I have my thoughts, but I want to know yours.
I wouldn't bend over backwards trying to help the opposition define their bogeyman terms. That's all "the patriarchy" is; a Christmas-tree term upon which intersectionalists can hang all the ills of society whenever they need something to blame.
Concentrating on coming up with a workable definition is like trying to define exactly what is meant when a new-age person uses the word "aura." It at least partially involves granting their underlying premise, which I try not to do, and certainly wouldn't recommend.
I've learned (largely from James Lindsay) that language is the main tool that the woke use to advance their objectives. No matter how innocuous a presumption may seem, refuse to let the thin end of the wedge in.
"The patriarchy" has too many different definitions to be of use. Any time someone invokes that word, invite them to be more specific and point to actual bad actors, entities, or policies worth fighting against.
Call me old-fashioned, but I'd say #3 is the only one relevant to whether or not a society is patriarchal.
Martin van Creveld's The Privileged Sex and Equality: The Impossible Quest does a nice job of examining the patriarchy. Some of the anthropology on hunter gatherers shows that tribes fought mostly over women--which is hotly contested because it is counter-narrative. If you look at the physical anthropology of sexual dimorphism in humans, males are stronger and have thicker skull bones and other adaptations to make them more effective at combat.
So, women in these societies need to find strong protectors, or they will be abducted and raped by rival tribes. You get some kind of male hierarchy to coordinate defense.
States come along, and you go from Trojan Wars to Peloponnesian Wars of Empire. However, families are expected to protect females from rape/abduction by outsiders. Homicidal vendettas are expensive so restrictions on women emerge to minimize the need for homicidal vendettas (which can wipe out whole clans). Also, infant mortality and childhood disease means you need to have 10 kids to have 2 live to adulthood. Death in childbirth very common. Societies that can't do replacement fertility die out or get conquered by societies that do. Its very hard to be CEO of Standard Oil and birth 10 children at the same time.
Anyways, modern states with modern policing emerge, making restrictions on women obsolete, so men get rid of those restrictions and do stuff like voting in super-majorities to amend the Constitution to give women the right to vote. Modern medicine and hygiene make women's life expectancy higher than men's, and reduce the burden on women viz. replacement fertility, allowing women to focus on traditional male vocations.
How to restore the patriarchy:
1.) Get rid of modern policing and make families avenge rape/abduction of females.
2.) Get rid of modern medicine and refrigeration, so that women and children are dying at pre-modern rates.
3.) Get rid of birth control and abortion.
In reverse, if this is correct, we would predict that societies in general will be found to be patriarchal to the extent the above institutions/practices are not present in the society.
As far as men having higher variance in phenotypes than females, leading to over-representation at elite levels (all other things being equal), that is well documented and you can come up with evo-psyche stories about why but appears to be empirical reality. Also, in general, men and women have different interests as you can discover from reading magazines targeting different sexes. You find the more gender equity in a society, the more the sex disparities, as sexes are free to pursue their own interests, rather than do something they don't enjoy for money.
Unfortunately, probably biological, male fertility is related to male's SES, so you either rise or your genetic line dies out. This is the result of reproductive choice as exercised by women. Men are focused more on looks than status, sometimes described as "more superficial", so there is no exogenous push for women to achieve in traditionally male ways, status does not correlate with fertility in the same way. In fact, women generally seek to marry up, so too much status can become a fertility trap as there aren't enough high status men to go around.
Obviously, in terms of politics, if I am seeking to advocate for the interests of professional women, I want to make the most of sex skews in STEM and other high-status fields as evidence of patriarchy and to legitimate affirmative action for professional women in high-status fields. However, in terms of reality, gender imbalances in employment probably reflect the fact the society has a good safety net, giving people the choice to pursue their own interests, and a high degree of gender equity, and low religiosity (as mutual aid replaced by state) and correspondingly low support for traditional sex roles.
Leaving out family structure and sex skews. Militarism (resulting in surplus of women) generally makes for more egalitarian relations, whether its the Vikings or the Spartans. Polygamy (resulting in artificial shortage of women) probably incentives greater restrictions on females. A peaceful polygamous society would probably have the worst conditions for women, and a warlike society with serial monogamy probably means the best conditions for women historically.
At the end of the day, you are either advocating for professional women, in which case there is one line you are selling, or on the other hand, you are struggling for objectivity.
I wouldn’t quibble with someone calling a society where any one of those conditions is true a patriarchy or matriarchy, as long as none of the others are true in the opposite direction.
I had to think about this for a few hours before responding, but here we go:
First off, I think in the west, we've achieved the majority of female parity that we can. Numbers 2 and 3 seem to be taken care of from my perspective (with the exception of some laws and systems that appear to discriminate distinctly against men like custody in divorce, child support, the ACA and the WIC program — this is why men die younger IMHO.)
With number 1, I think socially, we need to just be realistic about the burdens placed on women and that often will push them out of the running for a c-suite position. NOT that they are incapable of it or shouldn't do it — obviously, the world has been improved by women in these positions — but motherhood is demanding, and we should be pragmatic about the number of women who will or want to achieve that level of leadership.
Sometimes I feel like I have to hand in my feminist card for saying this, but I prefer a feminism based in reality. My big concerns for women and women's rights are more societal than they are (dare I say it?) "systemic." Here are a few that come to mind:
- I think motherhood is terribly undervalued (and even denigrated). We live in a society that shows what we value with money, and motherhood doesn't come with a paycheck — even though it has more of an impact than a swanky corporate law firm.
- So much of feminist discourse is focused on "women in the workplace." I find this so utterly infuriating. Women's identities are not our jobs, and the general sentiment appears to be that we better hurry up and get back to work after having a baby so we can "synergize" or whatever.
- There seems to be a lack of grounding in reality to women's biological differences and how it affects how we tackle the world. Women are smaller and physically weaker; it takes us longer to use the bathroom; a lot of physical burdens are on us due to our biology.
- YET in the west, we are somehow expected to stand up to men who are stronger and can overpower us; our bathroom facilities are the same size as men's; and maternal care, our attitudes towards motherhood and *clutches pearls* women breastfeeding in public are beyond our ability to comprehend.
- I have serious issues with how media portrays women in film and television nowadays. For some reason, Hollywood hates gentle female characters, and now all women are portrayed as very one-dimensional strong-woman-kick-ass-super-hero-ceo-types-who-just-want-someone-to-love.
All of this being said, I still think men face some very unique problems, and I don't think there is a "competition" as to who has it worse. Those are just the issues I feel like women are facing currently.
I am very interested in your thoughts on "Of Boys and Men". I found it to be a very challenging book -- challenging in a good way, in the sense that it challenges preconceived opinions with data and logic rational reasoning.
As for your questions... in my opinion, a society cannot be called a Patri/Matriarchy unless it very strongly manifests point 3. The problem is that, historically, usually point 1 and 2 establish and perpetuate point 3. Nevertheless, such a monolithic situation is hard to find except in the context of societies that, rejecting modernity, have gone back to clinging to the most traditional structures of sex segregation.
The Patriarchy as the idea we have today is a conceptual construct of Feminism, created along the lines of early anthropological research that hypothesised a pre-historical state of things in which females ruled society and called this, Matriarchy.
And let us not get lost in worthless arguments about whether the term is correct semantically... we all know what it describes: a social arrangement in which males exercise most and continuous power over females. The question is whether it describes a situation correctly and whether it holds theoretically. The fact that it is used as a dog whistle is also irrelevant, for so are most terms that become dogma, in religion, politics, and wherever humans exert power. Using words that are to be gospel unquestioned is the best way to cause people to acquiesce without thinking, which is the best way to preserve or gain power. To question those words is the only way to deflate them.
So then. The reality is, most historical societies have been somewhat patriarchal. Not Patriarchies: patriarchal, in the sense that male agency has been what shaped society at large in the visible ways. Most rulers, thinkers, scientists, artists were male -- not ALL, just MOST. There are many and often conflicting explanations for this, but the most convincing is that in premodern societies the means of survival and especially the producing and raising of children, joined to a level of mortality that boggles a modern mind and compacted by undeniable sexual differences in the tendency towards aggression vs nurture, prevented most women from taking up social roles that were not related to the perpetuation of the species -- they could do some of the other stuff on the side, while men could do it full time.
That this was not a state of things planned by anybody, but something that happened organically because of what the conditions were, is patently true for anybody that looks into the history of civilizations, except for the most delirious ideologues (of which we have too many, unfortunately).
Moreover, there were advantages to counterbalance the disadvantages. Females, in most societies, were considered precious and protected from harm more than males, because of their child-bearing capacity. Females did not often hold explicit power, but they could hold power by influencing their husbands and sons, which they did constantly. Females had many means to exercise agency, though not as openly as males did.
If it were such a hard lot to be female in the past ages, we would have had a feminist revolution much before modernity. The idea that females were constantly kept down under the fist of males is ridiculous, because it is impossible to do so with half the population: most females embraced the principles around which those societies were organised, like did most males. It worked, they survived, and the lot of life was quite hard for everybody.
Then comes modernity, the industrial revolution, which with all its evils emancipates humans from the pressing needs of day to day survival. More and more people have time to think, not just to endlessly toil besieged by threats of death. Science and medicine change the world, and suddenly a woman does not need to be constantly pregnant to have descendants, because children have better and better chances of surviving. And females, greatly freed of chores, begin to think more, to do more, to get more educated together with the rest of the population, to show more agency. And so the idea of female participation in the branches of social activity before barred to them comes to the mind of thinkers (a lot of them males).
But the problem is that society does not change its rules at the same pace. The ideological constructs that had once held it together are not smoothly replaced by new, more befitting ones (it never happens, we are a mess). The laws are hard to change. People are afraid of change. The old order is something known and the future is a question mark. The new conditions put into question almost everything that most men and women had always known.
And so it is a struggle, and it generates resentment on every side, and there are pains and fights and upheavals, just as with the struggle for universal suffrage.
And the developed world reaches though all of this a decent balance, in which things adjust. Not completely, but so much better than before.
And then comes madness.
The history of feminism is rife with a thousand different theories and schools of thought, like that of every political movement. The conceptual construct of "the Patriarchy" belongs to the second half of the XX century, when equality between men and women had been attained in the Western world like never before. There certainly were many things that did not work well yet, but instead of sitting down to discuss how to make them better, some feminist thinkers went the way of hatred.
They imagined a world in which men had (by purpose, if only because of their nature) always viciously oppressed women, even by loving them. They called it the Patriarchy. They saw it as a totalitarian system that showed its evil on the most innocent cultural traits. And they set out to destroy it, which could not be done in any other way than by destroying men -- if not physically, their minds, hearts and desires. To force upon men an identity created by angry, hateful and decidedly prudish parts of our collective culture.
This is the Patriarchy discourse. I have seen it develop since the times in which those who talked about it were fringe thinkers about whom my mother, an old feminist born at the beginning of last century, shook her head and said "These ladies have never met real discrimination, they make stuff up. They see women as powerless victims."
I had never thought that I would see it take front stage, until the last 20 years.
But here it is. It is madness, like many other things. Part of this giant victim culture and hate fest intoxication that the rich children of the West have fallen into (for we are rich, folks, rich more than any general population the world has previously seen, rich even when we are homeless), playing their games of righteous outrage and revenge on the internet while the rest of the world goes up in fire, bleeds, experiments with forms of oppression greatly enhanced by technology, and waits for the Enlightenment to be finally extinguished on this foolish island.
So that the actually patriarchal systems, the totalitarian systems, the theocratic systems, the slaver systems can once again prevail.
Is it still in our hands to prevent this? I want to believe so. We must keep reasoning and teaching to reason, and counter every unfounded piece of propaganda with sound arguments. It is just tiring, when one gets old.
And sorry for the flood of words and the excess blatheration.
I think it's important to remember that patriarchy literally means rule of the fathers. It does not mean universal male privilege nor does it necessarily mean that most men benefit from patriarchy. For a historical example, patriarchal societies that also practiced polygyny could be pretty poor for ordinary men - they lacked political power and had much less sexual opportunity than they would in a more egalitarian society. Women were worse off still but most men really couldn't be counted as winners.
For a more modern example, as Reeves has pointed out there is a growing educational & achievement gap between men & women in modern society with men doing increasingly worse. However that gap varies considerably at different levels of society - if you're white and middle or upper class there isn't much of a gender gap. Consequently it isn't much of a problem for the men from the classes that actually rule society.
For Haider's example, if you're being literal her fictional society is matriarchal - women make up the bulk of rulers. But female privilege would be strictly for elites. If by matriarchal you mean a society where women in general are privileged it is not - from the point of view of most people, you're better off being female.
Real world America I would say we are literally still patriarchal in the sense that top levels of public life continue to be male dominated but men have less & less relative privilege as you go down the socioeconomic ladder. Note that the gender gap in pay for Ivy League graduates is larger than the in the general public. So a woman in the top few percent of a society will be living in a world where men do much better than women in pay & status and a high percentage of women drop off the career track. Easy to see male privilege and talk of patriarchy. For anyone in the bottom third there is little male privilege to be seen and the typical man has little power or wealth, even relative to women. Which may explain the relative appeal of feminism.
Well, men clearly still dominate in #1 - but it tends to hide the complete flip of men and women in lots of everyday life. More women in college, in medical schools, in law schools, and in most white collar (and better paying jobs). While business schools are still more men than women - I think that will flip, too. The STEM fields will remain male for a couple of reasons. First, the field isn't that attractive to most women in that it doesn't play to our strengths - I could have gone that way, like many women, but why would the average woman want to be there? Second, at the highest levels, men are more wired for it. (James Damore was correct.) The billionaires will most likely remain men. But I don't think brilliant women will be blocked going forward, which is a huge change from my early years.
Basically, I don't think of the USA as a patriarchy anymore as it is much too mixed. But it certainly was when I grew up - in all 3 categories. But it keeps moving quickly.
Alas, I have a simpler and more brutal measure of whether a particular society or culture qualifies as a patriarchy: how much rape occurs and to what degree is it tolerated in the broader group?
For example, in our current legal system, According to FBI statistics, out of 127,258 rapes reported to police departments in 2018, 33.4 percent resulted in an arrest. Based on correlating multiple data sources, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) estimates that for every 1,000 rapes, 384 are reported to police, 57 result in an arrest, 11 are referred for prosecution, 7 result in a felony conviction, and 6 result in incarceration. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_the_United_States#Prosecution_rate
So let's state it bluntly: in the United States for every 1000 rapes, only 6 of the offenders are incarcerated. That's a rape culture. That's a fucking evil patriarchy in the supposed "greatest nation on earth, in the land of the free, home of the brave." I call bullshit.
But let's consider some even scarier statistics around the world. Check out this stomach-churning set of statistics: https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/2010/nov/26/survey-1-in-3-south-african-men-admit-to-committin/
A new survey says more than one in three South African men admit to having committed rape.
A 2010 study led by the government-funded Medical Research Foundation says that in Gauteng province, home to South Africa's most populous city of Johannesburg, more than 37 percent of men said they had raped a woman. Nearly 7 percent of the 487 men surveyed said they had participated in a gang rape.
More than 51 percent of the 511 women interviewed said they'd experienced violence from men, and 78 percent of men said they'd committed violence against women.
A quarter of the women interviewed said they'd been raped, but the study says only one in 25 rapes are reported to police.
A survey by the same organization in 2008 found that 28 percent of men in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces said they had raped a woman or girl. Of the men who had committed rape, one third did not feel guilty, said Rachel Jewkes, a lead researcher on both studies.
I think statistics like these should qualify a state or culture as a "patriarchy," and as a male feminist of an especially militant variety they infuriate me beyond words. This world is filled with evil garbage males undeserving of the title "man" and much more aggressive measures are needed to stop them from continuing to commit traumatic violence against women.
Well, the dictionary definition of the word "patriarchal" is twofold. It can refer to families that are 'organized' through "Patriarchal lines". In that way, since families still tend to take the father's last name here, I guess you could say we're still technically a patriarchal society. But I think they mean in ownership of things like property and wealth, not just names and bloodlines. Obviously a lot of that has faded over the last 100 years or so. And the name thing is fading too. (My daughter has both her mother's last name and mine. Which lots of people are doing).
The OTHER definition is: "...a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it."
I'd say the answer to this second definition is a solid no. Of course there's still some residual sexism and certain industries and areas in our country where things are still a "good ol' boys club" and woman still have to face harassment just to advance their careers.
So I'd say that while we're clearly a society with many sexist and anti-woman biases still in place, in the large picture we are not, by law or socially a "Patriarchal' society anymore. In my opinion.
Great thought exercise! Really appreciated your exploration of the different conditions that might be present in a patriarchy or matriarchy. It's clear that there are many different ways that power and privilege can be unequally distributed between men and women in a society, and it's important to consider all of these factors when trying to understand and address issues of inequality. Also appreciated your willingness to open up the discussion to the wisdom of the crowds, as it's always valuable to hear diverse perspectives on these issues.
To answer the question you presented, all three of the conditions you described could be present in a patriarchy or matriarchy.
In a patriarchy, men would occupy most high leadership positions and have more power in everyday terms than women. Additionally, women might face legal discriminations in a patriarchy.
In a matriarchy, the opposite would be true: women would occupy most high leadership positions, have more power in everyday terms than men, and men might face legal discriminations.
These conditions are necessary for a society to be accurately deemed a patriarchy or matriarchy because they reflect the unequal distribution of power and privilege between men and women in the society. When one sex holds primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege, and control of property, and the other sex is disadvantaged in these areas, the society can be accurately described as a patriarchy or matriarchy, depending on which sex holds the power.
It wouldn't be accurate to describe a society as a patriarchy if women hold most of the high leadership positions and have more power overall, even if the average man is doing better and faces fewer legal restrictions. In order for a society to be accurately described as a patriarchy, men must hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege, and control of property.
In the society you described, the concentration of highest power in the hands of women would mean that it is not a patriarchy. However, it is not necessarily a matriarchy either in this example, because the average woman is not doing better and faces legal restrictions.
It is possible for a society to be a patriarchy or matriarchy without all three of the conditions you described being present, but at least one of these conditions must be present for a society to be accurately described as a patriarchy or matriarchy. In other words, a society must have an unequal distribution of power and privilege between men and women in order for it to be accurately described as a patriarchy or matriarchy.
Personally, I have started to come around to Mary Harrington’s definition of patriarchy. https://open.substack.com/pub/reactionaryfeminist/p/how-andrew-tate-smashed-the-patriarchy?r=7xj5g&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post
Human societies are far too complex to be considered primarily Patriarchies. You can see it in hunter gatherer societies where men went out to hunt, defend territory and women looked after children and gathered. Women's main concerns were family and local, men on the other hand were tasked with dealing with other tribes, trading, war and hunting. Move to advanced western societies and we still have men who are expected to defend your group/country, work to secure resources and women, when "political" tend to be interested in Municipal (local) policies. We shouldn't create quotas or worry about lopsided interests when free choice creates it. Also, I can't imagine someone knowing the women I did from previous generations and thinking they had no influence. They had their interests and they were very good at getting what they wanted. They were of vital importance to family and society, even if they didn't run larger institutions. Most of the time through history, the vast majority of men and women were teaming up and working together to survive.
1. There are differences in abilities, aptitudes and inclinations amongst all groups of humans, similar to every animal breed. May be inconvenient to mention them but whatever.
2. Given equal opportunities, the accumulations of those advantages (generationally, dynastically, familially or societally favour those attributes [i.e. wealth-seeking, power-hungry, status-driven])
3. Hence all individuals with those attributes in higher relative value will dominate 'society' and 'determine the direction' and one can attach an infinite number of -isms -ists -archys to said groups of people.
4. Humans are a social species.
5. Higher intelligence leads to higher-level social organizations and stratifications as predicted by Evolutionary Game Theory; reputation-based systems, memory-cell based systems reiterative-games. Thus, there will always exist at least 1 level of N above everyone else that has 'authority' as a proxy representation for Z groups
6. The only justification to throw labels and use NLP (Neural-Linguistic Programming, attachment of stimuli + autonomous response - assigned meaning + emotion) is for political purposes of accruement of power. Get group A to fight group B, and group C benefits. Repeated examples in history and present time frame. Thus all meanings of -archies -ists are meaningless, unless one wants a society in which all people are equal in all abilities, aptitudes and inclinations, as well as desires. But yes, I will say that males are physically stronger, aggregatively slightly more intelligent and have higher propensity to chase social status than females, thus civilization will always be a 'patriarchy' even if the females receive more privileges, because the positions occupied at the top will always be men, unless the group is small enough like a tribe, or informal group (even then, people self-organize based on their social standing, knowledging, etc very quickly and an informal 'value' system is determined through gossip)
Good question(s); bit of a complex issue.
But while the traits you listed might be said to characterize a matriarchy or patriarchy, another aspect seems to be the perception of such. And relative to the latter, I've often argued that "The Patriarchy [!!11!!]" in particular is something of a reification, a bit of a conspiracy theory, a case of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand":
Too easy to see common values or motivations -- "individuals acting in their own self-interests" -- as "evidence" of a nefarious and shadowy conspiracy behind those traits.
Looking for those "ring leaders" tends to preclude recognizing those traits and roots in general behaviours and values.
I think “patriarchy” is a euphemism used to promote a particular rhetorical viewpoint, I find it unhelpful and largely a projection that obscures the fact of the matter.