Young Feminists Movement

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PATRIARCHY


Systemic societal structures that institutionalize male physical, social and economic power over women. Some feminists use the concept of patriarchy to explain the systematic subordination of women by both overarching and localized structures. These structures work to the benefit of men by constraining women’s life choices and chances.There are many differing interpretations of patriarchy. However, the roots of patriarchy are often located in women’s reproductive role and sexual violence, interwoven with processes of capitalist exploitation. The main ‘sites’ of patriarchal oppression have been identified as housework, paid work, the state, culture, sexuality, and violence. Behaviours that discriminate against women because of their gender are seen as patriarchal ‘practices’; for example occupational segregation, exclusion, and unequal pay.


The concept of patriarchy has been drawn into gender and development theorising; in order to challenge not only unequal gender relations but also unequal capitalist relations, sometimes seen as underpinning patriarchy (Mies, 1986; DAWN, 1995).Feminists who explain gender inequality in terms of patriarchy often reject male-biased societal structures and practices and propose greater female autonomy or even separatism as a strategy. In some views, women are seen as having room for manoeuvre within a constraining patriarchal system by negotiating a ‘patriarchal bargain’ with men. This entails a trade-off between women’s autonomy, and men’s responsibility for their wives and children.


An overarching theory of male power may help to conceptualise the extent of gender inequality but fails to deal with its complexity. It tends to assume that gender oppression is uniform across time and space. More recent thinking has therefore rejected such a universal concept, identifying the need for detailed historical and cultural analysis to understand gender-Based oppression. Neither are women a homogeneous group constrained in identical ways.


Gender inequalities are crosscut by other social inequalities such as class, caste, ethnicity and race, which could be prioritised over gender concerns in certain contexts. A rigid and universal concept of patriarchy denies women space for resistance and strategies for change. A more nuanced analysis is needed that takes into account difference and complexity, and the agency of women.