Why Does Discrimination Against Women Still Exist?

Sad and lonely woman.

In the 21st century, Acts of violence and discrimination against women continue to be a scourge in our society. Specifically in Spain, more than 1,000 women have been murdered since 2001 at the hands of their partner or ex-partner, and 1.4 million have been victims of sexual violence. To appreciate the seriousness of the matter, all you have to do is ask the women around you if at any time in their lives they have felt sexually harassed or violated by a man.

Although in several countries some progress has been made in jurisdictional matters and equality, there are many elements that reflect that there is still a lot of work to do, especially in terms of education for equality with a gender perspective and awareness-raising. social.

Although the use of violence and discrimination against women part of different completely varied causes (individual factors, interactional causes – such as the transgenerational transmission of sexist values ​​and patterns of functioning – and institutional causes) in this article we are going to refer explicitly to the cultural causes that support and maintain discrimination and violence against women: patriarchy.

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What is patriarchy?

Many believe that patriarchy does not exist, that it is an exaggeration and/or a biased interpretation of reality. In our understanding, patriarchy is a form of social organization in which social values ​​associated with the male gender have power and keep the values ​​associated with the female gender subjugated.

In fact, machismo as a culture (and not as behavior) is protected through the patriarchal model. Machismo is the social construction that understands masculine references as universal and immovable., unquestionable. For this reason, for many years there has not been a forceful and critical social reaction towards gender violence, discrimination or harassment towards women. Silence and justifications on the part of sexist thinking are necessary for the continuity of patriarchy.

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It seems simple, but it is not: how does patriarchy materialize? What does it translate into? How is it evident in our lives? A very clarifying example, taken from a great expert in the area such as Elena Garrido Gaitán, consists of the film Matrix. Patriarchy would be like a set of norms, values ​​and material provisions (distribution of private property, for example) that covers us constantly from the moment we are born, is difficult to appreciate and demonstrate, and is totally rooted and universalized in society, so internalized that sometimes its own existence is denied. In order to “see” it, it is necessary to do an awareness exercise.

Following the model of patriarchy, a “real” man has a penis, functions with a male gender role and is heterosexual. The woman, on the other hand, has breasts and a vagina, functions with the female gender role (in fact, the more feminine the more “authentic woman”) and is heterosexual. If any man or woman dares to move away from this model it is considered invalid or not authentic.

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What does patriarchy have to do with discrimination against women?

Surely many of you have wondered How does the social model of patriarchy influence the emergence of dynamics of violence and discrimination against women?. It is not easy to answer this question, but we are going to try.

Patriarchy “constructs” and shapes us as men and women, with our rights and obligations: how we should be if we belong to one biological sex or another. We have a kind of predetermined script of how we should function in a relationship (men: strong, responsible, tough, not showing weakness…; women: dedicated and caring, affectionate, submissive and obedient).

There are several elements that can lead men and women from the patriarchal model to a crisis.

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For a woman to be unfaithful to a man is a direct threat to her status of masculinity and power. Instead, seduction by a man towards other women can increase his “power” (paradoxically, women are quickly labeled promiscuous, to say the least). To see this example in society, let’s think about teenagers: how the peer group reacts with a boy who has flirted with 4 girls in the same night; Now let’s imagine if the one who has flirted with 4 guys is a girl.


The eternal concern about male size and performance, as well as the number of sexual partners. Furthermore, thanks to the invisibility of female masturbation The patriarchal fantasy that only a man could give pleasure to a woman continued. (obviously, with his penis).

The expression of feelings

Man can only express feelings that show his power (joy, anger). There are other emotions that are mistakenly judged as “weak”, such as sadness, fear, etc. In fact, many men show anger when in reality what is happening to them is that they are sad, afraid or ashamed.


This element is an elongation of masculine power. It is a fundamental point in psychological abuse, where it is the man who controls the access and distribution of money. It is a tool of brutal power, associated with the gender perspective.

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Loss of power as loss of masculinity

As we can see, some men are in constant search for power and its maintenance. But… what can happen when they feel that that power is being threatened or is in danger?

The last four factors above could focus on this fundamental element for the genesis of gender violence: the loss of male power. What is at stake is the man’s masculinity, and this is where the danger lies. Unfortunately, some men use violence as a quick tool (and totally maladaptive) to return to “normality” (their normality: continuing to have the power that the patriarchal model gives them within the relationship).

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In cases of gender violence, the man perceives his victim as a threat, a danger that can generate an imbalance of power. On the first occasions, it is common for the way to reestablish power to be subtle (e.g., with comments, with attempts to control the victim’s routines, uncomfortable silences, manipulation, isolation…). The fundamental problem of aggressors consists of the inadequate interpretation of the threat (Is it really so threatening that women contradict our scheme of functioning? Why should things be as one has learned since childhood or as our family models reproduce?), as well as in their totally maladaptive and disproportionate violent response. .

In stories of gender violence, it is common to see how the violent dynamic was gradually established in the face of stressful events that meant a loss of control on the part of the aggressor: loss of job (remember the importance of money), infidelity, birth of a child or pregnancy, abandonment of the couple…

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Final conclusions: differentiated socialization

Almost automatically, we build our social identity from a very young age based on the biological sex to which we belong (think, for example, of the typical Christmas games that are clearly differentiated for boys or girls), and a series of certain gender expectations are attributed to us. That is, I (as a woman or man) know what is expected of me (on an emotional, cognitive and behavioral level) depending on whether I am a woman or a man.

In this way, through differentiated socialization, based on emphasizing the differences between sexes, dynamics of discrimination against women are normalized: there is no need to question inequality, it is assumed that it should be normal.

In fact, Those ultimately responsible for the transmission of patriarchy to future generations are ourselves., despite the fact that it surrounds us from the beginning of our lives. Beginning to create more egalitarian societies based on respect for human beings, and not for gender roles, involves modifying both our way of thinking and the way in which we organize ourselves socially.