Suppose you organise society so that only men are allowed to work outside the home. Women are confined inside to be childrearers and housekeepers. Since women cannot work, their chances for survival depend on being supported first by their parents, and then a husband. Parents must pay for a man to take their daughter off their hands. Suppose also that there is no welfare system, so parents must rely on their children to support them in their old age. If you were a parent, you’d inevitably prefer a son, who would receive a dowry when he marries, and take care of you when you’re too old to work. Daughters are of no use to you, and a drain on your already meagre resources. It would be no surprise if you aborted/killed any baby girls. Others take the same line as you, and so the ratio of men to women becomes skewed. Now what happens when your son(s) try to find a wife? There aren’t enough women to go round. So what should one do? There are various solutions. You could arrange a wife for one son, who will then be shared amongst many brothers. Or you could kidnap a woman to be a wife for your son(s). Or you could buy a kidnapped woman, sometimes at an open auction. Since women are viewed as inferior beings in your society – you killed your baby girls, remember? – the women shared and bought will be yours to treat as possessions. Welcome to rural India.

More from Al Jazeera.

8 thoughts on “Patriarchy

  1. This reminds me very much of “The Bookseller of Kabul” which I am currently reading. I am outraged about how women are treated in Afghanistan, even after the fall of the Taliban. Just reading these reports makes me so angry.

  2. The solution, of course, is war. You send the lads off in their mid-teens and keep them fighting for a decade and a half or so. By then a significant number have been killed off. Those left standing at age 30 go back and marry 13 year old girls.

  3. The Al Jazeera article points out that this is a recipe for social disaster that reaches wider than the suffering of the women. Psychological evidence shows that young men with no family commitments and the emotional support and enrichment that goes with them, are more likely to engage in crime and uprisings. So skewing the sex balance in this way, makes society less peaceful.

    It’s official: patriarchy leads to war.

  4. Have you read “Leaving Mother Lake” by Yang Erche Namu? It describes her upbringing in a Matriarchal society in China, close to Tibet. In that society, there is no marriage. People are free to mate as they wish. The mother is head of household, but all the siblings remain in the house and uncles are the adult male role models rather than fathers. Often, children might not know who their father is. It is really fascinating and in comparison to what happens to women in other parts of China and India, and even in some parts of our own society, so much more rational.

  5. Taking this a step further… Kind of a biological, natural selection analysis of Sexual Dynamics. Consider this: Women are not allowed to choose their own husband; They [both males and females, for the most part] are not allowed, according to social proprietary customs, to ‘get to know one another’ via dating, spending time alone with one another, et cetera… This, combined with a sort of Quantitative Analysis: WIth so many suitors or young males seeking a wife, there is much competition, among males themselves, to ‘possess’ or ‘lay claim’ to females: Demand is High and Supply is Low. Competition, on biological terms, leads to a certain set of sexual dynamics which disadvantage the female in a few ways.
    Males with those certain traits which are advantageous<—italics} — these are the males who are able to 'get the girl' before 'the others' 'get' her.
    1) One quality, characteristic is high class {basically, having a lot of money — which, generally speaking, is the class of people which tends to be the MOST patriarchal, see history chpts, Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex; With impoverished classes, the husband cannot afford the woman to NOT work, and Work as we all know = Power and a Sense of Freedom}; So the woman is disadvantaged because the dynamics (quantitative + cultural + sexual) tend to lead to her being pursued {and ultimately 'won' in a way} by those who have the advantageous traits: monetary {dowry} and social resources {or standing/hierarchy} — and these males, of a certain general class, tend to be most patriarchal.
    2) Another 'advantageous' trait: Aggression. The most Aggressive {and we may pertinently infer, the most likely to be abusive} will Kidnap, Lie, Steal, and Cheat their way to "Get" a wife; not a specific female, a companion, a partner, a Wife. Competition also leads to Desperation… Additionally, the man willing to kidnap will do what is within his power {since they hold virtually every form, in some areas of India} can 'keep' the woman, because where will she go? Who will help her if she was 'unfairly' wed? One among many…
    3) Desperation on the part of young male suitors for wives, and on the part of fathers, in an impoverished state — leads to another dynamic: the demand on woman is such that males compromise with natural development; that is, Once she 'blossoms,' i.e., once she can clean for herself at ~12, she, according to her desperate father who may or may not regard her as a burden, and according to her desperate young male suitors, is 'ready' for marriage. She has no chance to grow up, herself; to develop fully, prior to the demand set upon her; born into…

    Thank goodness I wasn't born into this world. To imagine; a form of hell. These are a few dynamics that disadvantage her: the most 'prospective' suitors tend to be of the most Patriarchal classes, Competition for wives makes males Desperate: which likely leads to males becoming MORE aggressive than they would be, were it otherwise the case {were this infanticide not happening; and balance was}; and the more Aggressive a male is for possession – it could be argued that these males will turn into abusive husbands, and finally, She is Married 'off' before she has a chance to become a woman; she is 'married' when she is a girl…

  6. Or, for 1) You can think of it this way: Males who don’t need the dowry, namely ‘rich’ male suitors, who would, correspondingly, be of a high class, which tends to be the most patriarchal than other, lower classes. Combined with 3) Desperate fathers desire to ‘get the most for their daughter’ namely dowry, so they will {no quotation marks necessary anymore} sell their daughter for the least amount of money possible. So the suitors who can afford to not get a dowry are the ones who appear to be the best ‘deal’ to the father… This tends to make girls of impoverished families {what, like 95% of girls in India?} at a disadvantage. Well, there goes my logic spin. Anyone following?

  7. […] So when I suggest that many women would probably choose to burn women’s magazines, I do realise that women all over the world have to contend with considerably worse threats to their freedom. When Friedan and Helen Gurley Brown accused women’s magazines of the 1950s and 1960s of promoting an old-fashioned, limiting definition of femininity – one which confined women to the domestic space and which judged those women who chose alternative ways of living, as sluttish and improper – they did so in the belief that publications like Ladies Home Journal and Reader’s Digest contributed to the maintenance of patriarchy. […]

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