Posted By Ishani

How do you sustain a system of oppression for the most part of human history? You manipulate the disadvantaged group to believe that it’s for their own good. Most of the hostile regimes throughout history have been overthrown in due course of time by collective resistance from the repressed group. Historically, we’ve seen minorities overthrow tyrannical regimes. Take, for instance, the French revolution, which led to the rise of the bourgeoisie and the downfall of the aristocracy. You’d wonder then why did half of the world’s population suffered the multi-layered drudgery of patriarchy for so long?

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Patriarchy has existed for thousands of years in most parts of the world. For the longest time, ‘patriarchy’ wasn’t recognised as an unfair system of gendered power but rather as the natural order of the society. To understand that, let me introduce you to the concept of ambivalent sexism.
Ambivalent – Contradictory ideas or opinions
Sexism – Prejudice based on the superiority of one gender over other

we’re fighting for women to be treated equally and not as fragile, docile dolls who need alpha males for constant protection.

Ambivalent sexism is the umbrella term for hostile and benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism perpetuates vile notions about women that culminate into violence like rape, abuse, and enslavement. It has been widely studied, discussed and criticised. Hostile sexism enrages people and creates a feeling of resentment that leads to a greater likelihood of patriarchy being dismantled. But it’s 2019 and patriarchy hasn’t yet been dismantled like all the other despotic regimes throughout history.

We’re still struggling against the gendered status quo, even the women aren’t united in this struggle as some feel they might benefit from the patriarchy. This is exactly how patriarchy has sustained itself and even flourished during some eras. There’s no better way to perpetuate evil than by dividing the disadvantaged group and make them feel like betraying their own kind will be beneficial to them. Case in point, the English East India Company that managed to exploit Indians by divisive politics that turned the marginalised communities against each other.

Hostile forms of sexism like domestic abuse and sexual violence are met with ridicule and end up fanning the fuel to women’s drive to challenge the status quo. However, when it comes to ‘seemingly harmless forms of sexism’ most women (including feminists) end up romanticising them as gestures of love and affection. I was doing some research and found this article that said: feminists find sexist men more attractive. I was disgusted at first and attributed it to women internalising misogyny and accepting it due to societal conditioning.

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Upon further research, I chanced upon the concept of benevolent sexism, something we commonly called chivalry. It’s a less hostile form of sexism which arises out of preconceived notions about women and ends up patronising them just to impose restrictions later. It doesn’t come from a place of respect rather from a firm belief in the stereotypical gender binary. Benevolent sexism can manifest itself in the form of protective paternalism, complementary gender differentiation, and heteronormative intimacy.

Also read: 10 Things Men Can Do To Dismantle Patriarchy In The Time Of #MeToo

Protective paternalism is when a man feels that women are weak and need to be protected. This arises out of a sense of viewing women as objects or possessions instead of independent human beings. In the majority of heterosexual relationships, the mate selection criteria favor an older male – younger female dynamic to ensure male dominance by virtue of age privilege. Protective paternalism might seem charming but it only holds women back from taking the onus of their lives and prevents men from seeing them as equal.

Protective paternalism is when a man feels that women are weak and need to be protected. This arises out of a sense of viewing women as objects or possessions instead of independent human beings.

Complementary gender differentiation is propagating the narrative that women need to ascribe to stereotypical gender roles to be treated well. Some types of women (career women, feminists, lesbians) deserve hostile treatment, whereas others (homemakers and mothers) should be treated with benevolence. Any woman that isn’t the traditional feminine ideal is seen as a threat to the power of men and treated unfairly.

When it comes to heteronormative intimacy, it is centred around male pleasure and the female is reduced to a mere object to be available at all times to facilitate the male orgasm even at the cost of her own lack of comfort and even consent. Women are conditioned to view the imbalanced standard of heteronormative intimacy as the norm and vilified if they seek pleasure on their own.

You might ask when we’re fighting for women to be treated nicely then why do we have a problem when men do exactly that? Well, we’re fighting for women to be treated equally and not as fragile, docile dolls who need alpha males for constant protection. If chivalry is simply about being nice, why don’t you extend it to your fellow men? Why is chivalry only reserved for ‘conventionally feminine’ women?

Both hostile sexism and benevolent sexism are ways to establish male dominance and work towards a common goal of ensuring that gender inequality prevails. It divides us and brainwashes us to become instrumental in perpetuating our own suffering. It’s very easy to ignore the signs of benevolent sexism in our daily lives and get stuck in the vicious cycle of misery.

Also read: Is Chivalry A Subtle Form Of Sexism?

We need to take off the blindfold and misguided notions that hold us hostage to a patriarchal superstructure. We don’t want your chivalry! We don’t want to fit the mould of the gender binary just to assuage your male ego where you treat us nicely as long as we’re willing to toe the line.

It’s time for chivalry to die!

Ishani is a sassy kid woman who likes to protest and post-feminist rants. She’s an intersectional feminist, restless activist and a sneaky kitten! Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Featured Image Source: Modern Man Of The Cloth

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  1. The lack of nuance in explaining male behaviour is a bit disconcerting. Some of the attributes mentioned above are broad generalisations and require a bit more detail.

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