Woman at protest holding a sign that reads, "smash the patriarchy"
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patriarchy & overpopulation

Cody Peluso Nov 03, 2022

The bloodied wound
Of patriarchy
Swings majestically
Round my neck,
Wavering my thoughts
Of what to be
And what not to be.

Khushi BatraThe wound of patriarchy.

definition of patriarchy

Social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power

a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it

merriam webster dictionary

The drive to control women’s lives and bodies, pronatalism , rape and gender-based violence, and child marriage are just some of the scourges that must be eliminated if population growth is to slow and stop.

Patriarchy is a socially-constructed system where males have primary power over women. It affects many aspects of life, from political leadership, healthcare, business management, religious institutions, economic systems and property ownership, right down to the family home where men are considered head of the household. Patriarchy also affects family size, and absolutely affects the rights of women and girls across the world. From the United States to, Brazil, Afghanistan to Australia, and everywhere in between, patriarchal norms have normalized behavior affecting our climate, our laws, the way we treat women and girls, and educational and judicial institutions. It affects our very way of life. Most notably, it negatively affects the lives and women and girls every day. Patriarchy is not a natural phenomenon, and patriarchy hasn’t always existed.

According to Ruth Mace, Professor of Anthropology at UCL “Contrary to common belief, research shows that the patriarchy isn’t some kind of “natural order of things” – it hasn’t always been prevalent and may in fact disappear eventually. Hunter-gatherer communities may have been relatively egalitarian, at least compared to some of the regimes that followed. And female leaders and matriarchal societies have always existed.”

The patriarchy isn’t inevitable. The patriarchy isn’t natural. The patriarchy doesn’t have to last forever. The patriarchy is affecting the health of our earth, the health of our global population and it is always affecting the rights of women and girls. On November 15th, 2022 the world population will hit 8 billion people. By the year 2050 United Nation demographers expect 9.7 billion people to call Earth home.

Educate to Empower

When women and girls have the right to education, their entire life changes. Access to education improves women’s health status, family well-being, and leads to lower fertility rates. The aim of human rights and social justice is also served by increasing women’s educational levels. The needs of our entire global population is served by increasing women’s education levels, but the patriarchy continues to deny women these advancements.

One randomized control trial found that reducing the cost of school uniforms in Kenya not only reduced dropout rates, but also reduced teenage marriage and childbearing.   Another study found that increasing female education by one year in Nigeria reduced early fertility by 0.26 births.

It’s undeniable that there is a direct correlation between sustainable populations and women’s education – yet the norms of keeping women and girls from advancing their education, or participating in schooling at all, exists all over the world. This is one of the many ways the patriarchy is affecting population growth. This is the patriarchy in action.

Patriarchy in Politics

 The female population in the United States is over 50%. The United States Senate is 76% men. The United States Congress is made up of 23% of female representatives – a historic proportion! Globally, women represented just 25% of elected legislators – another historic high – and yet the UN projects it will take over 50 years to gain legislative equity for women.

Lack of representation in politics is one reason why we see laws  restricting women’s bodily autonomy, health care decisions, education access, and a lack of legal protections against abusers. According to The World Health Organization, “Violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young. Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade.” This is not limited to any single region or country.

The patriarchy extends its biases and domination across the world. Patriarchy is borderless. Patriarchy is boundless. Quite frankly, the patriarchy is killing us. It is killing our planet. It is killing our chance for a better, more sustainable future. When will the violence stop? When the patriarchy is eliminated by changing hearts and minds and shifting behaviors and attitudes.  That is the approach we take at Population Media Center. The patriarchy isn’t inevitable, and we are working to counter its negative effects across the world.

Patriarchy From The Pulpit

Many religions emphasize or reinforce the idea of patriarchy as natural, as given to humans by a deity, and therefore women are to be subject to rule, domination, and ownership by men. Collectively, we could write a supernaturally long book on how and why religion promulgates patriarchy. The most recent Supreme Court decision affecting a women’s right to abortion has left many in the United States wondering if we live in a democracy or a theocracy. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is still imposing strict religious restrictions on what type of education a women can pursue. Studies show that many individuals primarily justify their practice of female gender mutilation (FGM) in the name of religion. Women are purposefully controlled by religion, patriarchal religions, across the world. For those not fluent in Catholic dogma, women are not allowed to become priests under the cloak of Catholic orthodoxy. Under the dogma of many religions, women are not allowed to do many things, or are forced to do other ungodly things, all because a religious edict says that is the way is it supposed to be. Spoiler alert, there is another way, and Population Media Center works across the world to change these behaviors and offer a better way forward.

The United Nations estimates that one in three women aged twenty to twenty-four —almost 70 million women total — got married under the age of eighteen. Approximately 23 million were married under the age of fifteen, and some were married as young as eight or nine years old. The implications of early marriage are dire: child marriage is linked to poor health, curtailed education, violence, and lawlessness. All of which threatens international development, prosperity, and stability. Child Marriage increases the child-birthing years and girls and women, and child marriage increases global population levels. Child Marriage removes girls from schools and increases their dependence on men. Child marriage is directly linked to patriarchal norms. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Religion is often blamed for the prevalence of child marriage. However, the practice is not unique to any one faith; in fact, it occurs across religions and regions. For example, in India, where 40 percent of the world’s known child brides reside, child marriage is prevalent among both Muslims and Hindus.”

Patriarchy in Practice

It would be hard to overstate men’s roles in idealizing and aspiring to large family sizes. For example, in every country in sub-Saharan Africa, the ideal number of children for men exceeds replacement level fertility. In Nigeria, the average man wants more than 7 children. Men in Mali want 8.1 children. A 2017 study indicated that realized male fertility in sub-Saharan Africa was above 8.5 children per man in at least 20 countries. These figures greatly exceed realized fertility for women in those countries. With social norms that sanction polygamy, perpetuate patriarchal control of women’s lives and bodies, and create bias against modern contraception, it is little wonder that our population continues to grow at unsustainable levels. This is the patriarchy in action.

If the wrong people have power, the patriarchy can regenerate. November 15, 2022, presents 8 billion opportunities – 8 billion opportunities powered by women and girls. At PMC, we increase the power women and girls have through behavioral change. When barriers to the patriarchy are broken down, when barriers to the hearts and minds are torn down through transformative stories, entire communities change.

The bloodied wound
Of patriarchy
Hangs majestically
Round my whole body,
Begging me to tame it,
Oh dear lord,
There is ******* of womanhood
happening all around,
With people pointing to the length of our clothes,
To the pitch of our voices.


-Khushi Batra – The wound of patriarchy.

Let’s wreck patriarchy together, for all the women and girls, for our global population, for the 8 billion people who call this planet home. Let’s overhaul patriarchy together for the animals, for the flora and fauna, for the forests and the bodies of water, for all living beings. Let’s deter patriarchy together, so women and girls have autonomy over their own bodies. Women and girls deserve nothing less. Our future depends on hers.

Learn how we using transformative stories to flip the script on patriarchy

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