Horizontal Hostility: Patriarchy’s Inferiority Complex

This post was inspired by a short  tête-à-tête with my buddy who has embarked on a new project of hers: to quiz people about their ideas of beauty and fashion. She has chosen to start rather auspiciously with me 🙂

One of the principles that feminism is founded on is that a woman being able to understand another woman is not on any account a GIVEN. We as women long for some empathy from fellow members of our own species, there’s nothing objectionable in such a logical need to derive strength from the shared experiences and wisdom of each other. Patriarchy somehow seems to have major issues with this bond. The P-word is the bitter enemy to every human being.



Any criticism relating to a woman’s appearance is enough to let someone blessed with confidence as tall as a skyscraper to come crashing down. If this criticism comes from members of the opposite sex, the damage is more likely to be less or next to nothing. But what happens when the unnecessary criticism comes from a woman herself? This is when patriarchy takes on a cruel, manipulative form. Just like Satan used the lacuna of the forbidden fruit being off-limits to provoke Eve, patriarchy employs serpentine methods to pit one woman against the other. It all begins when women degrade themselves through comparison of physical features with fellow women. Woman A endowed with full features might envy Woman B, who may be the proud owner of a slender frame and high cheekbones. Problems begin when this pointing out of one’s own lacunae becomes mutual. On logical terms, Woman A can never have Woman B’s features and likewise. In that way, patriarchy does not have any well defined standards of beauty at all. It is all a cruel farce to make women breathe fire on each other in the name of physical features.

A woman is most vulnerable when being repeatedly fed body-shaming messages by fellow women. The impact of internalizing these heavily disastrous messages can have long term effects leading possibly to depression, inferiority complex and extreme self hatred that could turn into self harm. It now appears that women are capable of delivering negative and often unfounded content besides enjoying a greater degree of influence among their female peers. Why can we not allow these women to be receptacles of positive energy? I am reminded of what Dayabai had shared during her chat with me: women have the energy of an atom bomb but they don’t realize how powerful they are!

body diversity

The firepower from the bomb can either blast the negativity to shards or blow up carefully layered walls of positivity. We women must understand that every time we give in to patriarchy, we are dividing ourselves. Every time we tell another woman that she is ugly, patriarchy wins. This ‘Divide and Rule’ policy has been eating away at our sisterhood and solidarity. Let is spend the energy we devote to shaming fellow comrades in empowering and motivating them. It is easy to point out one’s own flaws and coerce one to accept a standard of beauty that is impossible and largely non-existent. Women are powerful agents of change, let us accept the power given to us at the time of our birth to create a united front of confident women who are proud of their bodies. As Beyonce puts it across in a very powerful and beautiful way in her song ‘Run the World’, I quote

“My persuasion can build a nation,

Endless power, with love we can devour!”

Let us promote body diversity and make it our lifelong endeavor to uplift and encourage our sisters to take pride in their bodies.

With this thought, I would encourage all my sisters to watch this inspirational TED talk by leading model Ashley Graham. (Click the hyperlink to watch the video).



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