Gender and Power Relations

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Gender and power relations continue to be at odds with each other in the post-millennium era. Critically review how we still live in a male dominated society where patriarchal power still holds the ‘key’ to the door (s) and windows of ‘freedom’, self-identity and expression. Critically engage with this statement drawing on key writers in the field of religion, ethnicity and gender relations The most accepted definition for the term patriarchy is the social structure of society based on the father having primary responsibility for the welfare of and authority over their families. Patriarchy does not mean that all men are powerful and women are powerless, but it does indicate that the most powerful roles are held mostly by men. According to Johnson (2005) positions of authority are held by men due to their ability to exert control through threat of violence, any personal attributes and social activities linked to men, are highly regarded in society. Men serve in the highest levels in all areas of society therefore, this is crucial when examining women’s rights of equality and freedom. In patriarchal systems, women are unrepresented or underrepresented in the economic, political, military, educational and criminal justice arenas. Within these patriarchal systems, men decide the extent of freedom afforded to women; she only has the freedom he has willingly given to her. The role of the man is to provide financially and is responsible for the security of the woman and children in traditional patriarchal societies. Men can participate in the public realm through education, business and religious activities whereas, child-bearing and sex has always been the woman’s role (Sharmon, 2011, p. 161). Gender roles define every aspect of life that includes dress, sexual expression and language. Both men and women are strongly attached to the gender roles assigned by society; socialization determines that women look best wearing a dress and men to wear trousers. Addressing issues of patriarchy speaks to issues relating to identity and culturalism and can stir strong emotions. The genetics of patriarchy is based on religion and science. For a person of faith, a mere discussion of religion as the source of patriarchy is deemed treacherous. In a religious household to reject patriarchy would be rejecting God’s word, criticising or to blame is viewed as an attack on the biblical model of the family that provides clear distinctions between man, woman and child. Accepting all tenants of one’s unquestionable faith is considered a person of faith (Sharmon, 2011). Societies in the Middle East, Asian and African countries are considered more inclined toward patriarchy and are usually lacking in substantial women’s rights. In these countries there are two related gender issues; one is attitudinal and based on beliefs and values and the other issue relates to legal doctrines. The attitudinal component in the Middle East is more prevalent of certain patriarchal values that have been learned through socialization experience, on women and gender roles. The legal dimension pertains to the essentially discriminatory nature of Islamic personal status laws and criminal code when applied to women. The patriarchal and legal structures place women in a disadvantaged position in the social order. The intensity of patriarchal values varies from one Islamic society to another but nonetheless, patriarchy and legal discrimination continue to remain central to the debate on Islam and gender. Patriarchy in the Middle East has received a great deal of attention in the studies of the women’s movement and early feminists and also in scholarly literature. Patriarchy is part of the Middle East history; it is part and parcel of their beliefs and the emergence of Islam in this area has been preceded by patriarchal attitudes. The patriarchal foundations have been reinforced by religious traditions and practices and what may distinguish the Middle East from the rest of the...
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