Your decision to trust a woman may be based on the prejudices prevalent in our patriarchal society
Would you rather ask your father for information on current affairs or your mother? Would you seek advice for potential jobs from your brother or sister? Would you stop and ask a man or a woman for directions? If your answer is the latter, then this article is not for you. But if it is the former then chances are that you would defend your actions with the shield of ‘trust’, because you do not trust your mother, sister or the said woman to be guiding you right. The existence of subtle misogyny is so prevalent in our patriarchal society that we often fail to identify it.
In a patriarchal society, the gender gaps are immense. A long history is tied to it and the switching of roles from hunting and gathering to agriculture trivialised their roles. Men are considered the bearers of honour and women are considered the bearers of shame. Hence, when studies such as the one published in The Journal of Global Health Action in 2013 highlight that the birth of boys are commemorated and the birth of girls is not viewed as an auspicious occasion, it does not pose a surprise to us.
According to Irsa Usman, a behavioural therapist at the Institute of Behavioural Psychology in Karachi, the early years of a child are central to the development of ideas forming a judgement. “If parents or teachers or the people around the child hold certain beliefs, those beliefs are regarded as a fact and those facts become the truth,” says Irsa. As a result, in a patriarchal society, girls and boys are reared differently. For instance, girls are not allowed to go out on their own by their parents as it is deemed unsafe. However, that insecurity is turned into safety as long as a brother or a father accompanies them.
The idea extrapolates further into other aspects of life, when a ‘security’ is associated with boys and girls need to be dependent on their fathers, brother or husbands for that matter. This tends to instil a sense of independence in men that triggers a certain attitude within them towards the other sex. These attitudes are unstintingly accepted by girls as a norm, leading them to the mind-set of ‘boys will be boys’ which justifies men to behave in a certain manner. “Changing this system poses a challenge because of an effect explained by psychology as the ‘familiarity effect’,” explains Irsa. “This basically states that repeatedly observed ideas and experiences tend to make people more used to them and coming out of this zone becomes rather challenging,” she adds.
Moreover, it is not just about the issue of trusting a woman’s word but having a packaged stereotypical perception of her. Be it the timid housewife or the domineering boss, we cannot help but attach our own preconceived connotations rather than seeing a woman as an individual. “Women who do not work remain at home and are keen brewers of conspiracies,” voices Aqeel Ahmed*, operations manager at the Dubai Islamic Bank. Such attitudes, however, are misconceptions as revealed by research in 2013 that depicted that women have more connections in their brains which makes them better at ‘bigger picture thinking’ and tracking a progressing situation. This may owe to the element that women are better at reading body language in the context of emotions, as revealed in a book titled Body Language authored by Allan and Barbara Peace. In fact, there is an abundance of research present to debunk misconceptions related to women. But then the question is do we need to be flooded with authentic studies or research to unstring our predetermined notions about women and understand our misogynistic culture?
*Name has been changed to protect privacy
Zohaib Amjad is a scientist with a major in molecular pathology. He tweets @infectiousuni
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, October 25th, 2015.