Feminism Must Rename Patriarchy


Patriarchy must be challenged, and the world must be renamed.


Identifying patriarchy is the first step in combating it. This isn't just a thought experiment; it's part of a larger shift in thinking that helps strip masculine authority of its "naturalness." Such naming has the potential to affect change in the real world. It's crucial to keep the notion alive, even if it makes people uncomfortable; as Enloe points out, "the fact that patriarchy is a phrase that so many people avoid saying is one of the factors that allows it to thrive."

The other terminology presented can also help women recognize things they previously didn't perceive because they didn't know how to articulate them. They can also reshape public views and discussions in this way. 

Despite its flaws, I have argued that the sex/gender distinction remains a useful reminder that socially ascribed gender roles, attributes, and behavior are not the inevitable result of biology, and that the terms "sexual harassment" and "sexism" enable us to identify and combat oppressive and/or discriminatory forms of behavior that were previously experienced as isolated events.

In this context, the term "patriarchy" refers to an umbrella concept that brings together seemingly disparate aspects of life to reveal the cumulative and interconnected nature of seemingly unrelated aspects of life, from the bedroom to the boardroom, the classroom to the government, and the rape crisis center to the internet. 

A few additional words, such as 'mansplaining' and 'manspreading,' have also become popular. Some feminists object to these phrases because they are insignificant and/or unjust to many males.

For example, Rebecca Solnit, who is frequently mistakenly credited with coining the word "mansplaining" after describing how a man insisted on teaching her everything about a book she had written, is concerned that the phrase unfairly criticizes all men for the terrible behavior of a few.

However, many women have expressed interest in the term "mansplaining," suggesting that it represents a broadly shared experience that has previously gone unspoken. This and other new phrases are revolutionary not because they accuse all men of something, but because they look at men through the eyes of women, in the context of a larger social milieu that gives many of them a privileged sense of superiority and entitlement.

I'd want to advocate for more feminist usage of the word "phallic drift," coined by Diane Bell and Renate Klein to describe "the powerful propensity for public debate of gender issues to drift, inexorably, back to the masculine point of view."

Some feminists have also attempted to reclaim phrases that have been used to disparage women in the past.

The ‘slutwalk' movement, for example, began in 2011 after a Canadian police officer said women should stop dressing like ‘sluts' if they wanted to avoid being assaulted; feminists who marched and demonstrated under the ‘slutwalk' banner in many countries were not only protesting against the view that women were to blame if they were assaulted, but they were also redefining a negative term for a woman.

Similarly, the feminist magazine Bitch's webpage justifies its usage of the term: When used as an insult, the term "bitch" is used to women who speak their minds, who have strong ideas and don't hesitate to voice them, and who don't sit by and grin awkwardly when they're annoyed or insulted. We'll take that as a complement if being an outspoken woman means being a bitch. Some women feel empowered by reclaiming labels like "slut" and "bitch." However, some women of color have objected to feminists' usage of the term "slut," claiming that it fails to recognize the strength, depth, and virulence of the scorn it represents when used to black women.

Similarly, while it may appear subversive for feminists to reject conventionally ‘ladylike' language in favor of swearing, if such taboo-breaking involves a viciously negative portrayal of women's genitals, it is hardly empowering: thus, at the end of what she had found to be a very funny and feminist show by a young woman comedian, my friend Penny was moved to queue up at the end to congratulate her but also to express her disappointment. 

More broadly, developing a feminist vocabulary that both articulates and contextualizes women's specific experiences is a crucial aspect of collective political action.

It's a means of combating women's silence while simultaneously protecting us from being drawn into disputes about terminology we'd never use. ‘If the right to speak, having credibility, and being heard is a type of wealth, that wealth is now being redistributed,' as Solnit puts it. 

Such redistribution has just begun, and it is crucial for feminists to continue to refine the terminology they have.

Any redistribution is skewed substantially in favor of the wealthiest women. 

Gender inequality and oppression, as I argue, cannot be understood, or resisted in isolation from their economic, political, and cultural contexts, and they are inextricably linked to other kinds of inequality and oppression.

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