Showing posts with label Patriarchy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patriarchy. Show all posts

Feminism Must Adapt to the Ever-Changing Complexities of Patriarchy



While I feel the term of 'patriarchy' is a vital feminist tool, I also feel it is frequently misunderstood. This article provides a series of interlinked cautionary statements against na├»ve interpretations that might distort our knowledge and be politically unproductive. 

First, the term "patriarchy" should not be used in isolation. 

It is not the sole type of oppression, and it must be considered as part of a larger investigation of how male dominance intersects with other forms of inequality and exploitation, as well as how they are linked to the logic of the global capitalist system.

I advocate for broadly socialist solutions, expand on the ramifications of such a multidimensional approach.

Second, I disagree with some of the concept's early proponents, such as Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, and Robin Morgan, as well as Millett. These writers have appeared to suggest that, because all known civilizations are patriarchal, they are all basically ‘the same,' that all women are joined as victims of global patriarchy, that patriarchal power must trump class and race barriers, and that, as a result, ‘sisterhood is global.'

There are similarities to be identified, and women from fundamentally diverse civilizations typically share sexual exploitation, lack of reproductive choice, economic exploitation, and/or exclusion or marginalization from mainstream social, cultural, and political life. 

Some women oppress other women, and over-generalized accusations run the risk of trivializing the depths of anguish and humiliation imposed on some by comparing them with minor annoyances.

The problem with generalizing is not just that women's experiences are vastly different, but that relatively privileged women assume the centrality of their own concerns in much the same way that men have assumed the centrality of theirs, so that "there are disturbing parallels between what feminists find disconcerting in Western political thought and what many black women have found troubling." However, I believe that if the notion is linked with race and class analysis and utilized to investigate the links between various types of discrimination, inequality, and oppression, it may be saved from oversimplification and generalization.

A third cautionary note derives from the erroneous assumption that patriarchy is eternal and unchangeable. A moment's thought reveals this to be nonsense. Although patriarchy remained in force generally, Millett said that by 1970, it had become "significantly transformed and weakened" in the United States and Europe. She credited this to previous women's efforts, and her own effort was driven by the hope that her writing may help bring about more change. At first glance, it appears that the roots of western patriarchy have been rocked, if not yet overturned, in the half-century since Millett established the notion.

Most obviously, the western world described by Millett, in which women were virtually absent from political life or high-status employment, most were economically dependent on a husband, and ‘nice girls' did not have sex before or outside marriage, is not a world familiar to most young women today, despite the fact that the sexual double-standard still exists. 

There has also been a significant shift in official attitudes, with many national and international organizations now declaring gender equality and/or the abolition of violence against women as their declared goals.

In 2017, feminist writer Naomi Wolf said that the #MeToo movement's capacity to hold prominent men accountable had "ripped the fabric of patriarchy," while a headline in the Guardian newspaper posed the question, "Is the patriarchy over?"

As other feminists have pointed out, recent advances do not signal the end of patriarchy, but rather a shift in its character. Patriarchy, for example, is a system — a dynamic web – of specific beliefs and interactions, according to Enloe. That system is neither fragile nor stagnant. Patriarchy may be modernized and modified. It's adaptive. In many parts of the globe, such adaptation has historically entailed a shift away from private patriarchy, which is based on individual authority within the house, and toward public patriarchy, which is based on structures outside the family.

Most western women are no longer financially dependent on their husbands, but many are reliant on the male-run state for employment or benefits; similarly, most are no longer sexually controlled by family members, but the rising use of pornography represents a "more collective, impersonal, male control of women's bodies." Sylvia Walby has succinctly summarized such arguments:

‘Women are no longer restricted to the domestic hearth, but have the entire society in which to roam and be exploited,' 

There is no clear distinction between private and public forms of patriarchy

We must fully examine the complex gains and losses experienced by various groups of women in various aspects of their lives.

One factor for patriarchy's evolution is the evolution of the capitalist economic system with which it is inextricably linked. 

Our era of global capitalism, as Beatrix Campbell has argued, is witnessing a new type of patriarchy, which she dubs "neopatriarchal neoliberalism, an ugly word for an awful bargain."

At first glance, this new system appears to have responded to feminist pressures by allowing girls to become astronauts, bankers, or whatever they want, but in practice, it resists any genuine change in the gender division of labor, it exploits women on a global scale, and, in line with neoliberal economic theory, it dismantles welfare provisions and state benefits.

While this may sound depressing, it serves as a reminder of the complexity, rather than the impossibility, of the task ahead of feminists; here, Enloe, who shares many of Campbell's concerns, also insists that "updated patriarchy is not invincible," that feminist campaigns are having some success around the world, and that what we need now is "organized, cross-race, inter-gene activism." 

Because patriarchy is a dynamic and complicated structure, we should avoid using the term "the patriarchy." This phrase, which has just lately entered feminist lexicon, appears to imply a steady, monolithic domination by a unified group.

I feel it is overly simple, and that talking about ‘the patriarchy' makes no more sense than talking about ‘capitalism' or ‘democracy.' Finally, claiming that patriarchy can aid our understanding of the world does not imply that all women are hapless victims and all males are active oppressors. This is obviously not the case: many courageous women have always fought for their own rights as well as the oppression of others, and many feminist women have received personal and/or political encouragement and support from males.

When we label society patriarchal, we're pinpointing men's collective authority as the root of the problem, and we need to focus on that rather than individual men's poor behavior. 

We can't eliminate misogyny "individually," as Jessa Crispin puts it, while "casual demonization of white straight men follows the same pattern of bias and hatred that fuels misogyny, racism, and homophobia... the same lazy thinking, easy scapegoating, and pleasurable anger that all other forms of hatred have."

At its most fundamental level, the prioritization of men's interests and concerns is systematic, not arbitrary.

Patriarchy, on the other hand, lacks the same essential energy as capitalism, which is founded on the ruthless pursuit of expansion and profit as goals in themselves. Because of this dynamic, it is difficult to be a decent, non-exploitative capitalist in the long run without going out of business.

In a patriarchal culture, however, it is theoretically possible to be a nice guy, even a feminist or pro-feminist man – but this is not easy, and many men are more privileged than they know (not least because of their comfortable, unreflective sense of their own ‘normality'). It is also apparent that living in a patriarchal culture does not benefit all men equally.

Many men, are unable to meet Western society's ideals of masculinity; for those whose lives have been blighted by poverty, racism, and/or homophobia, any suggestion that their interests are systematically favored may feel like a cruel joke.

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