News » How does patriarchy affect you?

Liz and her son bounce on a trampoline

How does patriarchy affect you?


Did you see that I pledged to talk to my friends and families about patriarchy, what it means and understand how it affects our lives, as part of the 16 Days campaign?

It’s a big topic – so, what is patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a socially-constructed system where males have primary power. It affects many aspects of life, from political leadership, business management, religious institutions, economic systems and property ownership, right down to the family home where men are considered to be the head of the household.

In more recent times there have been positive shifts in attitudes, legally and socially, however patriarchy still lives on, in unequal wages between males and females that stop equal access to opportunities, failure to talk about women’s achievements, unequal distribution of household tasks, and defined gender roles, to name a few.

Challenging patriarchy is something that has been happening for generations, and it will probably take many more generations before it can be eliminated. However, there are many ways we can push back against the system of patriarchy.  So, what am I doing to push back on patriarchy?

I have been doing some reading on what patriarchy means and building my understanding of this, the ways in manifests in day to day society and ways we can challenge it.  I found this article – Why Patriarchy persists and how we can change it – really useful, and hopefully you will too.

I needed to build my understanding before I could explain it to others, let alone to my four year old son.

I observed and noticed the many ways it appears in the day and life of a four year old boy, and at so many different levels.  I noticed that it is implicit in the way we do things and in how we address ourselves and the language we use, for instance statements people use like “boys will be boys”, “don’t be a wuss”.

I have started talking to my son about it informally, through conversations we have in play and during our day to day activities.  An example is some books we were reading – one book was about “My Mum”. The book about mum highlighted “nurturing” tasks that mum does such as, she cooks for me, she gives me a bath, she looks after me when I am sick. This was in contrast to the book about “My Dad” which listed the things the boy did with dad and included tasks like, he plays ball with me, he takes me to the park.  I challenged these social constructs within the books by asking him “what things does mummy do with you?”

We talked about the range of things we do together. These included things like – we play in the park together, we dance together, we play ball, we build cubby houses and have tea parties with our toys, we make pizza together.

Through this conversation, I highlighted that the range of activities and play should not be defined by gender.

I continue to be aware and notice the subtle ways patriarchy is embedded in aspects of our lives and continue to have ongoing conversations through play with my son, to challenge these attitudes and expand his view that gender should not define our roles in society.

It is never too early to start challenging and improving the world we live in! What are you going to do to end gender inequality?


Photo: Liz and her son playing.