Is it really a man’s world?

January 9, 2018
By Omer Aftab

According to a 2011 poll of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world....


According to a 2011 poll of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. It cited that more than 1,000 women and girls have been murdered in ‘honour killings’ every year and reported that 90 per cent of Pakistani women suffer from domestic violence.

Westerners usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but the reality is far more complicated. A certain ‘patriarchal’ mentality is deeply ingrained in Pakistani societies where poor and uneducated women struggle daily for basic rights, recognition, and respect in a ‘man’s world’. They live in a culture that defines them by the male figures in their lives, even though these women are often the breadwinners for their families.

The case of 18-year-old Aisha speaks volumes about the deeply rooted patriarchal approach in a society like ours. “The day my brother was born was bittersweet; I was no longer allowed to go to school. Due to the increased household responsibilities, my father told me that I must stay home and eventually begin to work. On the night of his birth, while my whole family was celebrating, I went to my uncle’s house to get more bread. I didn’t know a young man was there. In the empty home, he took advantage of me; he did things that I wasn’t aware of as a teenager.”

There are thousands of girls like Aisha in our country, who succumbed to patriarchy. Instead of making her earn for the household, Aisha’s father could have let her acquire education. He didn’t leave any option for his daughter except for becoming a prey to this male dominated society.

Patriarchy has taken different forms in our culture and has extended its dimensions. Women are unlikely to have formal power and representation. They are just expected to do the housework and raise children. Moreover, professionally women are paid less and their sexuality is treated negatively. Sadly, women are also misrepresented by the media and popular culture.

The origin

About six hundred years ago, concept of ‘Fatherhood’ emerged as the beginning of patriarchy. Works of Aristotle were clear reflections of women as inferior to men morally, intellectually and physically. Some relate patriarchy to a biological dimension. The ‘male hormone’ testosterone is responsible for masculinising an individual. Female hormone ‘estrogen’ feminises a being. Others reject this and agree that social and cultural conditioning is responsible for establishing gender roles.

Patriarchy is discussed on the basis of differences in mental functions and behaviours of the sexes as well. Differences exist in mental health, cognitive abilities, personality and tendency towards aggression. Males are likely to display aggression than females. Men also on average are more assertive and have higher self-esteem. On the other hand, females are more anxious, trusting, and tender-minded. They have more empathising skills than men. Women frequently experience joy, love, embarrassment, guilt, sadness, anger, fear, and distress.

Structures & domains

Public patriarchy: Patriarchy is divided into two subdivisions, i.e. public and private. Public patriarchy can be sub-divided into societal and patriarchy in state. Under societal patriarchy, there is an access for women in private and public spheres, but it is still inferior compared with that of their male counterparts. This includes institutional structures such as employment, schools, churches, and the government.

The patriarchal structures within a state are taken to be capitalist and gender-blind. The state mediates and regulates gender relations through laws and rights. But has a systematic bias towards patriarchal interests in its policies and actions.

Private patriarchy: Private patriarchy directs the subjugation of women within the family through gender inequalities and specified gender roles. This division of roles makes the women dependent on men socially, economically and culturally, and serves as the basis for subjugation of women. Employment, sexuality, state, violence and culture are less dominating factors in private patriarchy.

Under this, girls are married off at a young age into household, which are governed by their husband’s father. They are not only sub-ordinate to all men in the house, but also to senior women. Under this form of patriarchy, females have no right to claim share from inheritance.

Neo-patriarchy: Neo-patriarchy is a system where not only men are perpetrators of authority and control, but also the older women. However, household power hierarchy disadvantages women in many ways. Governance over women is practiced through different types of violence. The thought process matters as well. Mothers train their daughters to be submissive, fragile and good home managers. From tender years, boys and girls are trained and bought up according to their specific gender roles. Mother-in-law plays an important role in re-socialization of women. The process of socialization makes the woman realize that they have low status.

What feminists say...

Feminist Theory declares patriarchy as an unjust social system that enforces gender roles and is oppressive to both genders. Many activists and scholars have called for ‘Culture Repositioning’ as a method to deconstruct patriarchy. Promoting gender equality requires evasion of this kind of patriarchal culture.