Patriarchy Corrupts

Once again, Libby Anne hits on a topic that really irritates me: the corrupting effect that gender hierarchies can have. We tend to focus on the damage that power dynamics can have on those with the lesser power – with good reason. But those at the top are frequently corrupted by the power that they hold.

In the case of modern American patriarchy, the results are counterintuitive:

What are the qualities we generally associate with maturity? The ability to see things from others’ perspectives? The ability to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and that things don’t always go the way you want them to, and that you just have to deal with that? The ability to cooperate with others, to communicate and find compromises that everyone can be happy with?

Yeah, under Christian Patriarchy, a man doesn’t have to do any of that. Because he’s the head of the family, dammit! What he says goes! God speaks to him, after all, and everyone else should listen and heed what God tells him! He’s the one who gets to make the decisions for the family, and for the children! Period! In other words, a man is allowed to act like a willful, spoiled child who always expects to get his own way. And if he doesn’t get his own way? Expect a reaction of confusion mixed with anger and righteous indignation.

It’s incredibly ironic that the movement insists on training any sort of willfulness out of children completely, but turns around and fosters it in its men. The truth is that in Christian Patriarchy men are allowed to act like spoiled children while women and children are expected to just roll over and acquiesce.

As they say on the interwebs, read the whole thing.

  • mikespeir

    Can a claim be both accurate and yet a bit of a straw man? In practice, this portrayal is often an exaggeration. Not every man raised under “the patriarchy” becomes an authoritarian tyrant. I can think of many counterexamples.

    The problem is that the traditional thinking opens the door to this kind of abuse, even while it rails against it. The implied privilege is there, regardless, and the man assumes a prerogative to use it as he sees fit. Even when society disapproves of his misuse of it, too often the problem is winked at, as though “see no evil” could work in real life.

    I’ve been around too long not to have noticed reality. I know how things tend to be between a man and a woman in an intimate relationship. Maybe that’s by nature; maybe it’s by nurture. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both. Even if it’s some of the former, I suspect a little more properly directed nurture would go a long way toward correcting nature’s oversights. In a day when the formation and persistence of marriages (to simplify) is wholly voluntary, the only way I see to make them last is to found them on friendship. And friendship is transacted on an egalitarian basis. To the degree one partner dominates the other, it’s not friendship but despotism. Boys growing into men must be taught to be their partners’ friends, not their masters.

  • vasaroti

    Great post. I will no doubt be forwarding Libby Anne’s article to atheist guys who don’t understand how their misogyny is religious in origin- or is it religion that is codified misogyny? No, you really can’t throw the churches out of political power but keep your rape jokes.

    • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

      Uh-oh, we’re getting awfully close to talking about misogyny in the rationalist/secularist/atheist community there. I thought we had finally slammed the lid on that whole can of worms after the FreeThoughtBlogs fiasco.

      So let me just get my crowbar and help you – I honestly do think there’s a bit of a problem among atheist guys with clinging to their sense of privilege and willingness to maintain misogynistic or patriarchal attitudes, and this behaviour seems to be firmly rooted in a distinct lack of maturity. The incident that kicked off that whole affair was, to my mind, an individual over-reacting to another individual, but the response was full of petulance and self-righteousness that was as ugly as it was immature. Essentially a lot of men got more and more worked up about their place of privilege still being talked about. They’ve divorced themselves from religion, but they still receive some of the benefits of being in the kind of society these religions created – they’re still top of the heap, still culturally intimidating (rape comments, however trolly, are understandably concerning to somebody on the thin end of the wedge) and yet they think they’ve done all they can by dropping religion. To be fair, I struggle to think of what more they can do, beyond some sensitivity training to improve individual interactions. We’ve had thousands of years of rape not simply being a joke, but a matter of course in marriage. It wasn’t even made illegal in the US and UK until the early 1990s, that’s when most of us here were definitely already born. Civilizations can’t turn on a dime, so as frustrating as it is (and as immature as some individuals are), I can understand why it’s taking a while to get the baby to follow the bathwater.

      An example: I have a stridently secular friend who nonetheless believes that women and men have prescribed roles – prescribed by Darwinian natural selection rather than a deity, but no less binding. To him, a woman cannot be a warrior or hunter because DNA did not gift them with upper body strength comparative to a man. I try to point out that this is a general trait and not a universal rule (in my family, my wife would definitely be much better at hunting, and women have been hunters or warriors throughout history, such as Boudicca), but we just end up going in circles because it is important to him that women and men have their place and he thinks I’ve been brainwashed by feminists. He doesn’t hate women, but the idea of a fluid sexuality and not putting genders in rigid cultural boxes seems entirely alien to him. We were both raised in the same faith and left it around the same time, but one of us couldn’t drop the gender-constraining baggage. Makes me wonder what biases I’m still holding on to.

      • vasaroti

        It’s not a “can of worms,” it’s half the human race refusing to be treated as anything less than equal. To rephrase my previous comment, you really haven’t ditched religion if you are still allowing misogyny, religion’s largest construct, to play a part in your life. Talking about misogyny is a necessity.


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