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#252 Women–the Other Half of the Sky

My argument is that the patriarchal order has defined women as the possessions of men—ruled and dominated over centuries of human civilization. They have been routinely viewed as property and victims of rape—the spoils of war with barely a nod given to their suffering. Their role as bearers and nurturers of children is codified in law and religion so that individual decision-making is taken out of their hands. The cultural and psychic tropes that maintain the status quo are daunting indeed. Can we go beyond the patriarchal order as the only way of organizing the relationships between men and women? Are women as child-bearers and child-nurturers destined to remain “the victim of the species?” Are these questions important? Why are we still asking them in 2015? Can we even imagine a different world view? Does the deconstruction of gender make such a project impossible or irrelevant? Does it circumvent the problem of women’s exploitation and oppression? Layton (2002) points out that in any discussion which categorizes masculinity and femininity a hierarchy is established in which the masculine is in a superior cultural position. Layton goes on to state that some postmodern feminists have “found it difficult to defend their deconstruction of gender identity while maintaining an allegiance to women’s political struggles.” (p.301) Is hierarchy an inevitability in a binary world or can we obliterate the problems of patriarchy by redefining the outlines of gender? It will, most definitely, require a significant shift in our perspective if we as a civilization are to see women as fully human, entitled to be safe and free.
The shift will be enormous and its implications far-reaching because women are not a minority. They are not a subgroup. They represent half of the human family. In revolutions of the past rebellious subgroups were a minority and if they attained some measure of equality it did not affect the hierarchy within the home. Men were still accorded dominance and women were the “other,” a close and familiar repository of weakness, irrationality and vulnerability—the weaker sex. If women take their place as separate subjective beings with political and legal control of their reproductive capabilities, it will demand new responses from all of us. It will require a seismic shift for all of the human family. It will not simply mean changes in the abstract but rather changes in behavior on a daily basis. It will alter the traditional hierarchies within the home and within organized religion. It will alter the culturally accepted catcalls that women endure when they walk down the street. It will modify acceptable practices within the classroom, the office, the board room and the halls of government.
It will mean that women—“the other half of the sky”— will take their place as equals and all of humanity will be the better for it.

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#252 Women–the Other Half of the Sky

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Toronto is a licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst in the state of Michigan.

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APA Reference
Toronto, E. (2017). #252 Women–the Other Half of the Sky. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2017
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