What's a patriarchal mindset?

patriarchal conditioning Dec 30, 2023

A mindset is a set of beliefs that helps you make sense of the world. A patriarchal mindset is founded on a hierarchical duality.

The duality states that humans are either men or women and the hierarchy places men in a superior position to women.

This, in turn, justifies the notion that men ought to hold all of the power in society and be treated as more important than women.

Systems and structures have been created off the back of that which benefit men whilst oppressing and exploiting women.

Why does it matter? 

It matters if you are a woman and you want:

  • access to the same resources and opportunities as men,
  • to be taken seriously in your career,
  • to promote your work and not fear judgement around your voice, your appearance, your level of confidence, your family life etc,
  • to be paid equitably for your work,
  • to feel safe in your home and as you walk the streets,
  • to expect to advance in your career free of sexual harassment,
  • to be treated fairly and respectfully by the justice system,
  • to have your creative output valued and promoted in the same way as you might expect were you a man,
  • to have industry standards created to suit your body type and biology,
  • to share the domestic load equally if you have a partner,
  • to make reproductive decisions without interference from the State,
  • to be free to realise your full potential as a human being,
  • to have your body accepted as it is, without needing alteration to satisfy the male gaze.

How is it related to my experience of being visible?

To maintain the system, certain voices have been prioritised (men’s) and others have been silenced (women’s).

To maintain that silence, stories have been perpetuated about the nature of women. Stories about our intelligence, our suitability for public life, our bodies, our achievements, our art and our sporting achievements (amongst other things).

For an outline of the kinds of stories being perpetuated and the knock-on effect to women's visibility, jump on over here.

When you live in a society where:

  • you’re less visible than men,
  • you’re told diminishing stories about yourself and your gender,
  • expectations are lower re. what you might achieve in the world,
  • you don’t see role models that look like you,
  • you observe the backlash against women who do step forward and try to break through gender norms and barriers,

you can’t help but internalise at least some of these messages.

Worse, each time you see another woman being oppressed, silenced or diminished in some way, it triggers an awareness in you. An awareness that you’ll be punished if you stand out too much, speak up too loudly, or push back too forcefully.

And so we consciously and unconsciously shrink. We play smaller than we otherwise would. We focus on pleasing others, placating men, and avoiding conflict, all to avoid being judged or harmed.

In short, we protect ourselves by being less visible than we could be.

And so the system maintains itself.

To break that cycle, we have to interrupt the patriarchal patterns threaded through our psyches and lives. We have to break down the patriarchal mindset and open to a new and different way of thinking. One that’s not built on that original hierarchical binary.

What can I gain from working on the patriarchal mindset?

Breaking down the patriarchal mindset opens you up to think differently about yourself, about other people, and about the world at large. It opens doors that were previously closed and gives you more confidence in yourself.

It addresses imposter syndrome at its core and clears out some of the most significant causes of anxiety associated with speaking up and being heard. It supports you to set clear boundaries with other people (reminding you that you are not a doormat for people to walk over each and every day).

It helps you to feel better about marketing your work because you know deep down that you deserve to take up space. You feel more at ease sharing your opinions and expressing yourself in meetings, hosting webinars and live events.

What about ableism, classism, racism, ageism, heteronormativity, colonisation and all the other ways that inequality has been created and perpetuated in society?

Patriarchy is thousands of years old. It established a principle on which every other form of oppression evolved. That is; hierarchical duality.

Once you understand the pattern, you see how this principle informs all oppressive systems and you see how they uphold and reinforce one another. Knowing how to address one system isn't the end of the story, it's the beginning. It gives you the building blocks to start thinking intersectionally and addressing all systems.

Our short course 'Smash the Patriarchal Mindset' can help you with that process.

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