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How can I stop myself being affected by the patriarchy?

(23 Posts)
chaoshayley Wed 21-Aug-13 23:51:56

Tonight I was having a conversation with DP about some anxiety issues that I have and the cause of them. I said that I thought it might partly be to do with the way women are portrayed in our society and being made to feel that the only part of me that patriarchal society might value is my appearance - which, as a result of being surrounded by images of sexualised women, I feel is 'substandard' in some way.

I don't want to subscribe to the 'oh you're just jealous' theory, because I don't want to look like women on the cover of Nuts or Zoo, but I feel as though that is how I am expected to look IYSWIM? I don't think DP does, as he was very understanding and said that, if I can see that patriarchy makes me feel this way about myself, can I not 'ignore' it or rise above it?

But I find it so difficult because the sexualisation and objectification of women is EVERYWHERE in our society. DP says that sometimes he feels inadequate when he sees images of men on advertising hoardings and things, but I'm not sure if it's the same?

Sorry for the epic, rambling post, I hope that anybody reading can make sense of what I'm trying to articulate.

KaseyM Thu 22-Aug-13 00:07:52

I understand you. I feel like that too. Even though your feminist hat makes you see it for what it is - you can't help but be affected by it.

I hate the way it pits us against each other and places us on a scale in relation to each other. And how it makes us feel inadequate.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Except campaign to get it changed...but I'm not sure how you stop it affecting you personally.

chaoshayley Thu 22-Aug-13 00:12:39

Thank you for replying! That's exactly it, I feel as though I'm constantly being compared to other women and quite often I do it to myself too. sad

I'm an anxious/emotional person anyway, but since having my eyes opened by feminism, some days I just think, 'ARGH, MAKE IT BLOODY STOP!' confused

Treen44444 Thu 22-Aug-13 00:20:46

Purely looking at the anxiety, which I suffer from, it is an internal thing. You need to learn how to change the way you perceive things. Often I will perceive certain situations irrationally and perceive behavioural outcomes as much worse than they actually end up being in reality. This causes anxiety for me.
On the patriarchy, try to use your understanding of its flaws and short comings to see right through it. Hopefully, it will hold less weight for you.

MrsTerryPratchett Thu 22-Aug-13 02:32:14

If you are swimming in the ocean you get wet. That's the issue with rising above the patriarchy. Unless you live in a no contact feminist, female only commune, you will see it, live it and breathe it.

I find it really hard. Probably harder BECAUSE I can see some of it for what it is. I was filled with rage recently at an article about a charity working with abused and prostituted minors which went on at some length about what the workers looked like and what clothes they were wearing (pretty, blonde and petite in wedges FFS).

Can you try to watch, read, be around healthier media?

BasilBabyEater Thu 22-Aug-13 07:53:41

You can't stop yourself being affected by the patriarchy, like MrsTP says, you're in that environment and all of us are affected by our environment.

What you can do, is be aware of how it's affecting you so that every time you get the negative thoughts, you remind yourself of what's causing them and also remind yourself that it would be remarkable if you didn't have those thoughts - our environment as women is hostile to us and designed to be hostile to us - we're supposed to feel inadequate and anxious and not good enough for this world - we're only here on sufferance anyway, we have no right to occupy any public space, so the more diffident we feel about it and ourselves, the better. That's what our environment is designed to tell us.

Would it help to accept that sometimes, that environment is inevitably going to have that negative impact on you and not beat yourself up about that happening? Also I agree with the suggestion that you avoid the bits of hostile propaganda that you can - the shit women's magazines, the Daily Fail, the abysmal soaps etc. If you cut those things out of your life for a few weeks or months, when you look at them again, you feel much more of an impartial observer, rather than being an active, involved participant in them and that distance helps you to fend off the impact this shit has on us.

Boosterseat Thu 22-Aug-13 09:08:16

The girls in Nuts and Zoo do not look like that in RL, trust me I know a regular <shudders> and she is cellulite ridden, spotty and sports a spare tyre.

Its not real and FWIW she is one of the unhappiest people I know, bitter, shallow and counting down the days until her "sex appeal" expires. I wouldn't want to live like that, so I count my lucky stars I don't value whats outside more than I do the person within and that my DH feels the same.

The side effect of walking around the world with eyes wide open has its disadvantages but discovering feminism has rounded me, made me challenge the shitty social expectations and over the last year or so my confidence in who I am and what I stand for has soared, I don't need to be anyone but myself and anyone who expects something else of me goes straight into my "don't take them too seriously" box.

Your DP sounds supportive, sometimes rising above it is the only way to see things clearly.

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Thu 22-Aug-13 15:13:21

Interesting thread. I understand how you feel OP.

I am unhappier since discovering feminism. It's like I'm out of the Matrix and am suddenly 'conscious' of all this shite that I used to accept and play along with.

But, now, I find myself playing along with it but resenting it at the same time i.e. catching sight of Zoo front cover and instead of thinking:

'urgh, I'm so fat/ugly compared to her' my internal monologue goes:

'urgh I'm so fat and ugly compared to shut up you don't need to look patriarchy-fit...yeah but no one will fancy me unless I get a body like shut up, you don't want to be objectified and judged on looks...yeah but people will be nice to me if I look like her...yeah but it will be a shallow kindness based on would be easier if i had less fat/better clothes/better make up...stop being a shit don't like feminists...i don't need men to like me...'

And on and's exhausting. A huge internal conflict everytime I put make up on too.

Men are not worrying about this shit.

MrsTerryPratchett Thu 22-Aug-13 16:08:20

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa I know that dialogue. With, and this one is cringe worthy in the extreme, "It's OK because I am blonde and pretty with big tits worked better a couple of decades ago so I can be a feminist and no one will accuse me of being jealous". Fucking patriarchy in MY HEAD.

chaoshayley Thu 22-Aug-13 17:33:53

It's comforting to hear that other feminists feel the same way, although I'm like MrsTerryPratchett, in that it makes me so so angry that this patriarchal shite has got into my brain in the way it has.

I just don't understand how to rise above it, like DP says (you're right, Boosterseat, he is v supportive). It's better on good days, but when I'm having a down day, this crap seems to get even worse.

But like Treen and Basil have said, being aware of it should make it easier to see it for what it is.

LifeofPo Thu 22-Aug-13 17:37:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

badguider Thu 22-Aug-13 17:46:21

You can't control societal pressures, but you can control how you react to them.

You need to invest in your self-worth as something unrelated to your appearance and appearing sexually available. Do things that genuinely make you feel really good and good about yourself, spend time getting to know yourself (if that doesn't sound too hippy).

I personally find it helpful to focus on my body in terms of what it can do, it doesn't bother me often that it's quite stocky and short and maybe even chunky because I also know that it's strong and can run and cycle well. For me sport gives me that, but for other people there might be other ways to embrace their body - dance maybe? particularly a womanly dance like belly dancing?

I also do yoga, but not in a studio full of posing and judgement but a 'real' yoga studio which is about leaving the ego behind and about meditation and acceptance. I also have massage in a similar environment (keep out of 'spas' and 'beauticians' if you want a positive massage experience).

badguider Thu 22-Aug-13 17:49:19

Of course the other option is to read feminist books and then you'll be too angry to be anxious smile

New books that might be worth a read are Hadley Freeman's 'Be Awesome' and also a book of essays called 'Fifty Shades of Feminism'.

yellowballoons Thu 22-Aug-13 17:54:32

ok. One step at a time
How old are you?

yellowballoons Thu 22-Aug-13 17:55:58

To speed this up
1. how old are you
2.what do you read and see, media wise on a regular basis
3.what job do you do
4.does the job involve a bunch of leery men?

Boosterseat Thu 22-Aug-13 18:10:45

badguider I'm a Pilates nut and found concentrating on my strength opposed to my shape has been a really positive change.

Being physically stronger has made me mentally stronger and I would recommend Pilates/yoga to anyone trying to find a bit more acceptance with themselves.

chaoshayley Thu 22-Aug-13 18:26:55

LifeofPo I said in my OP that I don't want to look like women on the cover of Nuts or Zoo, but I feel as though that is how I am expected to look. smile I suppose because that is because it is an 'accepted' view of women and, when you're surrounded by these images in day-to-day life, it's hard not to compare yourself to them, I think?

I'm 20 and a student. I don't go out of my way to seek this stuff out - I've blocked the Daily Mail on my browser, I don't read 'conventional' women's mags like Heat or OK or anything like that. I suppose that university 'lad culture' doesn't help, but DP is far from a typical 'lad'.

chaoshayley Thu 22-Aug-13 18:28:53

badguider' I picked up a copy of Fifty Shades Of Feminism in Waterstone's the other day but didn't buy it, is it worth it? And I love Hadley Freeman's stuff smile

Idespair Thu 22-Aug-13 18:39:08

I consider a significant chunk of the "blame" re appearance issues to actually lie with women's magazines. Eg obsession with makeup - which products/techniques, obsession with handbags, obsession with hair straightening etc etc.

All if the men I have been with and the vast majority of my male friends and relatives (with some exceptions) prefer women as they are and in particular cannot be arsed waiting for women to do all these silly procedures before going out. A woman is more likely to notice straightened hair than a man, a woman is more likely to notice your bag. A man will notice whether makeup is there or not but is unlikely to consider it much further than that.

I not saying it's all the fault of women and fashion but I don't think it can be entirely blamed on the patriarchy either. Society on general has a serious problem with image. It is extending to men as well - waxing their legs and other unnecessary crap.

I'm waiting for my flaming grin

badguider Thu 22-Aug-13 18:44:07

I haven't read fifty shades of feminism but plan to. I was at a talk about it by three of the authors this week and it was an interesting event so i have added it to my wish list for when i finish my current book.

StainlessSteelBegonia Thu 22-Aug-13 19:03:30

Idespair, I suspect you already know that blaming the patriarchy is not the same as blaming men. Women's magazines are a product of a patriarchal society, not of "men." Women can be just a prone to perpetuating patriarchal norms are men are. Some do it willingly, fighting for the social approval they'll get for toeing the line, and others do it occasionally because it can get tiring pushing back all the time.

yellowballoons Thu 22-Aug-13 19:53:50

20 and at uni.
I am not sure why you would feel like you should have a certain look?
Uni is choc full of all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, wearing all sorts of clothes normally any old thing.

Do you have friends who expect something?

Or perhaps you are reading too much MN [slight joke, but I do think spending too much time on MN can distort rl somewhat]

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Thu 22-Aug-13 20:30:26

Idespair I think you are a little bit uninformed. As stainless says, all those women's mags and style programmes are the patriarchy. So to feel oppressed by the patriarchy is to feel under pressure to dress/look/act/perform a certain way as influenced by all this, not just by men.

Also we are trying to get away from the idea of being how 'men prefer' so you saying all your male friends and relatives would prefer we present in a certain way (i.e. no fancy hair do/make up) is STILL basing your image on what others think and adding pressure.

po when I referred to Zoo is was just to give an example, not to say that is the only specific look I feel conditioned to want. Unattainable images are everywhere and there are punishments for not striving/spending/starving for that goal be they ridicule in gossip mags, street harassment or just a bit of internal self-loathing.

It takes strength to resist the pressures and I'm genuinely happy to see that some posters on this thread don't seem to even feel that pressure. I do and it seems the OP does so treating our feelings with bafflement is a bit rude and very disingenuous.

I like the ideas about focussing on things your body can do rather than how it looks even though the reason I run is to lose weight If you are unable to do physical exercise OP then concentrating on your uni work and taking pride in the outcomes is something.

I don't know. 'Raising your self-esteem' is excellent advice but easier said than done.

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