Patriarchy: A Response to Everyday Feminism

As I mentioned in “Is Feminism a Religion“, Third Wavers have their sacred dogmatic tenents which cannot be questioned.  And of course, this site is dedicated in part to questioning each and every one of them (making me one of the few hardline feminist constantly accused of being an MRA).  So far, we’ve covered Rape Culture, The Wage Gap Myth (which is also here and here), Sexual Objectification Theory, and Male Privilege.

That means there’s only one left that we haven’t addressed yet: Patriarchy!

This is a very important sacred tenant for Third Wavers, because it’s the one that ties all other tenents together.  White heterosexual cis-men are able to create rape culture, the wage gap, sexual objectification, and male privilege because of the Patriarchy!  It’s the keystone that holds everything else together and allows circular reasoning.  For example, we know male privilege is real because of the patriarchy, and patriarchy is what allows male privilege to happen.

As with most religions, there are different interpretations and definitions of what patriarchy means, and how it works.  You might think this is strange, because if patriarchy were really real, why would there be so many different definitions and stories of how it works?  But that’s the point – it isn’t real.  It’s part of a belief system.  If we’re trying to justify the Wage Gap, we’ll use the story of patriarchy one way.  If we want to make women look less valued, we’ll use it another way.  For that reason, we can’t respond to Patriarchy all at one go, like we could with objectification or rape culture.  Here, we’ll respond to each different version of Patriarchy as we find them.

For today, we’ll explore Everyday Feminism’s explanation of Patriarchy.Patriarchy aliens

Everyday Feminism boasts a viewership of 4.5 million monthly visitors, according to their About page. In the last 2 years, they’ve received 12 million unique users, and their articles have been read over 33 million times.

Their claim is to help people heal from, and stand up to, everyday violence, discrimination, and marginalization through applied intersectional feminism. This is quite a claim. What’s more, with that level of viewership and support, this is a source that indicates a relevant amount of public consensus. They even go so far as to offer online courses in feminism.

You can see the post here:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/05/patriarchy-and-how-it-shows-up-for-everyone/

From the link:

—– —–
Although most of us know what patriarchy is — a system of domination by which the wealthy, white, male ruling class has authority over everyone else — few of us understand how it plays out in our everyday lives.
—– —–

As a woman, I don’t feel dominated. At all. Ever. I walk around town, and I never feel this way. I can shop where I want, I can spend money on anything I want, I can hold any job I want. I get paid just as much as men do. At the Portland Rescue Mission, when it’s time to eat, all the men in the Mission stand aside, and let all the women eat first. Whenever I get to the end of the checkout line at the same time as someone else, they always smile, and let me go first. Whenever I drop something, if there’s a man nearby, his automatic reflex is to help pick it up for me.

You could of course assign all sorts of completely unknowable reasons to each of these things, without ever having known or met the people doing them.  If your narrative tells you that I absolutely must, somehow, someway, be the victim, then certainly I’m being allowed to eat first because everyone hates me, I’m allowed first in the checkout line because I’m weak, and people pick things up for me because I’m horrible. Or evil. I forget which.

I suppose with that same mentality then, it’s possible to say I’m “dominated”.

And the male ruling class has authority?

So… the simple act of being male, gives someone authority? Having a penis gives you power? It’s hard for me to relate, having been a man, and simultaneously working myself to the point of collapse multiple times over the last 10 years all so I could buy just barely enough food to keep me alive until the next week. I can’t recall the number of female bosses I had during that time, or how utterly vicious some of them were.

Of course it’s different to say “those in charge are male”, instead of saying “being male puts you in charge”. Because then it’s totally possible that the ones who were horse whipped by such societal expectations as “you’re not good enough unless you’re the best” and “second place is first to lose”, are the ones that simply work longer hours, seek out harder challenges, and take more risks, and are simply the ones who finished first, like what every independent study into the matter has confirmed.

But they don’t dominate me, and they don’t have any authority over me. Rich CEOs can’t force me to buy anything. Politicians are kept in check by the general public. We’ll riot and protest if they go too far out of line. The fact that they’re male makes no difference – what if Sarah Palin were president? Would we see less oppression, or more of it? Or how bout Michelle Bachman? How bout a whole senate full of women like that?

I believe it was Indira Gandhi, who was prime minister of India in 1984, who ordered a raid that ended up killing thousands of Sikhs, and Queen Mary of England burned nearly 3 times as many people alive than did King Henry the VIII.

Of course, neither of those, or any of the other hundreds of female tyrants I could name committed those acts because they were female. Sometimes the issues were complex, and involved multiple interconnected factors with unforeseeable outcomes, and sometimes they were just idiots. It doesn’t reflect bad on “women in power”.

Game Theory is a study of how people make decisions in social situations. See http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/whatis.htm . It raises an interesting question; would the decisions and outcomes really be that different if it were women, instead of men, that were involved? Would the outcome be better, or worse? Perhaps they would be better in some ways, and worse in other ways? Would we still say they “dominated our lives” simply because they were women, and not because they actually affected anything in my day to day life?

But anyway, the article promises to tell us of how it does impact our daily lives. So let’s move ahead.

—– —–
We may even think of it as something that existed a long time ago in the United States, during the days of the Puritans when women were property of their husbands and were being accused of witchcraft and hanged.
—– —–

And men were dipped in boiling tar and feathered, so as to be humiliated in their final moments as their skin came off due to third degree burns? I’m sure this won’t be the last time we hear it implied that only women were oppressed, while all the men were out being awesome. Because penis.

—– —–
It’s like how some may say that racism is no longer an issue because we’re past the days of Jim Crow laws and the extreme, hate-based activism of the KKK (even though they’re still active today).
—– —–

We will never see a day when racism just does not happen. But there’s a difference between it being endorsed by the state, a culture at large that’s ignored by the state, and then finally outlawed by the state. We currently have a black president. Surely, we are not going to compare modern day America to living in Mississippi during the 1950s and actually say they’re the same exact thing.

—– —–
And women aren’t the only ones who suffer under this everyday patriarchy. Everyone does. Because patriarchy demands that those in power conform to a specific set of rules — ones that require the suppression of feelings, and include a lack of empathy.
—– —–

So even the ones in power have to conform? I thought they basically *were* the patriarchy!…

So then, this patriarchy… it must be above all else, even them! From whence does it come? What group of men are causing it? It has to be a group of men involved here, else it wouldn’t be called “patriarchy”. Plus that was the definition given earlier; it was defined as a system where rich white men controlled everyone else. But now it’s also controlling them!!!

This is so big… it goes even higher than we ever expected.

In actual fact, suppression of feelings comes from gender expectations, not patriarchy. And those gender expectations have a very complex system of causes that stretch back for thousands of years and involve multiple different cultural influences, many of which were concerned with the need for survival. That’s why even the so-called Patriarchy is affected by them.

Again, these gender roles were a product of survival, at a time when men risked greater agency and were “in charge”, for what it was worth. Just because we still have gender roles doesn’t mean that men still have any special privilege.

But back to the article.

—— —–
Most of us are aware of the obvious ways in which patriarchy plays out in the workplace: women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar and occupy just 15% of upper management positions and less than 4% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies.  In other words, the workplace is still dominated by men.
—– —–

Remember how I said at the beginning that Patriarchy was used to hold all the other claims together?  Well, here’s a fine example.  The wage gap happens because of the patriarchy.  And patriarchy is what causes the wage gap.

—– —–
And the higher up the corporate ladder a man climbs, the more he is expected to conform to the patriarchal expectations within the good ole’ boys’ club: he must commit 100% of himself to the job, refrain from outward displays of emotion, and be completely reliable at all times.
—— —–

These guys are working on a bridge that thousands of people will drive over each day.  I *INSIST* they be as reliable as humanly possible.

These guys are working on a bridge that thousands of people will drive over each day. I *INSIST* they be as reliable as humanly possible.

Um, no. These are expectations that generally apply to any employee at any company. It’s not part of a good ole’ boys’ club. Every place you work at wants your 100% while you’re on the job. Every place wants you to keep your cool when dealing with irate customers, and be “completely reliable at all times”.

Before I move on, I have to let that one sink in a bit. Patriarchy demands you be “reliable at all times”. Really? Thank God for patriarchy then. If I’m running a company (which I’ve done a few times before), I definitely want this from my employees. When you’re off the clock, go home, enjoy yourself, and rest up. But when you’re on the clock, I expect you to do your job and yes, believe it or not, I want you to be “reliable at all times”.

Dammit, turns out I’m part of the patriarchy!

—– —–
In other words, he sheds his humanity and becomes the company’s robot.
—– —–

I seriously have to wonder if the author has ever worked for a company before.

—– —–
As a result of his commitment to this patriarchal culture, the man may become controlling and dominant when placed into a management position, thus being less sensitive to the needs of his employees and coworkers.
—– —–

Most of the managers I’ve had in my life were women. And let me tell you one thing; if you were late to work, they were not going to sit there and be sensitive to your needs! Hell hath no fury like that of a woman, who’s your boss, when you’re late for work.

I can’t recall how many female managers bitched me out because I was not able to stand up for long periods of times due to my feet being in pain (I’m disabled and have a condition with my feet). I got shouted at a lot. They didn’t care how much pain I was in. They fired me just as soon as it became apparent that I was “going to have problems”, like my feet hurting so bad that I couldn’t walk. But then this isn’t patriarchy, or matriarchy, or any other social theory I could conjure up to help validate my feeling of anger and resentment. This was a woman plainly not understanding that I have a disability, and drawing from her life experience that when someone says their feet hurt, they’re just complaining and being lazy. Unfortunately, there’s no system to blame. I have a disability that not many people are going to notice, or know how to address.

Other than that, I’m really not sure what to say… the idea that a manager of a company is not supposed to be controlling really does make me wonder if the author has ever worked before. It is completely true that there are better styles of management. Most management coaches now recommend that instead of “being over” your employees, you “get under them”; facilitative management is currently promoted as the most effective style. This is where you become the floor that your employees work upon, and give them support while they make the decisions. You become their foundation, and allow them to grow.

But again, failure to adopt this as a widespread method has nothing to do with patriarchy. Having the social skills, emotional intelligence, and cognitive awareness to let your employees totally disagree with you, when you’re supposed to be “the manager”, and not get in a power struggle, is difficult due to basic psychology, not patriarchy. There’s no system at work here. Nearly every person from every culture all around the world, regardless of gender, will feel defensive once they’ve been given a management position, and an employee disagrees with them.

—– —–
The woman manager, on the other hand, may feel obligated to fill the traditional female role in the workplace patriarchy — sensitive to the needs of others, more emotional, and more team oriented.
—— —–

Next paragraph…

—– —–
And while the gendered female role may seem like the most appropriate for workplace interaction in order to build teamwork and create a comfortable environment, it can have detrimental effects.
—— —–

Continue…

—– —–
Because when a woman takes on the traditional female role in corporate culture, she undermines her ability to assert control over her team and her environment. She is seen as weak and is less likely to be promoted.
—– —–

Coming up with a hypothetical one-dimensional person to show what they “might do” in your own imaginative situation, using that to illustrate how adhering to strict gender roles is always adverse, then presenting that as evidence for an overall dominating social system, is probably why “patriarchy” almost never appears in serious academic literature.

A “woman might” do X, which is related to the thing you don’t like, and is bad.

But then a woman might not do X, and if she does, X is not always necessarily bad. She doesn’t always have to do X either. People usually have more than one option in how to go about their lives, and often a person has different sides to them. They play multiple roles throughout the day: as a mother, teacher, caregiver, employee, daughter, sister, best friend, adviser, etc – and play each of those roles differently based on the situation.

It’s also being implied here that all gender roles are basically either caused by, or are the same as, patriarchy. This is simply not true. I love being a woman, but I’m not doing so because of any patriarchal influence. Most women who deeply enjoy being women aren’t doing so because of – by the authors own definition – “a system of domination by which the wealthy, white, male ruling class has authority over everyone else”. Men enjoy being men with or without authority of any sort. I’ve met California surfer beach dudes who were genuinely at peace with everyone, who liked being beach bums, who were happy to be dudes.

But the author seems to be insisting that gender roles are somehow necessarily connected to a system of white-male domination, and then suggesting that only her narrowly interpreted outcomes are possible.

—– —–
Children are at the bottom of the family hierarchy when it comes to the power structure within the family. Often, they are controlled instead of being treated as an equal participant.

Now, I’m not saying we should let our children control us. What I’m saying is that we should give children a voice. We should make them active participants in the family structure and communicate with them. We should let them express their opinions.
—– —–

This seems to be turning into a game of finding something you don’t like, then calling it Patriarchy.

You know how that guy in the theater answer’s his phone in the middle of the movie? Patriarchy. You know that guy who does curls off the squat rack? Patriarchy. And how bout that dude who takes the entire salt shaker over to his table, then leaves it there? Yea, that’s definitely patriarchy.

Honestly, people controlling their kids is patriarchy? So what do you call it when people *don’t* control their kids? Probably patriarchy. Find something you don’t like, and that’s the name you give it.

But yes, kids should be empowered on a level that’s reasonable for them, and given options. That’s a very good idea. Probably this idea came about through experiments conducted with families and children… in the male-dominated psychiatric and mental healthcare industry.

—– —–
Sometimes women compare themselves to other women.

We may be envious of another woman’s great hair, awesome sense of style, high IQ, or assertiveness. If we’re straight, we may even be envious that other guys pay more attention to her than they do to us.
—– —–

A bit later…

—– —–
This competition among the female sex stems from a time when a woman had to focus on being as attractive as possible to find a good husband to provide for her —during a time when most women didn’t work outside the home and relied on men to support them.

It’s like that scene in Titanic when Rose’s mother is trying to convince her to stay with the wealthy Cal Hockley instead of running off with poor boy Jack Dawson: “He’s a good match, Hockley. He will ensure our survival.”

And while that may have been true in 1912, it’s not the case 100 years later.
—– —–

So the author has done well to both identify a behavior, and explain its origins. So what comes next?

—– —–
Women need to stop reinforcing patriarchal mandates that require competition amongst each other and start forming relationships that build each other up instead of tearing each other down.
—– —–

Feelings of envy and competition may be a result stemming from our evolutionary past, but these aren’t things being enforced by any sort of patriarchy now! Calling them “patriarchal mandates” is strange… it sounds as though there’s a man somewhere, standing high upon a rock, holding a scroll in his hands at arm’s length, issuing a proclamation that all women shall henceforth as decreed by Patriarchal Mandate, be jealous of each other!

The feelings of envy I may have for other women are indeed a result of our species development, which makes me wonder why the author – in the very next breath – claims it’s caused by a bunch of rich white men in some good ol’ boy’s club somewhere mind controlling women to behave this way. Women have to be responsible for identifying and managing their own emotions, without projecting this somewhere else.

—– —–
Relationships in patriarchy demand that one member assumes the typical “masculine” role (dominant, assertive, controlling) while the other person assumes the “feminine” role (submissive, passive, weak).
—– —–

The cultural expectation of relationships between a man and a woman are spread across the world in nearly every civilization, and come from the same source as most other gender expectations. They were once survival oriented, and the behaviors once useful for survival became traditions. Traditions are a part of cultural identity, and all cultures are resistant to change, regardless of the topic or concern.

… it’s not caused by a bunch of rich white guys issuing mandates or proclamations that all dicks go into vaginas.

Also, one-sided relationships can be caused by an unending list of psychiatric dimensions, some of which are related to TA theory. I’m not aware of any research literature anywhere outlining “patriarchy” as being something that demands this behavior. You’d think something so prevailing and dominant would appear in more psychiatric journals.  But then this is all part of a belief system, not a science.

—– —–
We could benefit from understanding how detrimental gender stereotypes are and working toward eradicating them.
—– —–

What’s really ironic here is how the author has been using her own conjured up gender stereotypes to make her point.

As I said, I deeply enjoy being a woman. I woke up each morning at 5am for nearly 2 months and practiced female voice on a daily basis. I go through the effort of putting on makeup and making myself pretty before I go out. I enjoy being approached, admired, and hit on. These are wonderful things called “gender norms”, not stereotypes, and I very much appreciate them.

The author is trying to equate absolutely all cultural and gender norms as patriarchy, which is why it doesn’t make any sense. Rich white CEOs may have some subtle influence, as when it comes to creating a demand for a new product. For example, after the video game crash of 1982, Japanese entrepreneurs decided to market their Famicom system as a “home entertainment system”, since no one would carry a “video game” system anymore, and then later just referred to it as an NES. This change is an example in a subtle way companies can influence culture, but they can only do so if it is profitable, and for something to be profitable, there has to be a demand for it.

Men and women both already placed value on being thin because value is most often placed upon things which are scarce. In the middle ages, when food was not as plentiful, most people were super thin, and being voluptuous, with a few extra pounds, was considered attractive – because it was scarce and hard to obtain.

In our modern age, empty calories are very easy to find, and so being thin is something scarce.

That’s why it’s so valued. People already valued this, so magazine companies began marketing images of thin women – which women bought – which means companies sold more – which means women bought more – and it was then, only after it reached this point, did some companies want to out-do one another by photoshopping images of women to make them look even thinner. That’s the chain of events that brought us to where we are now.

This was not all some sort of evil plot hatched by rich white men who practically use mind control to make everyone act against their own will, and ruin everything for everyone in all aspects of life, just because they’re evil maniacal villains who cackle from castle tops as lightening cracks across the sky. That’s ridiculous.

The “patriarchy” is one of the Third Wave’s most valued cards.  The wage gap needs actual numbers, and rape culture needs statistics, even if the data used in both of these are completely fabricated.  But the patriarchy is a faceless, nebulous, shadowy and ever-present force that is all around us.  It doesn’t need numbers, statistics, or any data at all.  Loosely made up stories of a man being dedicated to his job is enough proof for patriarchy.  If a woman ever feels uncomfortable in any situation at all, it’s because of patriarchy.  You can point at something you don’t like, and call it patriarchy.

So as you might imagine, we’ll probably be seeing this topic come up a lot.

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8 thoughts on “Patriarchy: A Response to Everyday Feminism

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  3. Pingback: Patriarchy Theory Explained | 4th Wave Feminism

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  7. Yes! Yes! Yes! I wish I could plaster this post absolutely everywhere. You summed it up perfectly. I just left the comment below on an article about dismantling the patriarchy. It seemed appropriate to share here as well as it supports a few of your points:
    I love how third wavers are always looking UP to see what “male dominated roles” they want taken apart. I never see any of them looking DOWN at all the horrific blue collar jobs that our men do for us. They want to take on roles traditionally held by men. Well then – I hope some of these feminazis are prepared to ride on the back of garbage trucks and lift 150 pound trash cans into the reeking filth that is a trash truck. I hope they’re ready to risk life and limb to work oil rigs and mineral mines. I hope they’re ready to inspect stinking sewers and clean boilers. You want to get mad about men taking on the leadership roles? Then you’d better go all the way back to the first male and female couple. The first time she realized he was bigger and he was the one better equipped to go out and kill the mammoth so the family could eat, THAT was when their alleged patriarchy began. Men did what they did because women needed them to. Things are only different now because getting dinner doesn’t involved risking your life. Relax and try to enjoy this world instead of hating so much about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Relationships in patriarchy demand that one member assumes the typical “masculine” role (dominant, assertive, controlling) while the other person assumes the “feminine” role (submissive, passive, weak).”
    The more I study history, the more I’ve come to realize that at no point in the west were men expected to be ‘dominate and controlling’ or women be ‘submissive and passive’. At most, MOST, it was more like Sherrif and Deputy. One took the lead, but the other wasn’t submissive, but helpful, the ‘right hand man’ so to speak. But even this doesn’t quite capture it. Women absolute ruled the domestic realm. If she wanted to kick the man out of their hous, she could. Chivarly and etiquette entailed men treating women with reverence, like royalty, not like children, not something to be dominated. Women have always been allowed to be as rude as they want to men and men were expected to always be polite in return. Gentlemen. Gentle. Being macho brute was never tolerated, not even remotely. Being controlling or dominate was never allowed. And ‘submissiveness’ has never described the role of women.

    Just one note. This piece was great. All your pieces are. I wish you could be put in charge of feminism, re-write all the text books, re-write all of everyday feminism. Our culture would be so much better that way.

    Like

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