On the Patriarchy

This is a petty gripe here, I know: but what the fuck is with the “the” certain people insist on putting in front of the word patriarchy?

Society, the company you work for, and your family may all be patriarchal. I am not saying this does not exist. But it has been taken one step further here: the adjective has been upgraded into a noun demanding a definite article (“the”). The “the” is meant to tell us this is a pernicious institution that exists to fuck up our lives; like the military-industrial complex, the war on drugs, or the Edmonton Oilers. Patriarchy isn’t a problem in society; the patriarchy is. It’s a systematic institution, didn’t you know? Now we have something we can sink our teeth into! We have a big, bad enemy!

But, do you?

Patriarchy is not an institution, group, or tangible thing. It is a concept describing social mores and ways of thinking that have permeated society and people. It does not exist in the same way that “the red menace” of Communism did. There is no clubhouse, membership, or structure to it. People don’t decide to become a part of it.

“If you are a man who is tired of house chores and paying all your employees a reasonable wage, or a woman who is tired of all that pesky personal responsibility and accountability, ask your accountant or clergyman if Patriarchy is right for you. Warning: side effects of joining Patriarchy may include toxic masculinity: a condition which can result in alcoholism, violence, and suicide.”

I suppose when you are trying to mobilize a group of people to activism, it is important to give them something solid to push against. Suffragettes had some real, tangible shit to fight for. The right to vote. The right to work. The right not to be assaulted by their husbands. Getting a basic legal acknowledgement of women’s humanity.

Those big issues are all won. So once you’ve gotten your Rosie the Riveter tattoo, what is there left to fight for? It all gets pretty nebulous these days. Sure, in North America a degree of vigilance is certainly warranted to protect those hard won victories from political and social conservatives. But that’s not a very exciting fight. Fire prevention is less entertaining than firefighting.

I’m not going to tell anyone they don’t need feminism, because what the fuck would I know about it? I’m just pointing out that, from an outsider’s perspective, trying to create an enemy for the troops to focus on simply by sticking a “the” in front of a concept is pretty weak tea.

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