Practice Question: Define patriarchy. Does it have bearings on women’s entitlement in Indian family system ? Explain. (20 Marks) (UPsc 2019)

Approach: Introduction; Define patriarchy, Bring in thinkers’ views on patriarchy, Describe patriarchy in Family System and explain its impacts on women’s entitlement in their families; Conclusion. 



The term patriarchy is not only a descriptive term that explains how different societies construct male authority and power, but also become an analytical category. This changes of the use of the term patriarchy from a descriptive to an analytical category took place in the 1970s, in a specific global historical context of feminist political and intellectual culture. In the course of time this later led to the development of the discipline of women‟s studies or gender studies, when women agitated for their rights. At the Universities women demanded that their experiences and points of view be taken seriously that patriarchy emerged as a way of both describing and explaining the world. Since this time, patriarchy has been used
critically to explain the main components of authority and power in any social system. Patriarchy automatically privileges men over women such that women have little or no claims to material, sexual and intellectual resources of the society. That is, in a patriarchal society women have to struggle to be educated, to have property or to make choices regarding marriage and other aspects of life. For men, these resources are a matter of right and can make choices that affect their lives.



In a very broad way, „sex‟ refers to the biological and physiological differences between male and female sex. The term sex is a physical differentiation between the biological male and the  female. Thus, when an infant is born, the infant comes to be labeled “boy” or “girl” depending on their sex. The genital differences between male and female is the basis of such
characterization. There is a biological difference between the sexes and most people are born (expect for a few ambiguous cases) as one sex or another.

he concept of gender in feminist writings and other sociological discourses became popular in the early 1970. In simple terms, gender explain the differences between men and
women in social terms as men, and as what a man can do; as “woman”, and as what a woman can or cannot do. Therefore, gender is a analytical category that is socially constructed to
differentiate the biological difference between men and women. The term gender is also used to describe the differences in behaviour between men and women which are described as
”masculine” and ”feminine”. Feminist writings focus on this aspect and claim that these differences are not biological but are social constructions of patriarchal society.

It is also worth noting that gender roles are also often subject to varying degrees of social propagation, also known as “soft” social engineering. For example, unlike the “harder’ social engineering of gender roles and social/sexual stratification, perpetrated by the state (e.g., apartheid, marriage licensure), corporate culture has also engaged in the production and propagation of gender roles as well. Arguably, this is in service of the state, as it extends (and maintains) the established “harder” norms for socialization and propagation.



The major theory of the origin of patriarchy men dominating society points to social consequences of human reproduction. In early human history, life was short therefore to balance the high death rate and maintain the population, women had to give birth to many children. Consequently, around the world women assumed tasks that were associated with the home and child care, while men took over the hunting of large animals and other tasks that required both greater speed and longer absences from the base camp. As a result, men became dominant. It was the men who left camp to hunt animals, who made contact with other tribes, who traded with these groups, and who quarreled and waged war with them. It was they who accumulated possessions in trade and gained prestige by returning to the camp triumphantly, leading captured prisoners or bringing large animals they had killed to feed the tribe. In contrast, little prestige was given to the routine, taken-for- granted activities of women who were not perceived as risking their lives for the group. Eventually, men took over society. Their sources of power were their weapons, items of trade, and knowledge gained from contact with other groups. Women became second- class citizens, subject to men’s decisions.

Male dominance may be the result of some entirely different cause. For example, anthropologist Marvin Harris (1977) proposed that because most men are stronger than most women and survival in tribal groups required hand-to-hand combat, men became the warriors, and women became the reward that enticed men to risk their lives in battle. Frederick Engels proposed that patriarchy came with the development of private property. He could not explain why private property should have produced male dominance, however. Gerda Lerner (1986) suggests that patriarchy may even have had different origins in different places.



Paid Work

Walby believes that paid employment remains a key structure for disadvantaging women in Britain. Today, men continue to dominate the best paid jobs and women are still paid less than men, and do more part-time work. Many women choose not to work, or work part-time because of poor job opportunities.

Household Production

According to Walby individual men still benefit from women’s unpaid labour. Women still do most of the housework and childcare. However easier divorce means women are not as trapped as the once were by marriage and some black feminists see family life as less exploitative than the labour market, where there is considerable racism.


Walby believes that that the culture of Western societies has consistently distinguished between men and women and expected different behaviours from them, but the expected patterns of behaviour have changed. The key sign of femininity today is sexual attractiveness to men, and not just for younger women, but increasingly for older women.


Walby also argues that ’heterosexuality constitutes a patriarchal structure’ – there is more pressure today for women to be heterosexually active and to serve males through marrying them.


Like many other Feminists Walby sees violence against women as a form of male control of women, which is still a problem for many women today, although she concedes that it is difficult to measure how much progress has been made in this area, because of validity problems where the stats are concerned.



Sociologist term male entitlement when males hold the position of powers in important social institutions such as top positions in religious institutions, law institutions, political institutions, etc. Feminists argue that because of this male entitlement, women have never been able to climb to important positions and the balance could only be formed through the reservation. A counter view to this is made by men’s scholars who claim that there is a typical hegemonic masculinity, which is mostly represented by a bourgeoise, chauvinistic, misanthropic male who holds a high position in these institutions, at least in contemporary times, is because of his socio-economic status and not because of his gender.

In economic terms, feminists argue that it is because of male entitlement that women’s contribution to the GDP is not accounted for. According to a study, women do two third of the world’s work while men do only one-third of the world’s work but are paid way more than women. In some instances, women do a dual task of childcare and earn a livelihood. It is often observed that women take more responsibility in taking care of the family whilst men, especially in the poorer sections of the society, get engaged in crime early or drugs and some claim that this is because of the entitlement given to men, which creates a sense of superior being in them from a time they are babies.



Identity politics is a term used to describe the better disputes between different feminist groups and their struggles for women‟s liberation. The differences in opinion among different women’s groups on what is the core issue of women‟s oppression and liberation. Women are divided by class, race, education, religions caste and co on and so also the reasons for oppression of women. The endless cycle of identity politics that women’s movement faced troubled feminists. The post structuralist view that identities are never stable but culturally and historically diverse enabled the Women‟s Liberation Movement to realise that they need not eradicate the difference among women to feel solidarity.



Feminism, the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. Although largely originating in the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

Feminist sociology is a conflict theory and theoretical perspective which observes gender in its relation to power, both at the level of face-to-face interaction and reflexivity within a social structure at large. Focuses include sexual orientation, race, economic status, and nationality.


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