Man is a social animal, and his need to socialise gave rise to society, thus society is made of people. With the birth of society, certain principles and ideologies were born.
Even though society was born 2,000,000 billion years ago, differences in ideologies remain within different societies, however certain ideas and principles remain the same in different societies. The inferior position of women to men, i.e. women’s subordination is prevalent in every society, irrespective of the class they belong to. Women’s subordination alludes to the second-rate position of women, their need to get to assets and choice making. Subordination is a result of patriarchy.
Dr Lerner, the author of ‘Creation of patriarchy’, cites proof for the idea that patriarchy is a cultural invention, not a natural or inevitable phenomenon. Pieces of evidence, suggests that prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian. Patriarchal social structures failed to develop until the Pleistocene era. With the rise in social and developmental advancements, domestication took place, this gave rise to the downfall of the women’s status in the society.
The Oxford Dictionary states, patriarchy as, “a society, system or country that is ruled or controlled by men and giving power and importance only to men”. This patriarchal system comprises male-dominated hierarchy throughout the society. Patriarchy is the principal impediment to women’s development and advancements, regardless the levels of domination, the principles remain the same that is men are in control, despite the levels of domination and oppression that may differ.
The roots of patriarchy are embedded deep into the culture of any society. Some scholars believe the concept of fatherhood took root, at the beginning of the spread of patriarchy. Dr Lerner views that patriarchy was established and developed around 3100 to 600 B.C.
Ancient history showed pieces of evidence of patriarchal structures and ideologies. For instance, in his work, Politics, Aristotle saw women as subjects and objects to men, he believed that they are higher than slaves, but lack authority and that men are superior to women and the latter are properties of the former. He also, believed that the husbands are meant to rule, while the wives are meant to be ruled. Aristotle claimed that women are more apt to scold and to strike, more compassionate, more dependent, jealous than men.
Modern events that occur still prove to us that patriarchal ideologies prevail and continues to be an obstacle to women. A relevant example of patriarchy is the ‘Bois Locker Room’ chat conversations that degraded and objectified and shared the nudes of women without their consent. This gave rise to an uproar among many youngsters shunning the chats and calling for serious action against the members of the group. With a large majority calling for the arrest of these boys, and a minor portion supported the boys and their motives, by using the phrase, ‘boys will be boys’, and slut-shaming the girls.
Subordination of women still occurs despite the class or the society she belongs to. Some ways women are held subordinate in the family, at the place of work and the society are stated below:
• Families prefer male infants to the female ones, whenever a baby girl is born in the family, they are treated differently than the boys in the family. Sometimes, the pregnant lady is forced into an abortion, if the family members come to know that the child is the girl. Female infanticide and illegal abortion still go on in the country even though, there are laws.
• Women are pressured into doing more household works like cleaning and sweeping and taking care of the family members, while men are given opportunities to work and advance.
• Girls lack educational opportunities because their parents think education is primarily necessary for male children. In a patriarchal society, a woman from her childhood does not get an equal chance to develop her qualities, which makes her vulnerable and dependent on the male members of her family.
• Sexual harassment and molestation is another feature. Many women have faced sexual harassment either by the members of their family or people they know of or strangers. Sexual harassment is so common that women don’t even feel the need to report it, however, if they do, it turns into a, ‘He said, She said’ situation, wherein the people in power mostly support the male, and victim shame the women. The #metoo movement that encouraged women to speak up against their perpetrator, were told that they were fame chasers.
• Men control female bodies, and how they are supposed to dress and who are they supposed to talk to. Women have no control or access to fertility or reproductive rights. Domestic violence is another example.
• In most cases, women don’t even choose their life partners; rather the male members of their families that choose their spouse for them.
• Honour killing is another patriarchal feature. Women killed by their male family members if seen interacting with members of the other caste or marrying a guy their family didn’t choose for them.
• Women earn a far lower wage than their men counterparts doing the same work. In India, men and women do not earn an equal wage in agriculture, mining and trade. In America, female football players are paid less than their male counterparts, even after they won the women’s world cup; after standing up and bringing the issue to light, they were ridiculed by saying their level of the game, wasn’t that intense in comparison to their male counterparts. Women in all countries face the same issue of not getting equal pay even after putting in more efforts than their counterparts.
Today, media and entertainment institutes spread patriarchal ideologies by portraying women to be the submissive and dependent type, while men are portrayed as the alpha male and more dominant type. Media and entertainment industries reduce women to bodies and objectify them, thus giving rise to an increase in various acts of violence and sexual assault women.
Movies to play an important role in spreading the ideology of women’s subordination, this gives rise to increase incidents of molestation and rape in urban centres. The film Kabir Singh despite having scenes of domestic violence against the women turned out to be a great blockbuster. The filmmaker of the movie justified the movie and the scenes by saying, “Being in love with someone means having the freedom to assault each other”. This movie gave people or men the excuse of justifying domestic violence as their love for their partner.
As it can be seen, without a doubt that women still witness subordination in various parts of the world, despite the class of society they belong to. However, nowadays women face more freedom than what they did before, as of today, they can go out and set their mark in various fields, divorce their husbands, and also gain access to reproductive rights and use contraceptives to some extent. It is obvious that there have been many important changes in state policy over the last 150 years but these also include some very significant limitations.
Thus, the state is still patriarchal and continues to contribute to the subordination of women.
Sultana, A. (2012). Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination: A Theoretical Analysis. Arts Faculty Journal, 4, 1-18.
Collins, G. Historian upends social ideas. Retrieved from: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1986-05-04-8601260770-story.html
Sidharth Ravi,’Bois Locker Room, a reflection of existing mindset’
Retrieved from: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/bois-locker-room-a-reflectionof-an-existing- mindset/article31638044.ece
Sparshott, Francis, “Aristotle on Women” (1983). The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter. 107.