Existence of the Patriarchy

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby JoshuaZ » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:54 pm UTC

When people say "patriarchy" they don't necessarily mean a consciously enforced system. The biases that can occur can occur in a subtle but strong fashion. Some of them are simply statistically not deniable. See for example this study by Budden et al.:

From the abstract:
Double-blind peer review, in which neither author nor reviewer identity are revealed, is rarely practised in ecology or evolution journals. However, in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information.


There's no way to explain that but by pervasive bias against female authors. If this isn't a patriarchy then what is?

Edit: Grammar
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:23 am UTC

Frankly, that begs the question why all peer review isn't done on a double-blind basis. Common sense, really.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:23 pm UTC

JoshuaZ wrote:When people say "patriarchy" they don't necessarily mean a consciously enforced system. The biases that can occur can occur in a subtle but strong fashion. Some of them are simply statistically not deniable. See for example this study by Budden et al.:

From the abstract:
Double-blind peer review, in which neither author nor reviewer identity are revealed, is rarely practised in ecology or evolution journals. However, in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information.


There's no way to explain that but by pervasive bias against female authors. If this isn't a patriarchy then what is?


This is an excellent demonstration of how society unconsciously works in ways that are to the benefit of men and to the detriment of women. The part I take exception to is 'when people say "patriarchy" they don't necessarily mean a consciously enforced system,' because that's exactly what the word implies. There needs to be terminology to reflect that although women now have equal rights to men in Western society (by and large: you could even argue women have more rights in countries where maternity leave is law) there is still suppression because of cultural attitudes- but culture by its very nature isn't structured. To suggest there is such a structure, even implicitly, is to misunderstand the cultural interplay between genders and how they affect each other.

Walkowitz's City of Dreadful Delight is a compelling exploration of gender in late-nineteenth century Britain, and how increasing urbanisation challenged contemporary gender narratives and created new ones. In the eighteenth-century women were seen as the predatory sex, whose sexual appetites led them to immoral deeds. By the early twentieth-century, this had become a masculine trait. Gender (as opposed to sex) is dependent on cultural context--this is where some people get into trouble, as it is not always easy to separate the two--and it is very much in flux. Wherever there were men trying to enforce their authority, there were women challenging it, from Antigone (and before) to Woolf (and later). Patriarchy implies no such struggle, but instead a zero-sum game. Instead of placing the feminist movement, its stumbles and gains, within the context of a continuing narrative, it makes out that Men Were In Charge, feminism happened, but then Men Are Still In Charge.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:57 pm UTC

Culture is plenty structured, it's just not legally enforced.

Just because it's not written down doesn't make it the purview of wind and ghosts.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Minstrel » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:50 pm UTC

JoshuaZ wrote:There's no way to explain that but by pervasive bias against female authors. If this isn't a patriarchy then what is?


The findings of the article in question were not universally agreed upon.

Many articles in other journals questioned whether the findings were in fact statistically significant (see here for one). Many questioned whether the increase in female authorship was in fact disproportionately small to the increase in accepted submissions. No one is saying sexism is dead is academia, just that double blind review is necessarily any sort of magic bullet, or even the right solution.

If anything, I personally favor the newer open journals that publish all the drafts and reviews in a special section. They are typically un-blind, but everyone in the process is very accountable for what they write.

(EDIT: just cleaning up the link and clarifying the first sentence)

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Texas_Ben » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:18 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:In short, I reject the use of 'the Patriarchy' because it is offensive, and because it doesn't accurately represent the reality. I accept that I am part of a male-dominated society, and that the fact that, as an example, I find a male prime minister/president more normal than a female prime minister/president contributes to male domination.

Back in high school I read an essay which referred to the "phallocracy". I like that word a lot more than patriarchy and it seems more accurate.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Rinsaikeru » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

The Patriarchy exists as a term and reference for the male dominated society we've been describing. Like those who would prefer 'equalism' to feminism--I think the op has missed the point a little.

It isn't that there is a codified structure or leader to the patriarchy. Society is patriarchal because by and large families still descend on the male line, males do dominate the society. You can make a new word to mean essentially the same thing, but changing it and arguing about terms is just a distraction from the actual work to be done imho.

Oh, blind auditions also increase the number of women playing in symphony orchestras:

http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/01/0212/7b.shtml
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Indon » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:08 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:Instead of placing the feminist movement, its stumbles and gains, within the context of a continuing narrative, it makes out that Men Were In Charge, feminism happened, but then Men Are Still In Charge.


But feminism hasn't 'happened'. It's happening. Men Are Still In Charge, precisely because the movement's objectives are still quite distant.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby athelas » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:50 pm UTC

So here's a question: Let's imagine that we create an society de novo, in which men and women were all given equal opportunities to pursue whatever lifestyle they pleased, but due to innate preference, biological necessity (having kids), or what have you, not every profession is equally populated by men and women. Let's further say that some of the male-dominated professions happen to be traditionally positions of influence - politics, engineering - although women dominate other traditionally male fields with significant influence - say, medicine. Given that everyone chooses their life path freely, without the space for any cultural determinism arguments, is this society patriarchal?

In other words, is this particular feminist theory able to accept that there may be any innate differences between the sexes in preference and ability? Or is it predicated on a radical blank-slate orthodoxy in which all group differences must be the result of oppression, conscious or unconscious? Because if it is, it is a very fragile philosophy indeed, founded on a philosophical ideal rather than empirical observation or a serious doctrine or rights, and will crumble at the first shred of proof of innate differences between the sexes.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:03 pm UTC

Considering that the topic isn't "Let's make hypothetical worlds where we can strawman our way out of admitting that modern society is currently male dominated because it was enforced to be male dominated until the first few cracks started appearing 100 years ago. And hey while we're at it, perhaps we can reason ourselves out of having to go to the effort to fix an obvious discrepancy!" I don't see the relevance.

Women couldn't vote until, well let's just call it sometime between 1915 and 1950 in the first world countries. At that point in time, there isn't any legitimate argument claiming that society wasn't patriarchal. So the question might only become "Is it significantly different now?"

Yes, it is significantly different. But it's still lead by men. Ignoring construction workers, everyone's seemingly favorite stereotyped cultural group, the leadership positions are still undeniably dominated by men. And until the numbers either a) even out and then shift back towards a majority of men or b) plateau at some level of female involvement indicating a steady-state system, claims that the current balance is due to ability -- not thousands of years of historical oppression and exclusion -- are poorly justified.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby athelas » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:10 pm UTC

My example is not about imagining worlds, but rather about getting to the bottom of this ill-defined idea of "patriarchy". If this theory is based on blank-slate fundamentalism and is too weak to work in a world where there are innate differences between the sexes, then it is pretty near useless except as abstract philosophy, and we better be looking for a better way to locate, quantify, and eliminate sex-based discrimination.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:25 pm UTC

Is the terminology perfect? No, semantics can ruin just about any categorization. In 50 years, maybe it won't still hold up.

But currently, it is still apt. Society hasn't moved far enough out of the forced marginalization of women to be discussing whether or not we've hit a ratio as determined by ability in leadership positions. I've indicated what I believe would be the statistical indicators of a society that has reached that point.

Having to address (rather than longingly muse about) where that line might be is certainly going to be one of the milestones in reaching a post-patriarchal society. At which point, the existence of a patriarchy can be said to no longer exist.

The answer to "Well, how applicable is Philosophy X when dealing with societal conditions completely antithetical to those that Philosophy X addresses?" should be completely clear -- "Poorly". And that answer should not be used to suggest that Philosophy X is not valid under the societal conditions inherent when it was originated.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby athelas » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:53 pm UTC

Hey Azrael, I appreciate your use of null hypotheses as indicators of when the feminist movement had achieved its goals, and also appreciate the fact that these goalposts are not "complete numerical equality." This is already a significant step up from the mindless but distressingly common feminist arguments, and settles the bulk of my objections.

However, I still must quibble with your criteria. Political institutions, which are perfectly good at maintaining systematic discrimination one way (slavery, to pick an extreme example) are equally good at applying pressure the other way, using equality dogma to push feminism way past the equilibrium. This is particularly important in fields, such as bureaucracies and hidebound management, in which there is no easy way to quantify performance and inefficiencies are not very costly.

Now I am not denying that discrimination against women continues to exist; it certainly does. But the patchwork of society contains both bubbles of antiquated tradition and feminist echo-chambers, and it's easily possible for discrimination to operate in both directions in different parts of society. Thus, rather than talking about a monolithic "patriarchy," even with enlightened criteria as those that Azrael sets, I favor an approach focused on finding particular cases on injustices, rather than using a set of criteria to determine when this "patriarchy" has ended. There is no unitary "society" that is becoming gradually less sexist; rather, there are a multitude of people and institutions, and averaging things out into broad statistics will artificially smooth out the pockets of discrimination that are what we really need to worry about.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Rinsaikeru » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:28 pm UTC

Until such point as we hit even shooting distance from equality--I don't think you have to worry about the matriarchy taking over. In case you were worried. :roll:

Do you have a creditable example of equitable hiring practices leading to even 50:50 distribution of women in a workplace? If so, any proof that this is at all a detriment to said workplace?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:52 pm UTC

athelas wrote:... using equality dogma to push feminism way past the equilibrium. This is particularly important in fields, such as bureaucracies and hidebound management, in which there is no easy way to quantify performance and inefficiencies are not very costly.
I don't think there are good examples of that happening, yet. And when it does, the equilibrium point is obvious (population ratio) and should be addressed when and if the failure occurs. Using reasonable caution to prevent misuse is wise and necessary, but advocating excessive caution as a way to derail progress is not.

athelas wrote:There is no unitary "society" that is becoming gradually less sexist; rather, there are a multitude of people and institutions, and averaging things out into broad statistics will artificially smooth out the pockets of discrimination that are what we really need to worry about.
At this level, I think the matter is more or less personal choice depending partially on how an individual views society -- whether they think there is a cohesive unit or not.

Personally, I think there is. But I'd also rather paint sexism with a broad bush, perhaps coloring a few who aren't rather than give a pass to the borderline cases. The first step in solving a problem is realizing the size and character of your part of it. If it takes someone to stomp on your toes for you to notice which side of a line you're on, so be it.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:28 pm UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:Until such point as we hit even shooting distance from equality--I don't think you have to worry about the matriarchy taking over. In case you were worried. :roll:

That's not the worry. The worry is that in trying to dismantle the patriarchy, we'll also dismantle the factories, forgetting that inequality is not necessarily the same thing as inequity.

Azrael wrote:I don't think there are good examples of that happening, yet. And when it does, the equilibrium point is obvious (population ratio) and should be addressed when and if the failure occurs. Using reasonable caution to prevent misuse is wise and necessary, but advocating excessive caution as a way to derail progress is not.

Is this necessarily true? If you assume it to be and it's not, you'll overreach (or fail to reach far enough) to everyone's detriment. There's such a thing as comparative advantage.

I also don't like assuming that when patrioclasm (er, iconoclasm, but for patriarchy) has gone far enough, it'll be obvious. It's easy to say that, now. It's like something Carroll might have written: we needn't worry that the world's gone mad, for if it had, we'd surely know.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby ManaUser » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:41 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
athelas wrote:There is no unitary "society" that is becoming gradually less sexist; rather, there are a multitude of people and institutions, and averaging things out into broad statistics will artificially smooth out the pockets of discrimination that are what we really need to worry about.
At this level, I think the matter is more or less personal choice depending partially on how an individual views society -- whether they think there is a cohesive unit or not.

Personally, I think there is. But I'd also rather paint sexism with a broad bush, perhaps coloring a few who aren't rather than give a pass to the borderline cases. The first step in solving a problem is realizing the size and character of your part of it. If it takes someone to stomp on your toes for you to notice which side of a line you're on, so be it.

The trouble with looking at it that way IMHO is that if you only take into account the total amount of "power", or whatever you want to call it that each sex has, then by the time it's equal* it may well be the case that both man and woman are discriminated against badly in different different aspects of life. That's very poor kind of equality if you ask me.

And if you stomp on my toes I'm more likely to stomp back than become enlightened. That's why I'd rather stomp out discrimination than toes.

*No I don't think we're there yet, though I have no idea how one would even calculate this.

EDIT: Here's an interesting example of how looking at the big picture can be misleading.

One of the best known real life examples of Simpson's paradox occurred when the University of California, Berkeley was sued for bias against women applying to graduate school. The admission figures for fall 1973 showed that men applying were more likely than women to be admitted, and the difference was so large that it was unlikely to be due to chance.

However when examining the individual departments, it was found that no department was significantly biased against women; in fact, most departments had a small bias against men. [Judging by the table, I'd say each department had a small "bias" towards equality.]

The explanation turned out to be that women tended to apply to competitive departments with low rates of admission even among qualified applicants (such as English), while men tended to apply to less-competitive departments with high rates of admission among qualified applicants (such as engineering).
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:14 pm UTC

athelas wrote:So here's a question: Let's imagine that we create an society de novo, in which men and women were all given equal opportunities to pursue whatever lifestyle they pleased, but due to innate preference, biological necessity (having kids), or what have you, not every profession is equally populated by men and women.


Point of order: a society that penalizes and limits due to the "necessity" of having kids is not an equal society. Please return to start.

This is already a significant step up from the mindless but distressingly common feminist arguments, and settles the bulk of my objections.


Secondary point: your failure to adequately understand does not constitute mindlessness on the part of the other party.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:45 pm UTC

Silas wrote:
Azrael wrote:I don't think there are good examples of that happening, yet. And when it does, the equilibrium point is obvious (population ratio) and should be addressed when and if the failure occurs. Using reasonable caution to prevent misuse is wise and necessary, but advocating excessive caution as a way to derail progress is not.

Is this necessarily true? If you assume it to be and it's not, you'll overreach (or fail to reach far enough) to everyone's detriment. There's such a thing as comparative advantage.

No, it's not necessarily true -- although when coupled with my earlier statement about participation reaching a statistical plateau, the only unaccounted for result would be a situation where women are currently under-represented but the maximum efficiency would be with them being over-represented.

If our biggest concern is that the efforts for greater equality for women is what gets in the way of moving past mere gender equality and reaching a female-positive maximum efficiency, then shit, we can rethink the policy at that point.

Again, arguing that the policy one day might no longer be effective (under circumstances antithetical to those present at it's inception) should not invalidate the attempt at the present time, under the existing conditions.

ManaUser wrote:The trouble with looking at it that way IMHO is that if you only take into account the total amount of "power", or whatever you want to call it that each sex has, then by the time it's equal* it may well be the case that both man and woman are discriminated against badly in different different aspects of life. That's very poor kind of equality if you ask me.

This is the typical argument against trying to fix a difficult social problem -- "It might go too far!"

It might not go too far, too. And things would get better in between. But, by trying with a rational approach, instead of extremism or outright stubbornness, you reduce the likelihood of unintended negative consequence. Pure numerical equality in every micro-group, no matter how small, is blatantly and obviously in-optimal. No one is arguing that such extremist ... accounting ... is what "equality" is.

"Oh me yarm, we could fuck up!" is not a reason not to try. Because things are already demonstrably fucked up.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby ManaUser » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:53 am UTC

Azrael wrote:
ManaUser wrote:The trouble with looking at it that way IMHO is that if you only take into account the total amount of "power", or whatever you want to call it that each sex has, then by the time it's equal* it may well be the case that both man and woman are discriminated against badly in different different aspects of life. That's very poor kind of equality if you ask me.

This is the typical argument against trying to fix a difficult social problem -- "It might go too far!"

You misunderstand. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying it will certainly go too far, or fail. The broad stroke method cannot succeed without going to far.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:57 am UTC

Azrael wrote:Again, arguing that the policy one day might no longer be effective (under circumstances antithetical to those present at it's inception) should not invalidate the attempt at the present time, under the existing conditions.

All I'm saying here is that the existence of even a hypothetical scenario where your policy would be a bad one is an indication that it is at best shorthand for what you ought to be doing.

The specific implication to the matter at hand is that the claim, "this institution's apparent preference for men over women is justified, because empirical realities cause more men than women to be suitable candidates" is valid-if-true. Which is something that I've heard denied, again and again, by people who talk about patriarchy.

Where you put the burden of proof is the crux, there. It makes perfect sense to me that, on discovering a widespread pattern of unjustifiable bias, we should presume that it exists in as-yet-unexamined cases.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Azrael » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:09 am UTC

Silas wrote:
Azrael wrote:Again, arguing that the policy one day might no longer be effective (under circumstances antithetical to those present at it's inception) should not invalidate the attempt at the present time, under the existing conditions.

All I'm saying here is that the existence of even a hypothetical scenario where your policy would be a bad one is an indication that it is at best shorthand for what you ought to be doing.

There is so perfect policy. Holding out for one is tantamount to doing nothing for the fear of not getting it perfectly correct. Furthermore, as society progresses, social policies will become obsolete practically by definition. So, sure. We could do nothing, because no action will be permanently effective or continually appropriate. Or we could adopt a policy that addresses the current situation, noting that the current situation is fluid, and change it as necessary.

ManaUser wrote:You misunderstand. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying it will certainly go too far, or fail. The broad stroke method cannot succeed without going to far.

You misunderstand what I said. I'd rather call you a sexist and risk being wrong rather than avoid the conflict entirely. But ... who cares what I think about 'you'? And who's surprised?

However, I'm very specifically saying, over and over again, that broad-stroke, completely numerical balancing that you take issue with is not the goal.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Indon » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:30 am UTC

Azrael wrote:Women couldn't vote until, well let's just call it sometime between 1915 and 1950 in the first world countries. At that point in time, there isn't any legitimate argument claiming that society wasn't patriarchal.


I would further posit that any argument against feminism that can be applied to pre-suffrage times is invalid, proven wrong by contradiction.

So.

Let's imagine a world where men and women are equal. Due to biological differences, women have no political interest, so they end up not voting.

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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby roc314 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:51 am UTC

Silas wrote:The specific implication to the matter at hand is that the claim, "this institution's apparent preference for men over women is justified, because empirical realities cause more men than women to be suitable candidates" is valid-if-true. Which is something that I've heard denied, again and again, by people who talk about patriarchy.
I think my last post addressed a lot of this. Besides the fact that your claim is baseless, there is no imperical evidence that it is true (and using a hypothetical situation with absolutely no connection to reality as the basis for your problem with an idea focused on modern reality means nothing; show how it connects to us today, or it's irrelevent to the discussion, as we don't live in your hypothetical world), what do you mean by justified? It would have to be justified despite the fact that the segregation would lead to discrimination. It would have to be justified despite the fact that it would lead to an unequal society. Depending on your definition of justified, your hypothetical statement might be valid, but, personally, I don't think it is.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:53 am UTC

Indon wrote:So.

Let's imagine a world where men and women are equal. Due to biological differences, women have no political interest, so they end up not voting.

As a great chef once said, 'Bam'.

I know you're not really serious, but that falls apart if someone can show that no world exists where men and women are equal, but women have no political interest. In my (apparently unwelcome) exposition, I at least was careful to ask, 'such a combination of facts could exist, right?' I still don't see an obvious reason why one couldn't.

If you can go on to show that a world could exist where men and women are equal, but women have no political interest, then, yes, what you wrote would prove that the absence of women voters is not sufficient to show that men and women are not equal.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Indon » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:14 am UTC

Silas wrote:I know you're not really serious, but that falls apart if someone can show that no world exists where men and women are equal, but women have no political interest. In my (apparently unwelcome) exposition, I at least was careful to ask, 'such a combination of facts could exist, right?' I still don't see an obvious reason why one couldn't.

If you can go on to show that a world could exist where men and women are equal, but women have no political interest, then, yes, what you wrote would prove that the absence of women voters is not sufficient to show that men and women are not equal.


I wasn't so much commenting on anything you said, but instead, on what Athelas had said. His argument was silly, a rehash of the attribution error that discounts feminism as worthless because the ginormous power gap, etc, etc, is all 'biological' for some reason.

In fact, you could similarly use your argument against his - that no world exists where men and women are equal, but men just coincidentally nail all the good jobs and positions of power.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Malice » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:53 am UTC

Indon wrote:I wasn't so much commenting on anything you said, but instead, on what Athelas had said. His argument was silly, a rehash of the attribution error that discounts feminism as worthless because the ginormous power gap, etc, etc, is all 'biological' for some reason.


Isn't it possible that the power gap is partly biological in origin?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Silas » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:03 am UTC

roc314 wrote:Besides the fact that your claim is baseless, there is no empirical evidence that it is true, what do you mean by justified? It would have to be justified despite the fact that the segregation would lead to discrimination. It would have to be justified despite the fact that it would lead to an unequal society. Depending on your definition of justified, your hypothetical statement might be valid, but, personally, I don't think it is.

In the first place, it's a predicate claim: for any institution, X.... Saying there's no empirical evidence just doesn't compute, unless you specify an institution.

In the second, I didn't propose a segregation or discrimination (you're not using those words the way I do, so we may be miscommunicating). What I said was that if an institution (say, the financial staff of Goldman Sachs) can say, "look, we know that nearly all of our brokers are men, but the reason for that is that we get very few women coming in who do well in the monopoly-money trials, which we base our hiring on," then they've presented a valid refutation of charges that they're a bad company and they should feel bad.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby roc314 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:44 am UTC

Silas wrote:In the first place, it's a predicate claim: for any institution, X.... Saying there's no empirical evidence just doesn't compute, unless you specify an institution.
Right, but it's completely irrelevant to the current thread, as we don't have such an institution. Arguing that the patriarchy might not exist in some imaginary land--even if perfectly true--does not say anything about whether it exists in reality. Unless there's evidence that such a system exists, then you aren't talking about reality.

Also, X has A quality implies X has B quality does not imply that X exists or can exist (Unicorns have horns implies that unicorns have something sticking out of their heads may be true, but that doesn't mean that unicorns exist). You are assuming that an institution that is both fair and just and substantially slanted towards one sex can exist. There needs to be evidence that it exists or can exist or else we are talking about an impossiblity, which gets us nowhere.
In the second, I didn't propose a segregation or discrimination (you're not using those words the way I do, so we may be miscommunicating). What I said was that if an institution (say, the financial staff of Goldman Sachs) can say, "look, we know that nearly all of our brokers are men, but the reason for that is that we get very few women coming in who do well in the monopoly-money trials, which we base our hiring on," then they've presented a valid refutation of charges that they're a bad company and they should feel bad.
There's two different ways I can see what you mean "institution", so I'll address each:

1, if you are talking about society as a whole, not just one component (which is what I originally thought you were talking about, but am now not sure), then refer back to my older post about how such a society could not be justifiably equal or just.

2, if you are talking about individual institutions in society, then why are fewer women coming in who do well? If it is just the individual institution that is nonsexist, then the rest of society can still be sexist. So sexism within society but outside of that institution can effect how many women can excel in that financial staff. For example, a sexist education system that enforces the idea that women can't do well at banking, and so shouldn't even try would affect how many women succeed in Goldman Sachs, even though Goldman Sachs may be perfectly nondiscriminatory by itself.

Re discrimination and segregation: you didn't purposefully propose segregation and discrimination, but that is what what your proposed institution leads to. 80% of the staff is men, subconscious biases show up in hiring, since most of the people doing the hiring are men, they hire more men than women, soon the percentage of men has gone up some, over time this percentage increases even more. More and more discrimination against women comes to exist.

I was referring to de facto segregation, not de jure, so that might account for the misunderstanding on that term.
they've presented a valid refutation of charges that they're a bad company and they should feel bad.
I think that looking at cases of societal structures reinforcing the patriarchy to say that they are bad and should feel bad is the wrong way to come at things. The point shouldn't be to say that everyone involved is a bad person, but to show they are harmful and should be changed. Especially since it's society as a whole that pushes the sexist memes, not just any one group. Scapegoating the problem onto a few is not going to solve anything.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Malice » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:32 am UTC

roc314 wrote:2, if you are talking about individual institutions in society, then why are fewer women coming in who do well? If it is just the individual institution that is nonsexist, then the rest of society can still be sexist. So sexism within society but outside of that institution can effect how many women can excel in that financial staff. For example, a sexist education system that enforces the idea that women can't do well at banking, and so shouldn't even try would affect how many women succeed in Goldman Sachs, even though Goldman Sachs may be perfectly nondiscriminatory by itself.


Isn't it then an oversimplification to say "society is sexist/Patriarchal"? Shouldn't we be concentrating on combating specific examples of prejudice, not just inequality? If we look at Goldman Sachs and see inequality, but determine that their's no prejudice in their hiring practices, and go back to the inequality in the education system, and then find prejudice THERE, creating all the inequalities down the line... Isn't that the problem we should be fixing, instead of making general statements about a "society" that is only partially corrupted?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Rinsaikeru » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:26 pm UTC

Institutions, hiring practices, etc are symptomatic of a socialized system by which both men and women complicity support structures that privilege men (white men in particular).

I wouldn't say society is partially corrupted--I'd say society is nearly completely corrupted. You need to really think about it to even start seeing the bias you are raised with. There are countless tiny ways that women are made to feel less than in a patriarchy--only a few have been listed here.

And in answer to all of the "oh but what if it's natural" tripe--the answer is, we won't know until we've got equality, so why don't we try that out and see?
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:06 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Culture is plenty structured, it's just not legally enforced.
Just because it's not written down doesn't make it the purview of wind and ghosts.

Through a few of my posts I've been talking about culture, and never implied it was without substance. But structure is different to meaning.
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Isn't it possible that the power gap is partly biological in origin?


Agreed. I'll repeat: "gender (as opposed to sex) is dependent on cultural context." As a man with testicles intact, my body will be exposed to testosterone which will give me upper body strength in the short-mid term, and wreck my body in the long term. I am more likely to die of something involving my body collapsing on itself because I am male. This means, all things being equal, I would make a better brick-layer. Also, women have better sight than men. They would make better painters. These are biological differences, and there are also culturally-imposed differences: but the existence of the latter does not exclude the existence of the former, and vice versa. "Different but equal" is an understanding everyone should have in mind when we talk about males/females in society.

Rinsaikeru wrote:It isn't that there is a codified structure or leader to the patriarchy. Society is patriarchal because by and large families still descend on the male line, males do dominate the society. You can make a new word to mean essentially the same thing, but changing it and arguing about terms is just a distraction from the actual work to be done imho.


This is possibly the most convincing point I've found in the thread. Rinsaikeru, you're right about how families descend on the male line, and it is a practice that continues today and I'd forgotten about it. However, 'patriarchal' is an adjective, and 'patriarchy' is a noun. Something can be like a patriarchy, without being a patriarchy. I know I'm stretching here, and it's because I can't see a simple way to get around the surname/marriage thing (to contrast, I have a female friend that was a best 'man' at her male friend's wedding, and this is one of the most awesome things I've ever heard), but I still feel the existence of pro-male practises does not prove the existence of a patriarchy.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:23 pm UTC

Pez, you seem to be not so much arguing about the sociological realities as you are.....word usage? Prescriptivist vocabulary?

Patriarchy used to mean one thing.

It was coopted and expanded to mean something more useful.

Arguing that the current usage fails to cleave adequately to the old definition is both entirely true and entirely irrelevant.

Long live descriptivism.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Jessica » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:23 pm UTC

The difference between any two members of the same sex is larger than the difference between the average difference between the sexes.

In other words, men have more upper body strength on average than women, but that average difference is nothing compared to individual differences. In more other words, there are women who are much stronger than men, and really only in the outliers does the difference matter (strongest man competitions will never include women, because the strongest man is stronger than the strongest woman, but what does that matter to a construction worker who's mainly using tools to work, and their biology doesn't really matter).

Edit: Sorry, not really about patriarchy but about the "there are biological differences, so clearly men are better" argument
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:38 pm UTC

Jessica wrote: Sorry, not really about patriarchy but about the "there are biological differences, so clearly men are better" argument


I was saying "there are biological differences, so clearly men are different." I wasn't implying "better" in any grand sense, but better at some tasks. This isn't revolutionary. And, yes, this isn't really about the patriarchy: if the sexes were equally strong, physically, there would still be cultural domination.

Belial wrote:Pez, you seem to be not so much arguing about the sociological realities as you are.....word usage? Prescriptivist vocabulary?

Patriarchy used to mean one thing.

It was coopted and expanded to mean something more useful.

Arguing that the current usage fails to cleave adequately to the old definition is both entirely true and entirely irrelevant.

Long live descriptivism.


As I said, it might seem that I'm being pedantic: but patriarchy implies the existence of a heirarchical structure & implies a simplified way to beat sexism- and completely misses how gender interaction functions in the absence of laws that enforce male dominance.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:49 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:As I said, it might seem that I'm being pedantic: but patriarchy implies the existence of a heirarchical structure & implies a simplified way to beat sexism- and completely misses how gender interaction functions in the absence of laws that enforce male dominance.


Couple points. First: don't assume that there is no structure or that there aren't laws that enforce male dominance. There is, and there are, the former is just not codified, and the latter are just not overt or direct.

Second: everyone understands that there is no patriarchy in the sense you're imagining the word means. So when someone says "down with the patriarchy", a listener can, with that context, either assume that the speaker is a) delusional, or b) referring to something else either more figurative or more subtle or both.

The people who will assume (a) about an entire movement are condescending pricks who are lost causes anyway. The people who will assume (b) will either infer the meaning (even before my little feminist epiphany, I understood intuitively what feminists meant by "patriarchy", at least in vague terms) or will ask questions or reserve judgement.

So it still works.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Indon » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:37 pm UTC

Malice wrote:Isn't it possible that the power gap is partly biological in origin?


Oh, certainly.

Looking at rape statistics, it seems clear that rape as a phenomenon is endemic to human beings, and that rape has psychological impacts upon assertiveness and other traits associated with psychological dominance/submission (citations available upon request, 'cause I'm lazy and these are things that have been touched upon at some point in these forums before).

Combined with the purely biological difference between men and women that men are, on average, physically stronger than women, and you have a system in which men are, on average, more capable of rape and less likely to be raped - which probably leads to a more dominant position in a human-created social hierarchy.

That said, I think that's the cause of the majority of the power gap, and ultimately the majority of gender roles as well.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Belial » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:39 pm UTC

And honestly?

If biology gives men more (or better) seats at the table in our current system, that's just an indicator that we're using the wrong system.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby roc314 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:17 pm UTC

Malice wrote:Isn't it then an oversimplification to say "society is sexist/Patriarchal"? Shouldn't we be concentrating on combating specific examples of prejudice, not just inequality? If we look at Goldman Sachs and see inequality, but determine that their's no prejudice in their hiring practices, and go back to the inequality in the education system, and then find prejudice THERE, creating all the inequalities down the line... Isn't that the problem we should be fixing, instead of making general statements about a "society" that is only partially corrupted?
I might not have done a good enough job explaining this in my last post. Let me take another shot at it.

Even if an institution starts out unsexist by itself, but for whatever reason, forces from the outside lead to a result that is substantially favoring one group (for example, a bank employing 80% men), over time, it will come to be a cause of sexism, not just a result. Segregation begets inequality, especially if the rest of society is sexist. If the rest of society is pushing the idea that women aren't capable of banking, and Goldman Sachs is overwhelmingly staffed by men, then that idea will become part of Goldman Sachs. After all, if women were capable of banking, there would be more of them working there, but since they are only about 20% of the staff, they must be incompetent. Which means that any given male applicant is probably better than any given female applicant. We should hire the man, as he's probably better at banking than the the woman... (Also relevent is the societal meme that traditionally masculine pursuits are more valuable than traditionally feminine pursuits.)

Large inequality can be nonprejudiced, but only for short periods of time.
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Re: Existence of the Patriarchy

Postby Griffin » Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:43 pm UTC

First, I do think there is still a huge prejudice against women in our society. But I hate the word patriarchy and don't use it, because it implies the prejudices are only one way and of one type - there are equal and as powerful prejudices in the opposite direction, against men, and hundreds more prejudices that don't involve gender at all. We live in a society that expects genders to play certain roles and where like naturally prefers like, and while our roles have been expanding, they are still very clearly a factor. Patriarchy implies a society where men limit women, rather than society limiting men and women in different ways.

Of course, feminism still does a lot of good, because the limitations on women are not only a hell of a lot worse in most occassions, particularly in areas that would give women the ability to change things. Of course, we've also been making a hell of a lot of progress, and while things aren't good, they are better.

Patriarchy also seems to imply that simple numbers imply prejudice - that most football players are men because the system has something against women. Prejudice may exist (does exist), but while statistical evidence is evidence, its not proof. As an example: The computer science department at my school is mostly male. There is not, within this subsociety, and discrimination against women. In fact, they go out of their way to promote the field to women, are willing to take any woman even remotely interested, and there is no resistance I've ever seen against women, nor do those women in the field have a problem with such (and trust me, they are the type who would have let me know by now - we've talked about it). This doesn't change the fact that its 90% men. That alone does not make it a patriarchal system, or even a prejudiced system.

We're a prejudiced, bigoted society, with strong sexist historical propogation, where people prefer to associate with those like themselves, and those are all bad, bad things for society, but I don't think it can be considered a patriarchy, except referring to the fact that our leadership is mostly men, and even thats not quite fair because most of our men aren't our leaders. The tendencies outlined by roc above mean that all those factors are going to be difficult to fight, and we always need to be vigilant as to the effects of prejudice.
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