The patriarchy is (still) alive and kicking.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this year, you’ll have noticed that 2018 has been the year that feminism fought back – many of the antiquated and oppressive systems that have, for millennia, kept women from their power, have taken a beating.
BUT, in the last – almost – 12 months, despite waves of sisterly solidarity (recall the second Women’s March back in January, and the still-rolling momentum of the #MeToo campaign?) more misogyny keeps coming to light. The Hollywood scandals, the pay gap, the rape culture, the toxic masculinity (yep – it’s not only women who suffer under the patriarchy) keep rippling through the media. It won’t drop. (And it’s a good thing too).
And that’s part of the point, surely, that as the political and social climates shift, women – and men – rise, and speak out. When the collective perception evolves, and our eyes become accustomed to a new way of seeing, more, the next revelation is allowed to appear. Which means… Feminism adjusts, course corrects and keeps on going. And so do we.
You may not feel much like being a feminist at Christmas – there’s enough to contend with already – but it’s actually really important to keep fighting the good fight, even over the festive season!
Here are 8 practical things you can do to smash the patriarchy even when the goose is in the oven and its carols around the tree (in somebody’s world, anyway…)
1. Own Your Body
To reveal a little flesh, or cover up?
To play up to patriarchal beauty standards (even if you’d quite like to) or rebel against them out of principle?
The pressure on women to look a certain way – especially at Christmas – is real. An M&S Christmas advert in the UK has just been slammed for pressing onto women the “need” to be wearing a certain type of “frilly” underwear over the festive season! Seriously! (And obviously, no mention of what men should be covering up with…)
So what does a good feminist do when it comes to her wardrobe?
The answer is: Own it. Own your body and your outfit and value your choice. And make that choice based on what you want, not out of any obligation or pressure. Wherever it comes from.
2. Call Out Sexist Behaviour
‘Tis the season to be merry, and also the season when unconscious (or not so unconscious) sexist behavior can rear its ugly head. A cheap remark, a rude invasion of your personal space or something more presumptuous, are all not automatically ok, so don’t act like it.
Call it out.
And if you see a sister experiencing something similarly dehumanizing, go stand up for her and smash that patriarchy side by side!
3. Call Out Sexism in Films
Everyone loves a film at Christmas. But some of the classics – even Disney, scratch that, especially Disney – are downright patriarchal and demeaning to women. I’m not suggesting you stamp out the fun and make everybody watch feminist documentaries instead, but how about gently pointing out transgressions where you see them?
They’re not hard to find, once you start looking through objective and critical eyes. Just one example is in Love Actually, when the British Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) demotes the secretary he has a crush on when the US President makes a pass at her. And let’s not even go there with Snow White, Scrooged, and Elf, to name just a few…
These little Hollywood slips may seem harmless enough, but some of the most insidious oppression coming from the patriarchal society we still inhabit actually seeps into our homes through the ‘entertainment’ industry. But how funny is it, really?
4. Give Gifts that Challenge Gender Bias
The notion that men (and boys) are strong, powerful and assertive and women (and girls) are weak and passive is just plain wrong. But it’s something that so many of us unwittingly uphold. And through this example, we teach the next generation that aggressive behavior in boys is normal, but in girls, it is not. That softness in girls is preferable, but in boys, it is not.
Give gifts to challenge these gender biases. And not just the kids – gender equality is for everyone, so give consciously to the grown-ups too!
See, you can smash the patriarchy under the Christmas tree!
5. Read (and give) books written by women
Women write about women in ways that are different to how men can. It’s just a fact. And whilst I make NO attempt to devalue male perceptions of women; by making a conscious effort to read women’s writing about female characters, you, as a woman, will become empowered. Your perception will deepen. Your expectations of yourself will be restored and your attitude to your own sex will be rejuvenated.
Give these books as gifts, and you’ll also give this gift to your sisters (and brothers).
6. Spend time with Sisters
Spend time with your girlfriends. Not only is this a fun, uplifting and altogether awesome way to spend your precious time, but something chemically healing happens when women group together.
Whilst “Girl Power” has become a bit of a cliche, it does have a scientific backing – women actually stimulate the production of oxytocin in other women. Well known as the “love hormone”, oxytocin plays and powerful role in childbirth and infant bonding. Its why females actually feel good to be around! This teeny but mighty chemical helps to develop trust and cohesion between people and societies, and as the Dali Llama so famously said: “The world will be saved by the western woman”. Sisterhood is the way in.
7. Let your Woo-Woo show!
Do you keep your more mystical side hidden under wraps?
Is it because you’re afraid of being teased, humiliated, or burned at the stake? (kidding, not kidding).
Why not let just a little more of your woo-woo show? Chances are that your friends and family have a better idea than you think, of your spiritual side, and by talking about it – whether it’s discussing dreams, the divine feminine, the Moon Cycles, or your intuition… (there are a few ways into the conversation) – you are actually suggesting an alternative to the mainstream paradigm. You don’t have to convert anyone, no. You’re merely offering up a way to reclaim sovereignty and pull back from the shackles of patriarchal systems of authority.
8. Talk about Feminism
You don’t have to be an expert to enter the conversation about feminism and the patriarchal paradigm. You don’t have to have the answer, always get it right or know what to say. Simply talking honestly about the issues you’ve experienced or read about – about equality and privilege, women, men, our sexuality, our roles and responsibilities, struggles and strife, awesomeness and beauty! – will gently smash away the patriarchal programming that we have all internalized, whether we know it or not.
Sure, you may want to choose your battles when it comes to certain relations – how you talk to your fiercely right-wing, 90-year-old grandpa, and your progressive Swedish aunt will be different, but sow seeds in your conversations and be honest!
So as the year draws to a close, tell us, what are YOU doing to smash the patriarchy and challenge the oppression you see around you? Share your tips, your tricks and your battles (won or still fighting!) with the community here.
And… Have a Merry Christmas!