The impact of living in a patriarchal society on women’s self-esteem in Pakistan


Self-esteem is a cornerstone of human personality, serving as a measure of an individual’s confidence in their strengths and capabilities. This intrinsic quality, essential for healthy self-development, is significantly influenced by the environment in which one is raised. In a nurturing environment, self-esteem flourishes; conversely, in an oppressive one, it withers. For generations, women’s self-esteem has been undermined by patriarchal societies, where their rights are often restricted, and their humanity diminished. This societal structure has inflicted profound damage on their mental well-being and psychological integrity. This article explores the detrimental impact of living in a patriarchal society on women’s self-esteem in Pakistan, examining the causes, implications, and extent of this pervasive issue.
Self-esteem influences various aspects of life, including mental health, career aspirations, and everyday functioning. Renowned psychologist Morris Rosenberg emphasized that self-esteem reflects how individuals perceive themselves in totality, affecting their interactions with the world. However, in patriarchal societies like Pakistan, women’s self-esteem is systematically targeted and eroded.Patriarchy, a socio-political system where men hold primary power, perpetuates the notion of male superiority. This power structure employs various tactics to control women, including the imposition of exploitative societal standards. In Pakistan, patriarchy manifests through a patrilineal system that compels women to live with their husband’s family post-marriage, fostering dependency on men and stifling personal growth. In Pakistani society, the marriage system often exemplifies the exploitative nature of patriarchy. This system parallels Andre Gunder Frank’s model of dependency theory, where just as dominant states exploit weaker ones, families exploit women by asserting control and power over them. Newly married women, or daughters-in-law, frequently face a shift in power dynamics, where they are subjected to the authority of their mother-in-law, leading to familial clashes and further suppression. Women in Pakistan are typically socialized to be submissive to male authority figures-fathers, brothers, and husbands. This enforced subservience significantly diminishes their self-esteem, making them less confident in their abilities and worth. The societal expectation to adhere to traditional roles further compounds this issue, leaving little room for personal or professional growth.
One of the most insidious tools of patriarchy is the imposition of unrealistic beauty standards. Naomi Wolf, in her seminal work “The Beauty Myth,” deconstructs the concept of beauty as a social construct designed to uphold patriarchal interests. These unattainable beauty ideals serve as a mechanism of control, perpetuating women’s insecurities and reinforcing their perceived inferiority. In a society where external appearance is heavily emphasized, women are often judged based on their adherence to these standards, further eroding their self-esteem.
The patriarchal structure in Pakistan has profound and far-reaching effects on women’s self-esteem, limiting their potential and stifling their growth. Despite significant progress in women’s rights and empowerment, the deep-rooted societal norms continue to pose challenges. The journey towards gender equality and the restoration of women’s self-esteem is ongoing and requires sustained efforts from all sectors of society. To dismantle these oppressive structures and unlock the full potential of women, there needs to be a collective societal effort. Supporting women’s rights organizations, advocating for policy changes, and challenging traditional norms are essential steps towards a more equitable world. Only then can we ensure that women in Pakistan, and everywhere, have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to society without the constraints of patriarchy.