Posts tagged Patriarchy

Privilege and patriarchy

<p>Hey Marja,</p>

<p>Thanks for this. I’m sorry I’m late to the discussion. A couple of halting suggestions.</p>

<blockquote><p>Does patriarchy even exist any more? Men die sooner. Men get imprisoned more often.</p></blockquote>

<p>I guess this depends on what group of phenomena “patriarchy” is supposed to be encompassing. The strand of radical feminism I’ve always identified with has seen patriarchy as rooted primarily in men’s violence against women, and especially the sexualized violence of rape, wife-beating, abortion laws, etc. As much has been done to challenge all of these, they are still everywhere and still largely committed with impunity, and I think as long as, e.g., men are raping 1 out of every 4 women, and this has systemic effects on constraining women’s behavior and gender expression, patriarchy as I understand it is still in place.</p>

<p>It’s true that men get imprisoned more often, but as far as I know that’s always been true, as long as there have been prisons. Prison is oppression, but at present it’s almost exclusively form of oppression that some men inflict on other men. (Maybe that will change as more women become police, prison-guards, and political office-holders, but at present all those are still predominantly the province of states-men.) And I think the major causes of, e.g., men’s shorter life expectancies (labor conditions under state capitalism, violence among men, etc.) are also examples of things men do to other men. But hasn’t patriarchy, as a hierarchical structure, has always included internal hierarchy among the patriarchs, and intersected with cross-cutting forms of oppression?</p>

<blockquote><p>Is privilege the best way of thinking about it?</p></blockquote>

<p>I’m inclined to doubt it. But I’m increasingly uncertain that “privilege” is the best way of thinking about much of anything; I’m not sure if we have the same reasons for worrying in this case. I’m worried because I’m worried about how far the all-encompassing use of “privilege” to explain has shifted the focus from what oppressors do to what oppressors have. Of course there were reasons for that — unpacking invisible knapsacks and making privileged people aware of the limitations of their own standpoint and all that — but what we have now is a basically epistemological approach (about becoming aware of, and owning, how much “privilege” you do or don’t have) to the micropolitics of one-to-one or one-to-many power-relationships — an approach which provided a handy conceptual tool for the analysis and criticism of individual beliefs, attitudes, conduct, epistemic standpoints, etc. — but which seems to have been wrenched out of that context and awkwardly repurposed into an all-encompassing framework for viewing all forms of oppression, exploitation, bigotry, ignorance, alienation, interpersonal friction, or abusive behavior. I do think that one effect of this is that it has proved really, extremely awkward for any attempt to talk about power relationships that involve more than two sides, and hence also for horizontal, diagonal, or intersectional power (such as the hierarchies of power among men under male supremacy, for example; or the way in which “cis” women, trans women, trans men, gay men, genderqueer folks, children, etc. are all oppressed — but differently oppressed, in different directions, by patriarchal violence).</p>

<p>Everything else is really interesting and important; I just wish I had something more articulate to say about it.</p>