What is this Thing Called Patriarchy?
Patriarchy is a reality model which women's movement polemicists have cobbled together in order to establish a kind of "feminist privilege". The bothersome task of confronting men as distinct individuals can be largely set aside thanks to the patriarchy model, which vastly facilitates feminism's anti-male agenda and shores up feminism's ideology.
If Patriarchy didn’t exist, it would be necessary for a feminist ideologist to invent it. And even if it DID exist, it might be too small for the role assigned to it - in which case it would need some inflating. Either way, creative growth would be a desideratum.
“Patriarchy” functions as a prosecutorial device, making it easy to gather all men into a single barrel where they can be more conveniently shot. It is far easier to batch process men than to assay their guilt one individual at a time—which is a virtual impossibility in any case. Such is the cornerstone of feminist policy. If you wish to hit far too many innocent targets, and if you wish to do this really, really fast, then collective guilt is the way to go.
Used in this manner, the patriarchy hypothesis is morally indistinguishable from a famous bumper slogan that rednecks stick on their trucks: “KILL 'EM ALL AND LET GOD SORT 'EM OUT!” (Nazi comparisons are hackneyed -- I wanted to try something a shade different.)
In the beginning, feminist ideology found its advance thwarted by commonsense objections of every sort. Feminist thinkers needed to rationalize their movement's many contradictions, and to that end they devised larger explanatory models to reconcile the contradictions. Most philosophical systems or world-views operate much along this line. Feminist polemic grew by extensions of ad hoc hypothesizing; soon it arrived at the patriarchy hypothesis, a jellyfish in a starched collar which became the granddaddy of all feminist construction scaffolds—a kind of unified field theory of male perversity.
On close examination, we discover two important things about 'patriarchy' as a concept:
1.) It displays coherency when too narrowly defined to be broadly useful.
2.) It displays incoherency when too broadly defined to be narrowly useful.
Tersely: Latitude of utility varies inversely to coherency of definition.
Feminist ideologues promulgate the patriarchy model nonetheless, because they are banking on the average person's lack of analytical discernment—rather as if they were tossing a mind rape drug into the cocktail of common discourse. You might wake up with a nameless, creepy feeling, but you aren't necessarily aware that you've gotten screwed under the cover of mental darkness.
All things considered, it’s hard to know how radical feminism (and consequently any feminism) would get along without the patriarchy hypothesis. For certain, it would be slow sledding.
Patriarchy is beyond all doubt a CONSTRUCT. This can never be refuted and the proof is simple: patriarchy cannot be weighed, measured, or instantiated in physical space; you can’t shake a stick at it, you can’t bounce a ball off it, and above all you can’t find it in the telephone directory. The word itself points to no discoverable object. Patriarchy is not demonstrably a thing, but only an inventory, a description, an interpretation, a reification, a rorschach, a face in the clouds, a face on Mars, a trick of the light. In sum, a mental spook.
You cannot "fight" "the" patriarchy any sooner than you can duke it out with a heatwave mirage or a hologram. You cannot, by flailing your fists in any manner, inflict damage on something insubstantial. But have a care! for while you are quixotically thrashing in all directions, there's a good chance you'll wreck something REAL, and that's where your real grief begins. You will run your karma over your dogma and reality will appear on your doorstep waving a bill of damages.
So what do I mean by a “construct”? I mean something that was put together by an act of human mentation, or less charitably, imagination. Here I mean a rhetorical construct—a device intended to persuade, indeed to overwhelm or intimidate, the listener. The patriarchy construct is built from a selection of observables that have been linked as in a dot-connecting exercise, on the predicative assumption that they are congenitally related. Whether they genuinely are thus related could be a matter for investigative discussion.
The most plausible manifestation of this thing which they are pleased to call patriarchy lies within the realm of administrative control structures, namely, that from a general survey of appearances, it would seem that men occupy administrative posts disproportionately to their comparative number. If patriarchy means anything at all, it would need to mean this before it could usefully mean anything else.
That could place a delimitation on the term and its permissible range of usage. Still, it is possible to stretch the definition, like Humpty-Dumpty playing with silly-putty, so that the word becomes shorthand for a hodge-podge of behaviors in which certain males at various times have been known to occupy themselves. Such appears to be the strategy that feminist theorizing employs.
In this manner, feminism extracts the larger conclusion that men in general conspire to oppress women in general—a leap of staggering enormity that ought to give us pause.
Some will object that I am misrepresenting the feminist position. But I would ask, “which feminist position? And which feminism?” The objection is only a variation on “not that kind of feminist”. However, it is precisely “that kind” of feminism which I have in view here; not the nice sort of feminism but rather the bottom-line sort which runs the business.
The idea that men in general conspire to oppress women in general, belongs in the man-hating category of generalizations. As such, being closer to the heart of what a man-hating movement "really" preaches, it seems a more reliable gloss upon the occult ideology of feminism as a whole. So even if I do misrepresent the feminist position here, it is with the smallest possible degree of misrepresentation. Anything else would be a greater misrepresentation.
Do I mean to conclude that patriarchy “doesn’t exist”? No, not exactly. The word patriarchy certainly exists: Patriarchy. See? I just wrote it!
Likewise the construct exists; it is alive and well for those with wheels in their heads, those who chatter glibly about patriarchy this and patriarchy that as if they were talking about something unitary and tangible—as if "patriarchy" were an established fact beyond dispute, like heliocentrism or the Rock of Gibraltar. They are merely stating their opinion as objective datum, and they don't realize how fatuous they sound. I could liken such people to a religious zealot whose everyday conversation—even at banal moments—is peppered with allusions to the Holy Ghost.
Patriarchy, supposing that there geniunely is such a thing, has never been a purposefully organized political movement springing into existence at a discernible historical moment, with clearly recognized leaders, with dues-paying organizations, with membership rosters, with published philosophical tracts and tomes, with knowingly crafted agendas, with evolving pedagogic traditions, with lobbyists, with advocacy groups, with teach-ins, with seminars. . . . For a number of reasons, it is at least problematic whether patriarchy even exists—among others, because it is difficult to comprehend exactly what patriarchy IS to begin with.
But we face no such difficulty in regard to feminism, which is, on the order of phenomenologies, a clear, tight, discrete and chronologically bounded thing. We know who Simone de Beauvoir was; we know that she published her book in 1949, and we can fairly accurately trace the career of influence that it followed. Likewise, we know who Betty Friedan was, we know when she published her book, and we know that certain people read it and were moved to do certain things. And we know who Kate Millett was, and who Germaine Greer was, and how they augmented the developing action inside the mixing bowl. And we know what the National Organization for Women is, and who its leaders past and present have been, and we know some of the things which they have said and done and written. All of these things and more, we know with a pretty fair certainty.
As regards patriarchy, we can discover virtually nothing of similarly satisfying definiteness. Patriarchy is like a big wooly phantom, a cloud, a colossal mountain of soap bubbles that appears mighty impressive from a distance until somebody informs you that the main ingredient is air. There is, to my knowledge, no such thing as a Book of the Patriarchy, or at least nothing expressly so-designated. And whereas feminists know they are a part of feminism, so-called patriarchalists know nothing of the sort with regard to patriarchy, or at any rate didn't until feminism introduced them to the idea of patriarchy, thereby planting the suggestion in their heads. If in the future somebody publishes an Offical Book of the Patriarchy (tongue-in-cheek or otherwise), we'll owe indirect thanks to feminism for its existence.
My point is this: That feminism exercises a far, far stronger claim upon the category of existence than patriarchy does. It is at least arguable whether patriarchy exists. But in a postulated future, supposing feminism to have triumphantly inaugurated female supremacy over all the earth, there would be absolutely no question that matriarchy exists.