A Discussion On Patriarchy, Oppression And Feminism

A Discussion On Patriarchy, Oppression And Feminism

Analyzing patriarchy through Rita Gross, Bell Hooks and Deniz Kandiyoti.
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Patriarchy, by definition, refers to “a social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favor men and withhold opportunity from women.”

This interpretation suggests that men are more socially privileged than women, which directly limits female opportunities. While accurate in particular contexts, this is certainly not the only or even the most accurate meaning of patriarchy.

In fact, if we define patriarchy literally (as Rita Gross does in her work "Feminism and Religion") it comes to mean “rule by fathers.” Gross furthers her argument, telling us, “Men monopolize or dominate all the roles and pursuits that society most values and rewards…furthermore, men literally ruled over women, setting the rules and limits by which and within they were expected to operate. Women who did not conform, and many who did, could be subjected to another form of male dominance — physical violence.”

This portrayal of patriarchy is perhaps amongst the more prevalent representations that arise when we think of the word. However common, this does not mean it goes without being problematic. Men having power over women (ruling over women, to be exact) suggests that in all “patriarchal societies” everywhere, all men dominate all women all the time. All women can be subjected to violence at the hands of men. While we could choose to remain ignorant and accept this depiction, it’s simply not fully accurate. Patriarchy is by no means “black and white” — it has layers, and these layers must be acknowledged.

When we discuss patriarchy, we cannot solely consider our current time period, social class, economic system, culture or political structure. Patriarchy bears different meanings for different people — for example, while patriarchy may take the form of only male presidents in American culture and politics, it can also take the form of subordination of young brides in Islamic culture (as detailed by Deniz Kandiyoti in her work “Islam and Patriarchy: A Comparative Perspective.”) Kandiyoti discusses the life cycle of women in Islamic culture, describing the hardships that they face as young brides and the eventual power they hold as matriarchs over their sons and daughters-in-law. She states, “The cyclical nature of women’s power and their anticipation of inheriting the authority of senior women encourages a through internalization of this form of patriarchy by the women themselves.”

In essence, this suggests that women are more willing to endure whatever painstaking oppression that they must as young brides in expectation of the power they’ll hold as elder matriarchs. Kandiyoti’s example is a clear representation of why the term “patriarchy” itself is problematic in nature; here specifically, we’re introduced to a side of “patriarchy” where it isn’t men that are holding power over women, but rather older women who are enforcing power over younger women. These women actually look forward to getting older in order to assert their dominance in the role they fill. They anticipate the day when they’ll be able to oppress other women. Some may believe that women deserve this power since it puts them on an equal playing field as men, giving them power over women. However, the problem here is not that men have power over women, it’s that women are put in a position where their oppression is required (whether that be by men or by fellow women).

The solution is not to simply put women in the position of men, allowing them to fill male gender roles — this still classifies as patriarchy in itself. The actual problem to overcome, which Gross touches upon, is the gender roles. Further, oppression and sexism are amongst the problems that must be demolished. This is where feminism comes into play.

Contrary to popular opinion, feminism is not concerned with women hating men or trying to “be like men.” What feminism is interested in is “ending sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression,” as Bell Hooks tells us. Hooks’ definition does not mention that the sexism that is to be ended is only female sexism. Gender roles are sexist against both sexes, male and female. If there’s hope to end patriarchy, then these discriminatory gender roles are what need to be removed. We need not concern ourselves with who should hold power and who shouldn’t; what we do need to concern ourselves with is who should not face oppression. The answer to this is simple: everyone. Everyone deserves to remain unoppressed, regardless if this oppression is coming from men or women.

Hooks tells us that a consequence of the socialization from birth to accept sexist thought and action is that “females can be just as sexist as men.” This idea supports Kandiyoti’s account of the elder Islamic women who reign over their sons and daughters-in-law. These women, as described by Kandiyoti, are “just as sexist as men.” This, too, however can be problematic because it assumes that all men are sexist, which is absolutely not the case. Of course, there will be men that are not sexist, there will be women that are, and vice versa. In this way, Hooks’ argument is disrupted, not by Kandiyoti’s example, but by the subliminal gender role implied by her statement. Men are socialized into the position of being sexist despite the fact that they do not all fit this post and that it’s not solely men who are discriminatory against the opposite sex. The next step, then, is the break the links between sexual identity and social roles that we’re all so accustomed to.

It’s important to realize that “patriarchy” takes up different meanings in different contexts — its definition is not set in stone. What is patriarchal in one culture, social realm, political structure, economic system, age, or time period may or may not match what’s patriarchal amongst another. Though there are parallels to be drawn between patriarchies in these different relations, major differences still operate between them. All men do not have (and have not had) power over all women all of the time. All women are not subordinated by all men everywhere. There is grey in this discussion — and a lot of it. What can be attributed to all versions of patriarchy is oppression, particularly the oppression of women. To end patriarchy is to end oppression, not to end “male domination.”

Cover Image Credit: Odyssey

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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

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Things Are Heating Up In The Impeachment Fandom

"Scandal, scandal, New York Times" might as well be this administration's "Duck duck goose."

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Elizabeth Warren, Democratic senator from Massachusetts, thinks it's time to invoke the 25th amendment to impeach Donald Trump. Less than two years into his presidency, Trump's administration has undergone numerous public and private scandals. The most recent, an exposé of officials within Trump's own West Wing who are quietly working to undermine his more impulsive policy decisions, is one source Warren cites as a reason to begin the impeachment process.

Warren, herself a target of Trump's vindictive name-calling (she was dubbed "Pocahontas" by Trump last year), is demanding that the appropriate constitutional action be taken if the now-infamous New York Times op-ed published on Wednesday is as true as it is damning. Problematically, the New York Times published the op-ed anonymously to protect the author from the inevitable backlash of such a public blow. While this calls up a host of questions (namely, who gets to write an anonymous op-ed?), the instantly viral article did more than just throw shade on the President; it's a new rallying cry for everyone who wants him out of office.

Along with a fundraising letter for her 2018 re-election campaign, Warren sent out a petition to her state residents, asking them to consider impeachment as a viable method for stopping the instability of the Trump White House.

The Washington Times quoted Warren:


"This isn't about politics – this is about the safety of our children, the national security of our nation, and the future of our democracy. Tell the cabinet: if Trump is unfit, invoke the 25th."

While it's unclear what effect her words have--it cannot, after all, be said that Warren has a political mandate to impeach or facilitate impeaching Trump--had on her constituents, this latest push represents an attempt to hold Cabinet members and senior administration accountable for the oaths they took to uphold the Constitution. Warren said:

"The Constitution provides for a procedure whenever the Vice President and senior officials think the President can't do his job. It does not provide that senior officials go around the President — take documents off his desk, write anonymous op-eds. Every one of these officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It's time for them to do their job."

In other words, the onus of bringing impeachment into the national conversation falls squarely on the officials who facilitate the "quiet resistance" cited in the op-ed. Whether their purported devotion to country over leader compels them to do so is yet to be seen, which is why the author's anonymity is so denigrating to the faith that they are clearly trying to restore in Americans, to reassure them that there are, indeed, "adults in the room."

The op-ed's full effect is likely to be compounded by any new findings from the Mueller investigation, which looms ever closer to Trump's own re-election campaign in 2020. At the moment, though, it's hard to pin down as pure reassurance or proof that doubting the current administration is the best course of action. To Warren and the Democratic base, it's just more fuel to the fires that lit everywhere on November 9th, 2016.

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