The Full Wiki

More info on patriarchy

patriarchy: Wikis

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


Patriarchy is a androcentrism social system in which the role of the father is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. Historically, the principle of patriarchy has been central to the social, legal, political, and economic organization of Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese cultures, and has had a deep influence on modern civilization.[1]

Most forms of feminism characterize patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. In feminist theory the concept of patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduce and exert male dominance over women.


Definition and usage

Patriarchy is a multidimensional condition of power/status. Whyte's 1978 comprehensive study examined 52 indicators of patriarchy, to which corresponded 10 relatively independent dimensions. The ten dimensions are:[2][3]

  • lack of property control by women
  • lack of power of women in kinship contexts
  • low value placed on the lives of women
  • low value placed on the labor of women
  • lack of domestic authority of women
  • absence of ritualized female solidarity
  • absence of control over women's marital and sexual lives
  • absence of ritualized fear of women
  • lack of male-female joint participation in warfare, work, and community decision making
  • lack of women's indirect influence on decision making

Within feminist theory, patriarchy refers to the structure of modern cultural and political systems, which are ruled by men. Such systems are said to be detrimental to the rights of women. However, it has been noted that patriarchal systems of government do not benefit all men of all classes.[4]

While the term patriarchy generally refers to institutions, the term is sometimes used less effectively in describing societal attitudes. It has been argued, "institutions are very persistent and may last, with little change, into a period in which attitudes have altered considerably since the institutions were devised." Gordon Rattray Taylor used the words "patrist" and "matrist" to describe attitudes (as opposed to institutions), and noted that the outlook of the dominant social group seems to swing between the two extremes. However, the patrist assertion that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization, invariably leads to the establishment of corresponding institutions.[5]


According to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found an "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy.[6] However many scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 B.C.E.), as the point of the invention of fatherhood and the spread of patriarchy.[7][8][9][10]

As far back as 3100 B.C.E. in the Ancient Near East, we find sexual domination of women, a restriction on their reproductive capacity, and their exclusion from "the process of representing or the construction of history".[6] With the appearance of the Hebrew cult, there is also "the exclusion of woman from the God-humanity covenant".[6][11] The hegemonic spread of patriarchy is linked with the Kurgan hypothesis, by now widely accepted among scholars.

In the 3rd Century BCE, Aristotle taught that the city-state developed out of the patriarchal family, although the two were different in many regards.[12] He wrote that the highest form of human community is the political community. In Aristotle's Politics, he attempts to illustrate the nature of the hierarchies that exist in the political community and its subordinate communities. He argues for an origin of male rule. In Chapter Thirteen he states that men and women have different kinds of virtue, “just as those who are natural subjects differ (from those who rule by nature.)” Other types of community, such as the household, are subordinate and inferior to the polis. Aristotle proposed that the household is subordinate to the political community because the aim of life in the household is the mere preservation of life, or the satisfaction of life's daily needs, whereas the aim of membership in the political community is to live well. He also proposed that the household is inferior to the political community in the character of its rule. In the household, the man rules by virtue of his age and sex, monarchically at best and tyrannically at worst, while in the polis, citizens choose their rulers on the basis of merit.[13]

Other ancient societies contemporary with Aristotle, as well as many Athenians, did not share these views of women, family organization, or political and economic structure.[14] Egypt left no philosophical record, but Herodotus left a record of his shock at the contrast between the roles of Egyptian women and the women of Athens. He observed that Egyptian women attended market and were employed in trade. In ancient Egypt a middle-class woman might sit on a local tribunal, engage in real estate transactions, and inherit or bequeath property. Women also secured loans, and witnessed legal documents. Greek influence spread, however, with the conquests of Alexander the Great, who was educated by Aristotle.[15] Eventually, when Alexander wanted to unite his two empires in equality, Aristotle was adamant that all non-Greeks should be enslaved.[16]

From the time of Martin Luther, Protestantism regularly used the commandment in Exodus 20:12 to justify the duties owed to all superiors. ‘Honor thy father,’ became a euphemism for the duty to obey the king. But it was primarily as a secular doctrine that Aristotle’s appeal took on political meaning. Although many 16th and 17th Century theorists agreed with Aristotle’s views concerning the place of women in society, none of them tried to prove political obligation on the basis of the patriarchal family until sometime after 1680. The patriarchal political theory is associated primarily with Sir Robert Filmer. Sometime before 1653, Filmer completed a work entitled Patriarcha. However, it was not published until after his death. In it, he defended the divine right of kings as having title inherited from Adam, the first man of the human race, according to Judeo-Christian tradition.[17]

In the 19th Century, Sarah Grimke dared to question the divine origin of the scriptures. Later, Elizabeth Cady Stanton used Grimke’s criticism of biblical sources to establish a basis for feminist thought. She published The Woman's Bible, which proposed a feminist reading of the Old and New Testament. This tendency was enlarged by Feminist theory, which denounced the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition.[18]

By 1673, François Poullain de la Barre, "On the Equality of the Two Sexes", had turned feminism into a systematic Enlightenment philosophy (as opposed to the previous Renaissance feminism).[19] However, in 1861, Johann Jakob Bachofen, a German romantic and writer of the counter-Enlightenment said that matriarchy preceded patriarchy, and is superior to patriarchy on moral grounds. Bachofen influenced Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Marxist analysis has been a basis for subsequent feminist thought.[20] From the beginning, socialist feminists in France, for example, were challenged by the republic, which "oppressed them as workers and women; by Marxism, which ignores gender; and by the misogyny of their socialist brothers. This struggle continues within all parties of the left."[19]

Some 19th-century scholars formulated a unilinear theory of cultural evolution.[21] One hypothesis suggested that human societies evolve through a series of stages: sexual promiscuity was followed by matriarchy, which was in turn followed by patriarchy. This description was later refuted by most experts studying the subject.[21]

Sociobiology versus Sociology

Sociobiologist Steven Goldberg wrote in 1973, "The ethnographic studies of every society that has ever been observed explicitly state that these feelings (feelings of both men and women that the male’s will dominates the female’s) were present, there is literally no variation at all." [22] Goldberg had critics among anthropologists. Concerning Goldberg's claims about the "feelings of both men and women" Eleanor Leacock countered that the data on women’s attitudes are “sparse and contradictory,” and that the data on male attitudes about male-female relations are “ambiguous.” Also the effects of colonialism on the cultures represented in the studies were not considered. [23]

Most sociologists reject predominantly biological explanations of patriarchy and contend that social and cultural conditioning is primarily responsible for establishing male and female gender roles.[24][25] According to standard sociological theory, patriarchy is the result of sociological constructions that are passed down from generation to generation.[24] These constructions are most pronounced in societies with traditional cultures and less economic development.[26] Even in modern developed societies, however, gender messages conveyed by family, mass media, and other institutions largely favor males having a dominant status.[25]

There is considerable variation in the role that gender plays in human societies. Although there are no known examples of strictly matriarchal cultures,[27] there are a number of societies that have been shown to be matrilinear or matrilocal and gynocentric, especially among indigenous tribal groups.[28] Some hunter-gatherer groups have been characterized as largely egalitarian.[29]

Patriarchy in anthropology, archaeology and mythology

In simple societies, which match evolutionary conditions, women are not occupied solely with caring for children and they contribute about 44% of the food. In one study, one third of the societies studied were egalitarian. The men were not warlike or controlling of women and many other adaptive behaviors evolutionary psychologists would expect were not present.[30]

In the case of mate selection, a core area of evolutionary psychology, it has been shown that choices can be influenced by the observed choices of others. In fact, it is thought that in some cases, cultural evolution may change “the extent to which biological evolutionary accounts work at all.” [31]

A third study suggests that egalitarianism is a matter of degree. Susan Kent found that egalitarianism “is a continuum, not an absolute entity; societies are only more or less egalitarian.” Recent studies show that divisions of work, wealth and political power produce “inegalitarian” social structures.[32]

In the 1970s, mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote in “The Power of Myth”, that the Hebrews were part of an invading force consisting of Indo-Europeans and Semites who drove out the goddess sacred to the Canaanite people. Campbell said these goddess-worshipping people were agricultural, whereas the Semites and Indo-Europeans were herding/hunting peoples and natural killers. He lauded the Greeks for the fact that Zeus was married to a goddess, giving them credit for the tradition of the virgin birth. (see, virgin birth (mythology) and condemning the Hebrews for having no comparable mythology. He observed that the Hebrews referred to the Canaanite goddess as the abomination.[33]

However, archaeological evidence has shown that when the Hebrews began to settle in Palestine, there was already extreme economic stratification under an Egyptian administration. It is likely the Hebrews belonged to marginal units consisting of permanent peoples and nomads with distinct values and principles. “One of the cultural traits of the rulers of Palestine in the Middle Urban age is their custom of burying the dead with their horses and donkeys. The best examples in Palestine of the custom were found by Sir Flinders Petrie at Tell el-Ajjul, “the tell of the chariots,” near Gaza.” This represents Hyksos and not Hebrew influence, as the Hebrews did not bury humans with animals.

When the Hyksos rule ended in Phoenicia about 1600 BC, it brought no changes to the social and political structure of Palestine. Canaanite divinities were “ruthless, atrocious and fearful”. There was human sacrifice, sacred prostitution, and serpent worship. Totalitarianism virtually enslaved the majority of the population, and so the nobility lived in fortified cities. Archaeologist Emmanuel Anati found a lack of creativity and individuality in the art and material culture in this period and attributed this to the hardships of the feudal system and the brutal religion.[34]

Many of the Hebrew tribes were not able to continue their nomadic lifestyle in Canaan because there were too many other tribes already occupying the land, so they lived in close proximity to the Phoenician cities. Taking up agriculture was not always viewed as an advance for nomadic people. Aryans value agriculture but the Semites do not. Even after settling down, the Hebrews retained their nomadic sensibilities. Evidence for this is the Hebrew belief that Cain sinned by forcing the ground. Cain, a red and hairy man, was part of a solar myth. City-building and agriculture are the domain of solar figures. Solar figures are typically male.

In the wake of Masters and Johnson's pioneering research on female orgasm, a new theory of patriarchy was proposed. Mary Jane Sherfey, suggested that the "ungovernable cyclic sexual drive of women" had to be forcefully suppressed by social codes in order for settled agrarian societies, composed of stable biological families, to exist.[35]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Mac Millan Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender p. 1104
  2. ^ Wood and Eagly 2002, p.711-2
  3. ^ Whyte (1978) The status of women in preindustrial societies
  4. ^
  5. ^ [1], Theories of Matriarchy and Patriarchy
  6. ^ a b c Strozier, Robert M. (2002) Foucault, Subjectivity, and Identity: : Historical Constructions of Subject and Self p.46
  7. ^ SEBASTIAN KRAEMER B.A., M.R.C.P., F.R.C.Psych (1991) The Origins of Fatherhood: An Ancient Family Process Family Process 30 (4), 377–392. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.1991.00377.x
  8. ^ Wilhelm Reich [1936] The Sexual Revolution
  9. ^ Alice H. Eagly and Wendy Wood (1999) The Origins of Sex Differences in Human Behavior: Evolved Dispositions Versus Social Roles American Psychologist, v54 n6 p408-23 Jun 1999
  10. ^ Ehrenberg, 1989; Harris, M. (1993) The Evolution of Human Gender Hierarchies; Leibowitz, 1983; Lerner, 1986; Sanday, 1981
  11. ^ Lerner, Gerda (1986) The Creation of Patriarchy 8-11
  12. ^ Two Treatises of Government, with a supplement Patriarcha by Robert Filmer, edited with an introduction by Thomas I. Cook, New York: Hafner Press, 1947.
  13. ^
  14. ^ The Oldest Europeans, Gaudeamus, Caracas, Venezuela, 2003.
  15. ^ Bristow, John Temple. What Paul Really Said About Women: an Apostle's liberating views on equality in marriage, leadership, and love, HarperCollins, New York, 1991.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Castro, Ginette. American Feminism: a contemporary history, New York University Press, 1990.
  19. ^ a b "Feminism", French Literature Companion:
  20. ^ Mestrovic, Stjepan Gabriel. Durkheim and postmodern culture, A. de Gruyter, New York, 1992.
  21. ^ a b Encyclopedia Britanica
  22. ^ The inevitability of Patriarchy, William Morrow, New York, 1973
  23. ^ Review of The inevitability of patriarchy by Steven Goldberg, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 76, No. 2 (Jun., 1974), pp. 363-365, Blackwell publishing
  24. ^ a b Sanderson, Stephen K. (2001). The Evolution of Human Sociality. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 198. 
  25. ^ a b Henslin, James M. (2001). Essentials of Sociology. Taylor & Francis. pp. 65–67, 240. 
  26. ^ Macionis, John J. (2000). Sociology: A Global Introduction. Prentice Hall. p. 347. 
  27. ^ "Matriarchy". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. "The view of matriarchy as constituting a stage of cultural development is now generally discredited. Furthermore, the consensus among modern anthropologists and sociologists is that a strictly matriarchal society never existed.". 
  28. ^ Schlegel, Alice (1972). Male dominance and female autonomy: domestic authority in matrilineal societies. HRAF Press. 
  29. ^ Erdal, D. & Whiten, A. (1996) "Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution" in Mellars, P. & Gibson, K. (eds) Modelling the Early Human Mind. Cambridge Macdonald Monograph Series.
  30. ^[2]”, The University of New Mexico”, Biosocial/Social role theory
  31. ^ Introduction. Cultural transmission and the evolution of human behaviour, ‘’Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society’’, vol. 363 (Nov. 2008) 3469-3476
  32. ^[3]”, egalitarianism
  33. ^ The Power of Myth, Mystic Fire Video, New York, 2001.
  34. ^ Palestine Before the Hebrews, Knopf, New York, 1963.
  35. ^ Sherfey, M.J. (1966). A theory on female sexuality. In Escoffier, J. (Ed.), "Sexual revolution" (91-99). New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1560255250.

Additional reading

  • Adeline, Helen B. Fascinating Womanhood. New York: Random House, 2007.
  • Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Brain. New York: Perseus Books Group, 2003.
  • Beauvoir, Simone de. Le Deuxième Sexe. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1949. (original French edition)
  • Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. London: Jonathan Cape, 1953. (first UK edition, in translation)
  • Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953. (first USA edition, in translation)
  • Bornemann, Ernest. Das Patriarchat - Ursprung und Zukunft unseres Gesellschaftssystems, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1991 (Original German edition 1975), ISBN 3-596-23416-6
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Masculine Domination. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.
  • Brizendine, Louann. The Female Brain. New York: Morgan Road Books, 2006.
  • Brown, Donald E. Human Universals. New York: McGraw Hill, 1991.
  • de Santillana, Giorgio & Hertha von Dechend. Hamlet's Mill: an essay investigating the origins of human knowledge and its transmission through myth. David R. Godine, publisher, Jaffrey, New Hampshire, 1977. The effects of evolutionary theory on the study of culture, pp. 68–72.
  • Eisler, Riane. ' 'The Chalice and the Blade' '. Harper Collins, 1987. "The most important book since Darwin's ' 'Origin of Species' '--Ashley Montagu
  • Gimbutas, Marija. The civilization of the goddess: the world of Old Europe. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1991.
  • Jay, Jennifer W. 'Imagining Matriarchy: "Kingdoms of Women" in Tang China'. Journal of the American Oriental Society 116 (1996): 220-229.
  • Konner, Melvin. The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit. 2nd edition, revised and updated. (Owl Books, 2003). 560p. ISBN 0805072799 [first published 1982, Endnotes
  • Lepowsky, Maria. Fruit of the Motherland: Gender in an Egalitarian Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
  • Mead, Margaret. 'Do We Undervalue Full-Time Wives'. Redbook 122 (1963).
  • Mies, Maria. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour. Palgrave MacMillan, 1999.
  • Moir, Anne and David Jessel. Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women.
  • Ortner, Sherry Beth. 'Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?'. In MZ Rosaldo and L Lamphere (eds). Woman, Culture and Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974, pp. 67–87.
  • Ortner, Sherry Beth. 'So, Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?'. In S Ortner. Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996, pp. 173–180.
  • Pilcher, Jane and Imelda Wheelan. 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies. London: Sage Publications, 2004.
  • Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate: A Modern Denial of Human Nature. London: Penguin Books, 2002.
  • Wood, Wendy and Alice H. Eagly. A cross-cultural analysis of the behavior of women and men: Implications for the origins of sex differences. Psychological Bulletin. 128(5) (Sep. 2002):699-727.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Latin patriarchia, from Byzantine Greek πατριαρχία, from Hellenistic Ancient Greek πατριάρχης (patriarch), from πατρία and ἄρχω.




patriarchy (plural patriarchies)

  1. (Christianity) The office of a patriarch; a patriarchate.
  2. A social system in which the father is head of the household, having authority over women and children.
  3. A system of government by males
  4. The dominance of men in social or cultural systems.

Related terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

See also

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address