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Is the Patriarchy an evil giant blob out to get us, or can we make a difference too? 9 practical ways to smash the patriarchy in your daily life!
Some words are like the common cold. Utter them often enough, and surely, everyone’s going to catch it. Today, every analysis of women’s issues features more than a generous sprinkling of the word Patriarchy, constructing it as the big, invisible force we must all be vigilant against. ‘Patriarchy’ has leapt from academic papers and activists’ banners to everyday conversation and social media rants.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, unjust systems can only be changed through awareness. The more we talk about it, the more likely we are at noticing its insidious forms and patterns.
But is merely awareness enough? Sadly, no.
Attributing issues of inequality and injustice to an invisible, often hard-to-explain construct does not make our everyday lives any easier. If anything, it gets frustrating very soon, because a dull sense of hopelessness begins to loom over you. A system so large, with so many weapons in its arsenal is bound to crush me, I fear. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel like a victim. And heaven knows I’ve often been left wondering if I’m a hypocrite – waging feminist wars in my head, but secretly hoping I have a male friend to accompany me when I travel late at night.
So, does one have to give in to an unjust system? No. I’ve found that the best way to win a war is to win small, important battles. One must constantly identify how an invisible construct manifests in their everyday life, and do what it takes to make it fair. Or at least less unjust.
Here is a list of 9 small, practical things you can do to empower yourself, to slowly and steadily smash the patriarchy.
You don’t need to own a car or even drive regularly for this one to have effect. Simply the act of taking control of the steering wheel is freeing on so many levels. On an individual level, it quashes your fears, and is a great way of taking where you must go, literally. On a larger level, it is a small way to reclaim the streets. Sitting behind the wheel and being completely responsible for yourself and the vehicle is both exhilarating and sobering at the same time. And let’s not forget how a long, solitary drive can help drive away the blues.
Reading another article on gender violence and posting another angry comment does not reduce the chances of you getting attacked. Nor does it make you any safer. Take definite steps in feeling safer!
Carrying pepper spray may or may not help (who knows if you have time to react?) but throwing a few solid punches definitely will.
Self-defense is not rocket science. Take at least a basic class! If you’re too lazy to go alone, gift your best friends and yourself a group class.
Most of us grow up loathing our bodies –thanks to the unreasonable standards set by the media and society. Embracing your body and keeping it healthy goes a long way in healing the hurt. Staying fit will not only pump you with endorphins, it will also help you feel more secure and confident. And when you work hard to stay fit, you learn to prioritize yourself – a skill that patriarchy has consistently deprived us of. So take that yoga/dance/cross fit session today.
Move with the times! The days of technology being a boys’ club are over. You don’t have to be a programming wizard (although it’s delightfully easy and super-useful to learn to code).
You can start with the basics of computers and the Internet and slowly build your way up. Relying on your male friends for tech support is simply giving in to the unflattering stereotype that women can’t grasp technology. Start small, and explore technology. Slowly, as confidence grows, move on to fixing things in your house.
“Girls can’t do math” “Science is not for women” “Women don’t get logic”
It’s time to unlearn these stereotypes and learn something new. Always had an interest in Science but got bogged down by hostile attitudes? No problem! Make use of the tons of resources online and rekindle your interest. Blog about it, talk about it, form a group if you must!
The point of this is not to feign interest in subjects typically considered as a male domain, it is to establish to yourself that stereotypes cannot, and must not, limit your potential.
If you don’t respect your voice, no one will.
You will often come across ill-mannered, entitled people talking over you. If you have a valuable piece of input, or a pertinent point to make, be assertive. Don’t let someone’s entitlement get in your way. Politely tell the interrupter “Please let me finish”, or use “please do not interrupt me” with the repeat offender. Make yourself heard, and don’t be sorry about it!
Plenty has been said about reading, but it’s still not enough. Stories are both empowering and therapeutic.
From Jo to Jane Eyre to Hermione Granger, the literary world is filled with women who inspire. Often, you will find your thoughts so elegantly echoed in a book that it will feel like it’s the warmest hug society failed to give you.
Better yet, a book can offer the gentlest dissent for you to open your mind.
Question everything that you do, especially the default decisions and the things you take for granted. Questions stereotypes, biases & judgements. Question why you choose the things you do. A pro-tip is to flip the gender roles in a situation and question if your response would change.
Once you’re on the path to being the woman you want to be, support someone else. Help other women to be comfortable with themselves, and expand the sisterhood!
Being a strong, aware individual could be your greatest contribution to a fairer society. You may not know this, but someone somewhere is probably looking up to your life as an inspiration. Repay their faith, go forth and inspire!
I can image via Shutterstock