Welcome to the Clandestine’s new column, Children of the Patriarchy! Every other Wednesday we will post a column on anything and everything patriarchy related. Whilst most of us are already painfully aware of the patriarchal structure surrounding us, we often do not realise how deeply rooted its effects are. That’s why we are here! Every week we will be calling out the patriarchy left and right, whether that is at KCL, in the UK or in the wider world. Because whether we want to or not, we are all Children of the Patriarchy and the responsibility of cleaning this mess up, falls upon us.
[Featured Image: Kamala Harris facing right, placing her right hand on her chest, smiling to a presumed audience.]
It is difficult to decide on a topic for an article on the patriarchy. Not for lack of material, but precisely because there is an abundance of it. Every womxn has been burdened with it; Whether that may be in small or big ways. Therefore, writing about the patriarchy, is a personal experience to me.
While working on this column, I found myself in a conversation with my older sister on our own experiences with the patriarchy. We both agreed we were relatively lucky, because most of our personal encounters with the patriarchy had been ‘normal experiences’, those which every womxn can tell you a personal anecdote about. It made me realise how normalised all those times my opinion has been devalued, my experiences have been brushed off, or my views dismissed, had become. They are a part of everyday life, and without thinking about it, I myself had been dismissing both my own, and every other womxn’s experiences.
I see it happening around me, on both a smaller and a larger scale. Womxn are charged with an impossible task. We are both burdened with the patriarchal habits, as well as fighting them – and we are expected to do so with a joke and a smile, as to not upset the status quo too much. Watching the Vice-Presidential debate therefore felt, in some ways, like a desperately needed breath of fresh air. Seeing a potential future female vice-president of the United States of America unapologetically taking charge and taking up space during a debate is extremely empowering.
Both Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris and debate moderator Susan Page were repeatedly interrupted by Vice President Mike Pence. With Harris repeatedly having to tell Pence “I am speaking”, the conversation surrounding the debate, even days later, has been centred around Pence’s manterrupting, and Harris’ value as a female representative. Suddenly, mainstream media almost solely focused on Pence’s constant interrupting and Harris’ powerful handling of the situation. The topics and policies they talked about, seemed to have become less relevant. Nonetheless, in an age where womxn are still expected to sit and smile while they are ignored and brushed off, it is so important to also see woman unapologetically reclaiming the space that is rightfully theirs.
With many Americans, and non-Americans alike, naming the upcoming presidential election the most important one yet, it does make one wonder why we are talking more about the identities of the candidates rather than their views. While I understand Kamala Harris’ importance as a female representative, she hardly represents my views. Yet I am expected to be satisfied with her as representative because we share the same sex? It can be difficult to find a balance between appreciation of Harris taking up space, while also strongly disagreeing with many of her policies. I struggle to reconcile my strong desire for female representation with my, potentially even stronger, desire to be represented in my views.
The only part of our population that is not expected to be satisfied on grounds of identity, rather than views, are white, cis and male. People of colour, those in the LGBT+ community and other marginalised groups often find themselves, in a similar way to womxn, having to choose someone whose background is only remotely similar. It is absurd to view these groups as homogenous, yet this does seem to be happening. While their identity may have ensured some similarities, their experiences and the views that come from them can still be extremely different. The idea that we can represent the people in these marginalised groups simply by electing someone who has a similar background to them is wildly misleading. It reduces these people to their identity, which is not the sole factor on which their views are based.
I am not trying to argue that female representation is overvalued. On the contrary, it is vital for our democracy that we make way for womxn to break through into politics, business and every other field. These womxn are valuable, and worthy of our time and attention. Not because they are womxn, but because they are intelligent, competent and talented. While their womxnhood may have ensured they have had different experiences in life, their value does not solely derive from it.
It is time to end this idea that female representatives need to be appreciated first and foremost for their womanhood. Merely being a womxn should not be a box to tick. Female representation means more than a female representative. Oftentimes, even if it seems that womxn are given a space in a certain field, they are only given a place to address womxn’s issues. Female journalists are expected to write about women’s issues, female politicians are expected to mainly fight for gender equality. The few womxn who do get a seat at the table are still unable to participate in the same way men are.
A patriarchal belief of what representation is and should look like, has made us believe that a womxn should be represented by a womxn just because she is female. While it is objectively true that we desperately need more female representation, whether that be in government or any other field, we simply cannot fall into the trap of the glorification of female representatives, for the sole fact that they are womxn. We have, as womxn, far more to offer than that.
The Column is written by Column Editor, Milou Klein