Why I Don’t Believe in the Patriarchy (But Still Consider Myself A Feminist).

1.

The patriarchy is like Satan, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Sure, there’s some kind of cause and effect involved, but the figure itself is bought into being by those wanting to explain more subtle and complex phenomena, but are happy to settle for an easy answer with a face on it.

If I were to define the word ‘patriarchy,’ I’d be reaching for the one Simone De Beauvoir uses in The Second Sex: Patriarchy is a set of cultural, social and economic systems employed by men for the benefit of men, that effectively function as an engine for the subjugation of women as a slave class.

When that book was published in the early 1940s, I think De Beauvoir was 100% on the money. I think her assessment of history and culture was entirely correct and the tools she fashioned that were taken up by second wave feminists at the end of the sixties facilitated effective reform of the society she had accurately critiqued.

I come from a feminist family, with a mother who was a feminist with a capital ‘F’. She was taken out of school at 16 to become a hairdresser; her father didn’t believe she needed an education because she would be married. Both my mother and father were emphatic my sisters receive the same opportunities that I would and all three of us went on to tertiary education.

My mother, however, went before us; she returned to university at 40 and became the first member of her family to do so.

We now live in the kind of brave new world De Beauvoir and co. were pushing for. And as one of the small miracles of history, when I read her book, I found it almost impossible to believe life for women was that bad before her; it’s very hard to believe that any man would want to treat his sisters, or his mother, or his wife so badly, with so little concern for her comfort, or care, or dignity.

Of course, my commentary is anecdotal. I studied feminism at university, and have read some of the more famous texts (The Second Sex, The Female Eunuch, The Beauty Myth) but am not a statistician or an academic, so my opinions and ideas can be dismissed accordingly. However, I am a citizen, and my ideas influence my behaviour, so as long as it’s a democracy, my opinions do carry a certain value.

What I do know is that I see women everywhere, in all professions, in all kinds of positions of responsibility. I have no doubt of their ability. I am as comfortable with female doctors as I am with male (possibly even more, but that’s my own personal prejudice). Where things become muddy for me are on the subjects of body image and sexual assault.

I worked as a bouncer while studying at university and found that sexual assault is a very common phenomenon. However, it’s not something I have ever engaged in during the course of my life, and never needed to be taught not to.

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