Smash The Patriarchy: 8 Ways To Do It With Love And Compassion

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a bald woman stands in the foreground of a feminism rally, she has brave written across her chest and looks joyous. Its a sign of bringing down patriarchy and its notional standards
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4 min read

The problematic power structure is pervasive, and hurts all of us. Here are simple, everyday ways to first understand the meaning of patriarchy and then contest, chip away at, and finally smash the patriarchy!

First things first: before we understand how to overcome patriarchy and destroy it we need to know what is patriarchy. If you’re confused about what the patriarchy is, here’s a simple definition for patriarchy for you to know its meaning.

Patriarchy is defined as a multi-layered social system, within which it is believed that there are natural and watertight differences between genders. Due to these preconceived differences, specific roles are assigned to each gender in a hierarchical manner, such that men are always on top.

We define a patriarchal set-up as one where, the lack of equality is seen as “natural”, and men are supposed to maintain dominance through cultural sanction and force over women and other genders. 

Watch this 1-minute video as a quick primer:

But what is the meaning of “Smash The Patriarchy”? Smash The Patriarchy (or Down With The Patriarchy) refers to challenging the dominant social, political, cultural, and economic thoughts that value the idea of hegemonic, toxic masculinity over everything.

By saying Smash The Patriarchy, or Down With The Patriarchy, we are employing the same concept; one which involves taking apart an exploitative power structure.

We know what the patriarchy is. We know why we need to take it down. So let’s get down to the important part: how to smash the patriarchy!

1. To Smash The Patriarchy, Question Everything

To think like a feminist means to question the way we live, the way we do things, the language we use, what we value in our community and society, and more.

Some killjoys might call this a killjoy method, but the truth is that feminism is meant to foster an intersectional sense of love and compassion. When we wonder how to destroy the patriarchy, we need to understand — to smash the patriarchy means smashing all those things that make us comfortable parties to its ways.

So question the predetermined rules of engagement, and weed out all those problematic, and sometimes violent thoughts, opinions, and behaviours out of your mindset and you’re en route to destroy the patriarchy within you.

2. Educate Yourself And Be Open To Growth

A really (really, REALLY) big part of learning how to smash the patriarchy is giving yourself up to the idea that it is a lifetime of learning, unlearning and relearning.

By keeping ourselves open to being looked at as critically as we look at others, we can learn when our own behaviours reflect internalised sexism and misogyny. Both are tools of the patriarchy, and do not belong in our tool boxes if we want to understand how to destroy the patriarchy within and truly do it.

What belongs? The calculated, purposeful desire to be willing to change when confronted with our own patriarchal inclinations.

It could be deciding to stop trying to be ‘one of the boys’. Or it could be choosing to listen to someone who accuses a close one of indiscretion. It might even be realising that you tend to slutshame other women. Each is necessary, and makes way for you to uncondition in the future.

3. Challenge Gender Roles While Respecting All Expressions Of Gender

Gender roles are a major player in the patriarchal set-up, because they codify the power dynamics and turn them into rules and regulations. 

bathroom sign which symbolically joins 'male' and 'female' signs to show it is open to all, with humans written on it to destroy gender stereotypes and destroy patriarchy

And when one does not comply with the rules and regulations assigned at birth, they are vilified, ostracised, and attacked for it. This is obviously an issue that we should not only take, but campaign and work to change.

Challenge gender roles by supporting and encouraging those who wish to break out of the boxes they’ve been conditioned to fit into. In fact, try alternate expressions of gender yourself, because your most authentic sense of sense cannot shine through unless you have seen, heard or tried what you’ve been taught is alien.

Support those who are comfortable with traditional gender roles too, so long as they don’t comply with the problematic or violent aspects of them.

4. Don’t Turn This Into An Us V/S Men Fight

The fight for justice (which here is the smashing of the patriarchy) is half-baked when it is exclusive. So make your values intersectional, rather than exclusive to destroy the patriarchy.  

Intersectionality is not only imperative to being a better person, it is also central to feminist thinking and to destroy the patriarchy. 

The patriarchy hurts us all, regardless of where we stand on the spectrum of gender. Some suffer because violence towards them is externalised, such as women, trans, and non-binary people. Some suffer because violence they direct towards others is also internalised, meaning men.

Opposing the patriarchy means opposing any system where someone can claim power over another in order to ‘other’ and marginalise them. 

5. Anger Is Important, But Not As An End Goal

When a class of people is oppressed by another, the former has every right to be angered by it. In fact, to expect anything other than anger is profoundly ignorant.

But while anger can fuel movements, it cannot become the consequence of them. With its tendency to obscure and scramble, anger can be detrimental when it is not tempered with compassion.

Consider: men, who tend to be bearers of violence, have their anger legitimised and it turns destructive. The same can happen to others too.

Anger can be used to get attention. But once the attention is obtained, we must focus on how to achieve the goals we have set. We can burn the bras, but the next step is to change minds, laws and ways of life.

women at an early feminist rally throwing bras in a trashcan with a fire in it to Smash the Patriarchy
Via Teen Vogue

6. Support Women, Trans And Non-Binary People’s Careers

This is pretty simple: put your money where your mouth is. It’s a capitalist world, and money is a major player in terms of access to resources.

By actively choosing to support the businesses and careers of women, trans and non-binary people, we solidify their basic right to livelihood and that is a positive step towards destroying the patriarchy.

You can start by purchasing from local businesses run by them, patronising their platforms, and offering monetary assistance when it comes to fulfilling their entrepreneurship goals.

Women, trans and non-binary people struggle to find jobs, funding and financial freedom. Changing that, in any way we can, is a huge part of smashing the patriarchy. 

7. Hold People In Positions Of Power Accountable

Systems of power are legitimised not only by those who wield the power and their blind worshippers. They are also sanctioned by those who remain silent.

But how does one hold someone in a position of power accountable? 

First, by valuing, supporting and empowering an environment which fosters critical thinking and questioning.

Second, by exercising that right to critical thinking, and using it to point out, call out, bring down, protest, and change the way in which power plays out in our immediate spaces, and beyond.

Whether this means questioning someone who bullies another, joining a public protest when it demands change in an oppressive system, supporting and amplifying the voice of those who are marginalised, or just changing your responses to those in positions of power — every action plays its part in destroying the patriarchy.

8. Focus On Finding Wholesome Alternatives To The Existing Power Structures

In a society where some form of leadership is necessary, we must push for and formulate alternatives to existing, oppressive power structures.

How? By pushing for diverse communities, workplaces and social networks and empowering leadership that guides rather than suppresses. By celebrating compassionate leaders instead of tough taskmasters.

It can take time, effort and love to discover and develop these alternatives. But it’s worth it!

It’s worth it all to foster a compassionate, equal society where people are cherished for who they are.

a sign at a rally that says "fight today for a better tomorrow" to smash the patriarchy

These are just a few ways we can smash the patriarchy in our everyday lives. We hope we’ve been able to provide you with some leads on how to destroy the patriarchy.

What do you do to take on the patriarchy and put an end to it? How do you fight systemic injustice on a day-to-day, action-to-action level? How do you crush the patriarchy within yourself? Share it with us in the comment section below.

Let’s remember its always, Down with the Patriarchy!

Additional contribution: Shayri Bhattacharya

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Priyanka is a poet, a feminist, and an Ophelia conspiracy theorist. She can often be found yelling "Pray you, mark!" at rooms full of condescending men in positions of power. She believes that there is a tremendous dearth of tenderness in this world, and that we need to shift perspectives from acute compassion to chronic empathy. Trust her, she's learned that the hard way. She spends her life drinking coffee, playing with eyeshadow, and ricocheting between bawler and baller.

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