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Internalising Patriarchy And The Social Conditioning Women Go Through – Syerleena Abdul Rashid

The internalisation of patriarchy is best described as a system of beliefs where women and girls accept damning stereotypes and myths to be true.

Seri Delima assemblywoman Syerleena Abdul Rashid. Picture from Syerleena Abdul Rashid's Facebook page.

Since childhood, girls and boys have been taught to adhere to certain social guidelines: girls are always given dolls to play with and told to look pretty, while boys are allowed to engage in more physical activities like climbing trees and playing football. 

This type of social conditioning occurs everywhere, and for most, it has become the norm. 

While human reproduction relies for the most part on our wombs, policies regarding reproductive health and the choices we want to make may sometimes be denied or brushed aside as irrelevant.

The fear of being ostracised, made fun of, or being labelled as different may often shape how we think, whether we realise it or not.

The internalisation of patriarchy is best described as a system of beliefs where women and girls accept damning stereotypes and myths to be true.

Society, both men and women, are quick to put labels on women who speak their minds, assert decisions, and dismiss them as “men-haters” when we remind them that respect goes both ways. 

Women leaders are also frequently branded as overbearing, while men are often viewed as assertive.

The problem with this mindset is that it perpetuates sexism and reinforces gender stereotypes, resulting in many young girls and women second-guessing their abilities to lead nations or communities.

It really does not help that some women continue to make censorious remarks that sabotage their own, as well as other women’s and girls’ potential. 

Contrary to what Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s eldest daughter Nurulhidayah believes, women are born leaders. In fact, human beings are, irrespective of gender.

However, there are several factors that can develop leadership skills such as experience, determination, confidence, and other positive values that enable individuals to connect and commend. 

Science has proved that while there are traits that humans are born with, there are traits that need to be further developed, such as accepting responsibility, communication skills, empathy, being motivators and understanding that life is about constant learning.

In other words, a leader stops being an effective leader when they stop learning.

The belief that women are inferior and could not possibly lead as good as men has no place in our country, or any country for that matter.

Malaysia cannot afford to falter in the progressive fight to acknowledge women’s rights and to recognise gender parity as social justice.  

We need to address sexism and the effects of internalised patriarchy, but here is the single most important reminder for all. When speaking about it, we should not do it from a place of victimisation. Discourse must stem from our power, our conviction and fervour.

Those who undermine us are too comfortable living within their own insecurities and fear. After all, there is a perverse comfort in putting other women down and disallowing others to break the glass ceiling.

Perhaps it is timely for us to reflect on the dangers of internalised patriarchy. Questions of why we are bound to gender roles, how we can understand or even process its effects and ultimately, how to deal with it, are significant for us to win this battle. 

If we fail to find a way out, we may find ourselves delving deeper into the hallucinations of the misappropriation of our identities.

Syerleena Abdul Rashid is the assemblywoman for Seri Delima. She is also DAP Penang assistant publicity secretary and on the DAP Wanita national executive committee. 

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Ova. 

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