Casablanca - The damage inflicted on women by the patriarchal system is beyond imagination. The subjugation of women is a history of disavowal and hegemony manifested in the denial of their legitimate rights and in their deprivation from infinite possibilities for advancement and self assertion. The legal and social injustices that plagued women throughout social history and continue to disempower them today are nothing but the manifestation of a much more gruesome atrocity, nothing but a small nodule hiding a malignant tumor that has been afflicting the body of humanity for decades.
Casablanca – The damage inflicted on women by the patriarchal system is beyond imagination. The subjugation of women is a history of disavowal and hegemony manifested in the denial of their legitimate rights and in their deprivation from infinite possibilities for advancement and self assertion. The legal and social injustices that plagued women throughout social history and continue to disempower them today are nothing but the manifestation of a much more gruesome atrocity, nothing but a small nodule hiding a malignant tumor that has been afflicting the body of humanity for decades.
The real cruelty incurred by the patriarchy lies not in its potential for coercion, nor in the weight of the restriction and prohibition imposed on women. The real perfidy committed against women resides in the way the male-dominated system could dispossess them from the right to define themselves and to conjure up their self image. The real coercion here is not physical but intellectual.
It must be distressing for any human being to perceive themselves through the spectacles of a hater or a foe and the reference here is by no means to men. Nevertheless, it is more vexing for women to discover themselves through the eyes of a compelling system that considers them as living beings bereft of volition and immediately punishable whenever the sustainability of the patriarchy is at stake.
It is probably futile to try obstinately to recall the temporal reference when the “depersonalisation”[i] of women had begun but the question worth pondering is how this “denaturation”[ii] process has been sustained and how it could adapt itself almost impressively to new historical, cultural and social contexts. The challenge is to discern how the chauvinist narrative gained a character of universality with few discrepancies in its acuteness and outreach across cultures.
It is a well know fact that individuals acquire an array of norms, values, patterns of behavior and scripts that frame their mind through the process of socialization. Women and Men develop incrementally familiarity with the modus operandi of their society in order to exist and subsist within a complex network of relations and overlapping “contact zones”[iii]. This academic-like definition of socialization may give the misleading impression that it is a process of a natural transmission totally immune from any kind of intentionality or manipulation.
Yet, it is worth mentioning that the channels through which these norms and values are transmitted have always been compelled by men’s established authority as heads of families or through the aggregate of privileges that enabled their hegemony in the public sphere. Consequently, we can say that the domination of women took two parallel forms, first in their confinement in the domestic realm which has curtailed the breadth of their involvement in the public sphere and second through their deprivation from all the privileges aggregated by men. These self awarded appanages have been gradually institutionalized until they acquired the binding force of unwritten laws.
The patriarchal norms have become gradually part and parcel of the collective consciousness which made them sheltered from dauntless criticism. The French sociologist Durkheim defines the collective psyche not only as the sum of beliefs and sentiments common to members of a given society but mainly as a self contained system. A Systems is engendered through interactions between its various components and agents. Most systems are rule governed and they observe either a vertical hierarchy or a horizontal distribution. Thus, hierarchy in the patriarchal system entails discrepancy of power and subordination is it in labor division or in privileges and prerogatives.
Thus, we can assume boldly that the patriarchal system has been operating within a consistent canvas without betraying its male dominated ideals. As a result, the subjugation of women in conservative societies is manifest in labor division, moral accountability and male patronage.
For instance, the concept of “honor” (Sharaf in Arabic) in many Arab and Asian societies has been shaped primarily by patriarchal paradigms before the advent of Religions. In these conservative societies women are burdened by a strict code of conduct that overhauls their sexual tenue. Despite the fact that the three Abrahamic religions lay a great emphasis on virtue for both genders , the patriarchal system stubbornly considers virtue as a female attribute par excellence while men can slip through the net of moral accountability in total impunity. The clamor to restrict women’s behavior stems for the idea that women are a “constant threat” that should be harnessed in order to sustain the system’s stability and durability.
In this regard, it is worth asking why is the patriarchal system on the defensive every time the advocacy of women’s full emancipation is made. What kind of threat do women pose for this male- dominated world?
For the patriarchal system, women’s intellectual awakening is as troubling as the return of a partner who claims their share of profits after a long absence. Any system founded on treachery and injustice must show concern dubbed with hostility towards claims of accountability. Thus, women’s presence in the public domain and their growing emancipation is a threat to conservative minds and a challenge to their sense of control and patronage.
The soundness of the patriarchal arguments becomes dubious each time they are confronted with egalitarian systems of reference. As a result, the discourse about equality disrobes the male-dominated frameworks from their validity, their legitimacy and consequently from their authority. Then everything can be questioned again.
The deconstruction of chauvinistic thought is by no means an attempt to antagonize men and women for they cannot possibly be made foes despite all the injustices incurred in the long course of patriarchal history. Despite the presence of evidence of oppression against women, hatred cannot and should not be the expected outcome of this analysis.
Simone de Beauvoir considers in her book The Second Sex that the bond that unites a woman to her oppressor, in reference to men, is not comparable to any other. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that women and men have ambivalent feelings towards each other. In the collective male psyche, women are both subject to desire and rancor. Conversely, women’s sentiments towards men are jaded between fear and desire, between sameness and otherness.
Nevertheless, women’s voice has been silenced for many years and their demands often downplayed. Their self image was sketched by the “other” who took the liberty to tailor this “delivered presentation,” to use Edward Said’s words, to maintain their supremacy and their illusionary sense of control.
The split in women’s self image occurs when they start to measure the validity of this biased representation against other credentials. At this particular moment, women become alienated from themselves and entrenched in a state of “misrecognition”[iv]. To manifest their disobedience is a suicidal act and to subdue themselves to the same patterns of domination is a bitter defeat.
As long as the resentment of patriarchal hegemony is not matter of wide consensus among women themselves, the only option left for enlightened women is to negotiate their existence again with their oppressor and indispensable partner. In their turmoil, these women become transient beings like butterfly larvae that have to undergo another metamorphosis before they become recognizable to themselves and before they can spring their colorful wings.
[i] Bhabha, Homi (1986). “Remembering Fanon”. New formation. Web. 01 Jan 2013.
[ii] Denaturation: A structural change in chemical macromolecules caused by external conditions.
[iii] Pratt, Mary Louise (1992). Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. Taylor & Francis Group, 1992. web.
[iv] Bhabha, Homi (1986). “Remembering Fanon”. New formation. Web. 01 Jan 2013.