Patriarchy & Feminism

Patriarchy has always been a big threat to feminism. In this post, I discuss the how a patriarchal mindset affects the decisions we make solely based on ego.

I’ve lived in Singapore my entire life (well up till I came over to London for university), growing up in an Asian country meant having a rather patriarchal mindset instilled in the majority of us from a very young age. I got lucky. My mum and dad always believed that I could achieve anything I wanted – never limited by gender. However, most of my peers do not receive the same support.

Patriarchy has always been a threat to feminism. What is patriarchy you ask? Well, it’s basically a society where woman are dominated by men. With most families in Asia having grown up with a patriarchal mindset, it swerves and affects how a person sees themselves. Men feeling like they have to be the sole providers, if not deemed a failure. And women being taught that they should learn how to cook, clean and be submissive; if not, no man would marry them.

The concept of wives having better careers than their husbands – or even working at all – would be seen as a threat to what we would call their “manlihood”. Men are brought up on the principle that they should be able to give their wives and children a comfortable life, and if not the sole provider, at least being the one who earns more.

Once I had a conversation with a friend that went a little like this:

Male friend: “I could never marry someone that earns more than I do.”`
Me: “What? Why?”
Male friend: “I don’t know – but it’s just not right. I should be able to provide for her.”
Me: “What if you were engaged? And she was the love of your life? And she got a promotion a month before the wedding that would result in her earning a thousand dollars more than you?”
Male friend: “I guess I’d have to leave her.”
Me: “What if you were already married, had children to feed? Would you still leave her?”
Male friend: “If she really loved me she’d leave her job and rough it out with me.”

To be honest I was pretty shocked, disgusted and saddened by this exchange. Having been given the luxury by my parents of not letting gender stop me from doing what I wanted to do, this exchange got me thinking. I brought this exchange up a couple of time with friends, some who grew up with the same luxury reacted the same way. However, most (both male and female) agreed saying that yes, men should be the sole providers.

I feel that a patriarchal mindsets’ primary issue is ego disguised as selflessness. As mentioned in the exchange above, a man would rather risk (possibly) his one shot at true love than having his wife raking in bigger income than him. Even if it meant that his family would have to suffer surviving on one income in the household as compared to living comfortably with two. This does not make any sense and the decision made is solely to make the men feel superior to the wives.

The main point of feminism is for woman and men to be treated as equals – and not for one gender to have a heavier weightage than the other. A patriarchal mindset defies this in more ways than one. Patriarchy, at the end of the day claims more than one victim. Sure ten years ago patriarchy was even more prevalent than it is now, but the fact that people my age still feel that men should be the ones “bringing home the bacon” even if it meant hardship saddens me. The burden of being financially competent should be shared and not compromised just because “it has always been this way”. Essentially what I’m trying to get at is not that you shouldn’t let men open doors for you, but that it should be socially acceptable for you to open doors for them too.

Writing this post got me thinking. If you would particpate in my mini poll, do you think patriarchy is still prevalent in your culture/where you live?