Men? Have you given much thought to what “patriarchy” truly means? Do you realize how much it’s benefited us while hindering so many women’s quality of life?

My first job out of college was at Walt Disney World. I remember a meeting during which a white male manager was explaining different career options to a group of employees. I can’t recall the specific topic, but the manager looked at one of the females in our group and advised her against considering something “because you’re a girl.”

I saw her expression stiffen as the conversation moved forward. I said nothing in response to his comment, and neither did anyone else. I wish I had spoken up.

What is “Patriarchy?”

Patriarchy can be defined as “control by men of a disproportionately large share of power.” And if you think our society is mostly post-patriarchal at this point, you haven’t been paying attention to the news or listening deeply to most of the women you know. Or looking at salary disparities among men and woman of similar credentials and experience, or the low number of female CEOs.

An entrenched patriarchy, in its many formats, harms everyone. Women of all ages, those we know and love well (think about your spouse or your daughter, for example) and millions whom we’ll never meet, suffer physical and emotional abuse. The lack of full inclusion sidelines their education, leadership, creativity, and influence, making organizations of any industry less effective. It hinders a woman’s ability to care for herself and her family, and women of color are especially vulnerable to such economic injustice due to intersectionality. 

Here’s three ways men like us, who care deeply about women’s equality and right to full freedom, safety, and success, can help “smash” the patriarchy:

  1. Know what “patriarchy” means and what it looks like in action, such as different expectations for women compared to men, and the lack of female representation in a work group or leadership team. Reflect on how patriarchy benefits you in particular, and ways you can extend those benefits to women.
  2. Practice and commit to non-patriarchal ways of thinking and doing. Put to death such mindsets as “boys will be boys,” “women are better at childcare,” and so forth. And speak up when you hear men, and sometimes women, using these kind of word choices.
  3. Use the power of your voice and your vote to oppose political candidates and legislation that contribute to extending our patriarchal culture. This is especially vital for legal decisions that proliferate rape culture , restrict a women’s reproductive rights, or limit her health care coverage and accessibility.

What additional ideas do you have for “smashing the patriarchy?”