What is patriarchy?

Why bother many areas of society that women are free, their merits are recognized or history to recover to the point of exercising violence against them? It is easier to understand if we delve into the origins of patriarchy, a social contract that dates back to the ancient Near East, but still in force and was ratified at key moments of history as the French Revolution.

It is governed by rules that are determined by gender stereotypes assigned to us since we were children as well as symbols created from philosophy, religion or science to explain life that have settled as absolute truths over the centuries. “The denial to women of their own history, has reinforced to accept the ideology of patriarchy and undermined the sense of self-esteem of every woman,” says Gerda Lerner in his book ‘The creation of patriarchy’.

Lerner, American historian specializing in the nineteenth century, is one of the key authors in their analyzes and explains in his reference book how, from Mesopotamia to the present day, men have created symbologies and transmitted norms from generation to generation, while women They were “outside civilization.” In fact he argues that it is not until the nineteenth century when women (and only some of them, belonging to upper classes) begin to have history, being able to consider all of the above as a female prehistory.

“According to these symbolic buildings, set in Greek philosophy, Judeo-Christian theologies and legal tradition on which Western civilization stands, men have explained the world with its terms. (…) He is who makes symbols and explains the world and she who takes care of the physical and vital needs of him and his sons: the gulf between the two is enormous. ” ( ‘The creation of patriarchy’ Gerda Lerner. Critical Editions).

As a key part in the transmission of this system of ideas puts Aristotle, whose thought has had an enormous influence on the construction of Western culture. The philosopher took the theories of Plato and teacher of classical Greece and transmitted to Alexander the Great and other noble students that spread during the commercial and political expansion of his empire. For Aristotle, the woman was inferior and incomplete by nature, had the same social category as a slave, and its main virtue was to be quiet. Its purpose was to breed and care for her husband.

Subsequently, through wars, conquests, models of religious thought, laws, revolutions, new political and economic regimes (colonialism, imperialism, Marxism, capitalism …) has been strengthened and even strengthened this system of power.

Etymologically, patriarchy comes from Greek and means “government of the parents.” The patriarchal adjective describes a structure in which men have power over women.

Lerner defines patriarchy as “the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and extending that dominance over women in society in general.”

Patriarchy is present in both personal (educational roles at home, division of labor, sexuality, …) and collectively as the positions of power in business, political structure, religious institutions, cultural organizations, .. continue being largely in the hands of men and only through organized demands of women have been catching small levels of equality, such as voting or access to education.

It has us forth in different ways depending on the countries and cultures. For example, by concealing the history of women, the sexual division of labor, control of land and the means of production, reproduction legislation or the imposition of marriage. And it has resulted in women’s movements, from the Blue Stockings of the mid-eighteenth century in Britain until the Gulabi Gang (pictured), a group of women of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest areas of India, which They are rebelling against the violence of husbands, fathers and brothers.

Patriarchy is not suddenly but progressively implemented between 3,100 and 600 B.C. It goes back to the archaic state of the ancient Near East, which emerged in the second millennium B.C. Following Gerda Lerner, originally it is associated with sex, reproduction and war (were part of the loot when a village was conquered). Its basic unit was the patriarchal family, which generated norms and values.

The author stresses that this system is directly related to the first roles that were assigned to women because of their gender, which were “being exchanged in marriage transactions, in which they were the ones who made the exchange and defined the terms” and role of “surrogate wife” or concubine.

For Austrian-born American, female sexuality becomes a commodity which was the first appropriation of private property and therefore patriarchal society is pre-class society.

Sexuality and reproduction are also defined as the primary basis of women’s oppression for Kate Millett and Shulamith Firestone, before Lerner and main authors of radical feminism in the United States. In ‘sexual politics’, Millet says that sexual relations are political relations through which men exert their dominance over women.

They, like other large feminists like Virginia Woolf, Luce Irigaray, Olympe de Gouges or Julieta Paredes, have questioned the patriarchate to rebut the myths in place from the literature of Shakespeare or Flaubert, psychoanalysis of Freud and Lacan, moral texts and citizens as the Bible or the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, or Western hegemony over Africa and Latin America.

Being a model that holds on gender constructions, the patriarchal system can be replaced by a more egalitarian and just.

It is a system that is conforming to the different historical stages, but not determined biologically or in nature, and therefore can come to an end. It involves questioning all our current system of values, such has done since its origins as feminism, and then modify or abolish it. Only then can we speak of equality, freedom and fellowship.

(Source: ‘The creation of patriarchy’ Gerda Lerner 1986. Critical editions.).