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MONDAYS WITH PATMEI | Let us end the patriarchy this century, please

It’s March and we are celebrating International Women’s Month.

I feel kind of sad that it is 2024 and we still needed a special month dedicated to women to remind the rest of the world that we exist. March is when we send a recurring memo to society that women must be included in everything.

Celebrating women’s month has its roots in 1909 when women workers in the United States protested against low wages, lack of protective legislation, and harsh working conditions. That was so last century. Sure, we have made significant progress since then, but society keeps forgetting if women do not remind it.

So you cannot help but wonder. Why does the world need constant reminding that women are humans who are entitled to the same universal human rights as men in the 21st century? You would think this is not a mere oversight but a deliberate act to exclude women. It is as if there is a system in place designed to oppress and control women.

Yes, there is such a system. It is called the patriarchy.

Patriarchy, as defined by the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, is “a system of relationships, beliefs, and values embedded in political, social, and economic systems that structure gender inequality between men and women.”

That inequality favors men, obviously. Because attributes seen as “feminine” or pertaining to women are undervalued, while attributes regarded as “masculine” or pertaining to men are privileged.

There is no Men’s Month because every month of the year is their month. They are the default mode for “human.” Men is still the generic term for humans even today, despite all the legislation and seminars on using gender fair language.

Exhibit A is this line from the Nicene Creed Catholics recite during mass: “For us men and for our salvation.” They still have not changed it to include women or just to simply say “us” to be inclusive. Is that so hard? Will that be offensive to God?

Catholicism and Christianity came to the Philippines as a package deal with colonialism. As Jennifer Guglielmo wrote in “Patriarchy and Colonialism”: “Removing Indigenous women from power was central to the colonizing mission. European colonialism was guided by the understanding that all women were inferior to men, and that Indigenous people were (like Africans) objects to be used, traded, sold, and given away, including for use as domestic workers.”

So I am not sure a just and merciful God would treat women the same way. It’s probably just the patriarchy, not God.

Patriarchy is also in capitalism, too.

Ellie Allan, in an article featured in The Gazelle in March 2021, wrote: “Capitalism and patriarchy are inseparable. By delegating gender roles, capitalism ensures that society is regulated and controlled. This structure creates a strict binary for gender and gender expression, mandating how we are treated.”

Allan stressed that “the purpose of human existence, as set by capitalism, is to maximize profit.” Under capitalism, essential items such as food, housing, electricity and water are commodified.

The capitalist system also exploits other human needs. Women are treated as commodities that is why we keep talking about women as “sex objects.”

“Female identity is a money-making machine. In particular, the construction of women’s gender expression has been manufactured for profit and is upheld by capitalism’s patriarchal logic,” Allen explained.

We still see a lot of examples of that today in advertisements of scantily clad women selling cars and alcoholic drinks for a targeted male market.

Allen argues: “One defining reason that the patriarchy is related to capitalism is that the subordination of women benefits the male worker. Under capitalism, a person’s worth is attributed to what they can contribute economically to society through labor. Under the patriarchy, a woman’s role is to serve her male counterparts and submit to their desires. The intersection of these two systems means that women have the job of providing free labor for the man — cooking, house care, childcare — while also producing offspring who eventually become part of the workforce, and hence contribute to generating profit.”

That is why we have the term “women’s multiple burdens.” There is the productive role and the reproductive role. However, women’s domestic work is not valued, not paid, and not included in the gross domestic product computation.

Sure, women are now “encouraged” to participate in the workplace (to work outside of home) and they can be a “Girl Boss” now. But there are different set of rules for women in the public space. Gender biases and stereotypes are real. And employers still perceive maternity as a liability, not the extraordinary ability that it is. The public sphere is still very much a man’s world.

Capitalism controls and regulates women through consumerism, too. It spreads the narrative of “if you work hard, you deserve nice things.” As that popular expression goes, “Deserve ko ‘to!”

Yes, sometimes they tell women that they are doing it for themselves, and not to please the men in their lives. You buy this dress, do this makeover, go on this diet for yourself, girl. To make you feel good. But is it really for you or for the capitalists who are getting richer at your expense?

They have co-opted “empowerment” and commodified them through cool merch. How clever. And often those who produce these commodities for “empowered” women are exploited women who are victims of imperialism and globalization.

And the horrible fact about patriarchy is it is enforced through the use of violence. It is maintained by controlling women, who are viewed as subordinate and inferior under this system. That is why there is such a thing as gender-based violence or violence against women.

This is real and this must end. We need to dismantle the patriarchy now. A system that oppresses half of the population is stupid and ridiculous and does not belong in the 21st century (or any century for that matter).


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