"I view the term patriarchy from the perspective of a nominalist; the view that universal terms i.e. generalizations, do not refer to objective existences but are nothing more than flatus vocis, verbal utterances. This view was skillfully defended by William of Occam and is now held by most contemporary logical empiricists. That said, I think it would be helpful to understand what average people mean by the general term patriarchy. Certainly, what they take to be an actual social order is an abstraction or, as feminists are fond of saying, a construction. Nevertheless, the dictionary definintion of partiarchy is: a system in which women and children are legally dependent on men. This is a simple economic definition. From an economic view we could also define patriarchy as: a system in which men are held legally responsible for the support of women and children. In this latter definition, men become beasts of burden rather than lords of households. In any case, the economic definition lacks scientific rigor.
"In anthropology, the least ideologically affected of the social sciences, no satisfactory definiton for the term patriarchy has been formulated. This should come as no surprise. It is difficult to empirically verify abstractions. The anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "Men are the impetus of culture." Perhaps then, patriarchy is best understood as any system in which "men are men;" that is, in which men lead the way. Of course, this isn't saying much but perhaps the less said the better when trying to define a "patriarchy" as male and female roles are defined by the expections of both sexes.
"Legalistically, we might define a patriarchy as a system in which men make the laws. Here again, while it is generally true that men have penned the law, we can't entirely absolve women of the law's effects. That would be like saying women had no responsibility for the hypocrisies of Victorian society or for the temperance movement when they were clearly marching in the streets in support of it. No doubt, the notion of root cause is one of those myopias still required for assigning blame. However, the origins of laws, like customs, are more mutifarious, their causes several and complex. Not something one could easily blame on anyone or anything, least of all patriarchy. In any case, in order to adequately understand the law, we must look at the values, beliefs, ideals, and moral sentiments back of the law. This approach to understanding jurisprudence is in opposition to the naive tendency to view power manifested only in terms of top-down, prohibitive forms of repression. To put this in the language of deconstruction: Power is decentered; shifted from an established or ecclesial focus; disconnected from assumptions of origin, priority, or essense.
"What does this mean? Well, it means that even though men may have penned the law, they have not done so oblivious to women's needs or entirely to suit their own interests as feminists suggest. Also, men's predilections as to what is desirable and undesirable regarding the relations between men and women is determined by their sense of propriety, i.e. their conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech and their fear of offending against conventional rules of behavior especially between the sexes. In short, the customs and manners of polite society. That women have had no influence regarding such customs would be a ruse par excellence. Nevertheless, that women should have more direct influence over making or doing away with the laws that govern us is a good thing. Just don't expect a radical transformation of society, for better or worse, as women in general share and, indeed, impart to men in their youth the same values and prejudices as are attributed to society in general. Also, among women as with men, there is great difference of opinion. For instance, not all women think that Oprah, stalwart champion of the notion of feminine moral superiority that she is, would make a good president..... Though it is not exactly heartening to hear most women condone the idea. The sort of woman who would make a good president in my opinion isn't even an American, she's British. Her name is the Baroness Helen Mary Warnock..
"(Oh! I've exposed myself. I'm partial toward the Western Liberal Tradition and a philosopher in my own right to boot!) The problem with Mary is that she's more intelligent than Oprah and therefore her politics would not, in all probability, appeal to the brutal masses. This is the bane of any political system, especially democracy.
"Let's get back to those pesky feminists. Feminist are fond of deconstructive analyses so we might think they would deconstruct patriarchy. Not! Rather, it is precisely within the conventional top-down, and abusive sense of social power that feminists define patriarchy, i.e. as a system created by men and imposed upon women. In this sense, patriarchy is little more than feminist code for "male control" or some imagined dominance of men in sexual matters, take your pick. Both are, of course, viewed as essentially abusive in character. Perhaps feminists who appropriate deconstruction to make their marginal views privileged will someday be shocked to find their own views being deconstructed in academia generally as they are on CF!
"Finally, in the feminist view, men define culture. In opposition to this view, I believe it would be more accurate to say that culture defines men. (I got an A in Sociology Studies some 35 years ago for this insight) Where once we believed the world was controlled by gods, we have instead come to believe men are the masters of their world. Now our confidence has been shaken even in that. This is the conclusion of a postmodern investigation of human existence. In human evolution and history, control in an overarching sense, patriarchal or otherwise, has become a faint delusion.
"In conclusion: To quote a famous nominalist named Humpty Dumpty in Through The Looking Glass: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"Letting totalitarian feminists determine the meaning of the word patriarchy is a dangerous thing......"
Very illuminating treatise you have crafted here: I am impressed.
Especially germane was your comment that society wouldn't get better OR worse due to the growth of direct female participation in political power and decision-making. I would only add, as a footnote to that, that the furniture might get rearranged a bit! ;)
But this underscores once again the radical disjunction between female and feminist. Feminism's genius (if you want to call it that), has been to muddy this difference in the popular mind and, for popular political purposes, make female and feminist into interchangeable terms. Yes, they have crafted a strategy that is damnably hard to counteract.
And behind this cloak of muddied water, feminist plans have crept steadily forward.
Female participation wouldn't make much appreciable difference for either good or ill, but feminist participation most surely would, and has, and will.
Sustained feminist agitation and lobbying efforts will continue to drive the world in a particular direction that is radically different from what mere "participation by women" would ever do. That is because feminist ideology is a radical outside force, i.e. an aberration from the natural
condition; a freak. Note that jumping is not flying - and for that matter even birds and airplanes must eventually come back to earth!
So even feminism will at most generate a heap of temporary wreckage. (Read: entropic consequences.) The operative term is temporary. Feminists are the ones who can't seem to distinguish biology from ideology, and they are quite intent upon afflicting all the rest of us with their quaint form of mental illness. Or should I call it HUBRIS?
But in the end, make no doubt that though the bar be set never so high, biology will trump ideology - even as gravity will trump the heaven-storming ambitions of the athletic jumper!
Biology will trump ideology. That is the gold standard - take it to the bank.
Finally, it is indeed as you say, that letting totalitarian feminists determine the meaning of the word patriarchy is a dangerous thing. I would add that letting them determine the meaning of anything at all is a dangerous thing!
That includes, most preeminently, letting them tell the rest of the world what feminism "really" means. I for one wish to deprive the feminists of their power to define feminism. In other words, I am determined to take away their control of their own narrative. And I think this can be done.