Patriarchy And Violence Against Women Essay
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Author Charlotte Perkins Gilman in her The Man-made World or Our Androcentric Culture (1911) presents the most comprehensive statement of her overall theory. In it she argues that we live in a patriarchy or what she calls an androcentric, male-centered society and that our culture in all its aspects reflects this androcentric bias. Gilman sees this bias as destructive because the male sensitivity is destructive.
A woman-centered, or better a mother-centered, world would be very different, because it would express the positive, benign character pf women’s sensitivities.
In this work, and in His Religion and Hers, Gilman presents her most extreme statement of the radical differences between men and women. These differences she attributes to prehistoric roles assigned the two sexes. The male naturally fights, and naturally crows, triumphs over his rival and takes the prize—therefore, he was made male.
Maleness means “war” (92) while the basic feminine impulse is to gather, to put together, to construct; the basic masculine impulse to scatter, to disseminate, to destroy” (114).
A male-centered culture reflects these negative masculine concerns in nearly every area of expression. Some of Gilman’s most original contributions to feminist theory are contained in her discussion of the ideological warp impressed upon language, art, literature, sports, education, government and religion by the androcentric perspective.
While public society is organized as a democracy, the man-made home remains“despotism. ” “The male is esteemed the ‘head of the family’; it belongs to him; he maintains it; and the rest of the world is a wide hunting ground and battlefield wherein he competes with other males as of old” (41). In the “proprietary family” of the patriarchate, women remain men’s property in the household; they are little more than objects whose purpose is “first and foremost… a means of pleasure to him” (32).
Every law and custom” of the “family relation” is arranged from the masculine viewpoint (35). “From this same viewpoint… comes the requirement that the woman shall serve the man. ” (35). A greater challenge occurs when campaigns to improve gender equality by promoting the well-being of the marginalized are conducted in sync with trade and development policies that favor the economically strong multinationals and compromise the welfare of the lowly locals, particularly the helpless women and children.
We ought to remember that sexism and patriarchy are all manifestations of a power struggle between the strong and the weak, the same kind of struggle linked to globalization and trade liberalization today. Patriarchy involves an imbalance of power between man and woman leading to unequal roles and benefits, a situation that can be seen in a larger context between the developing and the industrialized economies, as the latter’s efforts to spread globalization and to weaken the former’s trade laws also leads to unequal gains.
Globalization’s capitalistic intent, although beneficial in several ways since it brings development to poorer states, may be cultural imperialism dressed in new clothes when the more powerful party uses its stronger bargaining authority to manipulate or exploit. (Gilman) “In no developing region do women experience equality with men. ” This clear-cut statement from the World Bank, the reputed international monetary institution, relays one of the most apparent yet often overlooked realities of our time—gender inequality.
Gender inequality is a significant social concern that deserves to be analyzed with the utmost diligence using both empirical and scholastic evidences. This inequality is deeply entangled in the fabric of the everyday lives of many men and women, and it has been in existence since time immemorial. Gender inequality, from its very name, implies an uneven treatment based on one’s gender. Essentially, gender inequality is the prejudice that one gender, usually the female, is secondary and subordinate to the more capable and hence superior male gender.
Many societies practice gender inequality, with the men reinforcing it and the women passively receiving it, because it is considered part of an enduring patriarchal culture. Deviating from this norm means that one runs the risk of being branded a weak husband or a bad, undeserving wife. Both cases are an embarrassment to the individual and the family. The causes and effects of gender inequality are part of a larger network of social problems that compound the difficulties people face everyday.
It is deeply related to other social problems, such as poverty, economic growth and development, and globalization. The World Bank (2001) underscored the notion that gender issues are now more prominent in debates related to development, though the relevance of a gendered perspective in policy-making is yet to be widely understood. Thus, based from its report, gender inequality ought to be considered when drafting developmental policies for poor and developing states because failing to take into account gender roles and relations as well as disparities lead to policies that “have limited effectiveness” (p. 5).
Although gender disparity is characteristic of developing and poor states, it is not restricted to them. This phenomenon is also observed in wealthier and developed regions where both men and women are relatively affluent and do not experience scarcity of resources. In these rich societies, minor but noticeable gender-based discrimination remains. “Gender discrimination crosses races, classes and ethnicity…” remarks Lucy Bednarek (1998, p. 60) in her article, “Searching for Equality in a Global Economy. Compared to the gender gap in these wealthier states, gender inequality in poor states poses graver consequences to its citizens.
The devalued women and their children feel the pangs of poverty and bear the heavier brunt of economic unproductivity with greater intensity, compared with the men who possess greater freedom, privilege, and economic and political control. As stated by the UN (2004) in Trade and Gender, “A gendered perspective of development is seen as a difficult enough task,” so that extending the gendered approach to the “realm of trade” is considered to be an even bigger challenge (55).
Yet the organization believes that international trade must assume a gendered approach wherein accelerated economic growth and sustainable development will take place without endangering the well-being of the women and children in the community. The issue of trade has become so important in the consideration of gender equality because the current multilateral trade negotiation and regional trade agreements (RTAs) have pervaded state development policies.
Because of these ubiquitous bi- and multilateral negotiations and agreements, governments do not just make decisions solely for the state but also according to the dictates of the global and regional environment or the overall plan of their affiliated economic groups. This environment therefore affects policies on gender; for the UN (2004, 56), “Every major move in the trading system can have direct or indirect implications for a country’s gender welfare, equity and development goals. ”
The crime of rape and other forms of violence against women have come into increasing focus in recent years, due in part to the rising prominence of the feminist movement. Rape has come to be widely perceived not only as a means of obtaining sexual gratification but rather as an extreme manner of expressing hostility to women. This broader definition of the term is related to the heightened awareness that far more often than not sexual aggression occurs within the context of courtship or friendship relationships (called “acquaintance rape” or “date rape”) or even that of marriage.
The recognition that the forms of coercion used by men over women can go beyond direct and overt use of force brings legal theory closer to reality. However, some scholars fear that expanding conceptualization of rape and the imprecise definition of sexual harassment serve to blur the distinction between the sexes, especially between the expanded conceptualization of rape and male initiated seduction.
These problems in defining behavior can exacerbate the difficulty in obtaining rape convictions from male jurors who may perceive an uncomfortable similarity between some of their own past actions and those of a defendant in such cases. Clearly, there is heightened sensitivity to the problems of rape and sexual harassment that will lead to accelerated efforts in legal and legislative policy formation. Reflecting this heightened sensitivity is the $1. 6 billion in the 1994 Crime Bill to fund Violence against Women Act. The challenge is to fight rape and harassment in all their forms while protecting the rights of women.