The Thinking 

Patriarchy and Nature

September 27, 2012


AT The Orthosphere, Kristor has two thoughtful and interesting posts, here and here, on the natural foundations of patriarchy. He argues that all societies are irrevocably patriarchal, including the feminist society:

Feminism is a movement among men, to indulge women with more authority in the determination of public life. Men allowed feminism; they may disallow it whenever they see fit. Who would stop them, other than men? So even feminism is an operation of patriarchy. This alone does not make feminism either wrong or right. It is, rather, a mere fact about the conditions under which alone feminism can exist. You can’t pass a law to make men less powerful in society that will make them actually less powerful than in fact they are, any more than you can make π = 3 by fiat. At most, such legislation can get men to pretend that the confabulations they propose are veridical.

In the second essay, he continues;

Thus it is the power of the male that is the fount and foundation of social order; for it is men who grant power to all beings less naturally lethal than they, so that in the final analysis it is always men who determine and underwrite the form of social relations (even if only by their formal abdication from such determinations).


Patriarchy, then, is just a fact of nature, like the greater gravitational force exerted by the sun than by the moon. We can pretend that the moon is more important or powerful than the sun, but that does not change their relative influence upon the concrete history of the universe outside the realm of our pretenses. Where we get into big trouble is when we begin to take our fancies about the sun and moon more seriously than the concrete sun and moon.

As a fact of nature, patriarchy always operates, and will do so until the species is genetically altered to the point where men are no longer recognizable as such (at which point, women will no longer be recognizable, either, and feminism will have become obsolete together with the patriarchy upon which it supervenes, and feeds). When it comes to the relations of the sexes, everything else is froth on the surface of the river.

By virtue of their competitiveness and innate abilities, men will always dominate and occupy the leadership positions of any society. (They will also disproportionately occupy the lowest positions.) However, men do not collectively use this innate power against women so much as they use it against each other. Laws and customs that constrain the movements or political rights of women are ultimately intended to mediate male competition for women. The primary purpose of the burka, for instance, is to prevent some men from taking the women of others. (That is not to say that Islam does not subjugate women. It does.) Polygamy, to give another example, allows some men to monopolize women.

To say that any given society is patriarchal is not to say that it grants ordinary men authority over women, as Kristor points out. Many of the historic privileges of men, such as the right to claim a wife’s property and the right to vote, were not the collective use of power by men against women but the protection of the ordinary man’s rights in light of his obligations. The more obligations to women the ordinary man has, the more rights or authority he is owed.

Feminism denies the ordinary man both his rights and obligations. Sexual freedom makes women especially available to men with natural competitive advantages. Thus a 53-year-old wealthy, unmarried businessman I know of sleeps with several different women every week. In an earlier age, these women he meets in toney singles bars would have been home with their more ordinary husbands.  A poor, divorced 53-year-old and the 22-year-old man who wants to marry has few women breaking down his doors.

Feminism takes away the ordinary man’s housewife and provides her daily labor to other men. While the ordinary man is seemingly compensated for this loss with his wife’s salary and his wife’s determination to perform two jobs at once, he still loses valuable labor that would have gone to rearing his children and providing him with daily happiness.

Feminism is patriarchal. Its underlying preoccupation is not in empowering women, who possess innate strengths that counterbalance those of men, but in facilitating the domination of some men over others. Thus to say men may “disallow” feminism whenever they see fit is more complicated than it appears. Many men are powerless to do much to dismantle feminism.


—— Comments —-

Terry Morris writes:

Hmm. I’ve never thought of it quite like that before. But when you think about it it makes a lot of sense. Kristor is a great essayist; a great thinker. Modern America could use a lot more of him.

 For some reason these essays put me in mind of the group of Republican Congressional Leadership in their 2008 post-election press conference in which they were happy, chipper, excited at having lost so many congressional seats and the Presidency. As I recall they were happy because all of the blame for our economic and political failures could then be laid at the feet of the Democrats now in power. In essence they didn’t want the responsibility for the mess they’d helped tocreate.

 I suppose that the reason I was reminded of that episode is that there might be a connection between the two. As in perhaps the reason men abdicate their leadership responsibilities in a given age is because it frees them of the responsibilities attached to their performances. Or so they think. But as Kristor would certainly argue, it isn’t their ultimate responsibility they’ve done away with by allowing female rulership. If anything this makes them even more responsible. And this would apply right down to the individual level.

Jesse Powell writes:

What Kristor and Laura say above is very true. All societies are patriarchal in the sense that they are all based on “rule by men.” The intrinsic dominance of men will always exist regardless precisely because the dominance of men is intrinsic to the nature of men; it is not the result of political choices. In this sense to say a society is “patriarchal” is true but not very relevant as all societies are patriarchal.

In common usage “patriarchy” means a particular social system as practiced 100 or 150 years ago where broad authority is given to men and where the man’s duty to provide for the woman is very strong. Furthermore under Christian patriarchy it should be kept in mind that all men are meant to serve God and that each individual man owed a duty of obedience to the male collective.

Patriarchy has never meant the right of men to “do their own thing.” I support patriarchy in terms of this common meaning of what patriarchy is understood to mean. Patriarchy in the other sense of “rule by men” is simply a fact regardless of what I think about it.

There is a fundamental imbalance or “inequality” in the relationship between the sexes, namely that men provide for women and not the other way around. Resources go in only one direction; from the man to the woman. I think this is the root cause of the power imbalance between men and women. Men invest in women; women do not invest in men (in the material sense). What this means is that the man has to protect his investment in the woman, the man has to make sure his investment in the woman is used for the purposes he intended his investment to be used for. This is the basis for the man’s need to control his overall relationship with the woman. The woman has no corresponding need to control the behavior of the man since she is not investing in the man anyways.

 It may not be the best analogy but think of the relationship between the employer and the employee. The employer tells the employee what to do. In addition the employer pays the employee money. Authority goes in only one direction, from the employer to the employee. Money also goes in this same direction. What would happen if the employer and the employee were “equal,” if the employee could chose for himself whether to do what his boss told him? The employee would be fired of course since his boss cannot afford to pay him money if he will not perform the work tasks necessary for the business. It is a complete waste of money for a business to employ people who may or may not perform the work required of the job depending on whether or not the employee felt like working that day. The point is the employer needs to control the employee because the employer is making an investment into the employee by paying the employee money. It is the same way between men and women. Men invest materially in women, not the other way around. The man needs to control his relationship with the woman so that the man’s investment in the woman will not be wasted.

If men and women are “equal” in marriage this automatically lessens the man’s investment in the marriage since his investment is no longer secure and is vulnerable to abuse. Men withdrawing investment from women then leads to women withdrawing their investment in children which in turn leads to the overall breakdown of society. However, it is the men withdrawing investment from women part of this process that explains the otherwise puzzling phenomenon of men supporting feminism. Men support feminism to legitimize and facilitate their abandonment of their responsibilities towards women.

Laura writes:

In all due respect, I think the employer/employee relationship is a very poor analogy. Together the man and his wife provide a different kind of investment in the next generation. However, I agree that the man’s authority extends partly from his role as the material provider. It also is a reflection of his natural role as father and from his innate qualities as a man.

Kristor writes:

Laura wrote: “[Feminism’s] underlying preoccupation is … in facilitating the domination of some men over others. Thus to say men may “disallow” feminism whenever they see fit is more complicated than it appears. Many men are powerless to do much to dismantle feminism.”

Right. As I said, the only thing that could prevent men from dismantling feminism is other men.

Jane writes:

Female sexual liberation has created entire industries that primarily benefit elite males, women not so much.

One example of this is rock music, which is dominated by men who wear makeup and gyrate onstage. Their marketability depends entirely on their sex appeal and has practically nothing to do with their music, which mostly sounds awful. Their song lyrics are usually extremely dismissive and contemptuous of women. They have access to entire harems of female fans an Ottoman sultan might have envied.

Another example is porn, another billion-dollar industry dominated by elite males. These guys have found a way to make a profit from women behaving lewdly; a woman’s career in porn is going to be very brief, no matter what, before she probably winds up living in a trailer park somewhere. I don’t know of a single story about a woman who started out a porn star and then transitioned into a successful career doing something else.

Laura writes:

Yes, but I don’t think of porn stars as victims.

Mr. Powell writes:

To explain things more thoroughly; I am not saying the man’s material support is the only basis of male authority; I am saying it is most likely the original foundation of male authority. I am approaching my argument from an evolutionary point of view. First men need to have authority to protect their investment in women (investing in women being the means through which men invest in children). Then men develop characteristics making them well suited for their leadership role. Finally the man’s authority becomes based on the combination of his role (materially providing for women) and based on his innate characteristics as a man.

I am not meaning to downplay the women’s role in a marriage. The man invests in the woman and then the man’s investment in the woman enables the women to invest in her and the man’s children. Both men and women invest in children but the man does so part way indirectly by investing in the woman first who then using the man’s resources is freed up to more directly invest in the children herself. Still when looking at the relationship between the man and the woman directly it can be seen that the man is the provider of material resources while the woman is the receiver.

This then leads to my employer / employee analogy. There are many differences between man and wife and employer and employee but in both relationships there is the overriding purpose (in one case the family and in the other case the business), there is the person who plays the role of overall leader (in one case the husband and in the other case the employer), the person who is the leader provides for the material support (in one case the husband’s salary to support the family and in the other case the wage paid to the employee) and in both cases the “enterprise” will fail if the link between material support and authority is broken.

Laura writes:

Yes, that’s true.

Jane S. writes:

I wouldn’t suggest that female porn stars are victims. But I would say definitely that the porn industry has created a class of elite males.

I once worked for a company that serviced public relations clients representing famous people, politicians, celebrities, and public figures. We had frequent requests to research the Howard Stern show to see if he had mentioned the name of one of our clients. Apparently if you’re a famous person, being name-checked by Howard Stern is serious business. As a result, I heard more, much more of the Howard Stern show than I ever wanted to (which is not at all).

I never cease to be amazed at the respect and deference shown to this man. He styles himself a rebel and a revolutionary, bravely challenging the sexually repressive status quo. He uses the Marxist raised fist for his logo. How does he get away with it? The man has summer home in the Hamptons. He has a supermodel trophy wife. He has a personal stylist. He has the kind of money fat old men in oil paintings used to have. He is an elite by any society’s standards, anywhere in the world, at any point in time.

I read somewhere once that he saw Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams dining in a New York restaurant and went up to their table to say hello. They ignored him. Howard Stern is not a good sport about being snubbed, and he went on air and complained. Heath and Michelle immediately issued a profound apology: We’re very sorry, Mr. Stern, it wasn’t on purpose, we didn’t see you. Then just to make sure everything was smoothed over, they appeared on his show.

This man has such power and influence, no one disses him, and he got where he is by posing as anti-establishment. I repeat, how do these guys get away with it? Meanwhile, an ordinary guy who makes an off-color joke or sexual innuendo in the workplace faces severe punishment.

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