The Patriarchy, and why I think it’s a Bad Idea™

This blog has been up for a while now, and I’ve been getting a bit reactionary, so I think it’s time I started posting some more original commentary of my own. It’s time for some hardcore, man-on-woman feminism. (Apologies to any readers who I deliberately strung along there for half a second for my own amusement. I assure you it was worth it ;) )

The Patriarchy is a critical concept in Feminist theory, and it’s actually a concept that is really worthwhile for men to understand if they’re interested in their own rights- even if casual references to it in feminist writings make it sound like it’s a conspiracy theory. (hint: it’s not, they’re just using jargon you don’t understand, which in any other field has exactly the same effect: you make stupid comments to it if the reference looks dumb out of context)

The Patriarchy is intended as an abstract reference to systemic discrimination against women- or, in less wanky language, bitches talkin’ about The Man gettin’ them down. ;) It includes attitudes that men haven’t thrown off yet that we don’t necessarily support or believe in particularly strongly- eg. “pink is a women’s colour“, “women are useless at sports”, (or alternatively, “sports women are hot, but they don’t achieve anything”) “men work harder”, and so on. It doesn’t imply, like it might sound, that there is some wicked cabal of conservative men sitting in a dark room plotting the oppression of women. It can refer to men who support this kind of action, but it doesn’t necessarily imply they fully understand that in doing so they’re oppressing women. They may genuinely believe that women are better off as barefoot, pregnant housewives. We can still judge the motherfuckers for being stupid, of course, and this is why men who venture into feminist circles unprepared get taken aback by the acidic comments directed at the Patriarchy, and think it has something to do with them.

Okay, so that explained- why do I say that understanding the Patriarchy is worthwhile for any man interested in their own rights? Well, because a lot of the stuff that men do because of Patriarchal attitudes blows back in our own faces. Again- the best example here is the family courts. While we (ie. society in general) were beginning to recognise that feminists had a point, we started conceding them some policy in very anti-feminist fashion. We (re)designed divorce law and custody battles so that they were highly protective of and advantageous to women, who beforehand were in big trouble if they had crossed their husbands and tried to leave, especially if they did so without the protection of a new potential partner who would protect them. Many similarly protective laws, in the spirit of the Patriarchy, have also been put in place around rape and child sexual abuse.

This has blown back up in our faces spectacularly in modern times now that we’ve taken on a little more feminist baggage, and women are in a position to actually have some cash of their own, and possibly even an equal say in divorce or custody matters without the advantages our Patriarchal attitudes have afforded them. We now see men forced to wage legal battles that bankrupt them just for privilege of spending quality time with their kids. Some women regard alleged rapists as guilty until proven innocent. The rape case of Louise Nicholls really suffered from this, even though maybe it’s a bad example given the way the past convinctions of the offenders were suppressed. Men who are even accused of child abuse in some countries go on paedophilia watchlists. This doesn’t sound so bad at first, but consider what happens when you’re a teacher or caregiver for children- not only do you lose your job, but all future employers will look you up and refuse to hire you. You have to find a completely new career, and in most cases, there is no way to get off the list.

When feminists say that the Patriarchy hurts men too, they’re not mincing around. Most of the needs for men’s rights come from Patriarchal attitudes and their failures, not from feminists. In short, it’s own own bloody fault we’re in this mess, because in all the oppression of women, our ancestors never stopped to think about what it really means to be a man. How valuable fatherhood is and how it deserves to be protected and nurtured. How it might just be okay if a dude wears a pink shirt. How a man graciously accepting he earns less than his wife, and doing the dishes and cooking dinner really isn’t that bad.

The Patriarchy is the sum of our attitudes that lead us to ignore those kinds of thoughts. It opines that a man is only really a father if he has complete dominance and veto over the entire household. How there is no such thing as rape in marriage. How we don’t need to care about our wives. And I see it as some abstract destructive monster that will eat us men from the inside out if we don’t stop being afraid of it. If we don’t accept that we can construct who we are ourselves, and that we can be okay with women doing the same right with us, as equals. And to me, that’s all that feminism ought to imply- it’s only all the legal discrimination, poisonous attitudes, and cold indifference of society that has turned it into the loud and radical machine it sometimes has to be to get things done.

4 Responses

  1. Seriously, they do want to destroy the Patriarchy. They seriously want to destroy marriage.

    The older ones say it also. What I don’t get is that they are married and have great husbands while they are pushing this onto younger females.

    I can’t understand how they can say, “Men are hopeless. Men are evil creatures” and then be great wives.

    They push their agenda onto others without even asking the others if they want it. I don’t want it.

    I think we have achieved enough.

    Feminists and their male counterparts say, “When we have fixed ALL females problems, then we will sort out men’s problems.”

    This is how they work and they make it really hard for men or male supporters to get a leg up, so to speak.

    And all the while everyone else is thinking that the problem is that the men aren’t organised.

    This is truly a man hate driven agenda.

    I think maybe because you are a male that they are not honest to you.

  2. Okay, let’s try and sort through this quickly before I log off.

    Wanting to end the patriarchy is not equivalent to wanting to end marriage. Quite the opposite- my closest feminist friend has marriage as one of her biggest goals in life. All a feminist marriage is, is marriage between two separate people who are different but equal. There are lots of things about the institution of marriage as it’s currently assumed to work- such as the woman losing her own last name, the assumption that he is the one responsible for earning and protecting, the assumption that she is the one responsible for cleaning and supporting, etc… that don’t fit everyone, and may even lead to a relationship where one person has too much power in some ways.

    As for the fact that some feminists say things like “men are hopeless” or “all men are rapists”, and so on- you have to understand that there are a lot of women who have had very bad experiences that have led them to have little to cling onto. For some of them, feminism is a refuge. They don’t go on to be great wives very easily- post-traumatic stress is a sad reality for many victims of rape and abuse. That said, not all feminists are victims. And some victims manage to cope well enough to have a productive relationship. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that men need to do to stop hurting women in general.

    Have we achieved enough? Simply- no. Critical jobs that are traditionally associated with women are still undervalued. Women are still abused and raped hugely disproportionately. Only the most masculine of women are taken seriously as leaders. There is plenty left to do, and much of it is urgent.

    I agree with you that we shouldn’t fix all of women’s problems before sorting out men’s problems- part of the reason I made this blog, in fact- but I don’t think it’s women’s responsibility to be the driving force behind men’s rights. We need to advocate for ourselves. I don’t see how asking women to do it for us makes us interested in equal rights- if anything, that type of attitude would take us backwards.

    I’m amused that you talk of other people hating men, and then you turn around and suggest that maybe I’m not smart enough to tell that they’re lying to me and cleverly concealing their hate. I know there are some women that do hate men in general- and they have very traumatic experiences in their pasts that make it largely understandable. They are far from the core of the feminist movement, however, and my personal experiences have been good, and highly enlightening. :)

  3. In short, it’s own own bloody fault we’re in this mess, because in all the oppression of women, our ancestors never stopped to think about what it really means to be a man.

    Okay I see where our ancestors are at fault but I really don’t think blaming current generations of men is right.

    I don’t think it’s women’s responsibility to be the driving force behind men’s rights. We need to advocate for ourselves.

    I’m with you on that. But one of the big problems I see when men try to advocate for themselves the first line of opponents are feminists and feminist friendly politicians.

    <Ari: I took the liberty of editing your comment to include blockquotes, as your italics had managed to break.>

  4. Danny- I agree with you. I’m not blaming men of this generation for where we are, but perhaps I’m calling us to action a bit on thinking about where we should be. As men, few of us seem to think of ourselves as having common interests. Just because we’re a bit competitive among ourselves doesn’t mean we can’t have wider concerns, though, as I think many dominantly male institutions have proven in the past.

    “Men” just used to mean the same thing as “human”, although that sort of language is starting to be phased out in some areas. Perhaps it’s time we thought about how we really are different and what that means for us as part of a society where we’re not going to be able to take everything we want anymore. ;)

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