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Patriarchy, in anthropological terms, describes a system of social relations in which men have control, and lead, their family units [1]. In the context of feminist literature, it can also be defined as a system of beliefs, values, and norms embedded in political, social, and economic institutions as well as private, domestic circles that produces a structure of gender inequality between men and women – wherein males are the dominant ideal, and because of their superiority, are given authority over their docile female counterparts[1].

Family Dinner, depicting men in their role as "head of the household."

The patriarchy—and its effects on broader culture—are most notably identified through its outcomes on interpersonal relationships and individual expressions of sexuality. Youth, in particular, are often socialized into conforming to patriarchal ideals as they form their identities. The historical evolution of patriarchy can be traced through its interactions with youth culture: namely, how youth engage with, interpret, and perpetuate the system over generations.

The patriarchy enforces prescriptive ideas of hetero/cis-normativity and hegemonic gender roles (described below). These ideals have caused significant negative impacts on Queer and LGBTQ+ individuals as they face exacerbated rates of violence, sexualization, and commodification. These violent outcomes are even more pervasive. The patriarchy’s historical connection to other oppressive systems, such as capitalism and colonialism, has encouraged a broader culture of violence to blossom that women around the world are subjected to in most—if not all—areas of their lives. Its values are so instilled in society that they are key agents in shaping the very framework of “inherent” behavioural gender differences the patriarchy itself is built upon, thereby reinforcing itself.

The Patriarchy and Relationships

Gender roles taught and enforced by the patriarchy extend beyond mere stereotypes, shaping individuals' lives from birth to death. From childhood, boys and girls are socialized into their respective roles where they learn the norms, values, and behaviours deemed appropriate for their gender. This socialization occurs through a variety of influences, including family, education, media, and religious institutions, perpetuating the patriarchal order across generations. This in turn affects the way everyone, not just women and girls, interact with one another and hold relationships with one another in both romantic, and platonic contexts [2].

The patriarchy and its effect on sexuality and relationships can be seen quite early on, especially in the way it affects young girls. As girls move from childhood to early adolescence, it is common for them to begin to experience many of the expectations and norms enforced by the patriarchy. This manifests through a transition from girlhood confidence and assertiveness, to self-criticism and self-doubt [3].

For many women and girls, the patriarchy is seen through the way that relationships are valued by society and believed to give their lives meaning and importance. There is often a large amount of societal pressure placed on young women and girls to find a boyfriend. Importantly, pressure for young women does not stop once they have a boyfriend, as they then face pressure to remain within that relationship that is equally as powerful as trying to find a boyfriend in the first place. It is not uncommon for young women to perceive that the benefits of being in a relationship (being associated with a certain boy) to outweigh the consequences of being in a relationship (abandoning their inner self). Many young women express being willing to overlook unhappiness that they cite as resulting from their boyfriends, or their relationship, as the risk of losing the relationship and the benefits they receive from it in a patriarchal society [3].

The patriarchy further impacts the culture at large through how we view women in and out of romantic partnerships and marriage. Throughout culture and society, there exists a belief that the unmarried status of a woman is a “temporary condition”. Unmarried young women are often framed as not married being ‘yet’, and women who remain single beyond ‘a certain age’ (an age not precisely defined) are seen as a deviation from the norm or deviant of societal expectations [4]. How the culture views the end of relationships, whether it be through breaking up, separation, or divorce, is also affected by patriarchal norms. Divorce, across many cultures, is seen as something as a shameful burden for the woman's family, and a choice that is believed to jeopardize her future eligibility for men [5].

Pair of Wedding Bands

The patriarchal effect on how we view women in relationships and marriages is also dependent on the culture that these women exist in. For example, in the West it is not uncommon to view women that are in arranged marriages as victims, as individuals incapable of making autonomous decisions and thus need to be saved. This however, is not accurate [6].

The way both men and women describe their relations with one another is further affected by the patriarchy. Specifically regarding casual sexual relations with one another, both men and women practice strategic ambiguity. Strategic ambiguity in this context refers to using purposely vague language about hooking up in order to protect one's reputation and maintain existing gender orders. This is used when both men and women use words like “hookup” to describe their sexual activities rather than give details about their sexual activities. This contributes to no clear definition of what “hooking up” entails, and the way in which the language is used contributes to heteronormativity (which is further explored in the “Queer intersections with Patriarchy” section), as well as certain social identities for both men and women, namely hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity. Hegemonic masculinity is a form a masculinity most highly valued in society, and is rooted in social dominance of men over women, while emphasized femininity is a means in which women maintain a “good girl” image, and one that aligns with the desires of the hegemonic male [7].

Notably, although strategic ambiguity is used by both men and women, they use it in a very different way. Men use ambiguous language during hookups to allude to having “gone further” or “done more” with women, while women use the language to diminish what activities they engaged in with the men. This is understood to occur due to the prevalence of slut shaming, and the expectations that women should have sex, but not “too much sex” (although it is often not clear what “too much” is) [7].

One of the most visible manifestations of gender roles in patriarchal societies is the division of labor. Historically, men have been assigned tasks that require physical strength or are deemed more prestigious, such as hunting, warfare, and political leadership. Meanwhile, women are often relegated to domestic duties, such as childcare, cooking, and cleaning, which are undervalued and often invisible within the public sphere. This division of labor not only reflects patriarchal perceptions of gender but also reinforces them. By assigning different roles and responsibilities to men and women, patriarchal societies perpetuate the notion that certain tasks are inherently masculine or feminine, thereby maintaining power differentials between the sexes [8].

This patriarchal division of labor is exemplified in the relations between men and women in 20th century colonial cultures. Concubinage, a living arrangement where there is cohabitation outside of marriage, was seen as the most viable option for sexual relations between the colonizer and the women that lived in the colonies. This arrangement kept the European men fit, happy, occupied, and ready to work (due to the fact that these arrangements involved none of the usual European family duties). For women, this arrangement provided few benefits and often reduce women to their ability to have sexual relations [9].

The patriarchy imposes certain power dynamics that are woven into the fabric of social institutions, shaping interpersonal relationships, decision-making processes, and access to opportunities. Patriarchal structures afford men greater autonomy, privilege, and control over resources, reinforcing their dominance in both public and private domains, especially within relationships. This hegemonic control not only perpetuates gender inequalities but also intersects with other forces oppression like race, class, and sexuality, further marginalizing those who deviate from the normative gender binary.

How Youth Culture Upholds The Patriarchy

Youth Activism at a Global Climate Strike

The UN defines Youth as “a period of transition from the dependance of childhood to adulthood independence.” (UN)[10] People who identify as youth don’t necessarily have a specific age range that they fall under. Generally when I think of youth they could range anywhere from being a tween to being a young adult which is a large range, but this does allow for many different examples of Youth promoting change in our society. Youths are responsible for many different aspects of our culture in order to create an identity for themselves. Examples such as how youth tackle media, what trends do they follow, what kind of music do they listen to, what clothes do they choose to wear. These examples all illustrate important aspects of identity and they act as a time capsule as well. Looking into the past we can see how youth uphold their own senses of culture throughout time. Like, how did youth in the 2000s choose to express themselves and what aspects identified them. Patriarchy is defined by Eric Macéeric as “not as the expression of a structural social dominance but as a contingent, relative, and situated type of "gender arrangement,"(Macéeric 317)[11] Another way we can decipher this concept is to look at how youth has upheld patriarchy in their cultures.

A text that discusses College and University students in regards to patriarchy is hookup culture. Hookup culture and hookups are defined by sexual activity that is done by 2 individuals who are not in a previously established romantic relationship. This definition was expressed from Danielle M. Currier in her paper Protecting Emphasized Femininity and Hegemonic Masculinity in the Hookup Culture. When considering Hookup Culture there is a strong patriarchal influence on the culture itself. There is an emphasis on male pleasure and image when looking at hookup culture and men often will be ambiguous about what happened during the hookup to give off the impression that more happened then actually did. Currier describes this as strategic ambiguity, this strategy allows for men to feel that they hold the power over the hookup. Youths in college, specifically women, must present themselves a certain way when discussing sex with their peers and rely on ambiguity in order to not be labeled a “slut” or a “whore”. There is a definite double standard regarding hookups. These college youth align with the typical sense of the patriarchy through this sexual double standard. How they are redefining it now though looks at how women are expressive now as compared to years ago when discussing sex and hookups with their peers. Sexual freedom is liberating and college youth, specifically women, are redefining what hookup culture means to them. (Currier Protecting Emphasized Femininity and Hegemonic Masculinity in the Hookup Culture)[7]

Youths have agency over what is defined in their culture. A lot of mainstream culture these days is mostly connected with our youth, by what motivates them, what encourages them, what makes them happy and what they feel strongly about. A study done in the University of Ghana looked at a common phrase used towards youth. A popular singer Guru uses the phrase “boys abrƐ which literally means “boys are tired,” is a term popularized in Guru’s (2013) hit song of the same name.” (Esson 194)[12] This phrase is used in many ways to excuse boys' behavior, due to the fact that they are “tired”. This is a strong way that the patriarchy has inflicted youth culture in Ghana. This phrase also ties in with how male youth have understood the patriarchy in their own view. What this study has looked at is looked at the structures of patriarchy and have determined that “due to patriarchal norms and structures, some young men feel entitled to certain material and social benefits and outcomes and become resentful towards women when these are not realized. This rendered them oblivious both to the benefits they have and are still accruing through patriarchy.” (Esson 207)[12] They ultimately describe that these youth are going through retaliatory patriarchy. Young men feeling that they are not getting what they want have ultimately shifted their view into resentment towards women. This is an example of youth culture intertwined with patriarchy from a non Western country.

Finally, looking at Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes, by Katrina Karkazis , Rebecca Jordan-Young , Georgiann Davis & Silvia Camporesi. This article looks at female athletes and sex testing in Olympic Sports. When considering these athletes, many of them identify as youth or as young adults.Under the IAAF policy, female athletes who wish to participate in international competitions come to the attention of the IAAF in one of two ways. If a female athlete already has been diagnosed with hyperandrogenism (or is in the process of being diagnosed), she is required to notify the IAAF and undergo evaluation… or A second route to evaluation is that an “IAAF Medical Manager may initiate a confidential investigation of any female athlete if he [sic] has reasonable grounds for believing that a case of hyperandrogenism may exist” (Karkazis 5)[13] These youth female athletes have to submit to the patriarchy due to their athletic performances. This questions the difference between biological sex and gender in regards to youth patriarchy. Due to testosterone levels, female high performance athletes must go through this rigorous testing. These women are getting excluded from opportunities and the chance to perform due to biological reasons that were determined by men.

Youth culture has many different examples of how they submit to, deal with, and redefine patriarchy. Though patriarchy has influence over many things in our society, youths across the globe are able to restructure a space where patriarchy has less of an influence for our future.

Queer intersections with Patriarchy

Gender, sex, and sexuality are key components to life and expression, however, the looming systems and limitations set into stone through the patriarchy impose negative consequences for those who do not comply. For Queer and LGBTQ individuals, their mere existence misaligns with traditional ideals and views about acceptable and normal conditions. Through systems of hegemonic gender roles, heterosexism, commodification, and violence, members of the LGBTQ are dissected under the microscope through the lens of patriarchy. While these systems are oppressive, there are some possible positives for the ‘queerness’ of gender, gender performativity as an art form, and community as healing.

Women, Queer or otherwise, are heavily influenced to behave and present a certain way, much for the viewing and experiential desires of the male gaze. This is no secret, but extending this concept into the queer female experience provides them with an altered experience of emphasized femininity, expected gender performance, and fetishism. Queer individuals can struggle with heterosexist ideas of what a relationship looks like, being between a man and a woman, who have roles based on gender norms and ‘tradition’ (Currier 2013, 706)[7]. The realities of being a queer individual in other parts of the world are less forgiving, in writing put forward by Ihmoud, Palestinian Queers face a cultural attitude that condemns diverse sexualities as crimes against the state. Systems of heterogender rule and seek to police the intimate lives of their citizens to perpetuate hegemonic frameworks as inherently natural and therefore correct (288)[14]. As it is known, an aspect of patriarchy is the controlling of the female body and sexuality. This is relevant to the patterns of sexualization Queer women experience, as a result of their queerness and gender. Queer relationships in contexts away from and inside the bedroom aren’t treated similarly; Patriarchy exploits those women for their sexual ability and attractiveness to the viewer while condemning queerness outside the home (Rogerson 2022)[15]. This however, does not necessarily extend to masculine queer women, as the way their bodies are gendered and consumed does not conjure the same ‘feminine desire’ through the straight male gaze (Nguyen 2008, 673)[16]. As they utilize masculinity, they can be regarded as a threat, taking space away from men and stealing their women, as often, their queerness is assumed (676)[16](Eves 2004, 498)[17]. In the very real framework of harm, the need to enact control and fear onto queer women and their bodies comes to fruition through actions similar to the revocation of Roe, as many queer people can see from this example, constitutional rights for women and LGBTQ’s cannot be protected as long as there is someone who wishes to usurp their freedom (Sonja 2022)[18].

Equality March 2022 in Kielce

In spaces of Queer concern, male queers retain some aspects of their male privilege, however, the queer identity clashes with hegemonic ideas of masculinity, as an integral and inseparable part of that definition will always be heterosexuality. How men are hierarchically positioned with respect to women is very important, a large portion of masculinity comes from domination and the ‘conquest’ of women. The value society places on hegemonic masculinity is partly due to a fear of seeming queer, but the threat of femininity is not scary to heterosexuals alone (Gerrard et al. 2023, 120)[19]. Patriarchal systems of heteronormativity and cisnormativity penalize femininity and teach young boys to do the same, and as such, prejudices against more ‘feminine’ men create a gendered hierarchy within a single gender. Queer men are considered non-hegemonic and are therefore a target (Currier 2013, 706)[7]. This reality is very scary for many, as studies suggest that gay and bisexual men are a particular target for hate crimes (Flores 2022, 2)[20]. However, while there are numerous negative effects of patriarchy on queer men, there are ways in which some male queer couples take part in the patriarchal act of commodification of baby and the female body. In this case, the reference remains to be couples wishing to adopt. Adoption is a lengthy and arduous process, that some would argue is slightly less than ethical for many reasons, but specifically here: commodification. The miracle of life is made available to market, the woman’s body is viewed to be a womb for rent. The commodification of the female body is put into action and sustained through the actions of men and the patriarchy, the creation of life is shaped into a service purchasable through the means of capital (Nast 2003, 880)[21]. Such a process renders the child a possession and a symbol of wealth (896)[21].

Gender diversity is a positive sign of the social deconstruction of what gender means and looks like, and if not entirely social, personal. Queerness intersects with gender, and as such, can prompt closer examinations of norms, ideals, and expectations. In this way, trans and alternately gendered people go against set systems of cisnormativity and gender performance, against the system of patriarchy that polices their expression (Howe 2019, 133)[22]. Although this defiance of norms is not planned and purposeful, and instead is an individual's lifelong reality, influential systems of oppression render trans and non-binary lives second-class citizens, putting them at a higher rate of experienced violence and murder. Even without the immediate threat of violence, gender-diverse people continue to deal with binary medical care, bathroom gender policing, and scrutiny over presentation and ‘passing’ (132)[22]. These are all major ways patriarchal systems of gender and sex binary continue to disadvantage queer individuals. However, there can be positive gender expressions that survive through the crushing grip of binary, such as through re-enactment of gender performativity. Drag performers do just this, they utilize pre-existing ideas of gender to create art and smudge the distinction of sex, sexuality, and gender (Greaf 2016, 657)[23]. In a less temporal way, butch lesbians experience a different gender reality, too. Masculinity is the way that the butch body becomes gendered, internally and externally, refusing roles of both hegemonic masculinity and femininity, creating and occupying a space for ‘other’ (Nguyen 2008, 672)[16]. As such, people who identify as butch can sometimes use gender-neutral or he/him pronouns, however, this does not necessarily ensure they’re trans. Through the complex processes of violence, gender performance, and gendering, patriarchal systems continue to enforce ideals of heteronormativity and gender normativity.

Most systems through which we operate are aligned with patriarchal views and ideals, although we may not be able to see it as such. Hetero and gender normativity, violence, fetishism, commodity, and gender performance are all systems that Queer individuals find themselves weaving through on a daily basis. As second-class citizens under a patriarchy, they are forced to deal with the negative consequences that come along with an alternative identity under regimes of binary.

Expanding on The Inherent Violence of Patriarchal Culture (to-be-completed by Apr 19)

Through its deep-seated entanglements with numerous institutions and social systems, patriarchal culture has produced a society where individual safety is reliant on conformity to its standards of hegemonic masculinity (see Queer intersections with Patriarchy). This violence permeates various contexts. It manifests through direct, individual actions, and institutional mechanisms—often distinguished by widespread cultural, social, economic, and political beliefs, behaviours, and practices that create and perpetuate barriers[24]—predominantly targeting women as its primary victims.

CDC statistic, depicting how early gender-based violence can start.

Gender-based violence against women has been a predominant issue in our society for centuries – the World Health Organization has recently estimated that around 1 in 3 women worldwide have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.[25] Gender-based violence does not account for every violent act a woman may encounter—as violence can occur in an array of contexts—rather, it’s defined as “any act that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life."[26] This is not to say that men cannot be victims of gender-based violence, it does occur, and, because the patriarchy encourages men to appear assertive and strong, it often goes unreported and ignored for fear of undermining their masculinity.[27]

The gender roles and expectations the patriarchy encourages (see Role of Patriarchy in Constructs of Gender Behaviour)—namely male entitlement and sexual objectification—mixed with several other gender-related cultural norms and societal institutions have helped to perpetuate this cycle of harmful domination by justifying the inferiority of women.

While these acts are committed on an individual basis, a systemic inadequacy can be seen in the lack of protection given to female victims of gender-based crime. To start, women often resist reporting gender-based violence to law enforcement, fearing their abusers will rise to anger and seek revenge – and it does frequently occur, as perpetrators begin to feel threatened at the perceived loss of domination the patriarchy states they are entitled to.[28] Out of the reports that do get documented to law enforcement officers, a majority are blatantly dismissed, leaving women with no means of protection. This is especially the case if the women reporting happens to be racialized.[29] When reports are taken seriously and acted upon, they frequently also end up harming women, as victims of violence are often the ones uprooted and displaced, rather than the offender. This disconnects women from their communities and external supports; increases their risk of poverty; and leaves them more vulnerable to mental and physical harm in unexplored, new physical circumstances.[30]

A majority of this inadequacy is caused by framing this violence as an individual issue rather than a structural one. This approach hinders the implementation of structural solutions necessary to address and correct the implicit causes of perpetual gender-based violence that have been intricately embedded into patriarchal society and reinforced over decades. The interconnection between patriarchy and other hierarchical global systems—particularly colonialism and capitalism—is extremely pertinent when discussing the disproportionate violence women face in their day-to-day.

Women commonly experience isolation and fear when they are victims of the effects of patriarchal violence.

The expectations placed on female behaviour in cisgender-heterosexual monogamous relationships with men and within the family unit force them into a role where they are constantly discarded and exploited by men (see The Patriarchy and Relationships). Their value in society is never dependent on their creative or professional abilities, but rather on their willingness to perform unpaid domestic labour, the sexualization of their bodies, and their ability to reproduce and function as a caretaker. This patriarchal view has flourished under the institution of marriage, which has been criticized in recent years for being constructed as a means of providing economic security for women—as well as their families—while also giving men a manner to essentially own women and their bodies and provided justifications for their frequent physical and sexual abuse to their wives.[28]

Keeping women in these domestic roles has been a patriarchal tactic for decades: it was a major aspect of the barriers women faced—and continue to face—in the public sphere, namely in workplace and education environments. Women have been barred access from such spaces for decades, having been sheltered within the private sphere and left with a lack of economic autonomy as their caregiving responsibilities were deemed expected of and inherent to their gender and thus undeserving of compensation – unlike the work of their male counterparts. Women’s financial reliance on male partners and paternal figures has been a major factor in the violence they have endured over the decades as it left them isolated, robbing them of the power, autonomy, and necessary resources needed to safely escape situations of domestic violence.[31] Adding to this, when women did join the workforce and were able to create personal financial stability their labour efforts continued to be majorly diminished. Their careers in the public sphere often compensated them less than their male counterparts, despite having equal—and sometimes better—performances and duties. And, as the fight for equal compensation has been taken on by feminist activists, many of the solutions seemed to blame women for their financial shortcomings and refused to look for structural solutions to the problem.[32] It is also vital to acknowledge that women’s contributions in the public sphere did not relieve them of the expectation to fulfill domestic responsibilities they have been societally forced to undertake. If they wanted financial dependence from their husbands, women often found themselves having to undertake both roles with heightened pressure. This dual burden of physical, emotional, and mental labour has contributed to women's increased susceptibility to illness—especially of the chronic variety—compared to men, as the stress takes a toll on their bodies.[33]

We find more structural violence enacted by the patriarchy that continues to harm women when examining the underdeveloped fields of medicine, largely due to research gaps on female physiology.[34] This lack of gender-specific medical care has placed women at greater risk of harm when seeking out assistance, since they are more likely to be dismissed and misdiagnosed by healthcare professionals or even given prescriptions which have only been researched on male bodies, allowing unsupervised unknown side effects to occur and further exacerbating health disparities.[34] A large factor in this discrepancy is caused by the patriarchy’s entanglements with structures of racial—white—superiority that are often seen in colonized and colonizer nations. A key example of this is the field of gynaecology, which had been co-opted by (majority) white males to discredit and disband traditional midwife duties held by Black women in America.[34] There have since been several criticisms of the field since it remains inadequately developed compared to its male-centric counterparts.[34]

We can discover patriarchal ties to colonialism and racial systems of power in the histories of concubinage in Asia and the Middle East which gave white men access to exploit colonized women's sexuality, emotional labour, and legal rights to children, free of the institution of marriage.[9] The possession of these women serves as a surrogate and means to the political and military conquest of their lands and community, they were dehumanized and viewed as conquests, rather than equals.[35] Colonialism employed the patriarchal narrative to rationalize its legitimacy, asserting that white colonizers acted virtuously by rescuing women from the perceived suppression embedded in their culture by Black and Brown men.[35] These narratives continue today and can be seen through the portrayal of Muslim women as weak, passive victims of forced marriage, stripping away their autonomy and neglecting to consider additional structural factors that may influence their agency.[6] These narratives ultimately enforce implicit violence within the communities of—primarily racialized—women, harming them through various facets of their lives.

Role of Patriarchy in Constructs of Gender Behaviour

Patriarchy not only refers to the forces of oppression against women, but is also a key agent in the very framework of how societies conceptualize differences in behaviour among men and women.

Dominant understandings of gender fall under a binary structure, where an individual is either classified as male or female; differentiated by biological, physiological, and behavioral traits that are opposite of each other. Such as the assumption that all men are aggressive, logical, and dominant; and all women birth and raise children, are docile, emotive, and often perceived as the “weaker sex”. In her focus on brain and gender development, neuroscientist Lise Eliot addresses that while many features of the human brain and behaviour vary by sex, these differences are “grossly distorted in popular discourse” (“The Trouble with Sex Differences”, 2011)[36], where observed distinctions are either unclear, subtle or irrelevant to how sexes develop differently. Rather, processes of enculturation, informed by the system of patriarchy, must be critically accounted for to thoroughly understand behavioral differences between males and females.

Aligning with Eliot’s disapproval of framing sexual dimorphism as the key component of different behaviours between males and females, feminist scholar Simone de Beauvoir famously wrote “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman” in her 1949 book The Second Sex[37], revealing how these processes of enculturation throughout life form a socially constructed understanding of gender. Traits associated with femininity, such as being subservient, obedient, and sociable; are shaped by a structure that prioritizes the needs and desires of men, such as being a mother, homemaker, and/or object to fulfill sexual desires. These expected roles and behaviour are supported by the patriarchy’s system of exclusively keeping men in positions of power and dominance.

These frameworks of gender are instilled in how individuals understand the world and themselves due to how they are not only assumed to embody these traits, roles, and behaviours since infancy but are also expected to reinforce them throughout their entire life. In the primary site of family households, specifically of heterosexual and monogamous parents, parents influence how their children. Despite the lack of significant differences between male and female newborns in weight, size, and appearance, adults commonly describe newborns differently depending on the infant's assigned sex, commenting on the delicate features of newborn girls but the strong features of newborn boys. Furthermore, these processes of gender socialization continue through observing and mimicking the practices of others (especially heterosexual parents), adults reinforcing these gender-assigned practices as socially acceptable and punishing behaviour that violates these standards (Denmark 2004, 73)[38]. A scenario where a young boy may be punished for playing with a doll, an activity typically associated with girls reveals how patriarchy is also complicit in males’ frustrating experiences with gender identity.

As individuals grow and societal values shift, specifically those that involve patriarchal systems, they continue to encounter new forms of behaviours and practices constituted by gender. In the example of hookup culture, its ties to patriarchy and gender roles are unclear. The ambiguous nature of the term ‘hookup’ encompasses a range of intimate activities. From kissing to intercourse, the term allows for individuals, especially women to embrace sexual freedom without further obligations for romantic relationships amidst patriarchal structures’ histories of controlling women’s bodies and sexuality. Yet, experiences with hookups tend to “revolve more around the men and their desires than around women and their desires” (Currier 2013, 723)[7]. Danielle M. Currier observed that this notion was regarded as normal and internalized among both men and women who participated in hookups, perpetuating emphasized femininity within women, as a response to hegemonic masculinity within men. These specific sets of gender behaviour refer to what traits society values most in their ideologies of gender. For women, sociability, compliance and sexual receptivity towards men; and for men, exhibiting social dominance over women (and non-hegemonic men) (706). Women embody emphasized femininity during hookups to avoid attacks on their sexual morality, where initiatives to focus on their own pleasure instead of solely the man’s may lead to being perceived as demanding or slut-shamed. Furthermore, in hookup culture, the ideology of hegemonic masculinity encourages men to not only prioritize their sexual desires but also brag about the extent of their activities among other men, revealing that hookups and their conversations are less about finding satisfaction in dominating and impressing women, but more so fulfilling expectations of masculinity for other men to admire and contest. While Currier concludes that gendered behaviours of hookup culture perpetuate asymmetrically stigmatize the sexual preferences of women, she also addresses that these expectations create pressure among some men to “maintain a heterosexual male image” and avoid being labeled as ‘gay’ (720), which is where ‘hookup’’s ambiguity aids in preserving that image while not having to participate in unwanted sexual activities. Even in male spheres where women are not present, a patriarchal structure of upholding rigorous standards of male identity pervades.

Attendant of a pride parade holding a sign that reads "Indigenous Two-Spirits: Pissing off Patriarchy & Priests since 1942"

Recognizing dominant understandings of gender as a social construct rather than determined by nature is further emphasized when observing societies that do not function under patriarchal values. Two-spirit is a term describing diverse gender identities fulfilled by Indigenous North American individuals that cannot be properly explained within the language of the gender binary. In Marie Laing’s zine exploring the relationships between gender and Indigenous communities and histories means to Indigenous two-spirit individuals in Toronto, many participants pointed to how understandings of gender in some Indigenous groups pre-colonialism did not follow the gender binary, and that this framework was only enforced through European colonial projects of cultural assimilation. A participant in the zine highlighted how traditional practices in their community lacked gender roles. Where pre-contact life “had a lot to do with how extra useful we were”, referencing their attendance at a ceremony where: “Gender didn’t limit the tasks that I did [...] I cooked shit, and I minded the baby, and I chopped all of the fucking wood, and I fire-kept, and I did all of the things. This is why we’re so fabulous”.[39]

Other attempts to propose differences in men and women’s behaviour as biologically inherent includes the ‘Man the Hunter’ narrative, claiming that tasks among hunter-gatherer cultures are divided by sex. Males hunt due to their supposed superior strength, while females take on a more passive role of gathering plants and childrearing due to their “more sedentary and less aggressive behaviour”, as proposed by anthropologist Brian Hayden in 1981.[40] The Man the Hunter theory frames this as an evolutionary phenomenon that established sex-based labour as an innate trait among humans starting one million years ago. However, more recent research, such as Cara Wall-Scheffler’s 2023 survey of D-PLACE’s database of 1400 cultural groups worldwide from the 1800s to 2010s, reveal that the historical accounts of many groups mentioned women hunting deliberately and that childcare posed little challenge despite previous dominant conceptions, as “mothers would often carry infants or left them at camp with other community members; older children often tagged along, hunting as well” (Alex 2023)[41]. Thus, it is suggested that it was not until increasing social complexity and the overlapping and overtaking of different groups and their ideologies, was patriarchy and its shaping of gender more salient in dictating human society.


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