In recent years, there has been much discourse surrounding the abolishment of the patriarchy. From the Women’s March and the #MeToo Movement, many in recent years have sought to challenge the status quo, just like the feminists before them. The patriarchy is at times invisible, or it can be painfully obvious. It is UNIVERSAL, and one of the most pervasive and destructive ideologies ever introduced to human history. The patriarchy has condemned half of humanity to inferior to men. According to Friedrich Engels, the patriarchy is “the earliest system of domination…the world-historical defeat of the female sex.” He went on to see the patriarchy as “a form of political organization that distributed power unequally between men and women to the detriment of women.” Through this definition, one can understand that the patriarchy is not unique to feminist theory, but can be found in philosophical and political theory. The definition that I most subscribe to is the following:
“Patriarchy is a form of mental, social, spiritual, economic and political organization/structuring of society produced by the gradual institutionalization of sex-based political relations created, maintained and reinforced by different institutions linked closely together to achieve consensus on the lesser value of women and their roles. These institutions interconnect not only with each other to strengthen the structures of domination of men over women, but also with other systems of exclusion, oppression, and/or domination based on real or perceived differences between humans, creating States that respond only to the needs and interests of a few powerful men.”
The previous definition introduces how patriarchy is enforced through institutions and outlines the systemic nature of the patriarchy. Bell hooks described the patriarchy as “‘imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ to describe the interlocking political systems that are the foundation of our nation’s politics. Of these systems, the one that we all learn the most about growing up is the system of patriarchy, even if we never know the word, because patriarchal gender roles are assigned to us as children and we are given continual guidance about the ways we can best fulfill these roles.” The notion of the “imperialist, white supremacist patriarchy” details how the patriarchy cannot be sustained on its own. It is contingent upon the existence of capitalism, which by extension can be a tool of imperialism.
Capitalism enforces the patriarchy through the idea of reproductive labor. Women are expected to stay home and not go to traditional “workplaces” while men go to “work” to provide for their families. In turn, the women perform housekeeping duties like cooking, cleaning, gardening, childcare, and other demanding labor-type jobs. However, under a capitalist economy, “at home” work has no monetary or economic value, so women are not compensated for their work at home. This enables men to have power over women through having control over their finances.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, women can work now, so what’s the problem? The women who do work face stigma and social alienation for their choices. They are expected to stay home and take care of the kids and are seen as “bad mothers” when they don’t. However, men are not seen as “bad fathers” when they don’t give up their careers; they worked their whole lives to raise their children. Additionally, when women do stay home on maternity leave for many months to a year to take care of their children, they are routinely passed up for promotions or greater benefits because they are seen as risks because they could get pregnant again.
Furthermore, the existence of the gender wage gap points to further workplace inequalities at the hands of capitalism and patriarchy. This demonstrates how women earn less than men due to gender segregation in the workforce and the undervaluing work that women commonly do. In Ontario, male graduates earn $10 000 more than female graduates one year after graduation. Theoretically, male and female graduates should be earning the same amount.
Additionally, women of color face increased obstacles in the workforce as a result of the patriarchy. White supremacy and the patriarchy work together to oppress women of color. For example, the gender wage gap is greater between men and women of color than men and white women. In fact, Indigenous women make 57 cents to every dollar a white man makes. “
“The patriarchy and white supremacy are universal.”