You are on page 1of 29

Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

Paper: Human Right, Gender and Environment

Lesson: Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

Lesson Developer: Shefali Manhas

College/ Department: Research Scholar ,Department of

Political Science

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


• Introduction
• What is Patriarchy?
• Feminist activism against patriarchy
• Structures of patriarchy
• Family
• School (education)
• Marriage
• Motherhood
• Labour: Domestic and Workplace
• Rape
• Domestic Violence
• Other structures of inequality
• Men and Patriarchy
• Complex and compulsory heterosexuality
• Wither Patriarchy?
• Conclusion
• Bibliography

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


Source ;
content/uploads/2014/10/patriarchy-2.png,accessed on 17 March 2016

Give it a Thought.....
Let us imagine a family where the father cooks food at home, looks after his children while
the mother goes out for job to earn for the family. They have three children; a teenage son,
ten year old daughter and the youngest is the five year old boy. The youngest son is
considered ‘unusual’ in the neighbourhood as he is fond of wearing girl-like clothes and
often plays with dolls. The elder sister is a ‘tom-boy’ who is not interested in helping her
mother with household chores and just enjoys playing cricket with other children in the
park. The neighbours call the eldest teenage son as ‘sissy’ as he is unlike other boys of his
age and he prefers to stay inside his home with his mother. Outsiders find it real strange
when they see the teenage boy getting scared and shouting on the very visual of a lizard,
rat or may be a dog? They feel that he has a girl-like nature.

You must be thinking that this family would be true only in imaginations. Many would find it
really difficult or impossible to see this kind of family in real. It is a real contradiction of the
understanding of a ‘usual’ next door family. The actions of the family are really incognisant
with the norms and values of the society and their activities would be verified as ‘abnormal’
by the majority. This is because the father looks after the ‘private’ home and the mother
goes out to the ‘public’ sphere to earn for the daily bread. The eldest son is ‘sissy’, his sister
a ‘tom-boy’ and the youngest brother likes ‘girlie’ stuff. So, for the society around, the
‘abnormal’ activities of the family are really awkward and are unacceptable by them at
large. It also destabilizes the cultures and traditions that a society follows for mutual
harmony and stability, not only within a society but also across wide range of culture and

From the kind of family imagined above, we may conclude that most of us follow the norms
of society and seldom question the culture around us. We follow whatever is taught to us
since our birth. We socialize through the family, community, school, religious institutions
etc. and grow up as individuals in accordance to our surroundings. Any kind of ‘deviation’

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

from the ‘normal’ i.e. whatever is taught to us is scrutinized, questioned and often
suppressed. So, for ‘normality’ to prevail, a near perfect family is where the father goes out
for work and the mother looks after the children. The boys in the family should play with
cars and should be interested in outdoor games; and the girls in the family should play with
dolls and help their mothers in the kitchen.

The above mentioned paragraphs have made us to contemplate and differentiate between
and about lot of things. It has also left us interrogating and intriguing about the basic
understanding of our surroundings. The questions in mind may seem simple but their
answers may not be that easy and would add to the complexities in our mind that may not
be present before. Some questions like what is ‘normal’ in our society and how is it different
from the ‘abnormal’? Who and what decides our norms and cultures? What is it that guides
individual behaviour and the relations between them? With these basic interrogations in
mind, how do we differentiate between the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or the ‘good’ and ‘bad’? And,
do we have an over-arching authority to determine answers to all these questions?

What is ‘normal’?

Michel Foucault said that human sciences create an average standard against which
people are measured. The sane man, the law-abiding citizen, and the obedient child are all
considered as “normal” people. And, the idea of “normal” also implies the existence of the
‘abnormal’ like the madman, the criminal and the deviant which is the exact opposite of the
former. The idea of deviance exists wherever there are norms and these norms are
concepts that are constantly used by the society evaluate individuals and keep a check on
them. Foucault considered these norms as harmful and unavoidable features of modern

Let us try to answer all these questions by studying patriarchy and the structures that
support it. This is because patriarchy is one of the primary ideologies that govern our
society and the relations between individuals and communities. The patriarchal ideology
rests on the certain supporting structures and practices that aim for stability and
homogeneity in society. Before analysing the structures of patriarchy, let us first try to
understand what is meant by patriarchy. This basic question would help us to understand
the family, community and society in the best possible ways.

What Is Patriarchy?

Patriarchy is male domination and control over women’s sexuality. It exists in many overt
and covert forms i.e. forms of masculine domination may be directly felt and
comprehended; and at other times, it constitutes an ideology that forms the consciousness
of individuals where the ways/structures of domination are not realized. Then, the acts of
domination are taken up like any other usual act and go unnoticed/ unacknowledged. Now,
let us look at how some of the feminists have defined patriarchy.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

Anru Lee believes, “Patriarchy is best understood as an institution of power and authority
that is interwoven with other dimensions of social and cultural life.

Value Addition –Did you Know

Locations of Patriarchy

Cross - culturally, the institution of patriarchy is frequently embedded in the framework of

kinship, in which individual members are not simply categorized as “men” or “women”, but
as “fathers”, “mothers”, “sons”, “daughters”, “father’s brother”, “mother’s sister”, “paternal
parallel cousins”, “maternal cross- cousins”, and so on.” (2000: p. 1491)

Rowbotham believes that ‘patriarchy’ has been discussed as an ideology which arose out
of men’s power to exchange women between kinship groups; as a symbolic male principle;
and as the power of the father… it has also been used to express men’s control over
women’s sexuality and fertility; and to describe the institutional structure of male
domination. (1983: p. 208-9)

So, after looking at some of the definitions that feminists have given to explain patriarchy
and its structures of domination; it also becomes pertinent to see how our society visualises
and understands it. In our everyday lives, we see that women are subjected to be ‘like
men’. Men are considered to be the ‘norm’ and women are made to follow and look up to
them. This sexual difference makes women ‘the other’ and assigns them a subordinate
status. However, the social relations between the sexes in the contemporary societies
cannot be understood in a universalistic manner. This is because the construction of women
as a category changes from one society to another. There are various forces like that of sex,
race, class, religion etc., which act upon individuals defining their identity and subjectivity.
The sexuality of individuals is defined by the very amalgam of these forces. These power
relations which define the sexual being are always hierarchical and inequitable. One can
identify the causes for this hierarchy and inequality in the patriarchal structures along with
other structures like other cultural differences, socio- economic and political factors etc. V.
Geetha says that there are a tacit set of norms that direct men and women of what they are
entitled to do and how they ought to behave. She adds that these norms are not present as
strictures or rules, but as ideas and notions that direct our everyday life.


Feminists were the first to understand patriarchy and point out its structures. They observed
the various modes of domination through which patriarchy expressed itself and sought to
act against it. Now, let us try to understand how feminists understood patriarchy and its
structures. How their fight began with the basic identification of the structures of patriarchy
has to be identified.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

In the early 1960s, feminists took on the idea that there existed certain ‘essential’
characteristics common to all women. These ‘essential’ characteristics were determined
biologically and were supposed to be conformed to by all women. The biological
determinists believed that women’s subordination was ‘natural’ and they were biologically
different from men. Women’s sex determined their subordinate status and roles in society.

The concept of gender did not exist in the present sense; it was only the biological sex that
determined social roles.

Value Addition- Did You Know

Binary of Opposites

Diane Richardson says, “Within these naturalistic approaches sex is conceptualized in

terms of binaries: male/female; man/woman; masculine/feminine. In this binary thinking,
male and female are considered as ‘opposites’, who, despite their differences, complement
one another.

This pairing of ‘opposite’ sexes is seen natural. Gender here is understood to be a

biological ‘fact’ that is pre-given and located in the body.” (2008: p. 4). The biological
determinists took the patriarchal context to be ‘natural’ and tried to explain hierarchical
relations based on the two sexes rather than challenging the status- quo. Human
subjectivity was taken to be fixed and they rigidly attributed certain traits to women and
men like women’s nature was defined as passive, caring, emotional, and their roles included
taking care of the family, doing household chores and essentially remaining inside the
private sphere. Also, men’s nature was considered to be active, strong and non-relational,
and their work included working outside in the public sphere and earning bread for the
family. So, women and men worked in distinct sphere with specifics jobs.

Gender Stereotype

essed on 187 March 2016

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


Feminine Masculine

• Non aggressive • Aggressive

• Dependent • Independent
• Submissive • Dominant
• Passive • Active
• Indecisive • Decisive
• Sensitive • Non sensitive
• Emotional • Logical
• Cries a lot • Rarely cries
• Private space • Public sphere
• Protected • Protector

Radical feminists in the late 1960s and 1970s challenged the determinist attitudes to give
way for social change in a patriarchal society. There was a denial of biological naturalization.
It was the sex-natural/ gender-cultural distinction that explained the social construction of
our society. Now, gender as a social category was acknowledged which was based on social
and cultural factors.

The basis of social analysis was gender and not biological sex. For radical feminists like
Kate Millet, patriarchy was the single, systematic structure of domination.

Value Addition- For Better Understanding

Radical Feminist Perspective

Ara Wilson says, “The radical feminist theories of patriarchy often are viewed as theories
of ideology, analysing the ways male domination is fostered and perpetuated by culture,
religion, and science, as well as socialization and psychic development” (2000: p. 1495).

These feminists believed that this male domination constructed the category of ‘women’.
Women’s status was determined by the way society positioned her. Now, as the social
‘context’ was given prime importance, it was not biological determinism, but contextual
determinism that placed importance on the socio-political and economic conditions which
persisted around the individual. The individual ‘positioned’ in a social context was studied in
an interactive manner emphasizing on the relational aspects rather than studying the
individual and the social context separately. Simone de Beauvoir said, ‘one is not born, one
becomes a woman’, i.e. the social context plays an important role in defining the identity
and subjectivity of the individual. The process of ‘becoming’ a woman is dependent on the
social relations where the individual is placed.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

For other feminists like Catherine Mckinnon , women are sexual objects used to satisfy
men’s desires. Masculinity is defined as sexual dominance and femininity as sexual
submissiveness. So, gender difference is not a matter of having a particular psychological
orientation or behavioural pattern. But, gender, through relations of dominance and
submissiveness, is not a function of sexuality that is hierarchical in patriarchal societies. It is
sexuality which is socially dominated. This sexual difference is socially conditioned which is
based on power relations. Therefore, she has shifted the mainstream perspective of gender
as difference to sexuality as domination. She aims at challenging the “standard” status-quo
which invisibly and uncritically accepts male supremacy. For her, the dominant discourse
defines reality in androcentric terms and women’s position is always ignored. There are no
categories available to women which are subjective and can define her in an appropriate
manner. To explain her point, she talks about the questions of “Violence against Women”.
She says specifically about four issues - rape, sexual harassment, pornography, and
battery. She critiques the conceptions of these acts as issues of “violence”. This is because
“violence” in these forms is a gender-neutral term. They are defined in an objective manner
failing to represent the feminine point of view. These are, actually, questions of sex and
sexuality. MacKinnon says, “We have a deeper critique of what has been done to women’s
sexuality and who controls access to it. What we are saying is that sexuality in exactly these
normal forms often does violate us. So long as we say that those things are abuses of
violence, not sex, we fail to criticize what has been made of sex, what has been done to us
through sex, because we leave the line between rape and intercourse, sexual harassment
and sex roles, pornography and eroticism, right where it is” (2006: p. 267). Therefore, we
may say that Mackinnon is trying to challenge the masculine social construct and strives to
put forth a feminine understanding which can empower women to describe their reality in
their own special way.

Feminists of History like Gerda Lerner believe that women have never lived without male
protection. The actions of women were always guided by men. The agents of socialization
never allowed women to know her history and her ‘self’. This was due to the fact that
patriarchy always entered women’s consciousness and became part of her being. It kept
women in ignorance and positioned her in a way that she remained outside the dominant
discourse. V. Geetha in her book “Patriarchy”, has relied on the arguments of the Historian
Gerda Lerner, wherein the latter traced out the creation of Patriarchy to the subordination of
women and the institution of masculine control through the following stages i.e.

“(i) Men appropriated Women’s Sexual and reproductive capacity through a complex
process of ex-change, involving abduction and sexual slavery.

(ii) The exchange and abduction of women created the basis for the control of their offspring
as well. The power of the older men over women and children and their desire to safeguard
their resources for the future generations may have provided an important impetus to the
coming of private property.

(iii) Later, as grain agriculture spread and kingdoms came to be established, law and legal
strictures were invented to perpetrate the patriarchal family system.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

(iv) As men learnt to exercise control over women, they extended their authority over other
vulnerable groups: thus slavery emerged, in tandem with the growth of private property
and the spread of large-scale grain cultivation.

(v) While men’s power was gradually established and expressed through the control they
wielded over the mode of production, women could only get what they desired through the
sexual ties they had with men.” (as cited in V. Geetha, 2007: p. 50-51).

Till date we see that female subordination is visible in various ways like unequal access of
women to health care, quality education at all levels, career and vocational guidance,
employment, social security and public office etc. Many socialist feminists have also pointed
out the ways in which capitalism has led to the oppression of women which is in the spheres
of jobs, education, domestic labour etc. There exists discrimination and all forms of violence
against women and the girl child. Also, property rights in a patriarchal system have
contributed to the subordinate status of women. There is a fall in the female sex ratio
because of female infanticide, dowry deaths, low health care facilities, etc. All these social
practices construct societal norms and values to the disadvantage of women.

Value addition- surf and know

Reflections on Feminism

Jardine, A. A.. (2010). What Feminism?. French Politics, Culture & Society, 28(2), 66–74.
Retrieved from


Sylvia Walby defines patriarchy as a system of social structures where men are in the
dominant position to exploit and oppress women. She talks about six structures of

1. Patriarchal Mode Of Production

2. Patriarchal Relations In Paid Work

3. Patriarchal Relations In The State

4. Male Violence

5. Patriarchal Relations In Sexuality

6. Patriarchal Relations In Cultural Institutions.

It is seen that structures of patriarchy have formed the basis of our society since ancient
times. The way and the level at which patriarchy manifests itself may have changed, but the
underlying domination remains the omnipresent. So, patriarchal structures operate through
modes of domination and suppression. It defines and structures the opportunities available
to all human beings by creating a distinction between masculinity and femininity. It creates

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

ideas and perceptions that explain our social surroundings. The basic ideology through
which structures of patriarchy continue to rule human relations is by devaluing of female
roles and valorisation of masculine roles. So, patriarchy is maintained through a system of

According to Madhu Kishwar, women’s subordinate status is attributed to their lack of

control over resources such as land, lack of access to instruments of labour, such as plough,
which according to custom women are disallowed to wield, kin networks that dictate how a
woman should marry and where she ought to live, household rules that privilege the eldest
man as the head of the family, lack of mobility and finally, a culture of self-effacement
which women appear to practice willingly (as cited in V. Geetha, 2007: p. 24). Women are
expected to subordinate their interests to their husbands and children. There are certain
formal structures like family, motherhood, school, religion, etc. that support and extend
these structures of patriarchy along with certain informal structures which operate as social
norms that provide guidance to people. Now, let us study some of these institutions,
practices and norms that maintain patriarchal set up of the society.


Source :,accessed
on 18 March,2016

Kate Millet says “Patriarchy’s chief institution is the family” (1970: p. 33). Family is the
main agent of socialization where young children learn the values and norms of society. It is
with in the family that young boys and girls first encounter patriarchal power. The institution
of family often internalise beliefs that lead to an unequal upbringing of women. For instance,
in terms of food also, it is thought that women do not need that much nourishment as
compared to men as the latter have to do all kind of laborious and tough work.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

Kate Millett in 1970

Born Katherine Murray Millett

September 14, 1934 (age 81)

St. Paul, Minnesota

Nationality United States

Occupation Feminist writer, artist, activist

Family as an institution ensures reproduction and proper socialization of children. Man is

the head of the family who controls women and other younger men. Apart from being
considered as the protector of the family, father is also the inheritor of property in the
family who also controls economic resources. Sexual division between labour begins with
the family and the legacy continues to the public sphere, where both sexes invest equal
amount of labour but the returns are different in terms of economic resources, respect and
dignity of labour. However, most women are confined to the private sphere that furthers
their economic dependency and exclusion from decision-making both in public and private.
Betty Friedan in “the feminist Mystique” has called the family to be a ‘comfortable
concentration camp’ Lack of adequate education opportunities for women have been the
main reason behind it. They also lack confidence and zeal to fight patriarchy. Generally,
whatever is taught by the patriarchal ideology running in the family is accepted as natural
and unchallengeable.

Feminist perspectives on Family

• Liberal feminist believe that family imposes impediment to gender equality. This is
done through processes of socialization, reproduction etc.
• Radical Feminists believe that family is an embodiment of patriarchy.
• Marxist Feminists are of the opinion that family exists as economic units that
benefit patriarchal system and are linked with patriarchy.

However, some feminists like Germaine Greer (1984) believe that family signifies female
unity where women can show respect and love for each other labour and foster sisterhood
based on women’s need for dignified lives. Similarly, Elshtain believed that stable family life
is an essential pre-requisite for civilised society where women with feminine values nurture
their children and other domestic skills. Today, divorced parents, unwed mothers and
homosexuals adopting children have totally changed the social outlook of parenthood.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


Women need to go the schools to receive education, in order to achieve freedom in true
sense. The patriarchal belief system rests on the assumption that there is no need to enrich
women with higher levels of education as they just have to remain inside the four walls. As
it is believed that their primary job is to just look after their family. By providing them
knowledge is just the waste of resources and time. It is believed that girls can be trained at
home by other elder women in the family, with all the necessary information on activities
like cooking, cleaning clothes and utensils, looking after the children. Patriarchy favours
strict and limited roles for women and any kind of change in roles is not welcomed. So, it
may be observed and claimed that by restricting women in the private sphere and not
allowing them to receive education, patriarchy is able to make women ignorant of her
capabilities and makes them highly dependent on the menfolk.

Value addition – surf and know

Family and feminism

Gordon, L.. (1986). Family Violence, Feminism, and Social Control. Feminist Studies, 12(3),

Feminists are of the opinion that women should have equal access to education. Good
education can help women in providing them with good jobs. Then jobs can provide women
with requisite economically resources and would help them getting independent and
removing their dependency from others. If women are able to pursue better professional
careers, they would get better salaries. Education not only makes women economically
independent but also provides them with better sensibilities to be able to deal with
problems. For instance, education makes women aware of their right and so no one can
exploit or misuse them in any way.

Gerda Lerner explains women’s subordination in relation to her education. She says
because of lack of education women have remained invisible from the process of history
writing. The actions of women were always guided by men. The agents of socialization
never allowed women to know her history and her ‘self. It was always felt that women are
intellectually inferior to men. This was due to the fact that patriarchy always entered
women’s consciousness and became part of her being. It kept women in ignorance and
positioned her in a way that she remained outside the dominant discourse. As a result, our
history has been androcentric. In order to break away from this, she says, it is very
important that for us to re-write our history without any biases and presumptions.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


CCS68zq6TaiDEyZXDu1Oc_MaI,accessed on 18 March 2016

Marriage is practiced and institutionalised in our society keeping in mind the patriarchal
ideology and its structure. It is an institution that has supported the traditional arrangement
of man’s power over woman. It is the mainstay of patriarchy and symbolises and personifies
female subordination.

Our society has put forth certain norms and values that a man and woman have to follow to
make their marriage acceptable by people at large. For instance, in the marriage between a
man and a woman and man should be elder to woman. However, in the present times,
some countries have legalised the marriage between homosexuals. But, the patriarchal
ideology does not accept it and puts forth many issues against it. Also, the age difference
between the husband and the wife is another matter of concern.

In India, there have been cases of child marriages even though it was declared illegal since
colonial times. In present times also, young girls have been married off old men because of
the many problems faced by the families of the girls. Poverty has been seen as a major
cause for this wrong done to girls. Marriage has become a sort of contract/agreement
between families where primarily the family of the girl is exploited. For instance, the family
of a good and capable boy with good earning capacity makes sure that the family of the girl
fulfil all their demands and wishes. They have desires of getting a girl who is tall, thin, fair,
well-educated and apart from this who gets good loads of dowry in addition to well
organised marriage functions. As the family of the girl has to bear the cost of the marriage,
this has become one of the main reasons as to why the birth of a girl child is not welcomed.

After marriage, the structures and ideology of patriarchy continues to direct the lives of
married women. Wife’s happiness is dependent on the whims, wishes and benevolence of
her husband and many a times, the fate of marriage is also dependent on the latter. After
marriage, men as husbands have more authority in decision-making. They become legally
sanctioned masters of their wives. Unfortunately, for some women, the marital home
becomes a prison, women are not allowed to move out of the house and her going out is
seen with doubt and suspicion. Then, women are also supposed to observe purdah (veil)
that seeks to maintain the private/public divide. So, the private is implicated not only

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

through the four walls of the house, but also the purdah (veil) that is raised around
woman’s immediate self.

However, patriarchy in control of women’s sexuality is not limited to their prohibited

movement from private sphere to public sphere or the legitimacy provided to bride price
(dowry) by society at large. Patriarchy also renders men with reproductive and sexual rights
over women. It is believed that marriage must be consummated through sexual intercourse.
Wife has to fulfil the sexual desires of her husband and the purpose of marriage gets fulfilled
when she gives birth to a male child.

In most societies, talking about sex is taken up as a taboo, but marriage provides legitimacy
to sex to the extent, that even marital rape is acceptable by societies. In most countries,
marital rape has not been taken up as a legal crime. In the similar vein, some feminists
have even gone to the extent of calling marriage as legalised prostitution.

So, we see that society values marriage. Individuals are given no alternative, but to marry.
For women, marriage becomes an utmost priority and to get married within a prescribed
age to avoid unwanted issues. Other issues related to marriage are dowry, divorce and
widow re-marriage. At the time of marriage, family of the bride has to give money/gifts to
the bridegroom and his family. In most communities, the better the bridegroom’s
prospectus, the more dowry (bride-price) the bride’s family has to give. Dowry which is
given at the time of marriage is not the end of everything. Many families are either not
satisfied with the amount of resources given at the time of marriage or they demand an
extra dose of resources as there is no end to their greed and desires. However, later if the
bride’s family is not able to fulfil the needs of the opposite family, the latter start torturing
the bride. Both the husband and his family ill-treat, torture, disrespect, harass the wife and
put psychological pressure on her demanding for more and more resources. Many dowry-
deaths have also taken place in this regard. Either the husband and his family kill the wife,
or out of depression and psychological pressure, in need of some relief, the wife commits

If for some reason, the marriage does not work out well, then divorce becomes a huge
difficulty. The divorced woman is considered as a burden and responsibility that is thrown
out of the wed-lock. The reason and cause behind divorce always rest on the shoulders of
the woman and it is her incapability that is pointed out. At times, when the divorced woman
goes to her native home for help and shelter, she is blamed, rejected and seen as an extra
burden on the family. The responsibility of the children, if any, also rests with the woman.
Christine Delphy says that divorce is not the opposite of marriage but the very
transformation of it as the divorced women continue to look after the children from
marriage and men are exempted from the same responsibility. For re-marriage also, the
woman has to face a lot of problems as then the issue of her chastity, children from earlier
marriage, and her incapability to survive the earlier marriage arise. All the blame for the
divorce rests on her. It is because of these problems and issues; there is high probability
that the woman would not get the groom of her choice or would have to make many

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

In another case, if the wife loses her husband and becomes a widow, then her life becomes
really miserable. Apart from the loss of her husband, there are other issues that add to her
pain and agony. Since ancient times in India, widows used to practice sati i.e. the practice
in which the widow used to burn herself on the funeral pyre of her husband. The practice of
sati rests on the patriarchal ideology according to which after the death of the husband, his
wife has no reason left to live. Sati confers her sacrifice and her desire to end her life after
her husband’s death. Till date, the word sati is still present in the existing vocabulary that
often connotes a good wife.


In India, in 1813, non-voluntary sati was made illegal by the British government. The latest
case of sati was seen in the state of Rajasthan in the year 1987, when an 18 year old girl
named Roop Kanwar died on the funeral pyre of her husband. Many people attended the
sati event. After her death, Roop Kanwar was hailed as sati-mata and was seen as
equivalent to goddess sati.

Widow-remarriage has its worst forms as patriarchal structure makes it really difficult and
unbearable for the widows, irrespective of their choices, to marry or not to marry. It is very
rare when widows express their wish for re-marriage and even if they do, it is frowned upon
and socially rejected. Also, it goes against their socialisation especially in societies where
widows used to practice sati. In other cases, widows are forced to re-marry their brother-in-
laws as it may solve the problems that may arise like issues related to property, custody of
the children etc; and would also serve the purposes of patriarchal ideology. In Haryana,
India, this practice is called karewa.

Recently, the institution of marriage has been challenged by both same-sex marriages and
live-in relationship. Live-in relationships have taken the place of religiously solemnised
marriages. It is believed that these kinds of marriages have gone against the patriarchal
cultures and liberated human relations in some way or the other. Primarily, they have
challenged the various forms of hierarchy that come along with a man and woman wed-
lock. These institutions of collaboration are based on the notion of equality where by both
the individuals are at equal footing. However, the patriarchal society does not accept this
collaboration and looks at it with disgust and rejection as it is against the natural norms of

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


Value addition – surf and Know

Motherhood and feminism

Richards, A.. (2009). Personalizing for the Political: "Maternal Thinking". Women's Studies
Quarterly, 37(3/4), 299–301. Retrieved from

The practice of motherhood is basically considered a ‘feminine’ attribute as even if the

father is responsible for taking care of the whole family, he is not directly associated with
the nurturing of his children. Patriarchy absolves men from major social responsibilities.
Adrienne Rich talks about the practice of motherhood in two forms - as an experience and
as an institution. The experiential feeling of motherhood is natural and intrinsic, whereas the
institutional aspect of motherhood is a forced one which coercively induces maternal
attributes in women. This institutional aspect of motherhood constructs the experiential
feeling. Institutional motherhood works to induce maternal “instinct” and selflessness in
every woman. She says, “The experience of maternity and the experience of sexuality have
both channelled to serve male interests; behaviour which threatens the institutions, such as
illegitimacy, abortion, lesbianism, is considered deviant or criminal” (1986: p. 42). She also
explains how forms of birth control and abortion are considered as “genocide” by the
patriarchal norms. Thus, Adrienne Rich by putting forth this distinction, she says that the
social role of being a mother induces characteristics which may not comply with her intrinsic
nature. This is because of the immense love a mother is conditioned to shower over her
children whereby she may lose her identity as a separate individual. It is seen that the pride
of being a mother has been internalized by majority of the women. According to the
patriarchal norms, a woman is incomplete till she gives birth to a child. V. Geetha says that
bearer of male child is given more value than who has only borne female children. Women
who have problem in bearing children are considered “barren”. The notions of barrenness
and incompleteness are introduced into the dominant discourse in order to have compulsory
reproduction by the female body.

However, while looking at the construct of motherhood, one can see that there exists a
contradiction in the patriarchal norms whereby there is a common contempt for woman on
the one hand but on the other hand, there is respect shown for mother to the extent that
metaphors of motherhood are used to glorify their values of love, care, nurture etc.

Therefore, we see that motherhood is culturally constructed as a norm. Also, motherhood as

a concept is relational as women are not treated as individual in themselves but ‘in relation’
their families and children, as mothers and daughters. Women are socialized in such a way
that their ‘being’ is incomplete without the relational aspect. Therefore, we see that
patriarchal societies control their women in all sorts of ways.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


Hee5g,accessed on
18 March ,2016

Women’s labour that is readily acceptable by the patriarchal structure is that of the
household work and social reproduction; whereby in both jobs women are restricted to the
private sphere. The patriarchal structure turns most of the women’s labour as ‘invisible’ as
according to patriarchal ideology, it serves almost nothing in terms of market criteria.
Patriarchal ideology makes sure that women’s labour, often quoted as “leisure work”, and
does not hold importance. And the social norms, rules and values should aim to prove
women’s labour as inadequate and unreliable. Also, whatever work women do, it is always
underpaid, unrecognised and exploited.

Feminists have pointed out that the patriarchal structure supports a strict sexual division of
labour between a man and a woman. And, this sexual division of labour is not only limited
to the household but also extends to the market place. Within the household, women have
to take care of both the domestic responsibilities like rearing children, cooking, cleaning etc.
and also social reproduction. Men are responsible for getting money and other resources
that necessary for the running of the household. In this regard, men’s contribution is
considered prime for running of the household and women’s contribution is just another
support structure. Their work neither gets paid nor achieves any acknowledgement. Men
blame the women and believe that they do nothing and just sit idle at home. Their work is
always considered secondary and negligible. So, we may say that there is no dignity of
labour as far as women are concerned.

What is ‘double-burden’?

It is also called as ‘double-shift’. It refers to the dual oppression that women have to bear
both as paid worker in the public sphere and unpaid home-maker in the private sphere.
Private sphere is the prime site of women’s oppression and this oppression doubles up when

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

women are forced to face additional burden in the public sphere as well.

Many radical feminists like Christine Delphy see domestic labour as a source of oppression
as all kind of house work is unpaid. Delphy believes that marriage is a labour contract
whereby men exploit women’s labour and this exploitation takes place outside the capitalist
mode of production. Also, domestic labour is seen as ‘unproductive’ and this is how
patriarchal structure devalues the kind of work women perform.

Women as reserve army of labour

According to Marx, capitalist economies had fluctuating demands with regard to labour.
The demand of labour increased during the economic booms and reduced during
economic slumps. So, this was implied in the employment levels that corresponded to
the economic fluctuations. However, whatever may be the level of fluctuations in
employment, there always existed a reserve army of labour i.e. women. According to
Veronica Beechey, women were a significant part of the reserve army of labour who
were easy to deal with as they could be taken part time or full time according to the
needs/requirements of the employer and could also be dismissed during the economic

Women are also sexually vulnerable at work place outside the household. Men consider
them to be weaker section that can neither form trade unions nor fight for their rights. They
are paid minimal and are given low profile jobs. The reason often quoted for less money is
that they are not the bread winners but just add to the basic income of the family. Women
are not on the bargaining position also as the whole market thinks of them in the same way
i.e. women are low on intellect and physical strength. Some of the other generalisations
made while taking them up for employment is that women have nimble fingers which are
good for the textile and electronic industry. And for the same reason, they are often taken
up by beedi rolling companies. For all these reasons, women have to rely on men for
financial support.

Unfortunately, the patriarchal structure has put so many restrictions on women, that their
sphere of action has become very restricted. For any kind of women’s empowerment, it is
very necessary to provide them the freedom of opportunity to express their competence in
regard to all kinds of jobs that the men are already doing. But, this can only happen when
the patriarchal ideology accepts women’s equality and dares to treat them on equal

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


Rape is also a patriarchal construct which is used to dominate women. Patriarchal ideology
seems to provide spaces to mothers in terms of their action in mainly domestic sphere, but
they also take away the very basic individual autonomy in case of raped women. ‘Being a
mother’ is considered to be a celebration; ‘to be raped’ is a shame. Rape is considered as a
weapon of domination and coercion in the hands of men which is used against women. It is
an act of violence and it symbolizes male domination. It gives men the power to brutalize
women. Rape is understood as normal expression of male sexuality. Catherine MacKinnon
seeks to challenge rape by pointing out how rape is related to sexual intercourse and not
just to violence. Further, she says that to define an act of rape, the concept of ‘consent’ is
used to differentiate it from sexual intercourse. There are no categories to define women’s
position in both cases of rape and sexual intercourse. Lotika Sarkar also says, “Treating
rape as a sexual offence and not as an offence of violence has hardened the rule that lack of
consent on the part of woman has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. If there are no
visible marks of resistance, which often are absent, the judges have tended to doubt that
the victim did not give her consent” (1994: p. 70). Therefore, patriarchy fails to provide
space for women’s subjectivity. This is because the dominant discourse produces concepts
and categories which are androcentric.

Also, we see that rape as domination is not only physical but is psychological too. Nancy J.
Hirschmann talks about the fear of rape which shapes a woman’s psychology and guides her
movements and actions. She says, “Even if they have never themselves been raped or
attacked, the fear still inhibits them. Such women are made unfree by such power and fear
it generates; the existence of power against, though not actually exercised at a given
moment, has translated into a generalized and constant power over” (2003: p. 24).
According to Susan Brownmiller, rape ‘is nothing more or less than a conscious process of
intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear’( 1977: p. 15). Therefore,
through rape, patriarchy challenges the autonomy of a women and her as a being. Rape
signifies intrusion of one’s self honour and dignity. So, through the practice of rape, we may
see that women are the objects with which the patriarchal society determines their being.


Value Addition – surf and know

Domestic violence and feminism

Amirthalingam, K.. (2005). Women's Rights, International Norms, and Domestic Violence:
Asian Perspectives. Human Rights Quarterly, 27(2), 683–708. Retrieved from

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

Domestic violence is one of the indiscernible parameters that explain social and economic
hierarchy in our society. In many communities, it is considered as close to a divine right
that the husbands have every possible right to incur violence on their wives. Wives are the
chattels whose actions are accorded by their husbands. Along with the wives, the children of
the family also bear the brunt, primarily due to the age and economic dependence. This has
been the reality in most of the families till date, even though the context and forms of
violence may have changed. When the women’s liberation movement started in the 1960s
and 1970s, domestic violence was an identified as the most invisible form of violence. The
reason for this is the way women are brought up and socialized to obey the norms and rules
of the unequal society. In addition, the public/private divide in society created by patriarchy
is so strict and rigid that women are not given any form of opportunity to be able to stand
at power with men. Patriarchy makes it near impossible for an outer agency to intervene in
the private affairs of the family. For instance, legal laws passed against domestic violence,
police officers’ legal right to intervene etc. are only a formal relief. One of the prime
reasons for the failure to curb domestic violence is poverty. It results in mental stress due
to lack of resources, lack of appropriate job, inferiority complex, etc. This mental stress is
directly related to domestic violence. Another kind of poverty that exists within the sphere
of the family is the economic dependence of the wife or other females on the men who earn
and are economically independent.

Acid attack victim in Cambodia

Source:, accessed on 11march


In order to get rid of domestic violence in our society and to propose viable solutions, many
theorists have tried to understand the problem in their own possible ways. Feminist theory
has played a very dominant role and has proposed to attack biological determinism.
Biological determinism explains an overall and everyday understanding of our society
whereby the biological difference between men and women is the cause for the latter’s
subordination. It has formed the basis of sexual division of labour whereby there is strict

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

division of the jobs performed by men and women. Retaining women in the domestic sphere
cripples her leading to resource deficit of all forms. This is despite the fact that women have
proved themselves biologically and equally strong when it comes to physical labour or
emotional strength. The most disappointing facet of the situation is that in most cases it
becomes really difficult to make women realize that a lot of injustice is going on with them
and they have to fight for it; and for this they have to challenge their own belief system to
be able to identify the opponent. Nancy J. Hirschmann has linked the concept of domestic
violence with the discourse of liberty. She argues that restrictions are imposed on women’s
freedom due to men’s violence and sexist values operating in society. Women have to get
rid of her own fears and forms of dependency as women are only externally restrained
which they may not realize. Women should not doubt their thinking capability. So, it is
important for every woman to question their partners or husbands when they prevent them
from working, going out alone, taking interest in outside world etc.

Value addition – Know it more

Battered Women’s Syndrome

Lenore Walker in 1979 pointed out about the Battered Women’s Syndrome (BWS) that
has three stages of violence that happen repeatedly and make it difficult for every woman
to get out of the entangled situation.
A. The first stage is that of tension building when there are less serious non-violent
forms of abuse like threats and insults. Much like the way anti-bodies are released in our
body to be able to sense the problem; the victim can also sense the future course of action.

B. This is followed by the second stage when there is acute battering marked by serious
physical aggression and hostility. This stage takes its worst form as strikes the victim’s self-
esteem, dignity and the very cause of her being. This phase has a traumatic impact on the
victim both physically and psychologically and often results in health problems like
insomnia, low self-esteem, depression, hormonal imbalances, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism,
drug-abuse etc.

C. Towards the end of this stage, the aggressor realizes the mistake and tries to make up
for the bad behaviour leading to what Lenore Walker describes as “honeymoon” stage.
The batterer becomes both apologetic and attentive to the victim. The victim may be
complimented with gifts and sincere promises. The victim may feel guilty and assign herself
responsible for the violent outburst. But, this phase of affection and love does not last for
long and predictably, tension building resumes and the cycle of violence starts all over again
and becomes a vicious one

. This cycle of violence is one of the components of the BWS. For Walker, learned
helplessness is another component that paralyzes women’s psychology to such an extent
that it becomes almost impossible for them to leave their husbands. Women give up and
accept the abuse as normal. In addition, apart from emotional and financial dependence,
societal norms also make women helpless. Heterosexual marriage is a compulsion and
divorce is considered a social taboo. Apart from this legal and social remedies have not
provided women with much of relief. For instance, the batterer gets a bail very easily after
the crime has been reported.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

In 1980s, American Psychiatric Association pointed out about the Post-Traumatic

Stress Disorder (PTSD) which has been used to diagnose mental illness by health
professionals. But, many experts take BWS as a subcategory of PTSD. PTSD primarily talks
about the traumatic event that causes psychological illness in an individual. However,
feminists have challenged linking BWS to PTSD as the latter proves women mentally ill and
ignores the social conditions and power control that creates situation of domestic violence.

In fact, the root cause of all sorts of violence against women is the social norms and the
ways of socialization. For instance, many a times, the laws represent masculinist view point
and they almost fail when there are issues pertaining to illegal migrant women, violence in
lesbian relations etc. However, recently there have been efforts to train the judiciary to be
gender sensitive. For example India, Costa Rica, around 44 countries have passed laws
against domestic violence till date. Women police stations have been established in many
countries. In India each women police station has women social workers to provide victim
with other kinds of social and economic support. So, it becomes really important for women
to understand the hierarchical structure that is so much ingrained in society that it demands
a better fight, argument and understanding.


Along with patriarchy, there some other structures like caste, class, religion that work in
conundrum to bring about hierarchy and inequality between individuals. In India, caste
endogamy is practiced that is based on systems of hierarchy, violence, inequality and social
injustice. It is primarily maintained through the institution of marriage. Caste endogamy
makes sure that individual to marry within the kin especially women who are at the lower
rungs of the society. This is because if a woman marries outside her caste then there is a
compromise on her identity in relation to the caste to which she belongs. In addition, there
are also issues of inheritance of property that arise leading to conflict.

Caste system also observes strict rules of pollution and purity that is indeed a powerful
organising principal in the Indian societies. In this regard, the institution of caste endogamy
assigns men with certain responsibilities. For instance, men are thought of as protectors and
women as protected. Raskha bandhan is also celebrated as one of the festivals that signify
this protector-protected relationship. Then, it is the prime duty of the father and/or brothers
to protect the chastity and purity of their female family members. Women who dishonour
this protector-protected relationship have to bear a lot of suffering. For instance, there have
been instances of honour-killing when a woman gets involved with person of her choice and
marries outside the kin against wishes of the family. Then ethics of “purity” are aroused
whereby men’s honour is seen as equivalent to what we may call women’s “purity”. These
purity codes have given way to many forms of violence against women and men who are
not at powerful positions. So, unfortunately, in many cases, the patriarchal structure along
with the caste system has attacked many women who have not been able to abide by their
respective “purity” codes.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

Shafilea Ahmed (14 July 1986 – 11 September 2003) was a 17-year-old British
Pakistani girl who was murdered by her parents, in an honor killing. The trigger
for the killing, as established by the authorities, was her refusal of an arranged

Source:, Accessed on 11 March 2016

The debate on purity codes that maintains a distinction between purity and impurity has
devastated the lives of many lower caste women as well. There have been social customs
like Deva Dasi where caste, religion along with other structures of patriarchy has tried to
attack women’s integrity, dignity and honour. Deva Dasi system was practised primarily in
the southern part of India. In this system, the shudra (lower class) women were seen as
sexual slaves to the upper three castes/varnas (Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishya). The
shudra woman who was called Deva Dasi was considered to be impure and illegitimate. In
the eyes of upper caste/varna men, she was sexually free and non-fertile. Ironically, even
though she was seen as socially useless, but her services were thought to be pleasurable
(V. Geetha, 2007: p.140-141).

Even the present day lower caste women have to suffer a lot of sexual harassment. The
male gaze does not allow her to be free. It is often seen that lower caste women, especially
daily wagers are victims of sexual abuse and harassment. They are treated as sexual
property of the men for whom they work. Much like the dev dasis, their socially subordinate
status accuses them of being morally inert and sexually available.

So, we see that caste system in India has led to atrocities against lower caste women. Apart
from gender, it has been their caste of origin, which has led women to fall into the pit of
fear, terror and inhumanity.

As we have our indigenous caste system in India, in the western European countries, it was
the class system that created hierarchy and social injustice. It came up with the advent of
industrialisation and capitalism. In India, industrialization started in 1930s, wherein the
population was again divided into upper class and lower class. Here as we discuss structures
of patriarchy, let us limit ourselves to the lower class women. They were primarily involved

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

in the informal sector and were subject to extreme exploitation in terms of poor returns on
their labour activity. Later, even with the advent of liberalization which started in 1990s, the
gender pattern of Indian workforce remained the same i.e. the majority of the Indian
women continue to work in the informal sector on poor salaries. Even though there has
been some improvement for the middle class educated women, however, the lower class
women are still suffering in the labour intensive market for very poor returns. They attain
no respect to the quality of the work, they are engaged with.

Along with caste and class, the other structure that works in the similar manner is religion.
Religion has done no better to women. Every religion has its own norms, customs and belief
system. It keeps its practices closed which are rarely open for reformation. After
independence, criminal code was formulated for all citizens, but separate personal laws
were reserved in areas of marriage, inheritance and adoption. In many cases, it is also seen
that religion also has been biased against women. Feminists have attacked the closed
personal laws and demanded gender just civil code. Reformation is required to ensure social
justice with gender and caste equality.

For most religious belief systems, the chastity of women is of prime importance. For
instance, in India, Hindu women are asked to observe stredharma whereby they have follow
the norms and customs of the religion like performing daily prayers, keeping away from the
temple and kitchen during menstrual cycles, eating food after the husband eats etc. When
women follow stredharma, she is also supposed to be a pativrata or a submissive wife.
Woman’s honour is considered synonymous with that of the community whereby the latter
controls her labour, sexuality, mobility and fertility. It has been observed that during
communal violence, women get actively involved in fundamentalism. During the demolition
of Babri Masjid mosque, Sangh Parivar had mobilised lot of women to take up violence. So,
we see that along with patriarchy there are other structure of violence like caste, class and
religion that enforce a code of conduct on women.


Value Addition-surf and know

Colors of patriarchy

Goldberg, S.. (2008). Why Patriarchy?. Group, 32(1), 13–21. Retrieved from

To understand structures of patriarchy, apart from studying male violence against women;
it is also important to study how men are situated within the patriarchal setup in relation to
other men and women. A significant scholarship has emerged on the construct of the
masculinity and how its rules and norms get constructed under Patriarchy. Apart from
studying Masculine domination and attributes that disempower women, it is also important
to notice the behaviour of disempowered men who are not able to meet the demands of
these masculine attributes as constructed by structures of patriarchy. These men fall below
the expectations of masculine behaviour. For example, homosexuals and old men. The

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

category of caste, class and race is another way that makes men inferior and powerless in
comparison to men belonging higher caste colour and race. So, this shows that suffering
due to patriarchy is not restricted to women as there does exists a category of men who are
not acting according to the norms, values and rules of patriarchy (Menon, 2008).

In a similar vein, V. Geetha talks about men who want to be like women and vice versa.
She says,

“Autobiographical accounts of hijras note how a male adolescent coveting

femininity is viewed as a threat to the social order as such, since he calls into
question norms of masculinity and, worse, dares to swerve from these. Even more
severe is the treatment meted out to those who state unusual sexual preferences:
homosexuality is seldom allowed an open, civic existence, and while sometimes it
is ‘tolerated’ as a youthful aberration, especially where men are concerned, it is
not granted social sanction” (2007: p.73).


Socially permissible acts are those that are linked to procreative sex. Patriarchy normalises
heterosexuality and considers homosexual behaviour to be deviant and abnormal. It works
to withhold social and legal sanction for the practice of homosexuality. In this regard, same
sex cultures have been criminalised in many countries. For instance, in India, article 377
restrains and criminalises same-sex culture. However, this does not challenge the existence
of the same; even though non-conjugal and non-heterosexual love is punished and
humiliated. Homosexuals have continued to exist by challenging and critiquing the
structures of patriarchy. But, this is not the end of the struggle. V. Geetha says, “apart from
challenging heterosexuality, homosexuality has to face a lot of struggle with regard to
property and caste norms and social habit … It requires a radical re-thinking of the
relationship between biology and social identity on the one hand, and social identity and
caste and class on the other” ( 2007: p. 200).


Women’s demand for equality is never welcomed by the patriarchal structure. Women’s
activities that question patriarchy are viewed with suspicion and anxiety. As a solution to
the challenge, men avoid the path of negotiation trying to put the resilient women into
question and suppress them with all means possible.

Feminists have tried to answer the dominant discourse by devising ways of how can one
‘move out’ or challenge the dominant patriarchal norm. Gerda Lerner believes that
‘androcentric fallacy’ cannot be corrected by adding women’s voices to the already existent
male dominant discourses. One requires restructuring of thoughts and analysis. For this
women need to develop a new language with the indicator of changed consciousness and
new thinking. She believes that, for women’s emancipation, transformation of her
consciousness is an important precondition. Linda Martin Alcoff also says that being a

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

“woman” is to take up a position with in a moving historical context and to be able to

choose what we make of this position and how we alter this context. Similarly, Catherine
MacKinnon says that “What we do see, what we are allowed to experience, even in our own
suffering, even what we are allowed to complain about, is overwhelmingly constructed from
male point of view” (2006: p. 270). For her, solution does not lie in formulating and
accepting gender- neutral terms but women have to assert for an affirmative definition
which leads them to the control one’s own sexuality.


Many forms of violence and crimes against women take place in our society for the sake and
defence of patriarchal structure and ideology. Other structures like that of caste, class and
religion collaborate with patriarchy that leads to violence and oppression like honour killing,
female foeticide, forced marriages, control over modes of contraception etc. These forms of
violence are defended by the caste affiliations, class groups and religious belief systems
along with patriarchal structures. And then, they may become part of customs, traditions,
norms and social habit. As a result, women and other weaker sections of the society get
caught in a vicious circle that leads to never ending modes of domination and suppression.
To get out of these modes of domination, a lot of courage, commitment and sacrifice are
required on the part of suffering individuals and communities. However, even if women and
other suffering group identify and acknowledge the source of domination, it would be a
great achievement in its own way. This is because the invisibility and acceptability of
patriarchy at large is the main reason behind its very existence.

So, we may conclude by saying that patriarchy forms the governing ideology that devises
our experiences when we are born as a girl or a boy. It directs our socialisation and
provides us positions of submission and domination. As the position of the dominant is
comfortable enough (except for some individuals) to accept it in all forms; it is difficult for
those who are at the lower rungs of the society to bear with violence that comes up every
day in form or the other.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy


1. Patriarchy - It refers to the hierarchical relations between men and women whereby
men dominate and control women’s sexuality.
2. Feminism - It is based on the belief system that men and women should have equal
rights and opportunities . Feminist activism aims at ending patriarchy and sexism.
3. Biological Determinism - It is mainly supported by patriarchal norms and rests on a
belief that most human characteristics are determined by hereditary factors passed from
parents to offspring.
4. Social norms - They are the rules that are based on social values. They indicate the
established and approved ways according to which one’s position and behaviour is
5. Gender stereotypes - It refers to the generalisations one tends to make while
understanding male and attributes.
6. Purdah - It is a religious and social practice whereby women use various modes of
shielding from the sight of men or strangers. Some also call it a practice of seclusion. It
is also referred as ghoonghat.
7. Caste system - In India, it is a system of social stratification. The four primary castes
are: Brahmin, the priests; Kshatriya, warriors and nobility; Vaisya, farmers, traders and
artisans, and Sudra, servants.
8. Honour-Killing - It is the homicide of a member of a family by other members as the
perpetrator thinks that the victim has brought shame on the family.
9. Hierarchy - It refers to the system whereby relative status or authority determines the
rank order of members of an organisation or society.
10. Compulsory Heterosexuality - Heterosexuality refers to the sexual activity or sexual
attraction between members of opposite sexes. Compulsory heterosexuality is a cultural
compulsion that considers heterosexuality as a default social orientation.


Long Questions:

1. What is patriarchy? Give at least five examples from your daily life that signify instances
of patriarchy.
2. How have feminists challenged gender stereotypes and the structures of patriarchy?
3. “Patriarchy’s chief institution is the family.” Explain.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

4. How have social norms and values governed the institution of marriage. What role does
caste and class play in it?
5. What is sexual division of labour? How does it help in understanding the relationship
between men and women?

Multiple type questions:

1. What is patriarchy?
A) Female domination
B) Male domination and control over women’s sexuality
C) Homosexuality
D) Male subordination
Ans. B

2. Which one of the following is not a radical feminist?

A) Kate Millet
B) Simone de Beauvoir
C) Rose Luxemburg
D) Germaine Greer
Ans. C

3. Female subordination is primarily because of following reasons:

A) Social norms and values

B) Rape
C) Sexual division of labour
D) Domestic Violence
Ans. A and C

4. Caste system is based on:

A) Equality
B) Rationality
C) Rules of purity and pollution
D) Double burden
Ans. C

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi
Analysing Structures Of Patriarchy

5. In India, Art. 377 is related to:

A) Heterosexuality
B) Marriage
C) Divorce
D) Homosexuality
Ans. D


Bryson, Valerie, (Consultant Editor- Jo Campling), Feminist Political Theory- An

Introduction, Palgrave, New York, 2003.

Geetha, V, Patriarchy, Stree, Kolkata, 2007.

Hirschmann, Nancy J., The Subject of Liberty-Towards a Feminist Theory of Freedom,

Princeton University Press, United Kingdom, 2003. (p. 1- 102, 199-238)

Lee, Anru, ‘Patriarchy: Development, Identity Politics’, Vol. 3, Routledge International

Encyclopedia of Women- Global Women Issues and Knowledge, Cheris Khamarae and
Dale Spender (eds.), Routledge, New York, 2000.

Lerner, Gerda, The Creation of Patriarchy, Oxford University Press, New York, 1986.

MacKinnon, Catherine, ‘Sex and Violence : A Perspective’ , in Theorizing Feminisms- A

Reader, Elizabeth Hackett And Sally Haslanger (eds.) , Oxford University Press, Oxford,

Millet, Kate, Sexual Politics, Doubleday, New York, 1970.

Rich, Adrienne, Of Woman Born, W.W.Norton & Company, New York, 1986.

Stone, Alison, An Introduction to Feminist Philosophy, Polity Press, UK, 2007.

Walby, Sylivia, Theorizing Patriarchy, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1990.

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi