patriarchal rule in society. In India, women used to have equal status as a man in the early Vedic period. In Vedic civilization, women were revered and valued not only as mothers who brought up new generations but also as individuals with immense ability to see the truth and contribute significantly to human society. But in the later stages, child marriages became prevalent and the ban on remarriage of widows too. There were customs made like Jauhar and Sati.
Even in the religious sense, Eve is considered guilty of Adam's fall. Talking about Hinduism, Manu Smriti clearly dictates in some places that women are not allowed any education. Also, adultery is fine in the case of men but if a woman does it, there is heavy punishment written. It is seen everywhere even in Indian history; the same Ramayana and Mahabharata that is so highly reputed, show women in a demeaning light. Sita is under societal expectations and Draupadi is gambled on in a bet that her husband made, after which she is humiliated in front of the whole court because Kauravas try to disrobe her.
The time has come to bring a radical change in the dominant ideology of patriarchy. This dominant ideology, which is produced from patriarchal structures is found in all areas of social relations. It is said that it is not enough to change only the family value system, the laws of inheritance, property distribution, and right over children should also be changed.
To bring equality, it is essential to establish equal rights between men and women in all respects of life. The responsibilities of women should also be equally distributed. In fact, I believe that real democratic societies can only be established if we practice democracy, equality and mutual respect within the family. Real peace in society can only be established if we experience peace at home. We cannot expect the patriarchy to end while we are still abiding by its rules. So people #breakthebounderies.