The concept of the “patriarchal bargain,” as eloquently put forth by feminist writer Deniz Kandiyoti in her 1998 paper “Bargaining with Patriarchy” delves deep into the intricate dynamics of women’s roles within patriarchal societies. It’s a concept that sheds light on the decisions women make in such societies, decisions often driven by a desire to secure the benefits associated with their gender, be they economic, emotional, or social.
The Gender-Based Division of Labor
In patriarchal societies, gender-based divisions of labor are typically well-defined. Men are assigned outdoor responsibilities, economic contributions, and the management of family property. Meanwhile, women find themselves confined to domestic roles, often accepting arrangements that foster dependency. Within this framework, three contradictory qualities are often expected of women: they should be childlike, sexy, and nurturing. Despite the inherent contradictions in these expectations, women often embrace the challenge to ensure they aren’t deprived of the benefits associated with these roles.
The Perpetuation of Patriarchy
It’s worth noting that, in the process of embracing these patriarchal arrangements, women often become inadvertent agents in the perpetuation of patriarchy. This highlights the complex interplay between individual choices and societal structures, as women, by conforming to certain expectations, inadvertently play a role in reinforcing the very system they navigate.
Challenging Biological Determinism
The concept of the patriarchal bargain challenges notions of biological determinism, as posited by scholars like G.P. Murdock, who argued that women’s physical weakness compared to men’s physical strength justified the gender-based division of labor seen worldwide. However, Deniz Kandiyoti’s work, as well as that of British feminist sociologist Ann Oakley, challenges this view.
Cultural Roots of Gender Division
According to Ann Oakley, the sexual division of labor observed in various societies is not primarily rooted in the physical differences between men and women. Instead, it’s deeply embedded in the culture and beliefs of the society in question. The roles assigned to men and women are largely shaped by societal norms and expectations, rather than innate biological distinctions.
The Ongoing Conversation on Patriarchal Bargain
The concept of the patriarchal bargain, rooted in Deniz Kandiyoti’s work, invites us to engage in an ongoing conversation about gender, power, and societal expectations. It prompts us to critically examine the choices women make within patriarchal systems and how those choices intersect with societal structures. This perspective is a crucial component of understanding and, ultimately, challenging patriarchal norms to create more equitable and just societies.a