For thousands of years, women have been systemically oppressed by men. Most cultures in history saw women as no more than property—first their fathers’ and then their husbands’. Oppression was so deeply rooted in traditional cultures that women upheld the very same beliefs that kept them down.
In the 20th century, liberalism emerged as a new popular social theory. Liberalism argues that individuals should have the liberty to live their lives as they want. This was the biggest opportunity for women to join hands and express themselves to the world—a world that so far didn’t bat an eye when it came to their expression.
Feminism has done wonders in these few decades. However, to truly understand the power of sisterhood, we have to start from the beginning—from the origin of patriarchy.
The Descent Of Woman
Human societies weren’t always unequal. For most of human history, women and men had an equal say in everything. Most anthropologists agree that hunter-gatherer societies had no perception of sexual inequality, and all members of a tribe had equal influence on where the group lived and with whom each member lived.
In an interview about his 2015 publication on sex equality in hunter-gatherer societies, Mark Dyble said, “There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated. We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”
When humans first took up farming, it made it possible to settle in one place and leave hunter-gathering behind. People also started marking territories as their land to farm. This was the origin of ownership as we know it today. For the first time, humans could gather much more than what they could carry on their backs.
Domestication also made it possible to forcefully seize goods from others and store them for later use. In his book “The Beginning of Ownership,” Thorstein Veblen argues that this was when man started to see woman less as a person and more as an object. Men would attack other groups, seize “their” women, and bring them to their strongholds as captives. Veblen writes:
“The result is a new form of marriage, in which the man is master. This ownership-marriage seems to be the original both of private property and of the patriarchal household. Both of these great institutions are, accordingly, of an emulative origin.”
All civilizations started as domesticated villages. Ownership made it possible for people to trade goods with people from other villages, which brought villages closer. This led to towns, cities, kingdoms, empires, and countries. It’s no wonder then that male dominance is so deeply rooted in almost all modern societies. Traditional cultures believed man to be the “superior” sex—while it was the predatory origins of these very cultures that led to the descent of woman.
No Justice Without Equality
The 20th century brought some of the most revolutionary ideas to civilizations all over the globe. Thanks to industrialization, it was no longer feasible for monarchs to control everything in the cities. Companies needed authority to function, and centralized regimes were a huge spoke in the wheel: thus, emerged liberalism.
Liberalism promised to make organizations serve the people rather than the other way around. For the first time in the history of civilization, the individual mattered more than the institution. What the people wanted was suddenly more important than what the administration planned. Yet, liberalism was no revolution for women—not for as long as society saw women as being inferior to men.
Like all social justice movements, feminism began on the premise that women and men should be equal. This meant that women and men should be equal in the eyes of the law and that women should be treated in society the same as men. This remains to be the focus of feminism in the US today.
According to a review, only twelve countries have full legal protection for women, and the US isn’t one of them. However, compared to the past, we’ve come a long way from the early 1930s when even the minimum wage was based on sex. The primary struggle today is social inequality—and for this, we need all hands on deck.
The Long Road Ahead
Most progressive people today support feminism. Over 76% of Democrats consider feminism empowering. Most large corporations hold feminist views and many progressive workplaces idolize gender equality. Still, 4 out of every 10 women and two-thirds of all men in the US don’t call themselves feminist. There’s no denying that inequality is still a major problem in the US, but the problem is even bigger than what these numbers imply.
Even among the women and men who consider themselves feminist, there exist unconscious gender biases—remnants of the patriarchal culture we grew up in that make us subconsciously treat women differently than men.
It may not be something overt, but it’s very real. This means that even in the most feminist of workplaces, women are still not truly equal to men.
The state of all the major organizations in the world today is a testimony to the privilege gap between the two sexes. Whether it be governments, corporations, or unions, all management, and higher positions are typically occupied by men.
Proponents of the “biologically different” propaganda would have you believe that this is because women are less ambitious. In reality, it’s the differences in how society treats women and men. Women are never expected—let alone encouraged—to do something great in life. Women who do succeed in life are mostly inspired by other women—women who grab the hands of their sisters as they climb.
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