Women have faced oppression in society from times immemorial. They have been mistreated, traded, enslaved, ambushed, bruised, battered, raped, killed since the dawn of civilization(and even before). The reception meted to them is equal or worse than the treatment accorded to any disempowered group of a traditional society. In fact a casual glance through records is enough to confirm that this phenomenon was not endemic to any one civilization or tribal group. It has been pervasive across space and time of civilization.
The elitist male patriarchal structure of society, with male as head of the family, community and state, though wildly successful in terms of perpetuation of human race has always had a monstrous underbelly. This dark shadow has been its treatment of disempowered groups and weaker sections of society. Strength of this system was used externally to win territories and forge empires but when it regressed in fits of rage, it turned to brutality. Masculine force a means to subdue enemies warped, to chastise sections of society who did not belong to the exclusivist club.
Women were always in the line of first fire.
In last 100 years though conditions in west, have improved and women groups have been able to gain social territory (though by fighting for every inch of it). Universal suffrage, right to equal pay have pushed and leveled the playing field to some extent. However a large portfolio of problems, still remain unattended. Issues created over 10,000 years will not disappear in blink of a century. Many of them persist in western world and most of them in other societies around the world as well.
So lets start to catalogue the problems that woman have faced and continue to do so. Structurally there are four levels at which women face challenges. Following is a list of those levels mapped to some of the issues at each of that level:
- Internal (stereotyping)
- Interpersonal (Scapegoating/Bigotry and Violence)
- Institutional (Discriminatory access to resources and opportunities/power to enforce decisions)
- Ideological (Setting Standards and norms and definition of reality and its representation).
The gender crisis vortex as it actualizes in case of women is typical of the structure of oppression that gets manifest in other cases where these factors combine as well ( like racial bias or anti-Semitism to name two). So before we go on to examine the gender issues faced by women specifically I want to first highlight the structure of oppression for any group (pyramid of diagram ) that is stereotyped in minds of the majority.
Stereotypical Oppression of any out-group escalates in the following order:
- Acts of minor bias
- Acts of prejudice and bigotry
- Acts of discrimination
- Acts of minor and then extreme violence
Let me also cite an example first where this Stereotype Oppression Pyramid (SOP) actualized with diabolical consequences. It was with negative profiling of Jews or Anti Semitism. They were racially profiled as greedy, nit-picking misers who were responsible for many of the societal ills and iniquities. Here is a quick Anti Semitic SOP, (highlights just few major incidents) that have actualized over the ages owing to this stereotyping:
- Acts of Prejudice & Bigotry : Official Soviet Anti Jewish police
- Acts of discrimination: Jews expulsion from Arab and Muslim countries
- Expulsion from England 1290 and from Spain in 1492
- Acts of Extreme Violence: Pogroms before the first crusade in 1096. Cossack massacre in Ukarine 1648-57 and various pogroms in Imperial Russia between 1822-1906
- Genocide: Holocaust of Nazi Germany occupying Europe.
So one can see that when any out-group is stereotyped, their prosecution is consummate and relentless. To have a view of how early the stereotyping starts, here is a video of the doll test given to kids aged 2 year onwards:
Now turning to the case of women stereotyping and its consequences lets start with the Stereotyping Oppression Pyramid (SOP) that women world over have been subjected to.
My attempt to present the oppression of women as a structured escalation process is not to demean any of the harsh realities women face daily but merely as a framework for understanding them in a context. I fervently believe, if we understand a crisis properly or if the problem has a visible frame to handle it, it has a better chance of finding a solution than if we merely create a bulleted list of issues. Any solution, I believe, starts with framing the problem right. Towards that end, I am presenting an infographic which highlights the Structure of Oppression that ensues with gender profiling. This is a rough sketch of almost all issues that feminists world over grapple with on a daily basis.
As we can see, oppression of women goes right from acts of minor bias of jokes/insensitive remarks to acts of prejudice where women do not get selected or promoted based solely on their skills and merit to acts of discrimination where women are paid less than men for similar work to various forms of violence where they are mutilated, raped or killed. Barring genocide (500,000 women getting raped in Rwandan riots is an example of massive outrage stopping just short of a genocide) all other boxes of oppression from the diagram above gets checked in case of women.
Once we have examined the connect between structured atrocities committed on women with how they are viewed (and stereotyped) by society at large, lets turn to examine what are women stereotyped as that they attract such prosecution