A girlfriend is blamed for her partner’s death, a mother is held responsible for her son’s transgressions, a wife becomes the reason behind her husband’s poor performance at work. The society, world over, perpetuates the stereotype that women are culpable for men’s weakness, corruptibility, and doom.
Why does moral responsibility always seem to weigh heavier on women’s scale? Watch this video to find out!
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The psychological answer to this is scapegoating.
It’s easier to pin the blame on someone who is lower in the societal power hierarchy. Someone who doesn’t have the agency or voice to speak up and be heard. In a patriarchal system, the scapegoats just happen to be women.
Since the beginning of time, Scapegoating women has been a very convenient way through which the patriarchal system allows men to escape accountability and responsibility for their behavior.
According to Cerys Howell, A researcher from the University of Birmingham, “If we look at the foundational story of original sin, Eve not only ate the apple. In Genesis, she is accused of tempting Adam to eat the apple as well. You get similar kinds of cultural representations in literature.”
Closer home, Sita had to prove her chastity and integrity by walking through fire. In popular lore, Draupadi is often blamed for bringing about the war of Mahabharata. There are several legends about beautiful apsaras who disturb meditating saints and are punished for it.
“In modern times, Yoko Ono was blamed for breaking up The Beatles, and an unmarried White House Intern, Monica Lewinsky was slut-shamed internationally for having an affair with President Bill Clinton,” continues Cerys Howell.
On the flip side, the other nuance is portrayed perfectly by the saying, “There is a woman behind every successful man.” Sadly, this is just a discounted acknowledgment of women’s unpaid labor and support, upheld as both ‘virtue’ and ‘sacrifice.’
It’s the sentimentalization of women’s oppression, making it harder for women to resist and fight back.
“If women are also accountable for something they haven’t even done wrong, then that is an extra burden. It’s tiring, it’s exhausting, and it makes their lives more difficult,” says Cerys Howell.
This cultural indoctrination results in long-term psychological impacts. This also affects women’s self-esteem and confidence at work. Women are harder on themselves and on other women, self-blame more easily, give themselves less direct credit, take fewer risks, and can often fear the limelight. This leads to women keeping silent at work and actively dropping out from better opportunities.
To free women of this stereotype, there needs to be a cultural cleanse in deeply held social attitudes. On the judicial level, there need to be stricter policies to protect women from media trials, public character assassinations, and witch-hunting.
Ladies, don’t let the fear of being blamed stop you from speaking up. Be fearless and speak up, it’s the only way they’ll hear you!
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