What Does It Mean to Assimilate Patriarchy into Women’s Minds?
The assimilation of patriarchy is the cornerstone of patriarchy, which further enables it to control and persuade. The largest share of this technique was directed at women themselves. Through various institutions and values, patriarchy has normalized women to accept their oppression. This is to ensure that they do not object to male authority or confront and challenge it.
This system cannot guarantee the survival and continuity of male power in society without making those who exercise it on them deceived by the myths of their inferiority and the superiority of their oppressor. They impose it sometimes through direct violence, and others through false honorifics that consider violence and discrimination part of “protecting women and honoring them.”
Patriarchal assimilation can be defined as an intellectual and political tool used by the patriarchal system to extend its power over the minds of those whom it oppresses, through multiple mechanisms, including social upbringing, customs and traditions, religious values, and laws. The emergence of institutions such as the media and educational institutions has also contributed to strengthening and contributing to this tool.
Therefore, the impact of patriarchal control on women has been, and still is, serious. Especially because of its psychological and social effects that divide women, and make them watchdogs over themselves and one another. It also robs them of their ability to confront patriarchy or understand that it is the cause of the violence and pain they experience and the constraints they live under. Consequently, patriarchal violence is the most dangerous to women’s lives and safety.
Patriarchy places women in fierce competition against one another, nurturing a sense of hatred among them that eats them from within and poisons their relationship with themselves and other women.
The first thing we learn is to hate ourselves
Since birth, the family and society welcome us with a package of patriarchal values and behaviors that are presented as firm orders and eternal instincts.
We breathe patriarchy; we hear it when we wake up, and it is taught to us as sublime teaching. It is practiced against us in medicine and institutions, and we are subjected to violence because of it. It’s hard for one of us to survive it or not to believe it and integrate it as an absolute truth.
Patriarchal stereotypes and myths become the only path we believe in, forcing ourselves and other women to abide by them. Even after we have acquired feminist consciousness, traces of male consciousness remain with us for a long time. They curb our self-esteem and may inadvertently leak into our view of others.
We begin to hear the phrase “women’s deficiencies and inferiority” from childhood, and instead of being young girls learning to enjoy life and appreciate ourselves, patriarchal values and institutions attack us. They tell us that “women are deficient in reason and religion,” and “never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler.”
They drown us in the illusion that women are the cause of all evil, that we belong in the kitchen, and that no matter how hard we study and work, our ultimate mission is to be mothers and wives. They tell us that we are a cause of opprobrium, a source of scandal, that we are a great affliction, and that the men of our family go to hell because of us. They repeat: Our faces are “nudity that should be covered”, our bodies are “nakedness that should be concealed”, we are the dignity of all men, and “honor” is a legend born in our bodies.
These speeches keep resonating within us so that we can hear their echoes. We begin to believe that we cannot be anything else other than this patriarchal image. Hatred begins to be deeply rooted within most of us until it becomes a feeling that haunts us and determines our view of others.
What does it mean to assimilate patriarchy among women?
Patriarchy is a system of values, behavior, laws, and legislation on which the patriarchy is based. It also controls communities, using it to subject women and LGBTQ individuals and communities to heteropatriarchal authority. It is an intellectual system that the patriarchal system has spread over centuries in various political, economic, social, cultural, and religious structures. Through it, gender disparity in the minds of those affected is being normalized.
The prevalence of patriarchy in various aspects of life contributed to the emergence of what can be called the consolidation of patriarchy in the minds of women. While it is easy to specify and define the various manifestations of patriarchy practiced by the dominant groups, this type of patriarchy seems the most difficult to define and correct.
However, it can be defined as the patriarchal values and behaviors that women practice and adopt as social representations of themselves and other women. It also appears remarkably in gatherings and speeches among women or practiced by a woman, to gain legitimacy in front of men and patriarchal society.
Patriarchy can also be a means of protection, which many women take to ensure that they are not held accountable by society.
The patriarchy practiced by some women takes the form of outright attack, stigmatization, or participation in violence against other women. It may also be in the form of hostile behavior towards oneself, through self-blame and self-flagellation.
The entrenchment of patriarchy is a continuation of oppression in general
The assimilation of patriarchy is one aspect of assimilating oppression in general, a behavior resulting from centuries of dominant system values, and the substitution of violence and fear instead of acceptance, pluralism, and solidarity. Thus, it contributes to the continuation and service of this system even in the absence of its beneficiaries. Thus, the victims of this system are tricked into assimilating and defending its values.
Women practice patriarchy against one another and towards themselves. Some play the role of instigators, using most types of misogyny as stigmatizing women’s behaviors. Or they practice it directly, as in the case of mothers and women of the family, who can engage in patriarchal violence, such as contributing to the establishment of male authority, imposing coercive forms of life on the girls of the family, or even physically abusing them.
Talking about other women and joining their public trials is also a common form of patriarchy. Judging women’s shapes and behaviors is a common pattern and the most normalized type of patriarchy.
It also emerges through public repudiation of anything that violates patriarchy, whether by praising it as a natural “instinct” and a religious duty, or by stigmatizing those who violate it.
Feminist struggle is the only way to confront patriarchal discord between women. It is the way to restore trust among women, rather than the competitiveness and hatred that patriarchy always incites among them.
Do women benefit from patriarchy?
The false conviction that women benefit from patriarchy is often passed on through slogans and speeches that infuse women with enmity towards each other, or by attacking feminism with phrases like: “The problem is in women, and most women normalize patriarchy.” It’s worth noting that whether women benefit from patriarchy is frequent in feminist debates, which enriches our understanding of the motives and reasons why women assimilate patriarchy.
Hence, the importance of dismantling women’s benefits from patriarchy lies in exposing the truth of these discourses.
Women may conspire against each other, reiterating consciously or unconsciously the stereotypes and hatred that patriarchy has instilled in them. They practice them against each other, participate in stigmatization campaigns against other women, or blame them for not adhering to social norms. Some may write books about them, lead programs that disparage women, and use their social influence to pass it on. Many write posts or participate in ridiculing other women and disown their behavior because they differ from the mainstream.
But no woman can have a unique status by defending patriarchy unless she herself has put up with parental violence, and has lost the women she attacked.
She may be called the “ideal woman” and may receive patriarchal acceptance whenever she highlights that she is not a “bad” woman and that she adheres to the social norms and regulations imposed on all women. Nonetheless, however she behaves, she will not receive the respect and appreciation, which is falsely passed as a reward for her “good” behavior. Nor will this protect her from violence, in all its political, economic, physical, sexual, and psychological manifestations.
Patriarchy puts women in fierce competition against one another, nurturing a sense of hatred between them so that it eats them from within and poisons their relationship with themselves and other women.
However, the constant feeling of being threatened by women and their attacking one another drains the mental health of most of them, whether they are the attackers or the attacked. It also contributes to permanent social fissures, because it undermines their confidence in themselves and each other. Expecting perpetual evil from women, and severing trust between them, divides them more than the classic patriarchy practiced by men and oppressive regimes does.
Patriarchy, with all the violence and patriarchal discrimination it imposes, directly affects women’s well-being, threatening their lives, and even killing them every day.
Some argue that women benefit from patriarchy through the protection they receive from their status as mothers, or by getting endorsed among men and dominant groups. However, these remain mere negotiations by women with no direct benefit. It is impossible to benefit from the same system that oppresses us, and we cannot obtain legitimacy or authority from the same system that robs us of it.
It is important to always remember that patriarchy is a system that is hostile to all women. This regime, with its various arms, has invested over centuries in a vast propaganda machine, presenting itself as the only value system available to them.
It also used the tools of political and religious punishment to impose these ideological structures to control women’s minds and sow fear of resisting them. Therefore, most may adopt patriarchy out of fear, not benefit. The regime does not reward us for our “good” behavior with it. Rather, it works to strengthen the fear within us so that we cling to it and see it as a refuge from the evils that the regime itself has created and is protecting.
Some women, entitled to class and ethnic privileges from the political and economic system, benefit from exercising racial, colonial, and class power over women from more vulnerable groups. But this does not guarantee that women who receive these privileges will not be subjected to another form of patriarchal violence, or be immune from its domination.
How can we build a feminist discourse that recognizes this problem without stigmatizing women?
It is difficult to recognize the assimilated patriarchy among women, and it is even more difficult to dismantle it.
The reason for this is that it has been normalized by all means, so those who do not practice it have become conspiring against society, religion, and instinct. Proving enduring loyalty to patriarchy is a lifeline for many, given the false sense of security it provides, although it does not actually protect them from violence.
Feminists, in this context, are more vulnerable to attacks from other women, both within the family and in public spaces. It may seem shocking for many that some women themselves reject feminist discourse, or make patriarchal reactions against those who adopt it. This is what feminists, who did not know that the path of struggle was never paved with flowers, eventually realized. Rather, it is a path punctuated by fierce confrontations with the regime and painful patience for the stubborn reactions of women themselves.
This necessitates consistent investment in building a feminist discourse capable of working relentlessly on women’s consciousness. A discourse that perseveres to analyze and interpret the source of women’s motivations behind practicing or supporting patriarchy.
Through dialogue and continuous learning, challenging patriarchal awareness, and building strong feminist solidarity, we can clearly see how we, somehow unconsciously, practice patriarchy. We realize how we can challenge it and work to end it with a feminist consciousness.
Feminist struggle is the only way to confront patriarchal discord between women. It is the path towards restoring trust among women, rather than the competition and hatred, that patriarchy always tries to instill between them.
None of us can survive without the other.
We remember all the female friends, sisters, and neighbors. Those who helped us overcome patriarchal violence, so we were able to stand through them and with them and rely on them to be our true support and protection.
Through them, we are inspired by motivation and solidarity to fight patriarchal violence in all its forms, for us and them, and current and future generations of women, girls, and marginalized women.