The Difference Between Sexism and The Patriarchy

Sexism is pervasive in all cultures, and it disproportionately affects women more than men.  Sexism can range from trite comments to fully fledged misogynistic diatribes that hinder women’s progress in society as they perpetrate an outrageous idea of what it means to be a woman.  Likewise, several advertisement campaigns and magazine articles diffuse inherently sexist ideas about women, that also contribute in crafting an apocryphal image of femininity and womanhood.  Whilst all that is alarming and doesn’t seem like it’s gonna ebb out in the near future, it still isn’t anywhere near close to the evil of The Patriarchy.

Whilst it’s mostly men who are responsible for disseminating sexist comments and ideas, The Patriarchy consists of both men and women who see it as an ideology, more than anything.  It becomes a way of life as both men and women are expected to abide by its rules and tenets.  The Patriarchy reminds me of Airstrip One in Orwell’s magnum opus 1984.  It has eyes everywhere and one perceived misjudgment can land you in big trouble, except that instead of political persecution, you’re subjected to social alienation.  The Patriarchy demands that you forego all pretensions of happiness and freedom, and adopt a lifestyle that aligns with its values.  In so doing, a woman loses her identity and is defined by her gender only.  The Patriarchy doesn’t see women as individuals, but as an appendage to men.  Women should always be in thrall to the men in their lives, otherwise, they’re defective in the eyes of the Patriarchy.

The Patriarchy seeks to stifle female pleasure, more than anything.  It forces women to second guess their very identity and imposes a uniform idea of what a woman should be like.  Women who don’t conform become pariahs, renegades for whom there’s no salvation.  You see, you’re not allowed to have an inner voice when you live in the Patriarchy.  You’re not allowed to be different, to be petulant and impetuous-only men are allowed the freedom to express themselves and to be whoever they want to be.

The Patriarchy insists on persecuting women for moral crimes that men are allowed to commit.  Women are encumbered by the odious demands of chastity and sexual purity.  Should they buck this extravagant demand, they will be chastised for daring to opine.  Women aren’t allowed to have opinions, because you know, they bleed every month so their opinions are automatically rendered invalid.  But then it gets a little bit drearier.

Imagine that you’re a woman living under those conditions and you do your best to respect every single tacit demand.  You are the model daughter, the model wife and the model mother.  You devote your life to the domestic bliss of your family and you never aspire to anything beyond that.  Being a sexually liberated individual is something you might confine to your nightly fantasies and having your own take on things, might attract some undeserved attention.  The Patriarchy vandalizes your free spirit and restricts your interaction with the world around you but hey, at least you’re safe.  For now.

But the thing is, The Patriarchy is very much the product of specific cultures and religions.  They’re all interrelated and enmeshed in the same toxic, backward thought processes. They’re anti-intellectual and anti human-rights.  Autocratic systems that demand you surrender your free spirit lest you become socially isolated, do not care for your humanity, nor do they allow for one’s intellectual growth.  A society that routinely blames women for men’s actions, is inimical to women’s sense of self.  Women are dehumanized and judged not on the content of their character, but on how compliant they are with the Patriarchy’s rules.

It’s a state of chaos and inertia, a space where nothing good can grow because women are the very lifeblood of society.  Those who’ve been indoctrinated will inculcate the same toxic ideas in their children and their children will do the same, until the very idea that one day men and women can co-exist on equal grounds, will become obsolete.  And this is not a fer-fetched depiction of reality, ask any of those women who live in culturally archaic societies and they will vouch for that.  There’s no glimmer of hope, no help from the outside, The Patriarchy is guarded by impenetrable walls.

Lukshana Gopaul

Lukshana is the essay writer for PLAG. You can reach her at .