Yesterday was International “Day of the Girl”. Women are half the population, yet our voices are often invisible and/or dismissed and it’s not necessarily with purposeful intent. It’s the result of long-held values and traditions born out of patriarchy. This is one of the reasons we need a Day of the Girl.
But what exactly is Patriarchy?
It is absolutely not a scapegoat, as often implied. It’s definitely not misandry. And it’s definitely not a figment of the collective imagination. At its simplest form, it means a society built around a male figurehead. But how does that translate to today’s modernized people when there’s all kinds of women in positions of power, who have equal rights, etc.?
Well, it is nuanced and complicated, for sure. When you delve deeper into the history of western society, Judeo-Christian religions, and patriarchy, you begin to see it’s a set of systems that are insidious, subtle, and often upheld by adhering to the status quo, and sometimes by happenstance. While I would agree that we are quickly becoming a more egalitarian society where women are viewed and treated as equals, there are still a few things we need to work on. Men and women have been working together to break down the structures. When there are no longer power differentials and strict gender roles, patriarchy ceases to exist. Having celebration and awareness events such as “Day of the Girl” raises the issues and encourages dialog.
One of the biggest ways we see patriarchy still alive and well is by the sheer amount of “locker room talk” and sexual assault…and by the acceptance of such behavior. We see it in the way that women have to be described by their relationship to a man to be respected (their wives, daughters, sisters). We see it in the way we treat our boys who display just an ounce of (arbitrary) feminine behavior. We see it in the way we view men who hold traditional “female” occupations, like Stay at Home Dads. We see it when we describe women as conquests to “grab”, as sluts when they decide who to have sex with and when, or as puritanical when they rebuke advances. We see it in so-called purity balls because of their implication that a girl’s value lies solely in her virginity. We see it when we view women as overpowering when they are assertive, but view men as weak who lack aggression. We see it when we encourage our artsy boys to pursue engineering while we discourage our girls from interest in STEAM fields. We see it when people, both men and women, speak out about injustice and are told to get over it, quit looking for it, it’s not real, or it’s “god’s way”.
THAT is why we need a Day of the Girl.
Our girls deserve to feel valued, wanted, and respected. Our girls deserve to have bodily autonomy. Our girls deserve to pursue their dreams and have the same chance at success as anyone else. Our girls deserve to be heard when they report assault. Our girls deserve to live in a world free of sexual assault and other types of violence.
And our boys? Our boys deserve to know that they are inherently good, that they don’t have to behave a certain way or like specific things to be a man, and that they can be great allies and agents of change to dismantle patriarchy.