Some people believe feminist activism is no longer necessary. Yet statistics and the lived experiences of women worldwide prove this is not the case. From the media’s objectification of women to the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence, the war on women continues. People who want to support women’s equality need to know working strategies to smash the patriarchy. Here are six of them:
1. Emphasize Accountability.
Patriarchy thrives because we live in a culture of male entitlement. Society behaves as if men are entitled to treat women in a dehumanizing manner. By maintaining a “boys will be boys” mentality, we teach women to tolerate male aggression or change their behavior to avoid it. This is not the right approach.
Instead of compelling victims to accommodate or avoid male aggression, we should hold men accountable. We need men to interact with women with respect and recognition of our shared humanity.
2. Question Conventional Gender Paradigms.
As many feminists know, conventional gender paradigms disadvantage women. Paradigms include the idea that men are naturally aggressive while women are innately passive. In fact there is no gender basis for this. These stereotypes encourage us to tolerate male violence and treat “aggressive” females as unnatural. We need to stop this dichotic, limiting view of what men and women can be. It’s time to encourage people to embrace the full spectrum of individuality.
Rather than upholding macho paradigms that encourage men to be aggressive and non-emotional, we should create a culture in which both sexes are free to express their feelings and adopt an attitude of gentleness and sensitivity to the feelings of others.
3. Challenge The Traditional Nuclear Family.
Nontraditional families are becoming more common, but the nuclear family is still held as an ideal standard. It’s problematic because the traditional nuclear family model is profoundly patriarchal. It situates the male father as the leader of the family, the “breadwinner,” the decision-maker. Other family members become subordinates. When women and children grow up in these nuclear households, they tend to internalize sexist views of men as natural leaders. Sometimes, they never gain the confidence to determine the shape and substance of their own lives in the absence of a leader or partner.
By presenting alternative family models that don’t celebrate patriarchy, we can help people think about gender in new, unconventional ways. This enables us to move beyond destructive power binaries in which one person holds authority while others are submissive.
4. Change The Conversation On Consent.
Feminists have exposed rape culture and how it makes women vulnerable to sexual violence at the hands of men. But existing conversations about consent have sometimes focused exclusively on the “No means no” principle. This leaves a gap where failing to say “no” may mean “yes.” Feminists such as Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman argue that we need to reframe consent in a “Yes means yes” context. This way, consent is not some murky gray area. When someone says “Yes,” it’s hopefully because they feel a real, enthusiastic desire to engage in sexual acts.
Defining consent as “Yes means Yes” is powerful and empowering. It encourages women to assert what they want and challenges the idea that female sexuality is passive. It also helps us holds rapists accountable. Just because she was too drunk to say “no” does not mean you have a right to rape her.
5. Hold The Media Accountable.
The media is a male-centered sphere that glorifies masculine power while degrading women in deeply troubling ways. Movies, music and television all profit off the sexualization and objectification of the female body. Rarely do we see well-rounded and empowered female leads on film. The public scrutinizes female celebrities for being too sexual or not sexy enough. Journalism is a male-dominated field, and reporters enable the patriarchy by reinforcing sexist paradigms. For example, male journalists will question the character of female politicians, framing them as emotional, less informed and less qualified to lead.
If we want to disarm the patriarchy, we need to challenge the media to stop catering to sexism and represent women in nontraditional ways.
6. Do Not Confuse Nonparticipation With Activism.
When we use a phrase like “smash the patriarchy,” the verb “smash” implies that we’re actively working against the oppressive power structure. However, some people argue that because they don’t conform to patriarchal values, they’ve done enough. Refusing to take part in patriarchal activities like watching sexist films is a step in the right direction, but it is not the most effective way to challenge and end sexism. Activism is.
If you’re serious about creating a more just world, you need to do more. Partner with organizations in your local area and find ways you can take meaningful actions to advance gender equality!