What Does the Term “Patriarchy” Mean to Me?

Reader Titfortat asks:


Do you have a specific definition of what you call patriarchy?

Since I use the term “patriarchy on a regular basis, I think I should explain what I mean by it. So here is my definition:

The patriarchy is a system of social relations where:

a) people accept and enforce strict gender roles in order to perpetuate the system where men castrate themselves emotionally and psychologically in order to be able to purchase women and women castrate themselves sexually and professionally in order to be able to sell themselves. Mind you, I’m not talking about buying and selling of sex, which is a completely different issue. I’m talking about men and women entering into a contract where each castrated individual pledges to offer his or her castrated partner what that partner has excised from him or herself.

b) these castrated men and women are welded to each other. As individuals, they cannot survive or lead a full existence because they have lopped off parts of themselves. Now, they need the other to exist.

c) the castrated partners get a reward for leading these castrated existences and being bound to each other not by love but by their self-invalidization. That reward is their children. In patriarchal families, children belong to their parents for as long as those parents remain alive. The children are consumed and cannibalized by the patriarchal parents in every possible way. Sometimes, the adult children are quite elderly but still don’t have a right to a life of their own because they are still in bondage to their parents.

I think that you can now easily deduce for yourselves what kind of people would welcome and defend the patriarchal form of existence. (A hint: “men” is the wrong answer. “Some men and some women” is more like it.)

24 thoughts on “What Does the Term “Patriarchy” Mean to Me?

  1. Out of interest, do you make a distinction between “gender identities” and “gender roles”?


    1. Oh, I get it! I’m a little dense today. You are asking why the system isn’t named the matriarchy, right? Because these family units all bear the name of the father, not of the mother, and because, in them, men are the ones who purchase.


  2. I saw The Free Northerner trying to make an argument that the patriarchy is good and necessary. I ought to write a very clear analysis as to how very rigid and logically consistent patriarchy works. It doesn’t.

    For instance, I am helping my father write his memoirs, and all the tragedies and disruptions in his life appear to have been caused by patriarchal processes. Let us start at the beginning.

    1. His newly married father goes to war (WW2) and is killed. My father, a young baby, is left without a male parent. War is a patriarchal activity, whereby men prove their courage by serving the empire.

    2. His single mother, suffering from grief and denial, has no patriarchal breadwinner. She has to find another man to take care of her fast. There is no social welfare system in the colony, only the patriarchal system.

    3. She marries quickly, in order to resolve her unhallowed status of being a single mother, and to obtain the patriarchal breadwinner as soon as possible.

    4. She is unhappy in the marriage. The newly appointed husband turns out to be very cold towards her son and keeps reminding him he is “adopted”. He shows no human emotions. The mother feels resentful against her son for putting her in a situation where she had to get married to someone who wasn’t wholly suited to her needs.

    5. My father is sent to boarding school at the age of five. He experiences this as rejection.

    6. He grows up and gets married himself, and things go okay for a number of years, but there’s something not quite right. Deep down, there is a bitter and seething resentment against women. Sometimes this erupts as angry aggression against my mother. I recall one instance where he refused to allow her to have her name on the outside of the family property, along with his, since he said this wasn’t in accordance with his beliefs about “holding the family together”.

    7. There are unpredictable bouts of anger whenever he feels like we kids aren’t cooperating with his expectations. Sometimes these expectations are reasonable, such as washing dishes. At other times, they are unreasonable, such as his expectation that we read his mind and automatically know what we should do in an entirely novel situation, without being told.

    8. My father develops hostility to me around the time the country falls apart. His mind also falls apart. He begins accusing me of things I haven’t done. My mother also becomes extremely anxious and suspicious of my spending too much time alone. Teenagers are not to be trusted.

    9. We migrate to Australia in 1984 and things are quiet for two or three years. Then the religious persecution starts. “The family is falling apart!” — Yes, well, I was reaching maturity, and trying to understand the world on my own terms, which meant leaving the Christian religion.

    10. My father decides to stop my independence by whatever means, in order to “keep the family together”. He engages in shaming, threats, attacks on my identity and occasional physical violence. He starts hearing “messages from God”. His behavior is unpredictable and frightening — moreover, he has managed to convince others in my family that I, being the only atheist of us all, had somehow managed to cause his behavior.

    Anyway, so far as I can see, these outcomes were all linked to his original trauma that had to do with his mother not being able to take the time to marry the man of her choice, due to patriarchal moral and economic pressures.

    You can also see what I had to overcome in order to turn out okay.


    1. Yes, I wanted to be linked to so now I’m being linked to by crazy people.

      The problem is that most people are incapable of engaging in such a clear and honest analysis of their family history as you have done. I think your analysis is brilliant but many people don’t even attempt anything of the kind.

      This patriarchal “she got married to somebody she didn’t care about that much because women have to be married” has blighted my family, too. Such women tend to take their revenge on the children they have by a person they had to marry without really liking him.


      1. “Such women tend to take their revenge on the children they have by a person they had to marry without really liking him.”

        It might be useful to mention that such children who become victims of patriarchal social structures can be male.


    2. Interesting how the blame is on a system and very little on the actual individuals performing the nasty acts. What about all the other people engaged in the same so called system who are actually loving and generous parents? I guess we should applaud you for making a different kind of choice even in the midst of the big bad patriarchy.


      1. The patriarchal parents can be super loving and generous. But they do see their children as belonging to them and not entitled to a life of their own. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about because you don’t have this experience. This is lucky for you but it does not invalidate the suffering of people whose existences are being thwarted by their patriarchal families.

        I find annoying when people dismiss the suffering of others simply because they have not experienced it.

        “Interesting how the blame is on a system and very little on the actual individuals performing the nasty acts.”

        – Of course, one can be stuck at the level of “My Mommy is an evil person.” Or one can always try to go beyond it and see why “the evil Mommy” did all those evil things. This is called analysis.


      2. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
        Im not dismissing, Im analyzing. Afterall, I know people in the same so called patriarchy who decided not to act like the ones I just read about. Choices do make life interesting.


  3. In the case of my family, my father did attempt to make some right “choices”. In fact, my early childhood years were extremely blissful. But, you know, when someone has a fault-line in their character — a dispositional weakness caused by their very early (and later) childhood traumas — you put enough pressure on them and they eventually go mad. Most people haven’t been bought up in a situation of ongoing war. Americans are often null and void, talking all about “choices”, simply because their life experiences have been so limited. Australians are the same.


    1. Also, I will add one more point about the patriarchy. My father has an authoritarian disposition, so had anyone in authority confronted him and told him that his behavior was inappropriate, he would have welcomed the intervention that stopped his destructive spree. However, everybody blamed the victim (me) for my father’s behavior. Patriarchy is the idea that fathers are good-intentioned and always more rational than daughters.


  4. When the price you pay for an advantage is far higher than the advantage there is no advantage at all. Men have not yet understood the price they pay to patriarchy. Musteryou has shown it clearly in her posts. Patriarchy destroys men, women & children and is nothing more than a mass control tool using religion and guilt


  5. // The children are consumed and cannibalized by the patriarchal parents in every possible way.

    Just thought about something: Thomas Hardy’s short story “The Son’s Veto”.

    Have you read it? It’s realistic fiction, which you said you liked. What do you think? I read some Hardy’s novels and a few stories, so far this is my favorite.


  6. Fantastic post and comments!
    Interestingly, I’ve found that the people I know and believe to be the absolute worst victims of the patriarchy are actually male because they had abusive mothers who project their own sexual resentments onto their sons.
    The woman who fantasized about her male toddler becoming a rapist someday comes to mind.


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