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What is the patriarchy?

(257 Posts)
EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 13-Sep-12 09:35:02

I am aware that we use words here like the patriarchy as if everyone understands what this means. I know when I first came on FWR I didnt. So I thought it mght be helpful if women who do understand it, explained what they understand the term patriarchy to mean.

wisdomoflollygag Thu 13-Sep-12 10:11:29

It's simple.A Patriarchy is the male equivalent of a Matriarchy.

KRITIQ Thu 13-Sep-12 23:34:32

Not exactly . . .

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 13-Sep-12 23:43:46

patriarchy is about men as a class i.e. political group, dominating women as a class. Men dominate in a large variety of ways - through media images, legal system, cultural norms, male violence and rape, structures such as marriage, men's behaviour to women, etc. It is an all encompassing system.

PunkInDublic Fri 14-Sep-12 10:50:37

I'm glad you posted this EatsBrainsAndLeaves, I know what it means in definition but personally I have very little experience of it and tend to shy away from issues involving the patriarchy.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 14-Sep-12 11:07:15

Punk, I illustrate it to myself by thinking "where has society come from?" 60 years ago my grandma had to resign when she got married. 20-odd years ago the marital rape law was passed in the UK. Many things are improving, from a legislative POV at least, in the UK, but these changes are within living memory and so the attitudes from pre these changes will still be within many people even if they are pushing against them mentally. It took a long time for my dad to learn that he could only have one drink if driving (he never drove "drunk" but 2-3 small glasses wine) because his "habit" had to catch up with the law enforcement campaign.

Other countries are mired more deeply in the patriarchy than the uk but that doesn't mean all is well here.

I would have thought it's similar for ethnic minorities etc but I don't have direct experience of that.

summerflower Fri 14-Sep-12 11:12:19

I wouldn't put 'the' in front of patriarchy, as the parameters of patriarchy change over time, and 'the' suggests something static.

But generally, as I understand it, patriarchy is the name given to the fact that society, economy, politics, family, religion, the legal structure, you name it, has been organised, and is still organised, to benefit men. It used to be more overt, for example, in the fact that property and title went from father to son, that a wives property became her husband's, now it is more insiduous, the sexual objectification of women, the pay gap, the gendered nature of sexual and domestic violence, and so on.

Also, patriarchy benefits some men more than others, depending on age, race, class and sexuality, but generally, you would find that it benefitted a men of that group more than a woman of that group, iyswim.

wisdomoflollygag Fri 14-Sep-12 11:20:27

Essentially a Patriarchy is a system where women are subjugated.So,for instance,if you drive down a road in a Patriarchy you will come across groups of roadworkers who are making repairs or laying new drainage pipes or resurfacing the road and the workers will all be women.It will be similar in the coal mines and the steel works - it's a horrible system if your'e a woman.

vesuvia Fri 14-Sep-12 12:03:34

wisdomoflollygag wrote - "if you drive down a road in a Patriarchy you will come across groups of roadworkers who are making repairs or laying new drainage pipes or resurfacing the road and the workers will all be women.It will be similar in the coal mines and the steel works"

In a patriarchy, not all miners or road workers are women, but it's also true that not all such workers are men.

Examples of photos of miners, who happen to be women:

in the USA

in Australia

Examples of photos of road workers, who happen to be women:

in Russia

Capitalism or communism, it doesn't matter, they're all patriarchy.

summerflower Fri 14-Sep-12 12:04:49

Or, lollygag, you will be trying to discuss with other women what a term means and a man will come along and tell you you have got it all wrong.

Let's look at your example of coal-mining, shall we? Massive industry a hundred years ago. Men went down the mines, they were the waged labourers, women stayed at home and looked after the children, that is once they had survived childbirth, which was, in those days, more dangerous than going down the mines (higher levels of maternal mortality than death in the mines) with what money their men gave them. Once a man had finished his shift, he was done, his wife washed his dirty clothes, cooked his dinner, looked after the children so he was not disturbed and so on, her shift did not end. All the man had to do was provide some money for her to run house and home, but often the pay packet would be pissed down the pub before she saw it, and the man would come home and treat her to a beating.

Whatever you see now has historical roots. The reasons you see men in those jobs are historical, for the same reasons you see women in certain jobs (usually caring, nurturing, domestic jobs, if you are talking working class labour). Which do you reckon gets paid more, and who do you reckon finds it easier to get to work once children come along?

vesuvia Fri 14-Sep-12 12:15:10

wisdomoflollygag wrote - "A Patriarchy is the male equivalent of a Matriarchy."

It's often claimed that families with no resident father are matriarchal. They are in the sense that the woman has to become 'head of the household', but a family is not an entire society. The mother and children are still living in a patriarchal society. It even applies when the absence of fathers occurs on a huge scale. For example, all the nations that fought the two World Wars were patriarchal before, during and after those wars.

wisdomoflollygag Fri 14-Sep-12 12:16:12

Well done Vesuvia - you win the 'cutting and pasting' star for today - though I notice you couldn't find any pictures from the UK.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 14-Sep-12 12:19:04

Crikey, what's with the tone wisdom? confused

PunkInDublic Fri 14-Sep-12 12:22:24

Well, regardless of any cutting or pasting Vesuvia I found your response and the others helpful. So thank you.

Xenia Fri 14-Sep-12 12:24:01

Adn in some coun tries it is getting worse. In Saudi at the moment - 2012 - there is a new trend of not naming women in public in documents and the like so they become as hidden as a Surrey housewife even if they are a leading doctor.

wisdomoflollygag Fri 14-Sep-12 12:24:41

Sorry,LRD - will vacate this thread.Threads about 'The Patriarchy' get me a little rattled.

Xenia Fri 14-Sep-12 12:31:43

I think it's wonderful if women do road works. One reason I am pretty fit at my age is I often carry heavy things around for work, boxes, move loads. It's what people need to feel good and be fit and normal. When women have their feet bound or put into high heels or long veils they cannot operate as people, are curtailed and are less free.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 14-Sep-12 12:49:38

I wasn't trying to get you to vacate the thread, I just didn't understand quite what was getting to you, and something clearly was.

wisdomoflollygag Fri 14-Sep-12 12:57:17

That's ok - I was going to vacate before I embarrassed my self with my next post which would have referenced Saudi Arabia but xenia's done that already.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 14-Sep-12 13:01:10

I thought the point about Saudi Arabia was good too - really shocking and sad, but completely relevant, isn't it?

It's really scary and I suppose it shows how language matters, too.

messyisthenewtidy Fri 14-Sep-12 14:04:57

I come from a family of miners and from what I've been told, yes the work was bloody hard and sometimes dangerous, but there was a lot of comradery amongst the miners and respect for them from the communities that were centred around the mines. Let's not also forget that miners wives didn't sit on their arses all day. They kept house, which was a lot bloody harder than it is today, in horrible conditions, as well as took in sewing, ironing, just to get by. Plus many women died in childbirth, and DV was a big issue, especially when the mines were shut down.

Today, patriarchy for me is more about men's dominance of the public domain. This is clearly historical as in the past the separation between male= public / female=domestic was very clearcut. But it still remains today to a large extent: in our attitudes towards women in the public domain, in men's dominance of sport, media, the workplace.

When women feel perfectly at ease walking down the street at night, and are adequately represented in politics and the media (and not just the pretty ones) then I'll start to question whether P exists or not....

grimbletart Fri 14-Sep-12 15:13:02

I think Wisdom should also remember, for example, that women worked down the mines in the UK until the Mines Act of 1842 when they were banned. Who banned them? Parliament. Was it women that banned them? No, because there were no women in Parliament.

He should also remember that women were doing the sorts of jobs he mentioned in World War 2 and many others besides. (An aunt of mine was a lumberjack - or lumberjill as they were known). What happened at the end of the war? Women were dispatched back to the kitchen. What they were apparently competent enough to do in wartime they were not competent enough do in peace time apparently because men wanted those jobs back.

Patriarchy in action.

vesuvia Fri 14-Sep-12 20:11:57

The concept of patriarchy is accepted by many/most strands of feminism. For example, radical feminists and most liberal feminists accept the existence of patriarchy. It's also accepted by many non-feminists. Lots of people mistakenly believe that anyone who blames patriarchy for systematic discrimination against women and girls, must be a radical feminist.

One of the differences between radical and liberal feminism is how to deal with patriarchy. Radical feminism wants to remove patriarchy completely, liberal feminism wants change parts of it.

TeiTetua Fri 14-Sep-12 21:42:40

I'm not sure about this--is it better feminism if women are allowed to go down t'pit, or better if they're kept out?

As for the pictures from Russia, there were more women doing manual jobs in the 50s and 60s quite simply because with Stalin's prison camps and the way the USSR fought the Germans, so many men were dead.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 14-Sep-12 21:47:00

I think that's a separate issue maybe - the fact is, they did go down the pit until they were banned. They weren't banned because someone was shocked at the awful conditions for everyone, they were banned because people were treating women differently from men.

It's better to remember what women did than indulge in annoying '1950s neverland' shite about women 'never working' before the last century, and it's better to treat men and women equally.

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