A patriarchal society, one not simply ‘dominated by men’, is a complex interaction of agencies that combine to collectively provide for the default man, and collectively deny the woman. A political structure that does not necessarily prove disadvantageous, but one that simply offers more opportunity, voice and liberty for some more than others. The way in which this barrier forms maintains itself over time through the support of a value consensus – a set of norms that offer relative privilege to men, and restrictive routes to women. Collectively, we came to the agreement that woman must be homebound, must be free from a sexual history and must be polished.
Patriarchy defines itself in classifying roles as gender specific positions in need of typically masculine qualities, and spheres as specifically licensed to some and not others. Take, for instance, political figures – and the female underrepresentation in such positions – women make up only a third of MPs in Britain, only twenty hold Head of State/Government positions representing a mere 6.3% of global leaders, and there are only 6.4% of female CEOs. Now, should we have had reached a sustainable degree of equality then these figures would begin to balance out at the very least, especially when considering the fact that girls outperform boys at all tiers of education.
Conversely, in the workplace there are general equivalent figures where women make up 46% (2014) of the workforce, and of these, there is very little difference between women with or without children (0.9%) – but, while we see greater levels of equality for Western women of whom achieve greater degrees of emancipation, migrant women tend to then become the occupiers of the ‘oppressed’ in filling roles that lack protective rights and pay inadequately. Nevertheless, there seems to be more women working than ever before, but these figures are not, as explored, symmetrical in all public spheres.
We still, universally, believe that certain roles must have some degree of expectation that is not offered out equally from the early years. For example, the polarity of professional occupant figures occurs for two reasons: to be defined a leader by any means, one must possess qualities of resilience, invulnerability and an effective strength that means negotiating sensibly and shutting down opponents frequently. When women are described as “bloody difficult”, they are simply matching male opposition that are not scrutinised for the sake of their traits being typical. We assign pressure to roles that we correlate with male characteristics and as such, this will, as long as we maintain it, continue to see female underrepresentation for the sake of their own persona. Additionally, this cycle is self-perpetuating when we consider these non-biological traits being gender specific; boys and girls engage with similar agencies that consequently produce a dichotomy of identities that predetermine appropriate roles. And, of course, with the functioning of patriarchy – girls are systematically socialised to lack the skills and characteristics required for the most influential positions. In this way, what ever programme introduced past childhood to eradicate the disparity will prove unsuccessful consistently, unless we start at the beginning.
Further, once considering the aforementioned, we must question: why do we not simply reform this system that relatively proves unpropitious for women? The truth can be located in the figures above. Women are not materially barred from the top, but their indoctrinated lack of ability that restricts access to reformative positions of philosophy, does mean that they do not only fail to reach such positions, but their demand lacks existence initially. If we are unsuccessful in teaching girls ambition and zeal, they will invariably become obstructed from the supreme hierarchical ranks.
In the quest to maintain patriarchy, girls also, at no fault of their own, must grow, live and ‘prosper’ in contemporary society. This meaning, they are conditioned to form values that are created and upheld by the patriarchal form, that is consequently at the base of much of our collective opinion about women that lie without worthy evidence. Society’s paradigm of the ‘ideal’ woman is somewhat adaptable through time but there are stagnant features, at least for the past few decades – i.e. hairless, relatively thin, cultivated, and passive. Should we see any deviation, it makes perfect sense for any gender to condemn the expression of any girl. And, likewise, this too is the case for boys but less so, because there is less to diverge from. Essentially, patriarchy is maintained by all, and should this not be the case, ability to overthrow would become undemanding and facile.
Progression over the past few decades isolates our contemporary woman from a history written and documented by man; we have seen exceptional legislation that marks equal existence, but still there exists, a neglected truth regarding what fields women are not advancing in, and how it is best to tackle the growing issues that form in our globalised, and technological age.
*I am at complete fault for the lack of intersectionality regarding women in this post. With Western experiences, I must delve into global truths for women.