Note: Adapted from a comment by the author on an LUBP post
Patriarchy isn’t religion specific it has a number of socio-economic as well as historical reasons. The issue of commodification of women isn’t Islam specific, it’s prevalent in almost all societies with multiple manifestations, the growth and rise of feminist school in west itself is evidence to this fact.
Historians and Archeologists argue for a phase of human society when it was matriarchical, yet the claims are contested because of scanty evidence.
The societies cited as example include; indigenous peoples of Asia and Africa(Minangkabau, Mosuo, Berbers or Tuareg) and similarly in Europe Basques and Sardinian people. The presence of a feminine supreme goddess in a number of ancient societies reflects presence of women centered societies. Yet the transition to Patriarchical structures was due to multiple reasons.
Randall Collins describes men as historically “sexual aggressors” and women as the prize. The advent of Agriculture can be a major turnaround as it brought Male dominance because of their physical strength, size and aggressiveness. And women were victimized due to smaller size and their vulnerability as child bearers.
It’s a well established fact that in all societies and almost in all epochs women were given the status of a property (sexual). They were taken as war booty, used for economic dealings by their fathers, brothers and husbands. Considered in this context if you analyse present state of affairs it’s pretty similar, girls carry the name of their fathers when unmarried as their virginity is property of their fathers, which they will trade-off for social and economic reasons, and to it is tied the ideas of family respect, honour etc. which is so fragile that it may be on the stake at even an innocent action. When married they become the properties of their husbands, and its signified by the change in their names (as the name of father or his family is replaced by husband’s).
With arrival and strengthening of Capitalist economy the commodification of women became more intricate.
Women’s bargaining position has improved due to economic and political changes, as they are no longer dependent on and under control of their fathers; they became potentially free to negotiate their own sexual relationships. But women found that within the free marriage market they had to trade their sexuality for the economic and status resources of men. As men have much greater economic resources and status in the society.
Now for women to get these resources and maximize her bargaining power, she has to appear both as sexually alluring and as inaccessible as possible. She has to hold her sexuality in reserve as a sort of grand prize that she exchanges for male wealth and status. Under such an arrangement, femininity and female virginity came to be idealized, and women were placed on a pedestal, so that an element of sexual repression was built into courtship ties, freeing themselves from economic dependence on men, they have gained the resources to challenge the double standard.
So the oppression of women in nature is same everywhere yet the manifestations are diverse, it isn’t Islam specific rather its male specific!