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Spectra and binaries
"Patriarchy" (derived from patriarch in Greek) is a term for societies in which male is the favored gender, and in which men hold power, dominion and privilege. That position is reinforced by societal and cultural norms, religious teachings, media portrayals of gender roles (specifically female inferiority), the use of perceived feminine characteristics as insults, and even formal definition of gender roles, including laws limiting women's rights.

Male power in a patriarchy can be found at family, community, social and governmental levels. For example, in the family realm, fathers could have dominion over their unmarried daughters, husbands over their wives, and sons over widowed mothers. The "man of the house" makes the ultimate decision on everything from size of family to the family budget to methods of discipline. In the community, businesses are generally run by men and local leaders as well as respected elders are men. The social rules and norms are set and enforced by men. The formal definition of patriarchy as a form of government is of one controlled by men by designed limitation, be it functionally a theocracy, a monarchy, dictatorship or partial democracy with limited enfranchisement. Colloquially, any government comprised disproportionately of men can be described as a patriarchy, even full democracies.

Most, though not all patriarchies are/were patrilineal (property, name, or heritage goes from father to son). Judaism and Navaho are examples of matrilineal descent and/or property transfer in largely patriarchal societies.

A majority of human societies of the last 2,000 or so years have been patriarchal. There is disagreement about earlier in history, with some proposing the existence of matriarchal or at least sex-egalitarian societies. Although it is disputed whether such societies ever represented a norm, there is strong evidence that in at least some cultures the status of women was relatively high. Notable examples include the Berbers, most Tungusic and Mongolic peoples, and certain Native American tribes like the Hopi.


[edit] Gender roles and discrimination in patriarchies

Because patriarchy defines men as the rulers, men's and women's roles are strictly defined and, in a sense, enforced. Women must be seen as inferior, weaker, generally less capable, less intelligent, and less worthy. Their work is equally considered "lower." They are relegated to hearth and home. Cleaning, caring for the family, and serving the husband. In fact, in the rare instance that men do "the same work," the men get titled positions to distinguish that they are doing something "better" than women. They are chefs, to a woman's "cook." They are fashion designers to a woman's "seamstress."

But critically, the same pressure exists for men to conform to particular roles. One classic example (though not universal by any stretch) is that men must be tough and strong, must not cry, must not back down, must be willing to get into physical altercations to solve problems. Because of the need to have such rigid roles, patriarchies are largely intolerant of anyone who lives outside of the norm. This of course includes homosexual and transgender individuals, but also men who prefer intelligence or gentle persuasion to physical violence, men who wish to be involved fathers, or men who want to be primary caregivers. (Think "nurse" vs. "doctor.") In a patriarchal society individuals who do not conform to certain standards risk being marginalized.

[edit] Patriarchy and feminism

Recognizing and opposing patriarchy is a major theme in feminism. Feminist analysis points to the many aspects of patriarchy in society and how these are perpetuated, often subtly and unconsciously, in social norms and popular culture. Patriarchy is still pervasive and highly disempowering, and — despite the achievements of feminism — is still a powerful force in even the most modernized societies.[1] Modern statistics (especially regarding student achievement, college graduation rates, and the political power of women's groups) support the idea that, while patriarchy is still around, things are gradually changing. (Citation needed.)

[edit] Criticism and denial

Patriarchy "skepticism" is common among "men's rights" advocates and other critics of feminism. Their basic argument seems to be "Women have the vote, and make up 50% of the population, so they must already have equal power." (Oh, we're sorry, where's the first female POTUS? Oh, that's right; until 2012 only 8 women received more than 1,000 votes in a presidential primary and far fewer women have run than men.) Or even better, some generic, odd idea that women actually control society, as evidenced by the cries of their loss of power.[2] There are some aspects of society in which men do have certain disadvantages, such as in the criminal justice system, or in certain historically female-dominated professions such as nursing; however the MRAs make the mistake of attributing this to the evils of feminism, rather than realizing that it is precisely because of patriarchal attitudes that such disadvantages exist.

A few especially insane MRAs, confused by the fact that higher life expectancy is commonly cited as evidence of the privilege of white people and/or residents of developed countries, attempt to argue that the higher life expectancy enjoyed by women since the early 20th century (when death from childbirth became less common) is evidence that women are a privileged group.

[edit] Evidence

It's easy to assert that there is widespread assumption of gender roles, and that those assumptions hurt women. But there is also evidence to support the claim. A June 2014 study corroborated this notion in the realm of negotiation. The study found that popular stereotypes that women are easier to manipulate continue to persist, and that in almost exactly the same percentage of the population as these perceptions hold, more men are willing to lie to women than men in contract negotiations[3]. This is one measurable, clear way in which a systemic bias harms women specifically.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

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