From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Dale Carrico:

"Patriarchy names in the first place those sociocultural systems in history in which authority and control over property, and especially the generational transmission of property -- and therefore authority -- from fathers to sons, requires that women be owned as property as well to ensure male control over female reproductive capacity.

Patriarchy names in the second place a whole system of norms and institutions that preferentially benefit men in respect to women, both to facilitate the control of women by men that is patriarchy in its primary sense, but also those norms and institutions that tend to arise as results, expressions, or symptoms of this ongoing control. It is crucial to grasp that vestiges of these norms and institutions will tend to linger on, denigrating and disabling women in respect to men, or denigrating and disabling that which is associated with what is construed as "femininity" in respect to what is construed as "masculinity," even in societies and cultures that have overcome some or even most of the violence and injustice represented by patriarchy in its primary sense.

Patriarchy names in the third place those discursive operations through which bodies and lifeways are imagined and attended to and so produced as "sexed" and "gendered" in ways that are only legibly taken up and valued and hierarchized by sociocultural formations that are patriarchal in the first and second senses above. It is crucial to grasp that patriarchal sex-gender vocabularies not only prepare and facilitate bodily experience and desire for the denigration and disablement of women in respect to men, and femininity in respect to masculinity, in patriarchy's second sense above, but that the patriarchal in its third sense generates possibilities as well for still-circumscribed resistances to these denigrations and disabilities, contingent valorizations, ambivalent celebrations of femininity and womanhood within patriarchy's sex-gender terms. It is no less crucial to grasp that patriarchal sex-gender vocabularies open the way for new denigrations and disabilities of bodies and lifeways than those highlighted by patriarchy's first and second senses as when, for example, an intersex body is surgically policed into conformity with a normative sexual dimorphism whatever injurious consequences may follow from this operation, or when a wanted transsexual lifeway premised on the pleasures of the transitional itself rather than on a primary aversion to the legibly sexed "pre-operative" body or an ideal identification with the legibly sexed "post-operative body" is pathologized, criminalized, or otherwise dehumanized. In these cases the patriarchal assignment of facts and values functions not so much to denigrate women in respect to men, or femininity in respect to masculinity, so-called, but to denigrate and disable any body, experience, desire, or lifeway that is not legibly male or female, legibly masculine or feminine, or legibly reprosexual, beyond but still in service to the damage the patriarchal goes on to do to the bodies, experiences, desires, and lifeways that are legible in its terms according to patriarchy's first and second senses." (


Nina Power on why Patriarchy currently is a myth

"There is something ironic in attributing our social ills to an excess of paternal authority. According to the US Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children live without a father of any kind (biological, step, or adoptive), a situation the National Fatherhood Initiative suggests is a factor in “nearly all social ills.” Fathers, where they are depicted in mainstream culture, veer between inept and pathetic at one end, unable to solve basic household tasks, and, at the other, violent, alcoholic, and abusive, consumed by impotent rage, railing against the universe and harming women and children.

Despite claims to the contrary, we do not live in a patriarchy. A patriarchy would require men taking responsibility for their families and for society at large. Instead, we live in an infantilized culture in which men and women are more like brother and sister, contending against each other in a condition of perverse equality. Two crucial texts for understanding this predicament are Alexander Mitscherlich's 1963 book, Society Without the Father, and Juliet Flower MacCannell’s The Regime of the Brother: After the Patriarchy, from 1991."


A Critique of the Intersectional Theory of Patriarchy

Patrick Anderson:

"The interesting thing is that this theory of patriarchy, this idea that all men have power over all women, was invented by white women in the 1950s to claim that they were just as oppressed as Black men in a society run by white supremacy. In books and essays including Alva Myrdal’s “A Parallel to the Negro Problem” (1944), Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949), and Helen Hacker’s “Women as a Minority Group” (1955), white women scholars observed the conditions of Black men under western colonialism and racism and said: white women should think of themselves as a similarly oppressed group. Before the essays, white women were seen primarily as members of the dominant race, even by white women themselves. In fact, even white feminists saw themselves in this way, as historian Louise Michelle Newman demonstrates in her book White Women Rights. Yet in the 1950s, white women began to claim that they were oppressed in a manner analogous to Black men.

For the idea that “women” as such constituted an oppressed class subjected to “men” as such to become the dominant paradigm, feminists needed to discard the kinship theory of patriarchy.

Even into the 1970s and 1980s, feminist anthropologists and sociologists adopted the classical social science view that patriarchy had a familial and generational aspect to it. However, while this kinship view was compatible with the earlier theories that saw white women as part of the dominant racial group, it was incompatible with the idea that women constitute a singular coherent class of oppressed people. Why? Because if patriarchy depends on family relations, and Black people (especially Black men) are prohibited from joining the family relations of whites, then Black men cannot be members of a generally patriarchal class of “men.” The paradigm text where this argument is made is Sylvia Walby’s Theorizing Patriarchy (1990), which was published in the very same intellectual milieu and shared the same assumptions as MacKinnon’s male dominance theory.

As Curry summarizes, “the white woman used the body and experience of the Negro, specifically the Black man, as the template by which she created the idea that she was in fact a minority group despite the power and violence she imparted on racial and ethnic groups such as Blacks and Jews.” Curry adds that “the definition of patriarchy that emerged from these debates were driven by the need white feminists had in constructing themselves as a class external to—and victimized by—white patriarchy. The feminist definition of patriarchy was constructed to protect feminist ideology, not to explain the oppression of various groups throughout history.”

Thus, Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality relies on a paradigm of feminist ideology that constructed by white women to minimize attention to their racial power and amplify attention to their sexual vulnerability. And to construct this view of patriarchy, they had to throw out decades of social scientific scholarship even though there was no empirical evidence that debunked that former scholarship.

As if this were not enough to question intersectionality, there are more problems with Crenshaw’s formulation of this now-popular theory. Like MacKinnon, Crenshaw argued that when power is based on biological sex, the sex in power—males—use sexual violence as a means of social control. To put it in no uncertain terms, men rape women as a means of perpetuating their control over women.

In her 1991 essay, Crenshaw states that “the use of rape to legitimize efforts to control and discipline the Black community is well established in historical literature on rape and race.” Though she claims this fact is well established, she cites only Joyce Williams and Karen Holmes’ 1981 work The Second Assault: Rape and Public Attitudes. As with MacKinnon’s theory of patriarchy, however, we can trace the history of Williams and Holmes’ work back to fundamentally racist origins.

In their 1967 book The Subculture of Violence, Martin Wolfgang and Franco Ferracuti introduced the “subculture of violence” theory, which argues that subordinated groups, such as Black people in Amerika, had a distinct culture separate from mainstream white culture, and that this Black subculture was the cause of Black men and women’s supposed pathologically self-destructive behavior. Anyone familiar with right wing politics in the United States today should find this argument familiar, for the subculture of violence theory is the basis for all right-wing apologetics regarding police murders of Black people (“They are killing each other” etc.).

In 1971, Wolfgang’s student Menachem Amir expanded the subculture of violence theory in his book Patterns of Forcible Rape. According to Amir, Black men become rapists because “Negro culture” was pathological and the Black family structure was improper. Because Black fathers were absent, because Black mothers were unfit parents, and because Black culture prioritized sensual pleasures over civilized ones, Amir claimed that Black men developed a psychological need to overcompensate for their feminized self-image. Thus, they became rapists. If this also sounds like a contemporary right wing racist view, it’s because it is.

“White feminists adopted Amir’s view of Black masculinity throughout their texts,” Curry explains. In Against Our Will (1975), Susan Brownmiller insisted that “The single most important contribution of Amir's Philadelphia study was to place the rapist squarely within the subculture of violence.” This book is considered a classic and still-relevant feminist text today.

Interestingly, Amir rejected the 19th and early 20th century view that Black men primarily raped white women. Yet he replaced that view with a new theory which claimed that Black men primarily raped Black women. This transition from view Black men as inter-racial rapists to viewing them as intra-racial rapists is a key development in this racist history. Yet one more transformation in this feminist ideology was necessary.

In the mid-1970s, Lynn Curtis published several works, including the book Violence, Rape, and Culture, transforming the subculture of violence theory into a theory of Black male pathology. Unlike Amir, who argued that Black male rapists were the product of the savagery of Black culture, Curtis argued that Black male’s became rapists because in their quest for masculinity, the emulated white male patriarchy and the sexual violence such patriarchy relies upon. Unlike Amir’s theory, in which Black women play a role in transmitting the supposedly deficient values of Black culture, Curtis’ theory positions Black women as neutral or innocent bystanders to the brutality of pathological Black males trying desperately to join the patriarchy they have been excluded from. On this view, white male patriarchy is more sophisticated and Black male attempts at patriarchy are more savage—but they are fundamentally the same.

When Williams and Holmes wrote The Second Assault, they cited the work of Curtis and developed it further. In their own articulation, Williams and Holmes states that Black men became rapists not because Black culture is savage but because Black men imitate the patterns of white male patriarchy. The supposed sameness of Black males and white males (a male body) was thought to be the grounds for such imitative behavior, and the supposed sameness of Black women and white women (a female body) was thought to be the grounds for their respective vulnerability to sexual violence. Interestingly, The Second Assault was poorly received by scholars, with one reviewer noting that the quantitative data presented in the book did not support—nay, contradicted!—the conclusions presented.

Thus, when Crenshaw cites Williams and Holmes to claim that “the use of rape to legitimize efforts to control and discipline the Black community is well established in historical literature on rape and race,” she is relying on a book that not only emerges directly out of white supremacist theories of Black life (perpetuating the myth the Black male rapist in a new form) but a book that presents conclusions in contradiction with its evidence.

Again, Crenshaw’s “gender” analysis is not revolutionary, nor progressive—it is barley liberal. It is based in racist scholarship that was motivated by the political needs of elite white women rather than historical and sociological evidence. And it is only a few degrees away from the racist bile spewed by contemporary anti-Black right-wing pundits.

The racist, colonialist mentality embedded in Crenshaw’s intersectionality should not surprise us. Remember what she said in 1988: People can demand change only in ways that reflect the logic of the institutions they are challenging. Because intersectionality was created to make change within racist and colonialist institutions, it is only fitting that intersectionality reflect that racist and colonialist logic. This is where idealist versions of CRT take us."