Why I Was Wrong About the Patriarchy (and Why It Doesn’t Matter)April 17, 2013
I’ve come to realize now that of course “the patriarchy exists” – just not in the way it had ever been “sold” to me as a concept.
I Blame the Feminists
Likewise, every time a feminist refers to “the patriarchy”, it’s in a way that seems to imply that there’s a shadowy cabal of sinister men pulling the strings of this malevolent conspiracy – perhaps sipping cognac in the Sky Room of the Chrysler Building as they plot out the continued oppression of vagina-owners worldwide.
That was the “patriarchy” I had been presented with – and brushed off as laughably absurd.
But I’ve come to realize now that despite their clunky language, the “patriarchy” feminists refer to is a very real thing. It’s so real, in fact – so intrinsic to our daily lives – that the reason so few of us recognize it is because it’s as natural to us at the air we breathe.
The patriarchy, you see, is just another name for the type of society we live in.
We live in a “patriarchal” society – one which historically has had men in charge of it.
The alternative – as realized in countless science fiction novels (my favorite being Edmund Cooper’s “Who Needs Men?”) – would be a “matriarchal” society, in which women are in control.
So the “patriarchy” is how our society developed, and how it exists now, albeit in a much diluted form from how it was just a few decades ago.
In a patriarchy, men and women are encouraged to adopt gendered roles. Society teaches men that they should be “the breadwinner” and the provider, and the fact that most of our leaders are men is simply an extension of how the strongest members of the tribe – the men – were the ones who became their chieftains and defenders.
In contrast, our patriarchal society encourages women to be mothers and homemakers; and despite decades of feminism and a more equal society than mankind has ever experienced before, many women are more than happy to adopt that role.
And that’s the secret about “the patriarchy” - the majority of both women and men enthusiastically embrace this type of society. In fact, while most women ostensibly support the concept of equality, they still support patriarchal traditions like men opening doors for them, paying for dinner during a date, and other quaint customs like that. (To paraphrase one male friend of mine: “Women’ll only be equal when they’re willing to get that spider out of the bathtub their damn selves.)
“The patriarchy” isn’t a sinister conspiracy, like the feminists try to tell us it is. It’s just the way society is. In another lifetime, it could have been the other way around. (In fact, in some tribes and societies, that’s exactly what it is.)
So when you’ve come to understand what the nature of “the patriarchy” is, it suddenly puts all the feminist dogma into a starkly different light.
Most of us who claim to be sex positive don’t challenge the feminist belief that the “patriarchy” is a bad thing – but perhaps we should do! After all, what is the alternative?
Now I’ve come to understand its existence, I’ve realized that the “patriarchy” is as much a part of American culture as capitalism. It’s a societal construct; and ultimately only as “good” or “bad” as those who live it.
Feminists who attack the concept of the “patriarchy” are kind of like the self-identified socialists who attack the concept of American capitalism. They have a legitimate conceptual belief that the way our society is run needs to change – but while we can respect that belief system, we don’t need to accept it.
Capitalism has its bad points – but most Americans wouldn’t want to live in any other type of society. Likewise, the patriarchy presents serious issues for both men and women (although as a society, we’re all working to address those) but most people who live in a patriarchal society are actually okay with the expectations it places on them as men or women.
Tearing down the “patriarchy” is like tearing down capitalism – it is the fundamental destruction of the way our society is currently ordered. And while I can actually understand people who want that to happen, I think we need to stop for a second and realize that this is an extreme belief.