The Fucking Patriarchy, Part 1

Thanks to several blog posts and at least one anecdote that I’ve encountered recently I’ve decided to to dedicate a series of posts this week to the fucking patriarchy. Like all of my writing, I’ve done some basic research but one shouldn’t assume that I know what I’m talking about. I’m going to be discussing this more or less from the ground up, partly to make things clear to anyone who’s not familiar with the basics, partly to squeeze more posts for the post-a-day challenge, and partly for my own education. This is also going to be a lot more vulgar than usual, because somehow that takes the edge off a bit.

So welcome to Fucking Patriarchy Week. I’ll try to get through this with as little alcohol as possible.

First, some definitions. Here are useful links that you hopefully won’t need to understand me. First to the Wikipedia definition of “patriarchy”, which is related but not quite what I’m talking about when I refer to the fucking patriarchy (but check out the history section!). “Kyriarchy” is useful reading here, as well. In short, the fucking patriarchy is a social construct or series of social constructs that privileges men, oppresses women, and manages to cause a lot of misery for pretty much everyone by forcing people into gender roles and dominance games (not the fun kind). It’s the reason women with more education make less money doing the same job as men, and why Wal-mart executives call their female employees “little janie q’s”. It’s the reason there was a mild shitstorm last April over an ad showing a little boy with painted toenails. It’s the reason you see batshit insane headlines like “Turkish Outrage: Supreme Court Says 13-Year-Old Girl ‘Consented’ to Rape

And it’s everywhere.

This isn’t some grand conspiracy, though I’ve heard it said that any conservative christian group with “family” in its title could more honestly replace that word with “patriarchy” and I haven’t really seen a case yet where I could argue with that. Most of the people who deliberately perpetrate this sort of thing don’t seem to see it as oppression, they seem to genuinely think women are happier having “housewife” their only career option, and concerning themselves mainly with makeup, shoes, and children. Many of them are themselves women. Perhaps the most insidious thing about the fucking patriarchy is that women will not only buy into it themselves, but put enormous social pressure onto other women to conform. Like a virus that infects a cell and forces that cell to create and spread more viruses, the fucking patriarchy gets into people’s heads and forces them to spread it.

If women pushing the fucking patriarchy onto women is bad, men pushing it onto woman is…. look, I’ll just drop a link to Ophelia Benson’s blog, Butterflies and Wheels, and move on. There’s ugly stuff going on there, so if you stop by give her a kind word, she’d probably appreciate it.

I’m getting ahead of myself, anyway, I should really talk about privilege. There are many types of privilege, white privilege, straight privilege, male privilege. (Also rich privilege which, let’s face it, is generally just straight-white-male-privilege cranked up to eleven.) The funny thing about privilege is that you don’t often notice you have it, even as you exercise it. It takes careful examination of your life and a good helping of empathy to notice your own privilege, but it helps if someone makes a handy list.

So here’s The Male Privilege Checklist! I’ll copy the first, oh, let’s say ten of them here.

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

Take a look at it, and if you’re male (or heck, even if you’re not) try to suppress any knee-jerk reaction and really consider for a minute. It’s been several years now, and it may have been a different list (though much the same stuff) the first time I saw this but from what I remember my reaction was a strange mix of denial and trivializing, with a sort of “I knew this, on some level, but it’s so weird to see it all spelled out like that” undercurrent. There are still a few items on that list that puzzle me. But this one deserves special notice:

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

It was imagining this situation that allowed me to first see the outline of my own privilege. I still don’t know the exact extent of it, privilege is only easily visible to those who don’t have it. But that was the start, thinking of all the things that sucked about my day and imagining them in that light: “Was that guy just being an asshole, or prejudiced? Was that carelessness, or prejudice? Was she just tired, or deliberately ignoring me out of prejudice?”

It’s a humbling exercise, and it illustrates something worth mentioning: Large parts of the fucking patriarchy can only be detected statistically. Promoting a man over a woman when both are equally qualified one time might not be sexism, the boss might have flipped a coin for all we know. Doing that 85% of the time, however, is a pretty good sign that something screwy is going on.

Well, my vague plan for the week is to talk about how the fucking patriarchy screws up women tomorrow, how it screws up men on Wednesday, and how it screws up society in general on Thursday. Friday I’ll discuss the future, which mostly means wishful thinking and possibly some mild sci-fi. I’ll probably want to dream up a happy ending by then anyways.

Please don’t hesitate to leave comments, suggestions, or questions, and I’ll read them all first thing in the morning. For now though, I’m falling asleep in my chair so I’m posting this and going to bed. Hope it doesn’t look too embarrassing in the morning!

 

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on November 7, 2011, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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