From very early on, almost every woman my age started learning patriarchal concepts relatively subconsciously. Both at school and at home, we witnessed how other women assigned us “feminine” tasks, and expected us to be dedicated little women, to dress in a certain manner and help more at home than our brothers.
This is not new: women have endured, internalized and spread patriarchal patterns of behavior both at home and everywhere else without really knowing how serious it was. To this day, when we think about it, we might detect inherent (are they?) thoughts or ways of behaving that favor gender inequality. And when we see some movies from the 90s, we’re shocked. It’s not about make-up or getting married, it’s not our mothers’ dilemma to choose between being a housewife or getting a job, it’s about more specific areas of our psyche, the ones related to language, to criticizing our own gender, to our own bias.
And because this is still a thing, I wonder: what happens when women take power? Not only does a place above the glass ceiling give us more opportunities, but it also gives us more responsibility in our struggle. How can we make the most of our role? How can we make sure that, from our position of power, we’re not undermining other women who also wish to thrive?
The Most Powerful Women in the World
Let’s take a look at the most powerful women in the world. In my opinion, we find three types of leaders:
- Marketing-centered. They are all about equality. Fake feminists that, from their privileged position, use hatred and public confrontation as their strategy to get more power. They use social media or write books following the advice of marketing strategists. They do encourage women, but… What do they actually do for others? How do they really behave when nobody’s watching?
Women like Von der Leyen or Christine Lagarde, former Managing Director at the IMF, an organization which has been widely criticized for its role in widening the social and economic gap, could be analyzed. Have we seen considerable changes in the policies introduced by the IMF or the European Commission?
- Karina Vergara Sánchez, Mexican poet and thinker, gave a description that probably summarizes what I’d like to say about women in this category:
In parallel, what men do for patriarchy is supported and preserved by the tireless job of some women who, in their quest for male approval, decide to serve them before examining themselves in the mirror of “women” as a group. Female entrepreneurs, female politicians who serve the leader of the party, police women, military women, female drug dealers, female kidnappers and every woman who preserves and takes part in the unfair distribution of wealth and all forms of social injustice. Highly-educated women and religious, moral and legal authorities whose discourse justifies or protects aggressors, or even distracts us or demands us not to give a name and a face to aggression. Women who decide to use their own body and actions to defend men accused of harassment or violence. Women who are loyal to men above all other things. The ones who repeat colonizing, racist and extractionist types of behavior. Women who serve as henchman for other women and men in power for the mere pleasure of serving the hegemony, and who harass, slander, silence, accuse of violence, negate or repress those who refuse to serve them, or who question them, dissent or decide to do things differently. I’m talking about all those women who enable the sale and consumption of bodies, in their different forms, who naturalize pain and products for women. When I refer to ‘patriarchy exercised by men and supported by women’, I refer to all that and more.
- The subtle ones. Finally, we have those women who, without going into extremes, are indifferent to everything. They don’t really adopt any stance and reproduce patriarchal models with other women. They don’t expose themselves and, when given the chance to make a change, they only go as far as expressing politically correct opinions. Undoubtedly, in this patriarchal world, this is the safest way to stay in power: taking care of what’s theirs and not becoming too threatening for either “side”.
Many times, Angela Merkel was seen as contradictory, criticized for not changing political and economic participation for women in her country. As described in the NY Times:
“She learned to cloak her purpose in a veil of blandness,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has observed Ms. Merkel as a journalist. Ms. Merkel, she said, learned that “you shut up, put up, and watch out for an opportunity, all the while trying not to get hurt.”
When legislations, education and labor regulations remain unchanged or are slightly modified to keep some people happy, it’s time to ask ourselves: what are women in power doing for other women?
What’s your role?
Feminism is not about going against men, it’s about transferring resources when we find ourselves in a position of power in order to improve the life of other women who perform under the glass ceiling. We’re all responsible for transforming current social conditions, from our own place and doing everything within our reach.
While the most powerful women can be placed in one of the three categories discussed before (thank God, not all of them), I believe we don’t need a ranking to exercise power. Power lies in a teacher educating, in a team leader, in a woman who hires personnel, a healthcare professional. Every woman, from their own place, may have some sort of power to change things. What will you do for other women?