The Absurdity of Patriarchy
The notion of The Patriarchy espoused by feminists has gone from being a radical fringe view to being mainstream not only among feminists but the wider community. The definition of patriarchy used by feminists differs from that used by anthropologists, sociologists and other researchers as well as differing from the common dictionary definition. These two concepts are entirely distinct and should not be confused. Due to the significant differences in meaning that this term has, anyone using it should clearly define the term before making their argument. Feminists often refer to The Patriarchy. This usage distinguishes it from non-feminist usage and was originally coined by the American feminist writer, Kate Millet. MRAs are encouraged to refer to the feminist concept as The Patriarchy, using a term coined by one of their own to distinguish it from the term as used within scientific circles. Feminism relies heavily on the confusion between these two definitions and MRAs shouldn't contribute to that confusion. MRAs and anti-feminists would be better served by making it clear that the feminist definition of The Patriarchy is entirely distinct from the similar term patriarchy.
If the Men's Rights Movement could tear down belief in The Patriarchy it could make huge inroads in to getting the wider community to accept the issues facing men and boys.
Feminists differ in their understanding of The Patriarchy. Some believe it has always existed while others believe it appeared a few thousand years ago. Some even believe there was an ancient matriarchy that was defeated by warlike patriarchal societies. Belief in an ancient matriarchy is usually based on on the notion that ancient societies were unaware of the connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. The idea that ancient societies (particularly hunger-gatherers) were unaware of this apparently obvious fact first arose among 19th century European natural philosophers, although many feminists who espouse it are apparently unaware of its origins. Today anthropologists and sociologists consider the idea absurd. There has never been a human society that didn't know where babies come from.
There is never-the-less general acceptance among feminists that The Patriarchy is based on the systematic oppression of women by men  and is a constant of gender relations around the world.
- The Patriarchy exists
- If it does, that it can be destroyed
So does The Patriarchy exist? If so, can it be destroyed?
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Does The Patriarchy exist?
- 2.1 When and where did it start?
- 2.2 What written evidence did the purveyors of The Patriarchy in the past leave behind?
- 2.3 Did women ever try to rise up and fight it?
- 2.4 If so, what was the result?
- 2.5 Why did The Patriarchy ever permit female rulers?
- 2.6 Why did The Patriarchy ever permit powerful female figures in mythology?
- 3 If it exists, can The Patriarchy be destroyed?
- 4 Beyond The Patriarchy
- 5 See Also
- 6 External Links
- 7 References
Sample Feminist Definition
The London Feminist Network defines Patriarchy as:
Patriarchy is the term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterised by current and historic unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed. This takes place across almost every sphere of life but is particularly noticeable in women’s under-representation in key state institutions, in decision-making positions and in employment and industry. Male violence against women is also a key feature of patriarchy. Women in minority groups face multiple oppressions in this society, as race, class and sexuality intersect with sexism for example.
In contrast, dictionary.com defines patriarchy like this:
pa·tri·arch·y [pey-tree-ahr-kee] Show IPA noun, plural pa·tri·arch·ies.
- a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging to the father's clan or tribe.
- a society, community, or country based on this social organization.
The feminist notion of The Patriarchy is unfalsifiable.
The Patriarchy, as defined by feminists, does not exist and never did exist. At best it is indicative of a very simplistic world view. At worst it is indicative of an ideological need to denigrate men and boys.
A belief in The Patriarchy is used by feminists to justify their anti-male activities. If men have oppressed women through the use of violence for thousands of years, surely it is ok to respond in kind.
Much of the criticism levelled at men by feminists is justified by a belief in The Patriarchy. Mainstream feminism posits that men have an intrinsic advantage in society merely for being men. They call this privilege and constantly entreat people to check it. This is a very binary view of the world, presuming that one gender has an intrinsic advantage over the other. It would be more accurate to say that both men and women have problems specific to their gender. Unfortunately feminists have shown a consistent trend of ignoring the problems facing men and boys, and much of this occurs because they believe in The Patriarchy.
Does The Patriarchy exist?
Anyone believing in The Patriarchy should try to answer the following questions in concrete terms.
When and where did it start?
If The Patriarchy existed and exists, it must have started somewhere. Be specific in providing information on where and when this occurred.
What written evidence did the purveyors of The Patriarchy in the past leave behind?
If Patriarchy existed in the past those maintaining the system would likely have had a theoretical basis for their activities and they would probably have written this down. Copies should survive.
The requirement here is for written evidence of the systematic and intended oppression of women. Documents (such as the Torah and Christian Bible) that describe ancient cultural practices are not sufficient. This document would need to explicitly talk about the oppression of women, why it is done, how it is achieved, etc. Transmitting a complex system from father to son generation after generation unchanged would be implausible without written reference documents.
Women who lived under patriarchy must have been aware of it. Did they leave any written records explicitely detailing the system used to oppress them?
Did women ever try to rise up and fight it?
Fighting in this context need not mean physical violence. The women of a village (or an entire society), realising their plight, could choose to leave en masse, fleeing their oppressors. Women could also fight the oppression of patriarchy by engaging in passive resistance. This would involve the women of a community (or a society) refusing to participate in their own oppression. They could collectively refuse to participate in any form of work that supported the society, and therefore their own oppression.
If this ever occurred it would likely have been a significant event and would be in the written record of that society or a neighbouring society.
It is worth noting that the MGTOW movement explicitly talks about men passively and lawfully resisting contributing to a state system that is hostile to them. If patriarchy existed, parallel attitudes should have existed among women.
If so, what was the result?
Did any of these women succeed in shaking off The Patriarchy? For those that did not succeed, what was the punishment? How many women where tortured, killed or exiled by the men of their society for the failed uprising? How many women were punished in other ways? When uprisings are suppressed it is common for the ruling class to publicise the unsuccessful uprising and the punishments meted out so as to dissuade others. Records detailing an event like this should still exist.
Why did The Patriarchy ever permit female rulers?
Many societies had a minority of female rulers. Claims of patriarchy must explain why a patriarchal system would ever permit any female rulers. Some feminists attempt to explain the rise of women in to leadership roles as a result of intersectionality. The principle problem with this argument is that oppressors do not allow any member of an oppressed group in to the ruling class regardless of any other characteristics they have. Indeed, any members of the oppressed group that might be possible leaders are often eliminated by their oppressors.
Those arguing for patriarchy must also explain why societies around the world allowed women to rule in their own right. Many examples are given here but many more examples exist. Each women below ruled over a powerful state. Some ruled in their own right and some as regents, but they were all autocrats. These women are listed with the continent(s) in which their power was centred as well as dates of birth and death. In some cases the dates of birth and death are approximate.
- Merneith (Africa, 13th century BCE)
- Hatshepsut (Africa, 1508-1458 BCE)
- Artemisia I of Caria (Asia, 5th century BCE)
- Olympias (Europe, 375-316 BCE)
- Cleopatra Thea (Africa, 164-121 BCE)
- Cleopatra VII (Africa, 69-30 BCE)
- Boudica (Europe, 20-60 CE)
- Zenobia (West Asia, 240-275 CE)
- Empress Suiko (East Asia, 554-628 CE)
- Empress Wu Zetian (East Asia, 625-705 CE)
- Irene of Athens (West Asia, 752-803 CE)
- Theophano (West Asia, 943-969 CE)
- Theophano (Europe, 956-991 CE)
- Margaret of Austria (Europe, 1480-1530 CE)
- Catherine of Austria (Europe, 1507-1578 CE)
- Mary I (Europe, 1516-1558 CE)
- Elizabeth I (Europe, 1533-1603 CE)
- Joan of Austria (Europe, 1535-1573 CE)
- Mary Queen of Scots (Europe, 1542-1587 CE)
- Catherine the Great (Europe, 1729-1796 CE)
Societies from the Americas are lacking from the list above due to lack of historical records. It is likely that ancient societies in the Americas had similar proportions of female rulers. Female rulers, while a minority, were common around the world.
Why did The Patriarchy ever permit powerful female figures in mythology?
Powerful female figures are a mainstay of mythology. Many ancient
- Columbia/Lady Liberty representing the US
- Many ancient goddesses
- In particular Athena, goddess of wisdom
If it exists, can The Patriarchy be destroyed?
Let's presume for a moment that The Patriarchy is real. Let's presume for a moment that men have systematically oppressed women for thousands of years (or longer) through the use of violence. Where does that lead us?
If this is true then it is either something that is innate to men or it is learnt behaviour - something that men have passed to their sons for hundreds of generations. It is not reasonable to conclude that a system like this could be maintained without it either being innate or being explicitly passed from generation to generation. A system functioning for hundreds or thousands of years will leave a paper trail.
Much feminist activity today is directed at changing male behaviour to dismantle The Patriarchy.
If The Patriarchy is innate then it cannot reasonably be dismantled through modification of male behaviour.
If The Patriarchy is a learnt behaviour then there must be documentary evidence of its existence.
Since we find no documentary evidence of The Patriarchy we must conclude that if it does exist it must be innate.
Therefore, feminist attempts at dismantling The Patriarchy are futile. If The Patriarchy really does exist then it is innate to masculinity and cannot be removed from the nature of men. If The Patriarchy really does exist then the only way women can be free of it is to separate themselves completely from men.
Continued attempts to modify male behaviour are futile. Women who believe in The Patriarchy should forthwith make plans to completely separate themselves from men. Men, and the women who realise the world is more complex than this, can happily go on without them.
Beyond The Patriarchy
Some opponents of the men's rights movement have tried to argue that criticism of the feminist notion of The Patriarchy is pointless since academic feminists now emphasise kyriarchy rather than The Patriarchy. Even if this is true, which is questionable, academic feminists taught The Patriarchy to impressionable young women in gender studies classes for 40 years. Even if the academic feminists have moved on, those that they taught for so long have not. Enormous numbers of women and men believe in the feminist notion of The Patriarchy and the men's rights movement is right to confront it and reveal it as a myth.
The originator of the term, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, defines kyriarchy as:
a neologism…derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of The Patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination… Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.
As can be seen here, the very definition of the term, uttered by the originator of the term continues to see The Patriarchy as central to this new term.
In moving from The Patriarchy to kyriarchy feminists themselves are showing that The Patriarchy was a flawed and overly simplistic idea. Kyriarchy itself is still overly simplistic by considering the alleged oppression of women by men as central to the concept.