Sexual assault and the princess industry are all part of the same system

January 19, 2018 by Maisam Najafizada, The Conversation
In order to understand sexual harassment, we need to look at global patriarchal structures. Gender inequity is also reproduced through popular culture and the princess industry. Credit: Haley Phelps/Unsplash

Since Harvey Weinstein's case, sexual harassment and sexual assault have been condemned by almost everyone. The #MeToo movement went viral and thousands agreed with it. But recently, a backlash to #MeToo led by French actress Catherine Deneuve and others like Margaret Atwood has surfaced.

Questions about what constitutes have become prominent.

Are all sexual advances harassment and all men evil? One Washington Post columnist wrote: "Ladies, let's be reasonable about #MeToo or nothing will ever be sexy again."

What is missing in this global discussion is an overview of the context in which the relationship between men and occur —the global patriarchal social structures.

Patriarchy feeds the prevalent inequity in all societies and diminishes women into second-grade humans. Sexual harassment/assault is but one manifestation of this structure.

Patriarchal social structures

Patriarchy prevents the birth of women on a grand scale. In India, there are millions fewer women than men. This male to female ratio could only plausibility be explained by selective abortion of girls, which has increased substantially between 1995 and 2011, especially for pregnancies after a firstborn girl.

In 2015, China had around 33 million more men than women, due to decades of gender bias. Still, this has generated questions on how to find brides for all these single men, not: Where are the millions of missing women?

Once they are born, women are often used as instruments for other social values. We have heard it time and again that women's education contributes to family betterment. Many international development efforts to empower women argue that women's education will improve family, community, and nation as a whole.

It seems harmless to use family improvement, community development or other social reasons to educate girls and women. It also appears to be pro gender equity initiative. But using patriarchal values such as family improvement to promote women's empowerment beats the purpose of gender equity initiatives.

The notion of family has historically signified patriarchal values and behaviours. All over the world, the traditional notion of family consists of a man and a woman. For one, this definition of family does not recognise genders other than man and woman. Moreover, it assumes one sexual orientation for each gender. On top of that, roles are strictly defined and labour is strictly divided in it. The man's role is outside the home and the woman's inside. Man is the breadwinner and woman is the housewife. Diversion from the rules has consequences.

In extreme cases the same family values that feed, cover, protect, support and even revere women as daughters, sisters, daughters and mothers also justify the honour killings of sisters, daughters and wives.

The public gang raping of women in the name of family honour is also a tool of patriarchy. The depiction of women in relation to the notion of family has often devalued women and derailed true interventions.

The princess industry

Gender inequity is also reproduced through popular culture—movies and the princess industry which grooms girls as princesses.

"Princessification" is the process of preparing girls to become princesses and partners to horse-riding, handsome and rich royal princes. This whole notion works to mold girls' internal sense of submission, sexualization and passivity.

When girls grow up, the shape of and discrimination takes the form of commodification, commercialization and sexualization. In some parts of the world, 'gifts' (dowry, dower and bride price) are exchanged in marriages —under the pretext of supporting women —to commodify women.

In most parts of the world, women's bodies are used as desirable objects to sell products and services. Next time you are in a shopping mall or watching TV, count how many products or services are advertised using women's bodies, when they don't have anything to do with the product or service whatsoever.

Addressing the patriarchal context

In this patriarchal context, women are expected to be obedient daughters, chaste sisters and/or submissive princess-like unthinking girlfriends or wives. In other words they are considered sex objects or asexual deity figures. We commodify, commercialise and sexualize women and use them as tools to promote dominant patriarchal values.

Sexual harassment is but one of the many manifestations of this patriarchal context.

When the playing field is already discriminatory against women, it is not the issue that matters but the rules of the game. In the case of sexual harassment, consent becomes an issue when a woman has the opportunity and the power to say 'No.'

The case of Harvey Weinstein is a symptom of a broader, more prevalent social and cultural disease. To address the root causes, there is a need to restructure our cultures —so that women are viewed as having the same value as men, and women's empowerment is a constitutive value for itself, regardless of its instrumental value for the development of economies or betterment of the .

Explore further: Feeling sexually harassed? You're not alone

Related Stories

Feeling sexually harassed? You're not alone

December 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—Before the #MeToo movement and the fall of numerous powerful men accused of sexual harassment, researchers surveyed thousands of women and found the problem to be widespread.

Do degrading TV portrayals of women cause gender harassment?

December 16, 2013
A new study in Psychology of Women Quarterly considers whether objectifying women in television and harassment are causally linked. Researchers Silvia Galdi, Anne Maass, and Mara Cadinu designed two experimental studies that ...

30 percent of female physicians report sexual harassment

May 17, 2016
In a survey of high-achieving physician-scientists, nearly a third of women reported experiencing sexual harassment.

Recommended for you

No accounting for these tastes: Artificial flavors a mystery

November 13, 2018
Six artificial flavors are being ordered out of the food supply in a dispute over their safety, but good luck to anyone who wants to know which cookies, candies or drinks they're in.

Simple tips can lead to better food choices

November 13, 2018
A few easily learned tips on eating and food choice can increase amount of healthy food choices between 5 percent and 11 percent, a new Yale University study has found.

Insufficient sleep in children is associated with poor diet, obesity and more screen time

November 13, 2018
A new study conducted among more than 177,000 students suggests that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle profile among children and adolescents.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

November 12, 2018
Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

Some activity fine for kids recovering from concussions, docs say

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Children and teens who suffer a sports-related concussion should reduce, but not eliminate, physical and mental activity in the days after their injury, an American Academy of Pediatrics report says.

How many calories do you burn? It depends on time of day

November 9, 2018
Researchers reporting in Current Biology on November 8 have made the surprising discovery that the number of calories people burn while at rest changes with the time of day. When at rest, people burn 10 percent more calories ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.