A social system is a set of unwritten, undefined precepts, principles, tenets, and values etc. that guide, influence and inform the behaviour of a group of people or a society. A social system is a means of dividing groups of people along the lines of racial, cultural, and economic etc. classifications. There exist different social systems in the world today.
Patriarchy as a social system is one in in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privileges and control of property. Patriarchal societies also tend to be Patrilineal where property and title are inherited by the male lineage. Patriarchy seeks to justify the dominance of male over female and attributes it to inherent differences between men and women. Patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, religious, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Even if it is not explicitly defined in their own constitutions and laws, most contemporary societies are in practice patriarchal. Until very recently, patriarchy was not something considered serious by most people not to talk of discussing it with such vigour. It was the sort of word that, if uttered without irony, marked out the speaker as a particular type of person; an iron-spined feminist of the new school age. Even some female theorists had left it behind. Nevertheless, patriarchy has in the past few years blossomed into more common place language and even entered into popular culture.
As sad as it may seem, Nigeria as a country is one of the societies that have been founded on a belief in patriarchy. As much as we might try to avoid it, there is a prevalence of occurrences and events of male dominance in almost every facet of our culture. We are aware of instances of how men and masculinity are seen as better than, are more respected, and hold more privileges than women permeating nearly every aspect of our lives. Although patriarchy has been set up in such a way as to benefit men, it can also hurt men in many ways, as men are under the constant scrutiny of the predefined norms that patriarchy has put in place. While there is no laid down principle to explain why men should be superior to women, some have paradoxically taken up the term and enthusiastically tried to argue that it is not an evil to be stamped out, but a “natural” difference between the genders as ordained by God or biology, to be “protected” against rampaging feminism. But with no actual proof to defend this system that has become conventional, and no evidence that can be presented to describe patriarchy as different from what it is. It must then be defined in clear terms; an attempt by men to subdue women and to subject them to unfair treatment and oppression. For those who have lost a basic trust in the forward motion of human progress, or who have tried to come out of the belief in a prehistoric mind-set and value system, “patriarchy” seems exactly the word to explain the continued existence of pervasive, seemingly ineradicable form of inequality between men and women. It has revealed to the society that despite all the years that have gone by, the awareness campaigns that have been raised, and the waiting patiently and in silence of many women while absorbing and internalising the pangs of sexism, of trying almost unsuccessfully at building careers or toiling away at menial jobs, or living in loveless, slave marriages, or living in the shadow of men, or watching as men exerted all the rights, in the hope that their children would have a better society, it is sad that; you can still be pinned to a bed or cornered in a party or groped, or jeered at, or called names, or have your opinions silenced to the background, or have your rights stolen from you, or not be allowed to aspire for career success simply because of your woman’s body.
While we might be tempted to accept that the belief in patriarchy bears no major threat and that it is a system that can be lived with, that is as far from the truth as humanly possible. The harmful effects of patriarchy as a disguised form of silent oppression that due to its flames being fanned over the years has become more aggressive. We must realise that a large percentage of women centred crimes like rape and sexual assaults are a fruit of patriarchal thinking. A male dominated society has resulted in more vulnerable, exposed and defenceless women in our society. The truth is that women in Nigeria are forced to live in a system designed by men for the benefit of men. The result of seeing the world through the lenses of patriarchy is the general oppression of women in every sphere of Nigerian society as we have now because of a belief that men and women are not equal but that men are in some way better than women as creatures. In Nigeria, male domination of women is so prevalent that it has become commonplace in the fabric of our political, legal, educational, cultural, organizational structures. Women are considered as second class citizens to men hence a general belief that the best place for women is in the “Kitchen”. This trend has brought about a huge misrepresentation of women’s right at the family level down to societal level which has allowed men to dominate and oppress women. Women are discriminated against from, in most cases, acquiring formal education, to seeking employment, to building careers for themselves, to being independent and having a voice of their own. The average Nigerian woman is seen as having little or no rights of her own, as an inferior commodity, or a general misfit in society. For example, a situation where an unmarried woman is her father’s property (or of the oldest male) while the married woman is her husband’s property is a clear indication of discrimination of women even extending into cultural and family beliefs which is absolutely flawed.
The effects of this term; “patriarchy” litters all of the structures in Nigeria. We have become so blinded to it and become so used to it that we fail to realise how much of a negative phenomenon it is for our society. It has contributed to most of the gender related crimes that are prevalent today. Men rape women because they feel they are superior to them and women do not feel empowered to report incidences because they are made to feel inferior to men. Breaking it down into modules, we observe that boys and girls have the same parental upbringing, go to the same schools, attend the same churches, have almost similar experiences in life but why does it now arise that when they become men and women, they are exposed to different ends of the society?. In our society, an overview brings to our notice; how few female family heads we have, how few female CEOs of multinationals we have, how few female political holders we have, how few female religious leaders we have, how few female traditional rulers we have, how few women are able to lead in the society, how few women feel like they have been given the enabling environment to aspire to be the best that they can be. It all stems from the phenomenon of patriarchy seeping deep into our formal and informal structures allowing men the freedom and right to discriminate against women, oppress them and view them as inferior individuals or second class citizens.
When we compare patriarchal societies to societies that embrace a more gender egalitarian systems, it is clear to see the advantages and benefits of having women participation in society. Women by biology and nature are more cultured, intuitive and organized creatures which are qualities if when applied to the running of the larger society, it produces huge benefits of more civil, organized systems. For Example, Germany has had a Female Chancellor (The highest political leader) for almost two decades and remains one of the most developed and well run civilizations in the world. Proponents of patriarchy should come to realise that it is a system built on a false convention and is actually a disguised form of oppression of women from a perceived view that they are inferior to men which is no way true at all. In order to build and run a truly civil and inclusive society where systems run as they should with few challenges, we must aspire to create a society that is truly gender egalitarian where men and women have similar rights and one gender is not placed at an unfair advantage over the other.
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