The patriarchy is a social structure that has existed to oppress both men and women throughout history. We are negatively affected by this social structure that divides us with rigid roles, unrealistic expectations, and harmful beliefs. Men are expected to be masculine, dominant, controlling, and unfeeling. Women are expected to be feminine, submissive, timid, and emotional. Gender does not determine any of these traits, and it is harmful to expect them from individuals based on their gender identity.
The patriarchy relies on a binary classification of gender. It does not allow for natural deviance or the acknowledgement of alternate realities and experiences. Gender is simply a social construct that we use to categorize individuals. Judith Butler, a gender theorist, asserts that “gender reality” is a performance of gender. Butler says that gender is not tied to one’s body, but that it is instead a social construction that is open to fluidity. She discusses how various acts of gender create the idea of gender; therefore, without these acts, gender itself would not exist. She talks about how the body is an active process of embodying cultural and historical possibilities and that the act of gender is similar to a theatrical performance. Common assumptions of “being a gender” is that one is to act and meet certain social expectations according to the cultural script that their given gender assigns them. Butler differs from common assumptions by saying that gender reality is real only to the extent that it is performed.
If we, in the LGBTQIA+ community acknowledge the complexity and diversity of identity, sexuality, and gender, the patriarchy loses its power over us. If we acknowledge that it is flawed, non-inclusive, and rigid in harmful ways, we can choose to refuse to let it dictate our lives. Lesbian identities defy the social script that women are meant to serve men. If women who exclusively love other women do not exist to pleasure men or to be the object of men’s affection, they threaten the idea that women are the property of men. By refusing to conform to the roles that the patriarchy lays out simply by claiming our identities and acting according to our desires, our very existence threatens the system.