I walk into work and clock in at 4:00pm, and although It hadn’t been the first time a man has argued with me over whether “women have it easier than men” or not, I wasn’t expecting it to come from my coworker. Why is it up to women to explain to men that we live in a patriarchal society? How could I get him to see that those who are priveleged by patriarchy have a harder time seeing the hidden power structures of it? But according to my coworker, “women actually have it easier in life, they can just sit back look pretty and have the world take care of you”.
As my blood started boiling from my in the moment lack of words to respond to the bullshit, I realized that part of the reason why was because I don’t understand how anyone could say that men and women are treated equally in this world. I went on to wonder how many times something like this has happened to other women and I wanted to make sure It would not happen again. Soooo, with that being said…Here is how to explain patriarchy to a boy 101:
Begin by asking the following questions
- Do you feel comfortable walking around at night?
2. Can you go on a run outside without being honked at, whistled at, or cat-called?
3. Do you have to worry about purchasing birth control?
4. Is the highest position at your job occupied by a man or a woman?
5. Do you worry about being judged or labeled for your sex life?
6. Do you feel pressured to shave your whole body?
7. Do you feel capable of defending yourself when you are alone?
8. Do you walk with your key in between your knuckles or with pepper spray in your hand when going to your car?
I decided to ask these questions to one of my guy friends and just as I thought, our answers to these questions were very different. These differences in answers highlight some of the privileges that men have and women are excluded from. Privileges such as feeling safe walking to your car at night, not getting cat called on the street nearly every time you go outside for a run, or feeling worried about being judged for your sex life by society.
Now if the person you are trying to teach about patriarchy still does not see how it is problematic or does not care. Tell them about some of the ways in which it it also hurts men.
1)It perpetuates the idea that showing “no emotion” is considered a trait of a strong man, but in doing so deprive men of emotional expression and often emotional intelligence. This also tends to be harmful for the communication of partners in relationships.
How to combat this: Recognize that emotional risk taking is courageous. Regardless of identity.
2) The invisible privileges that men have, create a small chance for mutuality and equity in relationships. For example, women are expected to provide far higher rates of unpaid labour at home. This makes it easier for men to not receive backlash for doing less cooking, cleaning, or emotional work.
How to combat this: Acknowledge these privileges and intentionally combat them on a daily basis. This can look like splitting up home labour equally and taking the time to express and understand each others feelings and values.
3)When women are oppressed it hurts everyone. For example, when looking at crime rates in the U.S before and after Roe Vs. Wade, one can see that the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion and declare it a non-political issue, created less unplanned pregnancies and therefore, lowered crime rates for society.
How to combat this: Allow women to make decisions on their bodies and keep abortion out of politics. Understand that a women and a man should have agency over their own bodies.
There have been many times in my life where I felt that as a latin woman, I was not being taken as seriously as a man or even as a white women. In order to understand patriarchy it is important to acknowledge it from an intersectional perspective as well. In the context of patriarchy in the workplace, the fact is that women of color represent 18% of the U.S population, yet only 4% are in C-Level job positions (ex. CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, etc). Micro-aggressions, bias, double standards, and patriarchy are a few factors inhibiting women of color from advancing in their careers. Since white men are typically at the top of companies or doing the hiring, and since most executives search for people like them or with similar experiences, there is a higher chance they will hire another white man over a women of color. On average, white Americans have 91 times as many white friends as black, and this can reinforce existing biases about women and people of color.
Ways to combat this: checking for bias within companies, promoting diverse leadership, giving cultural competency training, and asking yourself what caused you to believe that gender or race could make someone any less capable or valuable in the first place.
Thanks for coming to my TedTalk(: