Brandi Fay Donahou
“Representative liberal democracy and its institutions as they have evolved have been criticized as restrictive, stifling and patriarchal and for failing to deliver what women want or need” (Stevens 66). In a representative democracy, citizens (groups) participate and shape policy through the selection of officials (individuals) who act on behalf of them. Within modern liberal democratic societies, where the focus is on the success of the individual as opposed to greater good and the structure is hierarchal, women as elected officials are underrepresented in relation to their proportion of the citizenry. Patriarchy is imbedded within the hierarchal structures that give shape to capitalism. Is it possible for women to be represented equally within a structure that limits power and relies on gender as a social order? Further, is it possible to have equal universal rights without equal representation of sexual identity within government? It is first important to understand the nature of patriarchy and the barriers imposed upon women in relation to obtaining positions of power. The consideration of various strategies to achieving power and the manifestations of power by women, within a representative democracy are key to formulating effective and equal representation. Lastly, the organization of society and power can be questioned, and alternatives offered that lead to the inclusion of women within positions of influence. The goal of constructing equal representation of women within government and positions of power requires an understanding of power structures as well as a stated course to obtaining leadership that will challenge or aim to completely dismantle the barriers of a hierarchal system that is designed to exercise dominance over women and those defined as other.
Patriarchy exists within the hierarchal structures that compose the liberal political structure of modern democracies. Patriarchy, while persistent and invasive in the lives of all people, has become accepted and unquestioned as a social order. “In our society, men have power over women, white people have power over people of color, the rich have power over the poor, those who tit the norms of society around sexual identity, attractiveness, fitness, age, etc. have higher status than those who don't” (Starhawk 170). The nature of patriarchy defines a subordinate and a dominant, and through construction and maintenance, identifies a hierarchy the by which people first accept, then function and finally aid in recreating. In a patriarchic society, systems of fear and control become the established status quo and domination relies on the idealistic promise of equal opportunity for all men and women and to include people of all races. Patriarchy demands as a system that groups of people have power over others, specifically that men have power over women. This is because power is considered a finite resource and there cannot be enough for everyone to posses. The system stipulates strict adherence to gender roles and that means men rule over women. “If a society is oppressive, then people who grow up and live in it will tend to accept, identify with, and participate in it as "normal" and unremarkable life” (Johnson 78). Although the promise maintained is that of equal opportunity and perhaps, separate but equal, the truth is blatant and harsh: there are penalties to not playing along with the policies of patriarchy. Gender serves as a justification for the division of labor which effectively limits opportunity and the routine images of violence against women in the media serves the purpose of the status quo. Women suffer the backlash of challenging patriarchies established norms and male privilege. Consequences manifest in ways such as slut shaming, the guilting of women who chose to operate outside of the home in male dominated fields, rape, brutality