On the Insidiousness of Patriarchy

The alternative to patriarchy is not matriarchy. It’s mutuality, equality. This is what feminism supports. Feminism isn’t about hating men. It’s about advocating for the dignity and equality of women, who continue to face disproportionate violence, discrimination, and marginalization throughout the world due to their gender.

Rachel Held Evans, blogger


Rachel Held Evans, a popular blogger who writes about issues of faith and feminism from the vantage point of a post-Evangelical Christian, shared the above status on Facebook yesterday evening. I very quickly shared it on my own newsfeed, believing that it very concisely summarizes the thrust of feminism, recognizing simply that the deck is unevenly stacked against women.

A friend of mine from my high school days made a comment about how he wished that more feminists held to Rachel Held Evans’ definition, instead of presenting as “man-bashers.” He suggested that, while not most–or even many–feminists were “man-bashers,” enough feminists fit that bill to apparently cause distress. While I’d like to give my friend the benefit of the doubt, I could not leave his comment unaddressed. 

Without trying to do so, my friend proved Rachel Held Evans’ point about “disproportionate violence, discrimination, and marginalization…due to their gender.” 

Even when sticking up for herself, a woman is expected to be polite and avoid undue contrariness. When a woman is not polite or shows even one iota of well justified anger, she is instantly labeled a bitch or a man-basher. Patriarchy is so deeply engrained into our collective interactions that, even when sticking up for herself, a woman is expected to do so with predetermined tact and gentleness. If she comes across as too brash, too angry, too uncooperative, she–and the entire movement!–is dismissed as being zealous and unreasonable. Because of her gender and sexual identity, a woman is not given space to address her feelings, to react to her oppression, to mourn and grieve her loss of dignity. 

When a man is angry or animated, we are eager to dismiss it. “Well,” we say and wring our hands. “Boys will be boys, you know.” We would not dream of calling an aggressive man a woman-hater or a bastard. Indeed, there is often a reversal involved which leads to a double-bind. The sorts of women who call men bastards or accuse them of women-bashing are called bitches or men-bashers. The cycle of oppression is never ending and very firmly grounded in our collective consciousness.  

This behavior–the labeling, the oppression, the double standards–must stop. Lasting change will not be achieved until we realize the ways in which we unknowingly contribute to the patriarchal oppression. Once that realization is made–and it will only be made when we are willing to be vulnerable–humble change can begin to take root and a new day can begin.

God, hasten the day!  




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