Patriarchal, societal themes create roadblocks

Don’t expect all oppression to disappear overnight, but fight against unfortunate norms

MARY GINTHER, Evergreen columnist

We have all become accustomed to how we live our lives, how people treat us and how we treat them. However, have you ever considered that you are living in and supporting an oppressive system?

Patriarchy is a building block for our society today and has a deep impact on our fundamental beliefs, how we treat people and our values.

“[I would] define patriarchy as male supremacy,” said Pamela Thoma, director of the Program in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies. “Patriarchy is an oppression that works with other oppressions such as white supremacy.”

Importantly, Thoma said, patriarchy is an oppression that works with other oppressive systems such as white supremacy.

However, since the patriarchy has had such a deep impact on society, could a system as oppressive as this one have both a positive and negative effect on society?

“Patriarchy has had a very powerful negative effect on the lives of the general population,” said Nishant Shahani, an associate professor of English at WSU. “One of the things we [can] learn in women’s studies classes is that we need to move away from the idea that oppressive systems have both a positive and negative side. The impacts of oppressive gender systems are unequivocally negative.”

One form of oppression from the patriarchy is gender constructs. This is a very heavy topic for members of the LGBTQ+ community because of the constant oppression people of that community experience from the patriarchy.

“We are not consciously aware of how gender permeates our lives,” Shahani said. “The ways gender saturates our lives is not conscious. Privilege can operate insidiously.”

If people can denaturalize the idea of seeing gender and seeing the truth of gender, that would go a long way toward getting rid of gender binary, Thoma said

“There are many [different] genders that are not always visible,” said Thoma. “If we can denaturalize the idea that we can always ‘see’ gender and that everyone has a single ‘true’ or fixed gender, it would go a long way toward getting rid of the gender binary that patriarchy depends upon.”

Since gender represents our identity, this also impacts how society sees and treats people. Examples of this include division of labor, women’s reproductive rights and health care access. Shahani said gender is a system of power and you can’t simply ignore gender norms.

Keeping all of these different factors in mind, a few questions remain: What would society look like today without the patriarchy and would it be in a similar place to where it is today?

“A world without patriarchy would be one in which there is not only equal division of labor and equal compensation of labor, but also one in which ‘feminized’ labor is equally valued and compensated” Shahani said.

This is a very big question and there probably isn’t a very good answer for taking down the patriarchy. It is important to be aware of the ideology of the patriarchy and how it can affect people in negative ways. Thoma said there’s no reason why people shouldn’t work against it, but they shouldn’t expect all societal oppressions to disappear.

“Society would look different but abolishing patriarchy would not get rid of all [other oppressions],” Thoma said. “Another oppression would probably become more powerful in the organization of social life. [This] doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to work against patriarchy, but it does mean we have to work against other oppressions at the same time.”

Editor’s note: Quotes and information from the sources have been updated to accurately reflect their thoughts.