Inclusive Teaching and Learning at Higher Education: GENDER #2

Reading of Bell Hooks, (2013) ‘Understanding Patriarchy’ 

Understanding Patriarchy was an insightful read. In reading, I made connections to instances exampled from either Hooks personal stories, thoughts or explanations. In some cases, I had felt like saying snap! Like going through a split deck of cards face down placing each familiar characteristics of the card face layered on top of the other (however) in no particular (hierarchal) order where there’s the reveal of the recognisable matching suit.
In reading I can identify areas where to use the phrase of Terrance Real ‘Physiological Patriarchy’ is carried out.

An important thing that I have learnt from the text is the power patriarchy has on the social psychological conditioning to create a collective mindset of people’s behaviours. These learnt behaviours can be subtle as it’s established in in everyday culture. Hook quotes “The psychological terrorism and violence,” that maintains learnt behaviours because the fear of acting against the conditioning of patriarchy may lead to negative consequences. As Hook mentions that this patriarchy is reinforced by religion, home, schools. Areas we people are taught fear of retribution. There’s also the media; magazines, film, drama, television, advertising, computer games, social media can be tools to amplify areas of defined gender roles, violence and a woman’s and a man’s place.

The retelling was necessary to reinforce both the message and the remembered state of absolute powerless. Could it be the retelling of these stories in the media are absorbed into the psyche? By submission, engaging in such media that promotes, violence and dominance takes away our own power?

Patriarchy is a subject I believe we are all too familiar with. As a word relatively new to my vocabulary, however, reading Bell Hooks essay made me think more directly about the unconscious behaviours and attitudes that play out in everyday social activities. Reading her story I couldn’t help reflecting on my own in terms of the prescribed set of rules of how girls and boys should be. I grew up labelled a ‘Tom Boy’ as my interests were in perceived boys stuff, my interest was in racing cars and computer games. I was included in on boy’s games at playtime because of my athletic physique, I could fight and ran faster than many of them. But then looking back makes me think of what laws of patriarchy I was subconsciously conforming to, in my objection to following set scripts, of how a girl should be?

My experience working in Graphic Design, where twenty years ago this industry was heavily male-dominated. Decades prior, Graphic Design was considered as a man’s profession. Working in an environment amongst men it was important to have a voice when I came up against any acts of Patriarchy. That voice was not to necessarily shout out loud either but to take a simple action in protest.

Hook describes the courageous voices of visionary feminists that as were astute to replace the words sexism and male chauvinism for patriarchy. Patriarchy in its effectiveness is multi-layered and multifaceted that surround us in many social contexts.

One of those layers is understood through reading Hooks description of certain feminists caught up in upholding their part in a patriarchy by solely blaming men and for the oppression though sexism in as hooks describes ‘their own lust for power’. Yet another side to this is the complacent attitudes to be passive and allow patriarchy to take place as exampled by Hooks story about her mother.

Then there are layers to which the fact of how men are equally affected and suffer the pain of patriarchy. Importantly how this system impairs their mental health and well-being. Also how the brutality of patriarchy affects males to imitate such behaviours. Hooks highlights the emotional pain patriarchy has on men that are echoed and exampled on ‘caygin’ blogsite. The theory is that boys are brought up to develop certain characteristics.  Characteristics that are pushed by society in the pressure to conform.

As a mother of a daughter and son, I can relate to Terrance Real and Bell Hooks on the accounts of giving my children the space to be. Mindful to try and have balance. Household chores are not gender specific there are jobs to be done together for a cleaner, (physically and mentally) sound environment.

In teaching, similarly, it is important to have balance, collaboration and a sound environment. Students, will have already a defined and determined set of ways, influenced by patriarchal factors that they have been either indoctrinated or exposed to. Therefore as a teacher to provide a comfortable space to allow students the openness examine this and the freedom to be.

Hook’s final words is that ‘We must all change’. Change can only come about by not being silent.

‘This silence promotes denial’

‘A great majority of individuals enforce an unspoken rules in culture that is maintained’.

We have seen this actioned out in the media from Saville to Weinstein. People who were silent are now speaking out. When silence is broken only then change can begin to happen. In the practice of teaching, how do we react to and address any unjust behaviours being done onto others or ourselves?

Hooks I believe, deliberately offers no suggestion of how we must all change. This essay is to provoke thought, possibly to make us more aware of and question our own selves. A personal reflection on our current roles, upbringing and past experience shared to realise the commonalities that affect us all.

Are there areas of our own experiences recognisable in the game of cards that can inform us to how we can dismantle the rules of patriarchy?

Maybe. As with self-awareness, we can begin to make a change.


Some further questions:
What effective strategies can be used to address patriarchal learned behaviours?
Who defines the rules of these prescribed gender roles to be unlearnt?

One Reply to “Inclusive Teaching and Learning at Higher Education: GENDER #2”

  1. (Hi Sharon!)
    In response to your question of effective strategies:
    I find it easy to be overwhelmed by such systems of inequality – ones that have been embedded throughout all aspects of our life over a long period of time. The implications of which are so far reaching.
    Aside from/in addition to, more direct action against forms of oppression, I think that how you behave with people on an every-day level is a form of resistance which can promote change.
    Open-ness to discuss, share and – where possible challenge – even the smallest encounter (which we all confront daily). The value of small steps…something that I, in my impatience am learning!

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