Can women dismantle patriarchy without participating in it?

With International Women’s Day behind us, and Women’s History Month now at a close, we’ve recently devoted a lot of time to educating ourselves about the large milestones women have achieved all across the world. Unsurprisingly, it was not long ago that women were prohibited from activities as basic as voting or working certain jobs. Even with the reminder that we are surrounded and always have been surrounded by phenomenal women, we still live in a world irrevocably dominated by men.

Living in a patriarchal society like ours, it seems nearly impossible to dismantle it when our everyday activities and perceptions are heavily ingrained with patriarchal ideologies. While women are continuing to make strides every single day to shatter the glass ceiling, there is still much being done to keep us down.

Women face a multitude of obstacles such as unequal pay, sexual harassment and difficulty achieving leadership roles. These are huge boundaries that prevent women from accomplishing their goals and being seen as equals. The lack of pay and the risk of sexual assault deincentivize women to apply for leadership roles, making it extremely difficult for them to be successful. With so many factors created to prevent women from reaching their full potential, it is hard to envision a world where gender inequality does not exist.

No one wants to perpetuate the societal attitude that encourages inequality, so the question comes down to how we can dismantle it. When going about the process of dismantling institutionalized inequality, the only way to make significant change is to do it from within the system. And putting an end to patriarchy is a job not only for women, but also for men.

Just like any other movement, it is going to take time and effort to change society’s widely-held beliefs. Some of the core attributes of the patriarchy include traditional attitudes toward gender roles, male domination in all aspects of society and the perpetuation of other types of oppression such as racism and homophobia. These ideals constantly manifest in our everyday activities through what we see in the media, our work environments and common familial roles.

While the patriarchy does exist on the ideal of a male-dominated society, women too perpetuate stereotypical gender norms. From accepting traditionally-gendered roles in familial settings, to pursuing non-leadership roles in the workforce, women too allow our patriarchal society to persist. Men and women alike must change the entire narrative of what it means to be a man or a woman.

With gender norms ingrained in our everyday activities and in how we view others and ourselves, it is hard to simply include women in all aspects of society. So, we must also change our own narratives about how we view women and men. We need to end the stigma behind what it means to be a “real man” and encourage men to recognize and destroy their traits of toxic masculinity. Not only that, but as a society, all of us must encourage and empower women, view them as equals and understand that their voices matter too.

Smashing this institutionalized system of gender inequality and breaking down any and all barriers is the only way to overcome the system. By forcing ourselves into every aspect of society, we as women can build a system that allows us to be included as full and equal contributors, just like men.

Karina Sloan is a junior majoring in communication studies.