Patriarchy: 7 keys to understanding cultural masculinity

Patriarchy was defined as a system of subordination of women to men which has been reproduced for thousands of years.

This concept, closely linked to masculinity and inequalities, has had a lot of weight in psychology and social sciences, because it speaks to us of a relational dynamic which makes that part of the population is totally or partially dominated by the other.

What is patriarchy?

The discussions and debates that revolve around the idea of ​​patriarchy generate a lot of controversy, among other things, for the difficulty of studying its existence or its presence in certain societies, but also for the long-term implications that this has for us. , both politically and philosophically.

But patriarchy is not just a controversial issue, it is also a relatively difficult concept to understand. These are some of the keys that can help us better understand what we mean by patriarchal society.

1. Masculinity and patriarchy are not synonymous

Although these are two closely related concepts, masculinity and patriarchy do not refer to it. Masculinity is a set of beliefs, cognitive biases, and attitudes that predispose people to act as if women are worth less than men, while patriarchy is defined as a social phenomenon that has historically been the driving force behind masculinity and certain privileges enjoyed only by men.

While masculinity is expressed through individuals (whether male or female), patriarchy is something that exists in large groups, a power dynamic that is only understood when considering multiple people. at a time.

2. It’s not just a system of cultural domination

When we talk about masculinity, we often tend to think of it as just a psychological phenomenon, a way of thinking that women are despised and reified. However, since the study of gender and feminism, it is common to speak of the masculinity generated by patriarchy as a phenomenon that has two pillars: one psychological, based on the way people think and act, and another material, based on the objective characteristics of our environment and institutions: clothing, laws, films, etc.

In this way, the psychological aspect and the material would be returned, giving birth to individuals whose masculinist attitudes are reinforced by the means in which they live and which they help to reproduce by their actions.

    3. It is believed to be related to the property system

    Patriarchy is understood as a phenomenon that jumps from generation to generation, which is why a relationship has been presupposed between it and the idea of ​​property. This idea, deeply rooted in Marxist philosophy, proposes that, like properties, they are inherited and offer the possibility of exploiting others to work with them, generating a share of value that the owner can keep even if he does not. do not. women were designed as a resource, something that can be possessed and with which the patriarchs of the family engaged in trade, either to have cheap labor (usually applied to household chores), or to be able to have offspring (which is also related to the domestic domain and therefore private).

    As the woman could not aspire to be owner, taking care only of the goods necessary for the well-being of the family, she could not aspire to negotiate on an equal footing with the man, which would place her even at a disadvantage. when women’s participation in work outside the home started to be normal.

    4. His relationship with capitalism is confused

    In feminist currents, there has been a lot of discussion about whether patriarchy is a system of domination linked to capitalism (in the sense of Marxism) or whether they are two separate phenomena. Both have been theorized as relational dynamics based on repression and exploitation, But it is not known if its historical engine would be the same.

    5. Patriarchy has been universal

    It is very easy to find societies in which men have a clear power over women, but so far no example has been found of a relatively large and stable culture in which the opposite occurs.

    The idea of ​​matriarchy, proposed in the 19th century by anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen, speaks of primitive societies thousands of years ago, when women held power, but it is not based on empirical evidence to support it.

    6. It is not known if it comes from genes

    With patriarchy conceptualized as a universal system spread across the world and having resisted all kinds of political changes, some researchers have proposed the idea that its origin is linked to genetic propensities. Specifically, a possible explanation for its existence would be the alleged differentiation in the behavior of the two sexes, the direct culprit being DNA. According to this idea, men are said to have some sort of natural tendency towards domineering and aggressive behavior, While the woman would more easily show submissive behaviors.

    The other, much less controversial proposition is that patriarchy occurred because of the cultural dynamics in which men and women were educated to divide laborThis has led to a situation in which men have gained bargaining power over women who have been exploited over generations.

    Of course, between the two propositions lie theories which could be considered as intermediary between these two extremes.

    7. It’s a terribly abstract concept

    Being a social phenomenon with different forms of manifestation, the existence of patriarchy in some countries is not given as obvious. This is so because this concept is not in itself an explanatory model which can be verified or refuted by empirical contrast, and therefore the same fact can be interpreted as proof of the existence of the patriarchy or as a sign of its absence.

    For example, the abundance of famous actresses who fit well into the canons of beauty can be understood as a sign that women need to sell their bodies in order to thrive, but it can also be interpreted as an example that women women can achieve. men without having to work much harder than them.

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