#1, The role of women in a patriarchic society

#1, The role of women in a patriarchic society

Technology has ballooned in the last century, people have travelled to other planets in a rocket, science has saved us multiple times from deadly viruses, the fridge can now prepare your grocery list, and Alexa will always be there for you. However, women still live in a patriarchic society. 

Despite things being better in the western world compared to Africa or the Middle East, one would expect that discrimination against women would have long been eliminated and that we could all now enjoy the fruits of equality. But life is not fair, and everyone knows that. Some women do have better experiences than others within this patriarchic world; it greatly depends on the family background and the societal structure in which we are raised. It also depends on age. Admittedly women nowadays are better off than thirty or fifty years ago.

I have asked three women to share their personal experiences and viewpoints on their role in our society. I wholeheartedly thank them for confiding their views to notoriousnotes.com

In this essay, we read about Emily’s experiences. Two more separate interviews will follow up.

Emily-England, 43, teacher

Q: A significant difficulty/struggle you have experienced due to your gender.

A: I’m not sure that I have experienced any major struggles due to my gender. I was lucky enough to have been brought up in a society where there has already been a significant amount of progress towards gender equality, and I was supported by my family to have access to a good education and career opportunities. My mother was a good role model in this sense, having studied veterinary science at university in an era when most women were expected to be nurses, teachers or mothers. 

However, I am sure that most women of my age will have experienced sexual harassment and pressure to conform to male ideals in relationships and interactions at some point, be it a brief encounter or a longer-lived situation, particularly as teenagers. I think that is still an area which needs a lot of work in our culture, as it affects both the self-esteem and mental health of young women, and feeds later into ideas of how relationships should be played out. 

Q: Have you experienced gender inequality in your working environment?

A: No, I’ve not worked within a male-dominated profession and have had colleagues and leaders of all genders. 

Q: Is there equality in parenthood? (especially amid a pandemic)

A: I think that you are most likely to find shared ideals about parental equality in countries where legislation actively pushes for it, for instance, in Finland, where the latest laws are offering a ‘use it or lose it’ shared paternity/maternity leave, to cultivate the idea that both parents should spend a significant amount of time with their babies (though I’m not sure how this fits in with lengthier breast-feeding periods of time). 

In the majority of countries around the world, developed and developing, both women and men are expected to get on with working well despite the requirements of family life. Of course, there are some societies and workplaces that manage this better than others. 

In societies where mothers are expected to work, the old feminist saying of ‘having it all’ seems to have been replaced by ‘doing it all’, and doing so to high standards, without letting one area of our multi-faceted lives leak into another. This can be completely overwhelming at times, and very difficult to fit into the 24 hours we have available to us! 

There is a multitude of research out there to show that in many countries, the pandemic disproportionately had a negative effect on women and that between work and family care, women, on average, put in more hours than men.  

Time and time again, I meet mothers in heterosexual couples who affirm that the bulk of family responsibility falls on them. This includes not only the more obvious tasks of cooking, cleaning, taking children from place to place but the management side of family life – remembering what needs to be done for whom, when. I’m sure there are couples out there who do achieve a harmonious balance, but it’s not easy! Perhaps this often has roots in longer maternity leave and shorter paternity leave and the habits established then… but I have a feeling that it begins earlier and links back to the more basic ideas about gender respect and equality that should be embedded in childhood and within teenagers. 

Q: Do sexist perceptions exist within the women’s conscience?

A: I believe so – arising from our embedded expectations of ourselves and those around us, media exposure and family experiences. For instance, we may compare ourselves to women who are not working and still try to have homes that are as clean and well-organised and children who are as well-entertained, and compare ourselves to women without family commitments and try to put the same time and effort into work as them, whilst also trying to be healthy, look good enough, follow the lead, or do the opposite, of our mothers and grandmothers before us. All of this can contribute to the familiar concept of ‘maternal guilt’. 

There are interesting quick questionnaires you can do online based on reaction times that hint at our unconscious biases. We all have them relating to gender ideas and beyond, and it is healthy to examine and question ourselves on these periodically. 

Q: A woman that inspires you.

A: I admire many women for different reasons… those women who are my friends, family and colleagues for all their different skills and ability to juggle multiple things in life. Writers like Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein for their talent with words and ability to bring major issues to our attention, politicians like Jacinda Ardern, Jess Phillips and Jo Cox, though it’s harder to say with public figures as I don’t know them personally. Everyone has things that they do well, so it’s hard to single out one person.

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