A patriarchy is defined as a system of government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.  Today, I will make the argument that we still live in a patriarchal society here in the United States. Daily Kos explains that a “patriarchy is generally not an explicit ongoing effort by men to dominate women. It is a long standing system that we are born into and participate in mostly unconsciously.”  All genders can perpetuate a patriarchy, while men are the only ones receiving the benefit.

Patriarchy Among Judges
Me at the local courthouse looking at the wall of pictures of mostly male judges.

Women in Government

Currently there has never been a female president in the United States, the House of Representatives has only 18.3% women, and the Senate is only 21% female. When we make up 50% of the population, and those numbers are not reflected in our government we are living in a patriarchy. Nor, does our government represent the population in terms of ethnic diversity.

We need more women at the top levels of our government, which means we need more women running for office, and more people supporting those women with our votes. “Studies have found that women legislators—both Republican and Democrat—introduce a lot more bills than men in the areas of civil rights and liberties, education, health, labor and more.”

It can be hard for some women to imagine themselves in higher office, when they have fewer female success stories/leaders to look to than men. We just had to watch a highly qualified female candidate run for office (Hillary Clinton), against a known misogynist (Donald Trump) and win. Studies show that women have less confidence than men, when asked if they felt they were qualified to run for office. “The lack of confidence continues well beyond college, even among women with relevant political and policy experience. When Lawless and Fox polled women and men among “feeder” careers (business, law, education and politics/activism), they found that women were almost equally likely to have had relevant political experience, including extensive policy research, public speaking, soliciting funds and interacting with public officials. But when asked if they thought they were qualified to run for office, only 57 percent of those women said they thought they were qualified or very qualified, compared to 73 percent of men.” (Politco) One exception to this was school board positions. We should seek to recruit these women to run for other positions.

Women in the Workforce

In America’s workforce, women do not occupy even close to 50% of the top leadership positions. Currently, women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar, occupy just 15% of upper management positions, and women hold only 5.2% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. This problem continues even though there is now widespread recognition of the problem.

Women in the workplace is something I have written about before in my posts on the wage gap, and how we can better support working mothers.  Today we have more working women than men with college degrees, and that we are working on changing corporate attitudes, but I think there is still a lot to do.

The Media

The media is also patriarchal – the most important positions are largely reserved for men. “The media amplifies patriarchal viewpoints through: negative coverage of sexual violence, promoting gender binaries, unceasing discussion of women’s appearance and body image, and objectifying transgendered women’s bodies by focusing on their physical transitions.” (OrganizingChange.Org) When we do not have women in the top positions of journalism, it is harder to challenge “dominant patriarchal narratives.”

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is about power, it takes away a person’s autonomy over their own body.  The victims of sexual violence are both men and women. One in six women in this country is the victim or rape or attempted rape. 99% of people who rape in this country are men. This is another way that men seek to control women.

How to Smash the Patriarchy

In this post, I do not seek to take away from the great strides that women have made in our country, but to reflect on how much we still have to do. The fact that we live in a patriarchal society is not a “women’s issue,” in order to have real change occur we need to have this to be an issue that we all take on combating. While this issue may feel overwhelming for any one group or person to take on, we can each work towards chipping away from the patriarchy.  Every time a female gets elected to office, we chip away at the patriarchy. Every time a woman is a success in business, we chip away at the patriarchy. Every time we challenge gender norms, we chip away at the patriarchy. Every time we take victims of sexual assault seriously and put the responsibility on the actions of the rapist, rather than the actions of the victim, we chip away at the patriarchy. Every time we embrace someone who comes out with love and respect, we chip away at the patriarchy. There is not one thing we can do, there are thousands of things we can do.