What is Patriarchy? Avens O’Brien

Avens O’Brien is a young libertarian feminist. I know her through ubermench Judd Weiss (taker of the photo above). She does this thing where she writes really eloquent, well-thought-out responses to people who ask questions in my Facebook post threads.

Below is one such response, which I wanted to post to the blog so more people read it. Enjoy.


I find the term patriarchy to be unhelpful in conversations about American power dynamics.

The concept, to me, is that in a very recent past, in a very generalized way, power was predominately held by men, not women. In the state, in the home, in the public sphere. This power was in the ability to control their financial situation, making decisions *for* the women in their lives, and their ability to more easily achieve a level of autonomy due to the state’s recognition of their achievements and assets as their own.

This power allowed them more recognition, more legal rights and more social flexibility — if your marriage sucked, and you wanted a divorce, a woman pretty much needed to find a new man to take care of her because she didn’t have the independent social and legal ability to go on her own, whereas a man did not have the same dependence in his role that he would need to determine that factor in his choice to leave his marriage, for example.

I think access to voting rights, stronger acknowledgement of property rights (in the 1970s my mother was turned away from a bank she was trying to open an account at, because she didn’t have a father or husband to co-sign), and both legal and social dynamics have given women much more power, and in many cases, more power than men in many arenas.

So on the whole, I don’t find patriarchy to be a legal issue to be dealing with. And it’s been removed from many of our social/cultural expectations.

I still see evidence that men think sexual experience has some sort of devaluing aspect for women, and there are still people who believe being raped is a woman’s fault for what she was wearing or that “sluts” had it coming anyway.

The only battle front I really see in a patriarchy discussion may possibly be in the idea that the larger generalized sphere still seems to be intimidated by and aggressive against women having sexual strength. That by being “gatekeepers” of sex, we lessen our “power” when we allow sex to occur, and we lose some sort of value when we are raped or participate in casual sex. This is not rooted in any sort of logic *except* one where a woman has little value except a sexual one or to please men. That is a slowly dying last ditch symptom of what used to be a much larger, more relevant thing called “patriarchy” in America.

I don’t think patriarchy is useful in an encompassing discussion of feminism, because I think it puts people on the defensive, it does a disservice to the recent progress made on male-female power dynamics, and the only relevance I see is in some people still attempting to make women ashamed or protective of their own sexuality.

I prefer to move on to specific instances, terms that are more easily definable and relevant to the aspects we still need improvement upon. So, this is probably the closest I’ve ever come to defending the use of term patriarchy or using it myself, and I don’t like it.

Moving onto: yay girl owns her sexuality and boo on those who don’t like it!

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