Patriarchy and the way it has manifested, and has continued to, has long been a matter of analytical concern and still continues to be one. A very subtle yet explicit way that it manifests out of the many other renditions of its existence, is one where it thrives by being a divisive force under the garb of competition, or by creating a comparative – which results in being exclusionary in so far as it creates an illusion of how there can be only ‘one suitable woman’ for whatever category or space it seeks to compare women in. Therefore, it ends up being very reductive in the way that it views women as a community and a collective.
While patriarchy has always thrived on not letting women ever be equals, the way it’s shaped itself within the popular narrative to still continue to thrive with changing climates is by morphing into more subtle forms. A very significant manifestation of this is how patriarchy internalises as well as pits women against each other.
Institutions don’t have any incentive to create spaces for women beyond the tokenistic ‘inclusive’ spaces they have to create – a very half-hearted effort at the bare minimum to bridge the gender gap.
In an atmosphere where the feminist movement and how it engages with patriarchy becomes extremely relevant, it becomes very pertinent to analyse the consequences of how it pans out.
It creates a narrative where women cannot thrive; but even if they somehow manage to, the way it then restricts them is by creating a narrative of “only a select few of you can actually access resources and prestige, and that has to be done at the cost of the others.” How this is achieved is by patriarchy pitting women against another in a manner where women start negatively viewing their female counterparts – and seeing themselves as the one successful woman. As a consequence of this, women are given a climate where they are implicitly or explicitly encouraged to pull each other down and to do whatever it takes to be the one woman who’s better out of all women in that position.
As a consequence, a very strong sense of animosity festers between women, who are already minorities within very male dominated workspaces. This sense of animosity is encouraged in these environments and workspaces under the garb of ‘healthy competition’ and ‘achievement’, but they often end up further dividing women and making their interactions with each other more toxic.
This sort of a mudslinging competition sponsored by patriarchy further divides women – for what threatens patriarchy is women and other gendered minorities banding together against a common oppressor. If they’re too busy fighting amongst themselves, they won’t be able to figure out that this sort of division is being sponsored by a common oppressor. This illusion of achievement which is propagated not only creates divide between women, it also restricts access to resources to women – because now structures don’t have to make more inclusive spaces for have more seats at the table for women, they just have to pit them against one another to see which one comes out on top.
This creation of division and toxic competition is also a very problematic cause which contributes to a systematic exclusion of women from systems and institutions. As a consequence, institutions don’t have any incentive to create spaces for women beyond the tokenistic ‘inclusive’ spaces they have to create – a very half-hearted effort at the bare minimum to bridge the gender gap. This is very visible if we take a comparative – out of all Fortune 500 company CEOs, only 5% are women. This is the representation of the creamiest layer of the work industry – representation only grows thinner from here onwards, as we go to the lower rungs of corporations, and within the corporate ladder, the lower rungs of the business company ecosystem.
However, in this climate, what has been a very prominent development is women recognising this systemic problem and taking active steps to address it. Women have created a community that is slowly but surely becoming immune to the divisive forces that patriarchy creates. Prominent examples of this are Lilly Singh, and India origin Canadian Youtuber and her campaign #GirlLove, and closer home, women like Rega Jha, an Instagram Influencer. Even the Indian beauty community which is flourishing is seeing a very inclusive and positive space for women to share and grow together.
This ecosystem of solidarity and collectivisation based on being able to help each other in creating more success not only helps the individual, but also stands in direct contrast to the toxic ecosystem of patriarchy – and challenges it.
This sense of community which comes out of shared lived experiences and other overlapping diaspora within which people function, is very important for it not only helps in the creation and sustenance of a bond but also an unsaid implicit contract which manifests in the form of being able to celebrate each other’s’ successes because they realise that an individual success is also success on a larger level, a collective success which creates space for more recognition and more merit. This ecosystem of solidarity and collectivisation based on being able to help each other in creating more success not only helps the individual, but also stands in direct contrast to the toxic ecosystem of patriarchy – and challenges it.
But solidarity isn’t only limited to this – it is also a sense of community where women allow each other space for their own unique expression. This is an expression that comes out of not encroaching on each others’ spaces. Women of upper castes ans upper classes don’t take up space meant for and deserved by women who may not be from that same privilege, women don’t take up spaces meant for trans people and other gendered minorities; just creating a more inclusive space meant for celebrating and building each other up – to challenge the contours of patriarchy and thrive despite its oppression.
This sort of solidarity, in contrast with the norm of having very exclusive spaces for women in a largely patriarchal and therefore a male dominated system forces the society to re-imagine itself. A re-imagination which consists not of women fighting each other for that one seat, but women and other gendered minorities fighting together for a more diverse representation, where all of them can have a seat at the table – equals with the more dominant gender.
Featured Image Source: Magdalene