Existence of the Patriarchy

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Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:48 am UTC

I am starting this thread because I protest at the use of the term 'the Patriarchy' as it is being banged about in some of the current feminism threads. I want to discuss it seriously and question the validity of the term, because to me it does not accurately describe what feminism has been—and is—rallying against. Further, it implies that there is some political/cultural unity amongst men to keep women oppressed, where no such organisation exists. This isn't to say that sexism isn't culturally sanctioned, because it is, but it doesn't have a CEO at the top who determines things are going to be this way to the delight of the shareholders.

To elaborate, the word patriarchy doesn't imply male-dominated society (which is a term I'm perfectly happy with) but father dominated society. Literally, it refers to a father who has legal control over his family. In a political sense it refers to a pyramid structure of patriarchs, with the literal ones at the bottom sharing a patron/client relationship with the patriarch above, culminating in the guy at the top (the pater patriae). Western society does not reflect such a structure. It is far more fluid and doesn't need connections between male individuals to suppress women.

In short, I reject the use of 'the Patriarchy' because it is offensive, and because it doesn't accurately represent the reality. I accept that I am part of a male-dominated society, and that the fact that, as an example, I find a male prime minister/president more normal than a female prime minister/president contributes to male domination. However, feminists who talk about the patriarchy are creating a bunch of straw men who they are opposed to and this is what I wholeheartedly reject.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:12 pm UTC

Sharlos and Kaillan, you are hereby ejected from this thread.

Everyone else: You're in Serious Business.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:25 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:In short, I reject the use of 'the Patriarchy' because it is offensive, and because it doesn't accurately represent the reality.
That's really all The Patriarchy means in the context that Feminists use it - that you're in a male-dominated culture. Which means that most of the time you need to deal with someone in power, it will be a man. And the underlings will often all be men. And any time you're told a story where the gender of the main character doesn't really matter, it'll be a man. And any unknown individuals are referred to as male. And so on...

So, no, it's not meant to be taken that there's a literal tower somewhere, where the 12 Prominent Male Leaders meet to discuss how to keep women down with their Overlord Man McMaleton. But it is an active (if mindless) oppressive force created by society itself.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:59 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:That's really all The Patriarchy means in the context that Feminists use it - that you're in a male-dominated culture. Which means that most of the time you need to deal with someone in power, it will be a man. And the underlings will often all be men. And any time you're told a story where the gender of the main character doesn't really matter, it'll be a man. And any unknown individuals are referred to as male. And so on...

The things you just described are not, res ipsa, bad- those are just statistical facts. Since the Patriarchy is almost always brought up as a bad thing, I have a hard time believing that the two are the same. There must be an additional component of the Patriarchy that makes it suspect.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:25 pm UTC

If your aim is gender equality, those statistical facts are a bad thing.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:49 pm UTC

Doesn't follow. All that's necessary for those facts* is for men in a certain area to be more numerous or active than women. No inequality needed.
*I shouldn't have called them statistical- empirical might be a better word.

Maybe you could explain what would characterize the antithesis of patriarchy.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:02 pm UTC

A society where gender inequality was biased against men.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:10 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:To elaborate, the word patriarchy doesn't imply male-dominated society (which is a term I'm perfectly happy with) but father dominated society. Literally, it refers to a father who has legal control over his family. In a political sense it refers to a pyramid structure of patriarchs, with the literal ones at the bottom sharing a patron/client relationship with the patriarch above, culminating in the guy at the top (the pater patriae). Western society does not reflect such a structure. It is far more fluid and doesn't need connections between male individuals to suppress women.
Preemptive note: I'm not well versed on the politics of feminism and patriarchy. I think I can make a few helpful observations here, though. If I blunder into horrible mistakevilletm, I hope others will have the wherewithall to correct me.

I think the term 'patriarchy' is more than fair because it does accurately describe nearly every single Western society that has come before ours. It's perfectly representative of the manner in which power descends down the ranks - God (male) gives power to the Ruler (male) who grants it to the Lords (male) who in turn hands it over to the heads-of-families (male). At any point in this system below God, a female may intrude because of unforeseen events (Queen Elizabeth, husband dies and there is no oldest son to take power, etc) but power always descends from masculine figures (God) and, if the female has any, it was 'granted' to them by a male.

The Industrial Revolution, American Revolution, French Revolution, Enlightenment, etc - all had an immense impact on this scenario in the Western world - power no longer descended down the ranks from above (i.e., God gave the King power, the King gave Lords power, so on) but from the bottom up (the people gave the Lords power, the Lords gave the King power, so on). But this didn't happen overnight - in fact, it's still happening, right now. As in, at this very moment, we are dealing with (in America) leaders who still think that power descends from above (George Bush - "God gave me the Presidency, not the people" - not an actual quote, but this was definitely the sentiment). This is a very patriarchy, paternalistic concept. The foundations of it have been undermined, but it's still omnipresent in society, and I'd say it's still fair to call us a patriarchy so long as the affects of patriarchy are still happening (and they are, to an immense degree). Not only this, but even when power comes from the bottom up, it's still males who are considered the center and head of the family by many (and there are some of us who consider families - not people - to be the base unit of society).

A quick aside on the matter of demographics, because Silas brought it up - in an egalitarian society, demographics should be equal (i.e., there should be just as many women in government as men). Not exactly equal, but far closer to equal than what we have. So long as these demographic gaps exist - so long as males are a majority in positions of power (socially, institutionally, and financially) and a good chunk of those males are patriarchal by nature (and they are - whether by social conditioning, choice, or a combination of both), you are going to have a patriarchal society.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby tKircher » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:29 pm UTC

I don't see anything resembling a patriarchy in my life. I live in a town of 50,000 people, there are women who work positions both directly below and above mine, and there's nothing like patriarchy here. Sure there's a cultural distinction between man and woman, but nobody wants an androgynous society (imagine referring to everyone as a 'person' instead of mailmen or policewomen?).

Maybe it's worse in metropoli, but i doubt it. I've never been in a position where, just because i was a man, i've been given some special positive treatment over women. Usually it's exactly the opposite.

I'd also like to step in on Silas' behalf (since i can see him getting banhammered soon), and say i agree. Just because there is a percentage of men in a field (let's say... computers), doesn't mean it's patriarchal. Correlation != causation. NOW, if it were a requisite (written or not) to be male in that field, it would be patriarchal.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:30 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:So, no, it's not meant to be taken that there's a literal tower somewhere, where the 12 Prominent Male Leaders meet to discuss how to keep women down with their Overlord Man McMaleton. But it is an active (if mindless) oppressive force created by society itself.


Maybe I just don't get the joke, but there is a significant body of academics out there that mean the term literally, and when it gets repeated in threads it doesn't sit well with me. To illustrate the point, this is an excerpt from Joan Wallach Scott's Gender and the Politics of History:

Scott, page 33 wrote:Theorists of patriarchy have directed their attention to the subordination of women and found their explanation for it in the male "need" to dominate the female. In Mary O'Brien's ingenious adaptation of Hegel, she defined male domination as the effect of men's desire to transcend their alienation from the means of reproduction of the species.


You'll note the Marxist references, with the mention of 'Hegel' and how 'means of reproduction' alludes to 'means of production', which is because theory of the patriarchy was partly based on an attempt to take the Marxist view of society and replace 'class' with 'gender'. This is part of my objection: that the theory of patriarchy as feminists use it is appropriated form Marxism and many of the first principles don't sit right with me let alone the conclusions. But what I wanted to point out here is that O'Brien is arguing that there is a male need to dominate women, and that this explains the patriarchy. When the OP suggested in a recent thread that "the female mind is actually predisposed to want to be controlled and dominated by a sexual partner in one way or another" he got told. But here the theory is supporting a similar idea: that men have a psychological need to dominate women, based on their biology. How can one be true, and not the other? 'The patriarchy', as a term, does not exist in a vacuum. It brings up all these theoretical associations and when it's used flippantly, it irks me.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:35 pm UTC

tKircher wrote:I don't see anything resembling a patriarchy in my life. I live in a town of 50,000 people, there are women who work positions both directly below and above mine, and there's nothing like patriarchy here.
Not to be an ass, but - anecdotal, therefore irrelevant. Plus, the claim I believe most feminists would make is that you are blind to the patriarchy that's going on all around you because you are soaking in it. It's hard to notice these things unless you take a step way back.
tKircher wrote:Maybe it's worse in metropoli, but i doubt it. I've never been in a position where, just because i was a man, i've been given some special positive treatment over women. Usually it's exactly the opposite.
...uh, yes you have, actually. Not to rely on a cliche, but have construction workers ever whistled, cat-called, and made threats of rape as you walked by? No? Well, that's one of the many benefits we get as males.
Silas wrote:Which I don't, really. Yes- women get the short end of the stick in a lot of ways. I just don't think anyone here, or ever in my hearing, has explained how there's a meaningful 'entity-' something that deserves its own noun- causing it.
From what I understand, 'Patriarchy' is a reference to the structure that supports it - the context, more or less. A system by which a majority of the power is held by males. The language is very important, because too many people have a habit of deconstructing sexism/racism/etc into individual situations - "This person is sexist", or "John over here did a sexist thing", which makes it a problem with individual people rather than a culture. But John's sexism is symptomatic of a cultural issue; this isn't the result of some people just being assholes (male-dominated society implies that, too - that it's only males who are doing this. Women can support a patriarchy just as easily - from what I understand, anyway). This is a pervasive cultural phenomenon that everyone contributes to.
Pez Dispens3r wrote:But here the theory is supporting a similar idea: that men have a psychological need to dominate women, based on their biology.
I think it's very dangerous to assert that men have an instinctive inclination to dominating women, and I don't think that's what patriarchy necessarily implies. I think that, culturally, we have been inclined towards that end - however, in the end, what difference would that make? Culturally inclined or instinctively inclined - or some combination of both - how does that change the situation?

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:40 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Pez Dispens3r wrote:But here the theory is supporting a similar idea: that men have a psychological need to dominate women, based on their biology.
I think it's very dangerous to assert that men have an instinctive inclination to dominating women, and I don't think that's what patriarchy necessarily implies. I think that, culturally, we have been inclined towards that end - however, in the end, what difference would that make? Culturally inclined or instinctively inclined - or some combination of both - how does that change the situation?


The difference is a political one: if we're born this way, we can't change it. If it's culturally constructed, then it's possible for us to move beyond it.

EDIT: Consider: 'it's not my fault I got the job for being male, it's human nature.'

If something is deemed biological, it rises above much criticism, because choice is suddenly eliminated from the equation. Consider how the concept that being homosexual was something you were born as, and how this empowered gays. This is why the conservatives who have a problem with homosexuality attack scientific literature that supports the 'I was born this way' view.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:53 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:The difference is a political one: if we're born this way, we can't change it. If it's culturally constructed, then it's possible for us to move beyond it. Which can become: 'it's not my fault I got the job for being male, it's human nature.'
But we can and do change instinctive behavior all the time; instinctively, I want to kill Jack because Jack just cut me off. The reptilian part of my brain says "Kill Jack, eat his children". I choose not to (his children are hella nasty). Obviously, subconscious urges are harder to uproot, but we can restructure our thoughts and, over time and through self-awareness, beat our brains into a more malleable form that fits into a positive, progressive society. We have to do this with all the cultural underpinnings we come from (people raised in a racist environment must 'relearn' how not to be racist, people from a homophobic environment must 'relearn' how not to be homophobic, etc); why would biological underpinnings be any different? The brain is an immensely adaptable organ - why should the view that we are slaves to biological determinism be given any merit at all, especially when we so clearly disprove it every day when you and I choose not to kill Jack (that asshole!)? And if we do give merit to biological determinism, don't we have to give equal merit to cultural determinism ("Oh, it's not my fault I'm curb-stomping you, I was raised by Ku Klux Klan members")? Why would one be more 'important' than the other? How would you make that determination? Etc.

I think I understand where you're coming from in so much that you're railing (and I might be totally wrong here) against the concept that patriarchy is a completely masculine concept - obviously, males have the most to gain from patriarchy (although some would argue, quite compellingly, that the ultimate net result is a negative for males), but there's more going on than just guys being jerks. It's the cultural kit we're all handed at birth - the environment we're swimming in, where we've all been trained to look at women this way (supporters, house-wives, care-givers) and men that way (bread-winners, doers, heads-of-households). That's the issue, that's what needs to be eroded. And that's why I think the term fits. Because even if a patriarchy is no longer legally mandated, we still perceive the world from a patriarchal point of view - and how we perceive the world is what defines how we act in the world.

Edit: Probably going to stop shortly after this post because I'm really not the best person to argue these points; I'm still learning. Instead, I'll patiently await the arrival of someone better educated on the subject than I.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:56 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:The difference is a political one: if we're born this way, we can't change it. If it's culturally constructed, then it's possible for us to move beyond it.


Incorrect. I am instinctually inclined toward solving certain problems with violence. Like most of my hairless ape brethren. This was deemed, in most cases, to be harmful to society, so it's been dampened: we don't allow people to solve their problems with violence on an individual level.

Just because something is natural doesn't make it immutable.

If something is deemed biological, it rises above much criticism, because choice is suddenly eliminated from the equation. Consider how the concept that being homosexual was something you were born as, and how this empowered gays.


The difference being that homosexuality isn't detrimental, and it's very difficult to change. Much effort and unhappiness for no gain.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby tKircher » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:03 pm UTC

..uh, yes you have, actually. Not to rely on a cliche, but have construction workers ever whistled, cat-called, and made threats of rape as you walked by? No? Well, that's one of the many benefits we get as males.


I'm not a perky blonde who can walk into a restaurant and instantly have the respect and adoration of everyone in the building, either. But we're just delving into personality differences here, because those same rough construction workers would call out to their friends as they pass, admire a hotrod going by, and so forth. Loud, bored and obnoxious doesn't equate to "patriarchal."

I'm just trying to convey that I've never had anyone complain to me of a glass ceiling, or that women are somehow put down by their male overlords, and that I, personally, do not see the problem that feminists complain about (as described by the OP).

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:11 pm UTC

tKircher wrote:I'm not a perky blonde who can walk into a restaurant and instantly have the respect and adoration of everyone in the building, either.
Here's what you said:
tKircher wrote:I've never been in a position where, just because i was a man, i've been given some special positive treatment over women. Usually it's exactly the opposite.
I gave you an example of a benefit you do receive (not receiving rape-threats when you walk past a construction site). You responded by implying that receiving attention based on your looks somehow cancels out receiving rape-threats from strangers.
tKircher wrote:But we're just delving into personality differences here, because those same rough construction workers would call out to their friends as they pass, admire a hotrod going by, and so forth. Loud, bored and obnoxious doesn't equate to "patriarchal."
Right, because having someone call out and say "nice hotrod" or "hey, Ted, how's it hangin', little to the left huh? ha ha!" is just as damaging as being told, in intimate detail, how someone's going to pin you down and violate you in a dark alleyway.
tKircher wrote:I'm just trying to convey that I've never had anyone complain to me of a glass ceiling, or that women are somehow put down by their male overlords, and that I, personally, do not see the problem that feminists complain about (as described by the OP).
And I'm trying to convey that just because you don't see something doesn't magically make it cease to exist. It does, it's pervasive, and your inability to see it makes you irrelevant to this discussion1. It's like trying to figure out where the elephant in the room came from (or what kind of elephant it is) while someone else loudly shouts that there isn't an elephant there at all. Come back when you can see the elephant.

1 If this discussion actually is about whether or not women are actually being oppressed, I apologize - but I'm assuming that it's about accurate terminology, not the existence of oppression. I assumed that the oppression part was a given.
Last edited by The Great Hippo on Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:19 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Indon » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:19 pm UTC

So, Pez, your problem is not with the idea of systemic, pervasive male socioeconomic dominance within our society, but with the specific word we use to describe it? That's the impression I get from reading your post.

Well, let's say we not use the word Patriarchy, after all. What word better describes the concept of a society built for and around the rulership of men, than a word that roughly means "man-ruled"?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:28 pm UTC

And if Patriarchy means "man-ruled" and you'd like to say that society isn't "man-ruled", you'd have to address why these statistics are so skewed:

US President: 100% historically male
US Senator or Representative: 83% currently male
Fortune 500 CEO: 98% currently male
US Police Force: 90% currently male
US Military: 80% currently male
State Governor: 84% currently male
State Senator / Rep:
Mayor: 91% male (worldwide)

Or finish if we can these off:
University / College President:
College Professor:
Secondary School Principal: 74% currently male
Secondary School Teacher:
Elementary School Principal: 46% currently male (see where this is going?)
Elementary School Teacher:

I'm sure it'll show an interesting trend.


(and I'm sure there are more complete lists out there, this was 5 minutes worth of work with google)

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:54 pm UTC

Canadian Prime Minister, Historically - 96% Male
UK Prime Minister, Historically - Honestly, I don't feel like counting and couldn't find a quick number, but I'll just go ahead and name the women who have held the office - Margaret Thatcher. Okay, I'm done.

Ah, hell.. here's this page, which gives the figure of 45 Female Heads of State in the 20th century.


I'm not a perky blonde who can walk into a restaurant and instantly have the respect and adoration of everyone in the building, either. But we're just delving into personality differences here, because those same rough construction workers would call out to their friends as they pass, admire a hotrod going by, and so forth. Loud, bored and obnoxious doesn't equate to "patriarchal."
If you walk into a parts shop and ask for a specific part, you will never be questioned. If you browse the shelves, someone might ask if you're looking for something specific, but if you say you're just browsing, they'll leave you alone. Roughly speaking, at no point over the age of 16 or so when you answer the phone will someone ask to speak to the Man Of The House. If you take your car in for repairs and mention that it's making a funny noise, the mechanic will always look in to it. If you have kids and don't stay at home to take care of them, no one will question it. And so on. All things that men have just by presenting and passing as Male. They don't even have to be a cute blonde to do it.

Re: Yelling. A group of guys yelling sexual comments at women are seen as.. well, as idiots, but in that "boys will be boys" sort of way. A group of women yelling sexual comments? Well, they're all obviously dirty sluts, as nice girls don't do that. So, yes.. the ability to be a loud, obnoxious shithead in public is, generally speaking, something a man can engage in without any further consequences.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby roc314 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:16 pm UTC

Mayors (from about 80 countries, mostly first world): 91% male (as of 2005) linky

tKircher wrote:I'm not a perky blonde who can walk into a restaurant and instantly have the respect and adoration of everyone in the building, either.
To expound on The Great Hippo and SecondTalon a little more here, for that to be an example of female privilege, it would have to be something that essentially all women get, not just "perky blonds". As it stands, if you look at that as a privilege, it's privilege based upon looks and levels of "attractiveness", which is mostly* orthogonal to gender. It's possible for a woman to have privilege, but it's not female privilege (for example, a white woman can have white privilege, but that doesn't mean that she has female privilege).

That being said, the attitude behind the scenario you set up is "women are payed attention to when they are sexy", or, in other words, "women are to be judged based upon their merits as sex objects" (as opposed to men, who can be judged for any number of things). Your example is subtly showing sexist societal memes which play into keeping society from having equality across the sexes.

*I say "mostly" because there are some areas where they interact; a woman who is considered attractive by society's standards is treated differently than a man who is considered attractive by society's standards. However, the privilege associated with being "attractive" is not part of any privilege associated with gender/sex.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:29 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:If this discussion actually is about whether or not women are actually being oppressed, I apologize - but I'm assuming that it's about accurate terminology, not the existence of oppression. I assumed that the oppression part was a given.


You are correct in your assumption, insofar as I get to dictate the terms of the thread in my original post. See: "I accept that I am part of a male-dominated society..."

Indon wrote:So, Pez, your problem is not with the idea of systemic, pervasive male socioeconomic dominance within our society, but with the specific word we use to describe it? That's the impression I get from reading your post.

Well, let's say we not use the word Patriarchy, after all. What word better describes the concept of a society built for and around the rulership of men, than a word that roughly means "man-ruled"?


'Male-dominated society,' or the more objective 'androcentric society.' It might seem like I'm being pedantic here, but the devil is in the details.

Sheila Rowbotham, "The Trouble With 'Patriarchy'" in Raphael Samuel (ed.), People's History and Socialist Theory:365 wrote:'Patriarchy' implies a structure which is fixed, rather than the kaleidoscope of forms within which women and men have encountered one another. It does not carry any notion of how women might act to transform their situation as a sex. Not does it even convey a sense of how women have resolutely manoeuvred for a better position within the general context of subordination...


Patriarchy does nothing to suggest there is a power play between the genders, or that masculine and feminine change their meaning over time. It implies a rigid structure, where changes in attitude are just descisions made by the board and handed down: "the feminists are getting a bit restless, let's throw them a bone." Male-dominated society is vague enough to allow power plays and cultural changes, even while recognising that men have an easier time of it and can express themselves more easily.

Patriarchy also implies there are only two experiences, that of men and women. It doesn't allow for the experiences of lower class women when it deals with middle class women. It doesn't allow for the experiences of black women when it talks about white women. It doesn't respect women who choose to embrace traditional values, and it splits society into the binary of the oppressed and the oppressor.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:49 am UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:Patriarchy does nothing to suggest there is a power play between the genders, or that masculine and feminine change their meaning over time. It implies a rigid structure, where changes in attitude are just descisions made by the board and handed down: "the feminists are getting a bit restless, let's throw them a bone." Male-dominated society is vague enough to allow power plays and cultural changes, even while recognising that men have an easier time of it and can express themselves more easily.

Patriarchy also implies there are only two experiences, that of men and women. It doesn't allow for the experiences of lower class women when it deals with middle class women. It doesn't allow for the experiences of black women when it talks about white women. It doesn't respect women who choose to embrace traditional values, and it splits society into the binary of the oppressed and the oppressor.
There actually is a term better suited to describe the shifting power-struggle between men, women, wealth, race, and (perhaps?) even transsexuality: Kyriarchy. As I'm not too deep into this myself (yet? I'm still working on it), I favor the word patriarchy out of familiarity, but I bow down to the notion that patriarchy is an oversimplification of what is an immensely complex system - not a duality but an intricate hierarchy of oppression, control, and power. There's also the benefit that 'patriarchy' is immediately recognizable - in an instant, you know precisely what I'm referring to - while, as far as I'm aware, kyriarchy still lacks any real popularity.

I think there are some disadvantages to the term kyriarchy too, but - more importantly (and hopefully addressing the point you're raising), it doesn't erase the experience of everyone who's struggle against oppression can't be easily described in purely patriarchal terms.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:10 pm UTC

I'm not sure Kyriarchy is such a great idea. Consider: in putting the word κυριος and αρχον together, κυριος loses its gender markings, which were kind of the point. The meaning comes out as 'rule by rulers-' rather a tautology, isn't it?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby athelas » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:26 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:If something is deemed biological, it rises above much criticism, because choice is suddenly eliminated from the equation.
That's not what the author was saying. She was implicitly blaming all men for having an (unproven) urge to dominate women. Frankly the problem with the debate over the existence of "the patriarchy" is that it is an unfalsifiable claim. As The Great Hippo said,
I believe most feminists would make is that you are blind to the patriarchy that's going on all around you because you are soaking in it. It's hard to notice these things unless you take a step way back.
In other words, even if you win the argument, you're wrong and deluded, unless you take a step back (and see things based on my unfalsifiable premises).

Not to pick on roc314 (happy pi day!), but he demonstrates the intellectual poverty of the patriarchy-idea in feminism when he says "It's possible for a woman to have privilege, but it's not female privilege." By defining terms this way, artificially constructing an idea of "privilege" that can only be held by Male Overlords, he has basically won the argument. What we need in feminist debate is a set of standards to identify cases of discrimination (and which accepts the possibility of discrimination in both directions), not this sort of generalized cultural argument for which the standards of evidence is ridiculously low.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:47 pm UTC

Silas wrote:I'm not sure Kyriarchy is such a great idea. Consider: in putting the word κυριος and αρχον together, κυριος loses its gender markings, which were kind of the point. The meaning comes out as 'rule by rulers-' rather a tautology, isn't it?
Well, that's the issue, I think - oppression isn't just about gender. There's an immense web of interrelated concepts here, and the term 'patriarchy' might be very clumsy because it implies nothing more complex than a man vs woman duality. What about the experiences of a black male slave working for a white woman? How does transsexuality fit into this? Etc, so on.
athelas wrote:That's not what the author was saying. She was implicitly blaming all men for having an (unproven) urge to dominate women. Frankly the problem with the debate over the existence of "the patriarchy" is that it is an unfalsifiable claim.As The Great Hippo said,
I believe most feminists would make is that you are blind to the patriarchy that's going on all around you because you are soaking in it. It's hard to notice these things unless you take a step way back.
In other words, even if you win the argument, you're wrong and deluded, unless you take a step back (and see things based on my unfalsifiable premises).
When we're talking about social trends - the existence of narratives ("boys will be boys", "women work best as caregivers", "women are just more emotional", "women are catty bitches", etc) - all we can do is point at the many, many people who believe these things and the media in which these concepts appear. The consequences of these narratives are very easy to see (here are some rape statistics), but the narratives themselves - which is what we have to address - are not something you can empirically prove (not easily, anyway). In my experience, social 'sciences' like this are a lot like history - you take a handful of facts (check out Azrael's statistics above, or look up pay inequalities between women and men) and try to figure out what's going on from a mountain of soft evidence (historical documentation, or in this case, cultural narratives). And trust me, it's a fucking mountain.
athelas wrote:Not to pick on roc314 (happy pi day!), but he demonstrates the intellectual poverty of the patriarchy-idea in feminism when he says "It's possible for a woman to have privilege, but it's not female privilege." By defining terms this way, artificially constructing an idea of "privilege" that can only be held by Male Overlords, he has basically won the argument. What we need in feminist debate is a set of standards to identify cases of discrimination (and which accepts the possibility of discrimination in both directions), not this sort of generalized cultural argument for which the standards of evidence is ridiculously low.
Right, because the problem here is that feminists don't accept the idea that a patriarchy does damage to men, too. More importantly, though - when roc314 refers to 'privilege', they're referring to a very specific type of concept where you acquire certain rights and benefits based on where you were born. Caucasians (in America) have privilege - heterosexuals have privilege - males have privilege - so on, etc. The majority of American culture is built around the appetites, desires, and wants of white, heterosexual males. White women get part of this privilege, but not the 'male' part - black men get part of this privilege, but not the 'white' part - etc.

"But Hippo," you may say, "How can you prove that this privilege exists?"

Uh, well, Jesus. Where would I begin? How many TV shows have males as the protagonist? White males as the protagonists? How many books, how many historical narratives, how many frigging commercials (unless you're advertising a product meant exclusively for women - such as, you know, vacuums, cleaning supplies, or food preparation! That's mom's sphere of influence!)? The only reason I'm hesitating about the term 'patriarchy' right now has nothing to do with the immense and overwhelming privilege that men enjoy; it's only because 'patriarchy' implies that 'male privilege' is the only type of privilege, and that's a dangerous mindset to get into.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:20 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Silas wrote:I'm not sure Kyriarchy is such a great idea. Consider: in putting the word κυριος and αρχον together, κυριος loses its gender markings, which were kind of the point. The meaning comes out as 'rule by rulers-' rather a tautology, isn't it?
Well, that's the issue, I think - oppression isn't just about gender. There's an immense web of interrelated concepts here, and the term 'patriarchy' might be very clumsy because it implies nothing more complex than a man vs woman duality. What about the experiences of a black male slave working for a white woman? How does transsexuality fit into this? Etc, so on.

I'm confused, then. I thought the point of feminism was to end/oppose/weaken/whatever (the?) Patriarchy. But this new term, Kyriarchy, sounds like it's simply "the present arrangement of who has control over whom and what." Patriarchy, at least, admits of conditions under which it wouldn't exist: namely, if probability of outcomes were independent of gender (right? Is this necessary, or just sufficient?). But Kyriarchy doesn't have that property. Literally anything you do will mean some have better outcomes than others. Even if the probability of each outcome were literally the same for every individual, you could still say, 'enough with the tyranny of the lucky! We luckless slobs deserve the same as them!"
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:09 pm UTC

Silas wrote:I'm confused, then. I thought the point of feminism was to end/oppose/weaken/whatever (the?) Patriarchy. But this new term, Kyriarchy, sounds like it's simply "the present arrangement of who has control over whom and what." Patriarchy, at least, admits of conditions under which it wouldn't exist: namely, if probability of outcomes were independent of gender (right? Is this necessary, or just sufficient?). But Kyriarchy doesn't have that property. Literally anything you do will mean some have better outcomes than others. Even if the probability of each outcome were literally the same for every individual, you could still say, 'enough with the tyranny of the lucky! We luckless slobs deserve the same as them!"
I don't believe Kyriarchy is about detaching these social pressures from gender, but recognizing that there's more to it than just gender - there's race, there's heterosexuality/homosexuality/bisexuality/asexuality, etc. It's a way of incorporating anti-racism and the fight for homosexual equality into the language of the fight for gender equality. Just because the term helps include other oppressed minorities doesn't mean that the term becomes meaningless; there's no systematic form of oppression aimed at the lucky. Not that I'm aware of.

It's just a way of saying there are other oppressed minorities too, and that you can't ignore their oppression and still accurately describe the oppression of women. Quite a few of the women you're talking about aren't just women; they're people of color, homosexual, bisexual, etc.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby roc314 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:17 pm UTC

@athelas: What The Great Hippo said.
Silas wrote:Even if the probability of each outcome were literally the same for every individual, you could still say, 'enough with the tyranny of the lucky! We luckless slobs deserve the same as them!"
That's kindof the point of most, if not all, of the current movements for equal rights. The fact that by chance upon where you were/how/what you were born and raised, you get special privilege (if you were lucky enough to be born into favorable conditions) or, if you weren't born into the right conditions, you get repressed, or some combination of the two.

For example, "You were lucky enough to be born male in a society dominated with men and male privilege! Enough with the tyranny of the men (or, more accurately, the tyranny of a society rife with sexism (blaming it on one group of people, rather than society as a whole is a gross oversimplification))! Women deserve the same as them!"
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:28 pm UTC

The semantic problem with objecting to Kyriarchy, instead of Patriarchy and various other -archies is that it doesn't indicate what you want to do.
"We anti-Kyriarchy activists think the present power structure is unfair!"
"Unfair? How?"
"Think of all the ways society is unfair! It's unfair!"
"All right, so what do you want to do about it?"
"Change it!"
"To what, exactly?"
"Er... something different, maybe? I don't know."

Talking about Patriarchy at least has the virtue that that language identifies a specific feature of society that you want to change. Opposing Kyriarchy just doesn't compute: you can't create a situation where <the people who dominate society> don't dominate society.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:31 pm UTC

What about a society that isn't dominated by any particular group? That's, in part, the point of the word "kyriarchy": it identifies oppression in general as something to be opposed, instead of just one specific type of oppression.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:37 pm UTC

A society where noone has more power than anyone else is a society with no way of getting ahead. That's a bad thing, isn't it?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Mar 14, 2009 7:18 pm UTC

An individual's ability to succeed is fundamentally distinct a collective system of oppression. Oppression gives certain individuals unfair advantages, making it less possible for the oppressed to get ahead. An individual who needs, e.g., sexism in order to "get ahead" isn't worthy of whatever position of power he might obtain.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:18 pm UTC

Essentially, kyriarchy is just a grouping. Opposition of the kyriarchy comes down to "all those equality movements, combined." And it generally takes the form of myriad different movements. Feminism, womanism, anti-racism groups, immigrant rights groups, anti-ableism groups, gay and transgender rights groups. The whole nine.

It's more a way to talk and think about them as aspects of the same thing. Which is important, because they are. And the exact same concepts recur in different forms on different axes in nearly all of those movements. So it's good to have a word from which you can talk about general cases, and the causes as a whole, in addition to being able to talk about individual aspects specifically.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azukius » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:46 am UTC

Meh.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:29 am UTC

Azukius wrote:Can I raise the point that having mainly male politicians does not necessarily indicate a bias in society, there are unquestionably distinctions between male and female brains. For example woman have 2 language processing areas whilst men only have one, this leads to woman having a slight statistical edge in linguistics. Men (may) naturally be more acute politically and feel more at home in these cut throat environs. Furthermore, this is not actually a bad thing, if they are genetically disposed towards this than it its hard and inefficient trying to stamp it out.

The point is that the institutions of society award political- and various other- power to people who have traits more common in men. It's not helpful to say, 'there are biological reasons for why men are overrepresented: they more often have the traits selected for," because the decision of which traits are important is what's suspect.

Yes (provisionally), the "only" reason there are so few women in high government, corporate, and academic office is that few women have the exceptional combination of aggression, intelligence, and duplicity to succeed in the institutions our society has developed. But why do we have those institutions in the first place- why that particular trifecta? Can you show that there's any cause but historical accident? Do you dismiss out of hand that a different institution, one that was naturally dominated by people with a different character (perhaps one equally common in men and women), could produce as-good or better results?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby The Great Hippo » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:51 am UTC

Silas wrote:The point is that the institutions of society award political- and various other- power to people who have traits more common in men. It's not helpful to say, 'there are biological reasons for why men are overrepresented: they more often have the traits selected for," because the decision of which traits are important is what's suspect.
In addition to this point, those traits (aggression, intelligence, duplicity) are just as easily developed through cultural and social pressures ("Men! Be aggressive! Women! Be submissive!"). Feedback loops abound ("Politicians must be aggressive; men must be aggressive. Therefore, men make the best politicians - now, since all the politicians are men, politicians must be more aggressive to stand out, and since men are all ready aggressive..." so on, etc).

Anyway, although I'm willing to believe that there are differences (mayhaps even significant ones) between the structure of a man's brain and a woman's brain, I'm not willing to make assumptions concerning what divergent patterns of behavior those differences produce. And unless you can cite some sources that provide empirical evidence that those structures do produce different behavioral patterns, you shouldn't be making those assumptions either. "Women aren't in politics because their BRAINS are different!" is a very irresponsible thing to say. There is no evidence for this. And if there is, cite your mother-fuckin' sources (Azukius).
Azukius wrote:Other things, like the construction workers (who were brought up previously) have some of the crappest, lowest paid work availible and are almost exclusively male yet no one is claiming that there is a 'glass ceiling' of prejudice preventing them from entering the higher paid proffesions.
The underlying issue is not the patrarchy, or male female relations (which go both ways) it is the problem of class. When poor, illeducated workers cat-call a wealthy woman the problem is their underlying frustrations and in ablility to express themselves and the idea of sexism (and to a lesser extent rascism, though i recognise that this is a very real problem to many people and is only used in this capacity by a select few) is used as a smokescreen to hide the huge injustices on our society and to place the blame on the victims themselves.
...has it even occurred to you that one of the reasons you don't see a lot of female construction workers is because male construction workers often make overt threats of rape toward women? Would you really want to be a female working in that environment? Would you really want to fight for your right to have a job surrounded by men like that?

I can't even parse the rest of your post. Men threatening to rape women is an expression of class conflict? When they threaten to rape a woman, they're not expressing their desire to rape, but their frustration over their financial standing? When they say "I'm gonna pin you in an alleyway and *bleep* you all night", what they're really saying is "I am thoroughly dissatisfied with my financial status and envious of yours"? Okay, fine - so what is it when they do this to a woman who's dirt-fucking-poor? Or, what, do you think they only threaten to rape wealthy women?

I seriously don't think you even belong in this discussion. This thread is for people who know that there's an elephant in the room. You clearly haven't gotten there yet.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:13 am UTC

When you say something out of the blue, such as your claim that women have twice as many language processing areas as men, you normally provide a citation.

For example, here — WARNING: PDF — is a source that obliterates whatever complaints you have about women's participation in law. As for the arts, I'm sure you have heard the names of Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Verdi, Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Michelangelo, Dickens, Mark Twain, Raphael, and Bach; those are from the top of my head, and from the same resources I think can only name one woman artist (Jane Austen) who did her work during that span of time. Certainly, if the differences between men and women with regard to art are purely biological, then they evolved in the dozen years between Dickens's death and Woolf's birth; with our intricate biological understanding of psychology, it would be ludicrous to claim that patriarchy has held any sway on the arts. That male dominance in the arts fell away as feminism began to take shape must be pure coincidence.

Where it really gets crazy, though, is in the apologia you present for rape threats. I don't know if you seriously believe that men are economically disadvantaged against women in the face of all the statistics and demographics to the contrary, or if you seriously believe that cat-calls and rape threats are devoid of sexism, or if you seriously think that a gang of men could ever be justified — you call them the true victims — in threatening a woman with rape, but that's what you've managed to express through your post. It's crazy and stupid and it makes me angry, and it means that I'm stopping this post now; what I wanted to put here probably would get me in trouble.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:57 pm UTC

Rolled back to last known "good" (sort of, maybe?) configuration. If this topic returns to the unsupported ranting, personal attacks and general douchebaggery previously demonstrated, then warnings, thread ejections and the exercising of my new-found ability to ban you the fuck from SB will be used.

And for some of the newer participants in this thread and section, I'd ask that you be sure to have read the SB section rules before returning to the conversation.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:50 pm UTC

Really, the chief problem I see with 'patriarchy' reasoning is that it gives rise to moral demands that, even in a perfectly gender-neutral and perfectly enlightened society, wouldn't necessarily be met.

Imagine a society that had completely reevaluated its structures: gone back to scratch, and asked, "how should we make decisions in concert?" And that when they did this, they succeeded in completely disregarding any preference based on gender. Instead, every institution is designed in such a way that it will (probabilistically) be governed by the person with the greatest comparative advantage in the duties of that post.

Is it not entirely possible that this re-engineered society will include many institutions that tend to award more power to men than to women? Is it out of the question that the qualities that actually do make for better leadership are more common in men? Suppose they do: suppose that this society lives in a universe where empirical reality and sensible politics happen to favor a male-dominated society. (It is of course equally plausible that they might favor the opposite, but that's a different hypothetical.)

Now this society, which we started by assuming was strictly perfect in all the relevant respects, will nevertheless be condemned by anti-patriarchy reasoning.

That's the problem. I cannot countenance as fundamentally true any theory that can, under any circumstances, object to a perfect society. Just like I can't unreservedly support an election model that might, under certain circumstances, fail to select a Condorcet winner.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby roc314 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 7:49 pm UTC

Silas wrote:Really, the chief problem I see with 'patriarchy' reasoning is that it gives rise to moral demands that, even in a perfectly gender-neutral and perfectly enlightened society, wouldn't necessarily be met.

Imagine a society that had completely reevaluated its structures: gone back to scratch, and asked, "how should we make decisions in concert?" And that when they did this, they succeeded in completely disregarding any preference based on gender. Instead, every institution is designed in such a way that it will (probabilistically) be governed by the person with the greatest comparative advantage in the duties of that post.

Is it not entirely possible that this re-engineered society will include many institutions that tend to award more power to men than to women? Is it out of the question that the qualities that actually do make for better leadership are more common in men? Suppose they do: suppose that this society lives in a universe where empirical reality and sensible politics happen to favor a male-dominated society. (It is of course equally plausible that they might favor the opposite, but that's a different hypothetical.)

Now this society, which we started by assuming was strictly perfect in all the relevant respects, will nevertheless be condemned by anti-patriarchy reasoning.

That's the problem. I cannot countenance as fundamentally true any theory that can, under any circumstances, object to a perfect society. Just like I can't unreservedly support an election model that might, under certain circumstances, fail to select a Condorcet winner.
But the society you have described is not perfect. Even if reality and sensibility would lead to a man-dominated society (a premise I don't accept, but let's pretend that it's true), that doesn't mean that it would be a perfect society. In a society where men dominate politics and power, issues concerning men will be given more weight and importance than issues concerning women. Unless the men in charge were perfect (which would be a ridiculous assumption if you want your hypothetical to have any relevance), issues like abortion rights will be mostly ignored, as the men in charge just won't care enough.

Part of the reason why society is better if it has more diversity amongst its leaders is because otherwise, some groups won't get representation. It's like the 18th century's United Kingdom's claim that those in colonies were represented in parliament by the parliament members from Britain. Legally, they were, but in actuality, those parliament members couldn't have represented the colonists fairly, as they didn't understand them. (Hypothetically, there could be a society where everyone was capable of representing anyone else fairly and competently, but, under how you set up your hypothetical society, where society is divided among gender lines, that wouldn't be the case.)

Also, even though your society would seem really perfect if you were a man in it, I'm betting that if you were a woman in it, you wouldn't think the same. After all, how could a society that doesn't give your sex a voice in government, where you don't have power, where (and as time went on, these would naturally result (if they weren't there from the beginning)) you are seen as a second-class citizen, where you are paid less than men, and where you are seen as lesser be a perfect society? Separate is inherently unequal. Unless your perfect society is based upon inequality (and then it would only be a perfect society to those benefiting from this inequality), you can't have the government dominated by one group and still have it be perfect.

Essentially, a perfect society is not perfect if it doesn't give everyone a voice in government. Limiting the governing to only men (even if it would be more efficient or whatever) means that women will lack a voice, which means the society is not perfect. Anti-patriarchy reasoning can't lead to opposition to a perfect society because any society that is patriarchal is not perfect.
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