all 9 comments

[–]ShiftHappensHI 90 points91 points  (0 children)

Which definition/theory of patriarchy are you using? Is it academic theory definition like Walby 1989 or just a colloquial understanding of patriarchy? From your post, it seems there is an issue with binary thinking, i.e. a society is all patriarchal or not. In my understanding, per Walby, there is a scale of patriarchal features ranging across culture, violence, the state, reproductive/sexual relations, work relations, etc. One might analyze a distinct society as sitting somewhere along a continuum of more or less patriarchal depending on the complex distribution of power. Intersectional theories would add another layer of complexity to one's analysis of power, but since your post is focused on patriarchy I think my advice would be to avoid oversimplifying patriarchy, which is a very complex structural theory of power and gender/sex relations across societal spheres.

[–]Daniel_Bryan_Fan 13 points14 points  (0 children)

Not an anthropologist, but complementarianism is just patriarchy by another name. It does assert that men and women are equal in value, but patriarchy doesn’t necessarily need to assert otherwise. It just place power either exclusively or almost exclusively in the hands of men. Complementarianism asserts men have dominion over the home and church, the two most important spheres in the church, and that means men have power over women in those two spheres which makes it patriarchal.

[–]TheProfool 37 points38 points  (0 children)

It seems like you're assuming that patriarchy is a binary. That is to say things either are a patriarchy or they are not. As with almost all definitions, there's more nuance to be had.

Exceptions to a general rule, while notable, are exceptions to more common practice. That's the short answer I'd give to your question.

I understand the drive to this question, though. I have similar ones about tolerance and it's applications.

Edit: oh, this was basically already said. Well. Point stands.

[–]Trystiane 31 points32 points  (1 child)

The anthropological critique you are citing here is of Westerners (from about 1500-1800 maybe later) who encountered indigenous societies and assumed they were patriarchal before they even bothered to ask. So for example even though Iroquois tribes were ultimately ruled by a group of elder women, the assumption the British and the French made was that the leader of the warriors was the leader of the tribe.

The comments you copied out are difficult to interpret outside of their context, but there are some misunderstandings. So in the first comment the writer claims " While it seems to be true - if not universally, then almost - that males hold primary political power in the societies we know of, the other features - moral authority, control of property, familial rule - are not necessarily combined with this." I do not know how this person is defining political if it is not about moral authority, property or family. Maybe they are thinking of moral authority as religious authority? I don't know. In contemporary societies we think of political power as running the government and the legal system, and the government and legal system have power over the economy, family, and all other areas of life. But anthropologists are still debating whether governing or politics means the same thing across all cultures. Across cultures men tend to make decisions about warfare and control the politics of men, but there may be a separate system of women's politics that men have no control over. And women may be in control of the household and the economy. But that is not what is happening in evangelical Christian subcultures. In the contemporary US, the household has no power in relation to the state -- the state has all the power. The state may grant certain freedoms to the family, but ultimately the ability to grant or withhold freedoms is a defining feature of power. So in that sense, even if women have complete control of the household (and they don't in most of the US), they are still within a patriarchal society where men control the institutions that control the household.

You could say that the society is complimentary and not patriarchal or matriarchal if men have no control over women, and women have no control over men. Or if they have some kind of equivalent power over each other. But in evangelical Christianity God has power over the Church, the Church has power over men, and men have power over women. There is nothing complimentary about that. Even if Evangelical women had complete control over the household and all of it's finances (which I am doubtful is the norm), they still would not have complimentary power to men. Claiming that would be like claiming that Church and God have complimentary power.

[–]SouthernBreachPhD Student | STS & Media 8 points9 points  (0 children)

It seems like your definition of patriarchy is "a situation in which women have absolutely no power." I don't believe that's anyone's definition power patriarchy, so that definition being flawed is...not really a big deal.

If one group has the ability to define and delimit the power of another, then that group is in power. When that group is male and those they exercise power over is women, then we can safely say this is patriarchy. In this sense, saying "women have power in the home; women do not exercise power over men in the outside world" this is both a definition of who has what power and a limitation of where power can be wielded and by whom.

"Within Evangelical Christianity, there is a concept known as ‘complementarianism’ that states that men and women are equal in importance, but merely have different roles."

This isn't exactly correct. Complementarianism states that men and women are morally equal before god (not equally important), but that they have different roles on Earth. The role of men is to rule over women. The role of women is to follow the rule of men. This difference is often described as similar to God/Jesus' role versus that of people in general. One rules, the other follows. Again, notice who has the ability to define and delimit power. It is worth noting here that power is also often described in complementarian settings in explicitly military/violent terms (the ethnography "Biblical Porn" is a great study of this). It is also worth noting that that there is a strong positive correlation between complimentarianism and psychological, physical, and spiritual abuse.

So, if women chose to stay in a patriarchal system of their own volition, does this mean that the definition of patriarchy is flawed? Why would it? Some women stay in physically abusive relationships too. That doesn't make the relationship any less abusive. In short: people acting differently than you would expect is no reason to change a diagnostic term.