Smashing Patriarchy in Life and at Work
Remember those fights between Rahul and Anjali about who’s better? Patriarchy is just a grander version of this fight with a predetermined result: The Boys are harder, faster, better, stronger!
Patriarchy is like the software to our society’s hardware. It can’t be easily seen, even though it runs our lives in a major way. We’ve all met patriarchy in some form or the other. Let’s figure out some ways to be ready to face it better in the future…
Getting over those gender stereotypes
The most common stereotype is that ‘men are much stronger than women’ – both physically and mentally. This image arises because we focus more on ‘masculine’ versions of strength and ignore ways in which women are stronger than men. When was the last time you heard a man boasting about surviving labor pains or periods? Yet, we only talk about ‘growing some balls’ when we all know how badly it hurts to get ‘kicked in the balls’.
Another very common saying is that ‘men think with their heads, women with their hearts’. So, it paints a picture that men are smarter and think more practically than women, which allows the men to suppress women and overrule them. But this is nothing more than a stereotype because you could be smart or emotional or both, regardless of your gender.
But why does it matter? How do these gender stereotypes affect us?
Well, it’s thanks to them, men begin to underplay their emotions in order to look ‘tougher’. Meanwhile, women often let men make their decisions or sacrifice their career goals so that they look more like an ‘ideal’ woman who accepts that the man is smarter and stronger. Henceforth, the creation of a patriarchal society and work environment. So, to be more balanced and well-rounded people , we need to encourage women to acknowledge their logical and practical side and men to own up to their emotional sensitivity.
To smash patriarchy is it important to understand that Work is work. There must be no distinction between a ‘This is a man’s work’ vs ‘This is a woman’s work’.
Remember those parcel boxes that arrive with ‘Fragile! Handle with care.” written on them? Patriarchy divides daily tasks and gender roles into similar boxes. And sometimes people get really sensitive and ‘fragile’ if somebody tries to question or change this division.
So, in the box labelled as ‘For Men Only’ we have tasks like looking after finances, all outdoor tasks, repair works at home, and other such so-called ‘heavy-duty’ work. Meanwhile, maintaining the house, cooking, looking after the kids, among other things are packaged in boxes with the ‘For Women Only’ label.
But unlike readymade items packed in boxes, our skills and talents don’t really come divided into ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories. We can develop a wide range of skills over time, regardless of gender. Imagine – a woman who is able to use the tools and fix things in the house than her husband. Just because people want us to believe that the job of repairing pipes or tables is in the ‘man’ box, should women just not touch such work? Or, imagine that a man’s office timings are such that he has more time in the evening than his wife. Is it not just more logical for him to look after dinner duties, then? The contents of the boxes are not as ‘fragile’ as they seem, you see! To smash patriarchy, we have to begin with smashing these boxes.
Patriarchy at the office
Patriarchy shows up in many ways at the workplace. Men sometimes get together to outnumber and sideline a woman’s opinions or chances of rising higher in the hierarchy. Especially in high positions, men can sometimes use their power against women just starting out in their careers. Sometimes this means paying peanuts to women, when men get higher pay for the same work. They could also end up asking for sexual favours in return for perks at work.
In such cases the man is clearly trying to abuse his power against a woman. If as a woman you face such an experience, there’s nothing wrong in heading to higher authorities in the company to report this. If you need some time to do it, then sharing these experiences with trusted colleagues and family members in the meanwhile is really helpful. Remember, it’s not you who should feel guilty about such incidents. It’s the misbehaving men who should be guilty. If you see a colleague going through such an experience, your support for them will really go a long way whether you’re a man or a woman!
Ever wondered what makes the saas and bahu hate each other so much? Or what makes some women ‘bitchy’ in another women’s eyes? Or why two successful women can never get along?
While not all women behave that way, at least some do. Usually, a woman’s abilities, character, looks, work, etc need to be rated and decided by men. What this means is that a woman often does things to get a man’s validation for being a good wife or a good girlfriend or a good mother or a good employee or a good friend.
So, women end up seeing each other more as threats and less as equal human beings, thereby giving birth to competition, and unconsciously supporting the patriarchy
But what if a woman can see herself as valuable in her own way?
Imagine having an identity of your own rather than being the ‘wife of so-and-so’ or ‘mother of so-and-so’! Building that self respect and taking a stand for oneself becomes crucial to be able to smash the patriarchy. Do things that make you feel confident and things you love, not just to keep others around you happy but also for yourself. Loving yourself becomes crucial.
And honestly, aren’t women in a better position to understand other women than men are? It would only make sense to help lift each other up rather than use another woman’s disadvantage to your advantage.
So, as a woman, the next time you see your female colleague’s promotion being held back due to gender politics, don’t wait for a man to support her. The next time you see your female relative being bullied in your family, don’t wait for a man to rescue her. Charity begins at home, right?
The goal is not just earn your respect as a woman playing by the rules of Patriarchy. The goal is also to earn your respect as women by overcoming patriarchy. Who said that cheerleaders can only cheer for the players! Imagine if cheerleaders began cheering for themselves and for each other. With this kind of teamwork, it won’t be long before we realize that cheerleaders count as players too!
To all the women out there – you’re no less than those on the field, you’re just different and powerful in your own way!