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“The hardest times for me were not when people challenged what I said, but when I felt my voice was not heard.”
— Carol Gilligan, co-author of a new book, “Why Does Patriarchy Persist?”
Remember in “Terminator 2” how the bad terminator kept getting smashed and shattered and ripped apart, but it didn’t matter? He just kept re-emerging, rising from the ashes, as an unstoppable force. Now imagine that terminator is a vessel to keep power, wealth and status in the hands of men — that’s the patriarchy. It can feel indestructible, coming back ever stronger despite seemingly endless efforts to smash it.
But why and how, after decades of activism, does the patriarchy persist? That’s what Carol Gilligan, the psychologist and ethicist, and Naomi Snider, a former student of Dr. Gilligan’s, were determined to unpack in their new book, “Why Does Patriarchy Persist?”
The answer may seem obvious: It persists because it maintains a system in which men hold power — political, economic, institutional — and what man would want to give that up?
But Snider and Gilligan contend that this is more a symptom of patriarchy and less cause.
Women and men, they say, internalize patriarchy without realizing it, pushing aside their best judgment and sacrificing their needs in order to fall in line with how they think they’re supposed to behave. By not falling in line, they risk sticking out for all the wrong reasons, potentially driving away friends, partners or professional opportunities, ultimately resulting in isolation.
That fear is instilled in us early, they say: With boys being taught that crying is synonymous with weakness, for example, while girls learn that assertiveness equals aggressiveness.
As adults, it manifests in other ways. In how women shoulder their family’s emotional labor, meaning the invisible mental work of holding a household and relationship together. If a woman registers that this is unfair and complains, she’s often told that she’s “selfish, a drama queen, hysterical,” Snider said. Eventually, “she believes it.” That’s patriarchy.
Snider also cited the cliché of a woman who doesn’t tell a man she is dating that she wants a committed relationship for fear of scaring him off and being rejected. That too is patriarchy, Snider said.
In essence, Gillian and Snider write, patriarchy harms both men and women by forcing men to act like they don’t need relationships and women to act like they don’t need a sense of self. The crux, though, is that we are “not supposed to see or to say this,” they write.
At the end of “Terminator 2,” the bad terminator is finally destroyed because he is incinerated, decimating him to the core. If it’s true that patriarchy is now hard-wired into our minds, it may take a drastic self-reckoning to ever truly eliminate it.
By the numbers
That’s how many women who work in the field of economics felt that they had been treated unfairly because of their sex, compared with 3 percent of men, according to a new, far-reaching survey of the field by the American Economic Association.
What else is happening
Here are five articles from The Times you might have missed.
“It would be very difficult not to select a woman.” In 2020 field full of women, Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker signal they will pick a female vice president. [Read the story]
“My shame is that I played his game.” Wall Street has been essentially unscathed by the #MeToo movement. But Sara Tirschwell’s lawsuit against a powerful investor is changing that. [Read the story]
“She should take that to 42nd Street.” A “kink collective” in a residential area of Brooklyn has resulted in a culture clash and gentrification struggle. [Read the story]
“What would I have done if I would have killed her that night?” Batterer intervention classes can be controversial. Evidence for their effectiveness is mixed, and many argue that money should go toward supporting and protecting victims directly. [Read the story]
“Italy is permeated with a deeply patriarchal culture.” Two recent rulings, in a murder and in a rape case, have provoked protests over entrenched gender stereotypes in the country. [Read the story]
Sign up for the NYT Parenting newsletter here to get evidence-based guidance and personal stories about a transformed life with kids.
For Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting stories of trailblazing women you may not know, but should. We’ll bring you two women each week in this newsletter. Head over to our Instagram for daily posts.
On her first day on the job, taxi driver Gertrude Jeannette, believed to be the first woman to drive a cab in New York City, got in an accident — on purpose. She had pulled up to the Waldorf Astoria hotel looking for a fare, but was cut off by other taxis.
“In those days (the 1940s) they didn’t allow black drivers to work downtown; you had to work uptown,” she later recalled. As cabbies hurled insults at her, she remained calmly in the taxi line — until another cab cut in front of her. She rear-ended him, tearing his bumper. To which the man screamed: “A woman driver! A woman driver!”
Jeannette died last year at 103 years old. Read more about her here.
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