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The Persistence of Patriarchy: Women in the Workplace


As you read this post, please be forewarned, its message is about the perceptions that drive our current worldview.  In writing it, I was less concerned with the nuances of historical exceptions than I was with the general stereotype that women have been and continue to be saddled with.

In reviewing history of women’s role in society, we find discussions of both matriarchal and patriarchal cultures.  Ours is and has been for centuries, a patriarchal society.  The election of 2008 has exposed the result of this patriarchal worldview – a persistent belief that women are somehow subordinate to men in the workplace and in society.  Since the time of the first settlers, men brought with them to the new world a patriarchal worldview that was unfortunately embraced by many women and persists into the present.  For some time now, many of us had been lulled into a sense of false confidence that this worldview was evaporating.  There were now women in Congress, female state Governors, high-level Cabinet positions, and female CEOs, demonstrating to us that the old adage “a woman’s place is in the home” was outdated and irrelevant…or was it?  The election of 2008 opened many of our eyes.

One of my favorite parables is one told by a former Sociology professor about some cave dwellers who built fires in front of their caves to ward off the Saber-Tooth Tigers.  Centuries after the extinction of the Saber-Tooth Tigers, this same community was still building fires in front of their caves.  Those who stopped doing so were considered rebels, deviants, and harmful to society.  It’s been many years, but its message still resonates with me today: that people begin a practice for one reason and many times continue the practice despite having long forgotten why it was done in the first place.  Is this the problem with our society?  Are we still “lighting fires in front of our caves” and blindly continuing a practice that may have been developed of necessity and then carried forward out of habit?  Where is the genesis of this worldview and how do we turn a new page?

There is sufficient archeological evidence to show that there may have been matriarchal societies where women were revered for their life-giving abilities.  Nomadic, egalitarian, and peaceful peoples found strength and leadership in the ability of women resolve conflict diplomatically, problem-solve in a way that met multiple needs, and join in equal effort to find shelter, food and other resources.  These women were able to meet the needs of society regardless of their gender AND bring forth the children needed to populate future generations.  Their breasts were not sexualized, their intelligence not dismissed, their clothing was not evaluated and their beauty or lack thereof was not considered in the equation of their value; and while matriarchy was not the structure adopted by the majority of nomadic groups, at a minimum they embraced the equality of the egalitarian culture.

Soon however, tribes began to settle and remain in a single place for longer periods.  The ability to plant and grow foods, coupled with animal husbandry, made nomadic roaming unnecessary for survival.  These innovations brought with them the challenge of securing and protecting their settlements and a new gender distinction became fodder for changes in society:  size and strength.  Males, who were the bigger and stronger gender, were more equipped to provide this protection to the group.  Their testosterone-laden system made them ripe for battle and a transformation of worldview occurred.  Men were now “the protectors.”  This made them, by their own official proclamations, the more valuable of the genders.  Women were considered weak and vulnerable and in need of protection so that they could continue their child-bearing duties.  These vessels of life were constrained to the walls of the settlement and their homes while the men went out for food, armed and ready for battle in the event that other tribes sought to take their bounty, thus creating the concept of domestic work as women’s work.

This vulnerability of women soon became an exploitable commodity.  Males began to see women as property with value for trading and increasing their wealth through offspring.  Polygamy was seen as a sign of the male’s wealth –more wives meant more children, which meant more work could be performed on the farm to grow more food for both sustenance and bartering.  Dowries, tribal negotiations and contests were all ways that men exploited the life-giving capacity of their women tribal members.  Within the tribe, women were the property of the husband and crimes perpetrated against them were considered a crime against the husband.  Kidnapping and sexual assault of women by other tribes was seen as not a crime against their humanity, but a crime against the tribe.    The value of a woman was now reduced to her ability to produce offspring and carry out the duties of the home.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Many people still hold this worldview today.  It has been carried through into the present by organized religion and “holy” texts written by men who wanted to preserve their status as patriarchs, populate the earth, and retain control over their most valuable baby-making commodity -women.

The greatest challenge to the patriarchy of our culture has been the entrance of women into the workforce.  Initially, as the majority of settlers sought out economic independence through business investments, craft artesian work and/or land ownership and farming, women remained domiciled in the home.  Their work still consisted primarily of domestic needs and some in-sourced sewing, but they remained confined to the home in this method of production.  The only women who ventured out into the new jobs of the industrial age were those who were unmarried and seeking to build a valuable dowry.  In doing this, they could someday have a husband and become the domestic goddess they were ordained by God to be.

But the two great wars changed all of this and a revolution happened in the American workplace. Women entered the workforce in greater numbers than ever before.  Both married and unmarried women worked side by side, filling the enormous number of positions left vacant by men (ever still the battle warriors) who left to fight the war.  Initially, men and the unions that represented them, fought back against women entering the workforce, calling such activity “an evolutionary backslide…a menace to prosperity [and a] foe to our civilized pretensions.”(*1)  However, to preserve the wage progress that had been made leading up to World War I, the AFL promoted the concept of “Equal Pay for Equal Work.”  Unfortunately, this was in no way an acknowledgement of equality in the workplace; in fact the AFL’s official proclamation that “Every labor organization in the country should be keenly interested in the welfare of women in industry…Equal pay for equal work should be the slogan” was tempered by the caveat that “women are [currently] being employed in railroad shops and other forms of employment entirely unsuited for them.” (*2)

Male supremacy was swiftly restored after both wars as women were removed from this “men’s” work and scuttled back to their obligations at home or at a minimum to the more “feminine” positions like clerical and nursing work.  These experiences however gave women a taste of economic independence.  Having a paycheck and the independence to determine spending priorities while their men were off fighting exposed a new life to women; one they were not eager to relinquish so easily.  Little by little, women made their way back into the workforce, struggling at each juncture to meet and exceed the barriers set by women before them.

And so we arrive here today.  Looking back at the election of 2008 we find ourselves pondering how we as a culture could have allowed this sexism and misogynistic worldview to survive sufficiently to rear its ugly head in the degree we’ve witnessed – at levels not seen for decades.  Both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were subjected to slurs and violent imagery portraying them as deviants of society, subordinate to men, and vulnerable to egregious assault.  Each of these individual acts, seeking to push women back into subservience, must be recognized, challenged and met with firm resistance.  We must not shield our eyes or the eyes of society from the blatant and many times brutal attacks on women who dare seek equality at all levels of the workplace and in our government.  Are there areas where physical size and strength still matter? Certainly; however we are not challenging those barriers.  We must work towards creating a new mindset – one that acknowledges equality of standing in society for both men and women.

So, since we no longer need our baby-making abilities protected by the “warriors” and Saber-tooth Tigers are extinct, can someone please blow out those fires???  It’s just too damn hot in here.

Sources: Campbell, Joseph.  Transformation of Myth through Time. (1990). NY: Harpers.; (*1)O’Donnell, Edward. “Women as Bread Winners: The Error of Age” American Federationist. 4, no. 8 (October 1897); Shaw, Susan, and Lee, Janet (2001). Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. California: Mayfield Publishing.;(*2) “Slogan of Equal Pay for Women.” Jewelry Workers’ Monthly Bulletin. (July 1917); Lichtenstein, Strasser, et al. Who Built America. Vol 1 and 2. (2001).



70 Responses

  1. what a great post.
    For women it does seem one step forward then three steps back when it is inconvenient for men.
    How regain and keep respect is a lifelong challege for all of us.
    I wrote in another post
    Self respect is a wonderful weapon that should be used wisely and often.



  2. I was going to post this link to patriarchy on an earlier thread , but once again our grass has the same root system


    This article says there are no known examples of matriarchy, I disagree , but that is not the point .
    The point is Patriarchy has long outlived its usefulness, and simply because this is the system under which we have lived, does not make it ideal .
    we have lived with wars and killing for years as humanity and simply because we have this as part of our heritage does not make it desirable .

    this is a bit of a read but skimming over is informative as well..
    Yes patriarchy is deeply entrenched in this cuture , even more deeply than I had thought, after having watched the campaigns and struggles for power we have witnessed .
    I am convinced more than ever we have to redouble our efforts for preserving human rights in this country .
    I am also convinced that this is not the concern of the of president select , nor will it be a concern of his administtation , except as he wishes to apply it , and use it for his own gain.

  3. I agree that the establishment of settlements seems to correlate with the development of patriarchy. I question, however, that it was done from necessity. I believe it was more a function of the relative security of having a steady food source giving mankind the leisure to develop stupid ideas like greed and status games unrelated to personal merit.

    Those “weak” women weren’t lounging around. They were tilling fields, maintaining their houses and bearing and caring for children. (Tote around a two year old for a while and you won’t need your Bowflex.) Probably also inventing crafts, cooking, writing, arithmetic and other skills to enhance living conditions.

    Yes, I doubt women did all that alone. I’m sure a lot of, maybe most, men were engaged in constructive doings as well. But it seems that some at least used their relative leisure to turn their hunting skills into a means of grabbing things from others.

    Flame me if you will, but I’m tired of “but there must have been a good reason at first” justifications for what is plain and simple bad behavior.

  4. I don’t assert that women WERE weak, only that they were portrayed as such. They continued to be the exploited workhorses, all at the direction of their patriarchal leadership.

    I would hope no one would read my intent as endorsing the development of patriarchal dominance as a positive development; however, there was some merit to protection of resources at that time. The problems arose, as I’ve pointed out, when it became exploitive.

  5. A great historical summary of our plight leading up to the present day. So often I have seen outdated customs and policies carried forward mindlessly. Perhaps this awful election season has at least made this apparent to millions of women. If only we can take the power of discovery and make something good come of it.

    On the other hand, I’m afraid I am still reacting to the brutal treatment of women. Like the nuns in “The Sound of Music,” I must make a confession. When I received a copy of a certain news magazine today containing the smirking face of a certain someone on the cover, I couldn’t help myself. I tore it to shreds and threw it away. It was too painful a reminder of the absurd and filthy weapons used against American women this year — and ripping it apart was my small way to vent my frustrations.

  6. myiq2xu, on November 15th, 2008 at 5:46 pm Said:

    There is already a new thread up and I just want to point this out (so if someone else already did, sorry):

    There is only one woman on either of those lists.



    Yup, only one, but we know the line: ” Not that one, or that one” OOPs, forgot the second one is the same option as the first, but you get the drift…NO WOMEN…Thanks YOU. They prefer CHANGE NOT!

    This would explain the women wearing the T-shirts with C@nt on them…self hate! Self hate keeps the men happy, until they figure out that REAL MEN AREN’T AFRAID OF WOMEN. Just take a look at Palin’s husband…he has no issues in his maleness.

  7. IF there was any doubt abuot the boys club I submit the following as proof because with the world leaders meeting to decide how to deal with global economic meltdown ,two wars , terrorism , Oregon flooding and California on fire
    ( I guess bo doesnt care if Oprahs house burns down ), and his cabinet yet to decide,

    bo is concerned about
    Obama makes a play for college football playoff
    47 minutes ago

    NEW YORK (AP) — It’s not exactly at the top of his agenda, but President-elect Barack Obama says there should be a college football playoff to determine a national champion. In fact, he knows exactly what he wants — an eight-team playoff.

    In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Obama addresses a subject college football fans have debated for many years, and says he will use his influence to create such a system.

    “If you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear decisive winner. We should be creating a playoff system,” he tells CBS’ Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

    According to Obama’s proposed system, eight teams would play over three rounds to settle the national champion.

    “It would add three extra weeks to the season,” he said at the conclusion of a wide-ranging interview. “You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

    I do not fucking believe he is that stupid………. but then again I do ………

    and just fyi the day of the year with the highest incidence of spouse abuse in this country occurs on Super Bowl Sunday in the hometown of the losing team.

  8. I’m with you sister of ye.

    SOD, I love your post, just want to ask in regard to your comment at 6:14pm — you write, “there was some merit to protection of resources at that time.”

    but I gotta wonder, just WHO was likely to be STEALING those resources that now needed to be protected?

  9. Murphy — the reference is related to settlements. With multiple settlements arising, each protected its own from scavaging by the other. We have the same thing today in our global system of state governments. one group coveting the goods of another…one of those age old problems.

  10. so we elected a president to jump into the debate about college football playoffs!!!! ??? Help us, Lord!

  11. I did not want to make the post too technical, but sister of ye is correct in her references to war games. Men got all ‘hopped up’ on their warrior skills and actually began to “fight” each other in competitive games when there were no real conflicts to battle over.

    The initial idea of protecting the resources happened well before that. Please keep this in perspective when reading my essay. At some point there was a discussion about who will provide the physical security of the settlement. THAT was the moment I’m referring to as when the “fires” were lit.

  12. Interesting post, SOD.

    From what I learned in anthropology class, I think women continued to be important even after the beginnings of architecture. In hunter-gatherer cultures, women carry their children on their backs as they gather edible plants and kill small animals for food. Older children helped them too. Women were most likely the ones who started to plant seeds and established agriculture in the first place. Women were also most likely the ones who learned to make pottery.
    Many agricultural societies are matrilinear as well.

    The truth is that women have always worked. Only in the upper classes would it be possible for women to simply stay home and care for the children. In the 19th century, women worked in the textile mills all over New England. Both of my grandmothers (born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) worked for a living.

    After WWII, the New Deal programs made it possible for more Americans to move into the middle class. My dad fought in WWII and was able to put himself through school on the GI Bill, get a Ph.D., and become a college professor. He bought our house with an FHA loan, with 2% interest! My mom stayed home to take care of the house and five children.

  13. I am also convinced that we can’t necessarily trust what we read about early civilizations. So much is open to interpretation, and male authors especially tend to ignore the achievements of women.

  14. via iPhone (so I am limited): excellent post SOD. The BO football reference is perfect here. His compelling priorities leave a LOT to be desired. Can we have Hillary back now?

  15. Yes Boomer…they have always worked, but the Wars certainly raised that level to new heights.

    Plus, prior to the 20th century much of that work was done in the homes. An interesting paradigm shift occurred when the textile industry was able to transform operations to inhouse sewing. Women who previously did the work in their homes were unable to keep up to the productivity levels and could not afford the machinery or travel needed to provide their wares to the factory owners.

    The idea that a woman’s place was in the home created much poverty back then too because the idea of independent land ownership was tied to a “man’s” ability to provide for his family.


    PERIOD: MOMMMA calls the shots.

    Don’t forget something with all our HISTORY:

    ENGLAND was LARGE and IN CHARGE as far as AMERICA was concerned.

    AMERICAN is 200+ years old, SHEET compared to the rest of the world.

    Let’s go into THAT HISTORY, and We’ll FIND what WE SEEK——————–

  17. What is next??? Pardoning Michael Vick as soon as he is in office??
    Was it me that said the lines between sports/entertainment , news and politics were blurring ?? What lines ??

  18. Worked outside the home that is. Women have always worked.

  19. PS: ANother all nighter:

    I posted downstairs: and am curious:

    Being from the EAST coast, we really don’t know what up with the WEST COAST:

    Is it TRUE: the people in MEXICO, mostly live in poverty and it’s a major problem regarding immigrants and border problems.—–WEST COAST, what’s up with this—————–just curious???

  20. A modern-day variation of men having to protect the women is the continuing myth about the “breadwinner.” It is one of the reasons that women’s pay continues in some realms to be lower. Bosses used to pay men more because they were “the breadwinners” — one of mine would virtually brag about it at the same time that he bragged about being able to hire well-qualified women for less money because they were putting their husbands through college. He never saw the irony in what he was saying — that those women were the breadwinners of their families. Further, many of the women with whom I’ve worked over the years were also the primary breadwinners in their families.

  21. Boomer – I would distinguish matrilinear from matriarchal. Matriarchal is much more rare, with some (as in swan’s link) even denying that such existed.

  22. Humanity needed men and women as equal participants to have survived , the fact that “women and their work “was devalued was a function of the opressive system not the real value of the work.

  23. Alwaysthinking — yes…much of the problem is due not to reality (what Boomer has pointed out) but to the way it is presented and perceived.

  24. Boomer, don’t you absolutely LOVE anthropology and shouldn’t it be taught starting in third grade??

  25. I was thinking[ not always a good thing] in the workplace when a woman reaches a certain plateau she does not reach back and give a handup to another women.
    We were brainwashed with the “ALL ABOUT EVE” thinking.
    Some do not look at another woman as an ally but as a threat.
    As long as that thinking continues men will be able to contain the forward movement of women.

    I have to go to work now but please let me know if my thinking is correct



  26. SOD,

    Yes, lots of textile work was done in the home. It seems to me that the Industrial Revolution was when women’s autonomy really began to suffer. That took place in the late 18th and 19th centuries. I’m not sayng that Western culture wasn’t already patriarchal. Let’s face it. Women were chattel. They couldn’t own property, have their own money, or choose a husband.

    But people had to go to a factory to work. Children always worked on farms, but they were horribly exploited after the Industrial Revolution. Families were separated, leading to the nuclear family–so that one woman had to do a lot more work in the home instead of sharing childcare and home care duties with other relatives.

    One of these days, when I have time, I’d like to read Betty Friedan’s The Feminie Mystique again. From what I can recall, she argued the “back to the home” movement was all about making jobs for men after WWII. Any way you look at it though, men always came first in every incarnation of Western society, and women were treated as property. And in history, we are footnotes, if that.

  27. And let us not forget to fold into the equation the role that religion played in the keeping women in their place. She is viewed as a handmaiden, an extension of Adam’s rib, and the insertion of the word “obey” included in the marriage vow is proof enough.

    With all that working against her, is it any wonder that we find ourselves in the 21st century still fighting for equal rights and recognition over and above what has been approved by clergy and lawmakers?

  28. SOD,

    Yes I know that. But having the family line be matrilinear seems to me to indicate that in those societies women were more important and treated with more respect. You probably know more about it than I do.

  29. I don’t have the references at my fingertips, but typically after major wars there have been efforts to force women out of the public workplace into the home. The 1950s was infected with a fair amount of that although more women also were obtaining college educations and becoming more qualified to hold their own with men in career positions. (Not that they weren’t still discriminated against; they were. But many remained in the public workplaces.)

  30. swanspirit – the devaluation of “women’s work” was very much a function of the rise of a wage based industrial economy. Prior to that the division of labor necessary in an agricultural society was less rigid and women’s work was more valued. It was often the women’s work that sustained families in winter and other seasons of poor agricultural production; spinning, carding and sewing wool being an example. The other interesting thing is that the luxury of women not working outside the home was a privilege of the middle and upper classes. Poor people have always been more egalitarian in that sense.

  31. SOD: “…much of the problem is due not to reality (what Boomer has pointed out) but to the way it is presented and perceived.”

    Yes, that’s the point I was trying to make. History usually ignores the lower classes. Women always worked–and in the 19th and 20th centuries lots of women worked outside the home. Of course the jobs they could get were limited to teaching, secretarial work, nursing, nannies, housekeepers, and so on. And they made much less money than men (as women still do). Rich people always had servants. But historians don’t study the lives of maids and cooks.

  32. SOD,

    I’m so glad you have become a contributor to The Confluence! In just a few days you have already written several excellent posts.

  33. Here is another snake-in-the-grass, now “campaigning” against Obama:

    Dear Reader:

    Fox News analyst Dick Morris has just released a new column warning that Barack Obama is set to get a filibuster-proof Senate if the Democrats win the special run-off for the Senate seat in Georgia on December 2nd.

    If he does, Obama will push through his radical agenda.

    Dick says we at the National Republican Trust, also known as GOPtrust.com, are the best group to stop Obama.

    Read Dick’s column below and also help our cause by going to https://secure.yourpatriot.com/ou/tnrt/national_republican_trust_he/donate.aspx

    Thank you.

    Scott Wheeler
    Executive Director, Human Events (humanevents.com)

  34. helenk — I’m not so sure that women don’t help give other women a hand up. I know that I personally did promote women on my staff to a better position when I recognized they had certain talents and abilities — and I also in cases urged them to take certain college courses so they could qualify for jobs that required them. The company paid for such courses, so they could continue working while studying.

  35. PJ – I agree (conditionally) with your statement about the impact of religion. Christian culture IN GENERAL has done a far superior job than any other major religious tradition in uplifting women, the many problems notwithstanding. It does after all contain the novel and revolutionary concept (for its time) that men ought to love their wives (shocking!!), that women weren’t responsible for men’s lust and men couldn’t divorce their wives without cause (very restrictive cause at that).

    Now there is plenty to be critiqued in the history, but as far as religions go, there is at least no such thing as Christian sati

  36. The US was colonized chiefly by Puritans who fled their homeland due to religious hostilities. Their narrow minded views are what drove them out of England and as they became a force in the colonies the laws they instituted were based more on biblical law than what we recognize as common law.

    Women were still considered chattels and held no power whatsover when it came to landowning or legacy. We may have made inroads in a great many ways but the mindset has not changed a whole lot. We are still the objects of ridicule in many ways and not to be taken seriously. This election season merely highlighted the sexism that we had stupidly thought had disappeared for the most part. Not so.

  37. michelina — what you say about our short history makes me smile. I once took a graduate seminar course on history that was made up of students around the world. They virtually laughed when we Americans talked about our long history of 200-plus years.

  38. My post is really about the mindset that pervades and where it stems from. It certainly doesn’t represent reality, because if reality prevailed, Hillary would be our president-elect.

    The women who were married and forced to enter the workforce before World War I were seen as deviations from the “norm” or the “proper” worldview. They certainly were not embraced as equals – and apparently still are not today.

  39. michelina — what you say about our short history makes me smile. I once took a graduate seminar course on history that was made up of students around the world. They virtually laughed when we Americans talked about our long history of 200-plus years.

  40. Pat — I was actually inspired to write this post after flipping through radio channels and heard this woman was going on and on about training the young women coming up in the proper role of a woman. How to make meals, clean the house, raise children, and make your husband happy.

    I could not believe in this day and age a woman could let these words cross her lips in such a cheerful way.

  41. Pat:

    Only the Northeast was colonized by the Puritans

  42. myiq2xu – Yes and they kept their women at bay by hanging them as witches if they stepped out of line – or outside the acceptable “norms” and worldview.

  43. SOD — what is so odd about the mindset we saw in this year’s election is that the terminology used against women was the type that we heard and read about many years ago (not the filth, but I think those terms were used out of our hearing).

    On the surface, we had begun to feel in everyday workplaces that we had moved way beyond those false stereotypes and literally proved our capabilities. Obviously, however, many people, including the media, knew where to drag up old slurs. I guess they had just remained slightly beneath the surface all the time.



  45. It is the same stereotype of “weakness” that was foisted upon us way back when that is the underpinnings of the attacks on Palin as less qualified than BO. With a resume that outgunned BO by several measures, she was still considered the “weaker” of the 2. – not physically, but conceptually.

    I heard a liberal talk show host say once that even though he knew she was more qualified than BO, he was more “comforted” picturing BO as president.

    thus in the subconscious and many times conscious minds of many people (men and women)…we are still saddled with this “weak” stereotype. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE GO BLOW OUT THOSE DAMN FIRES!!!

  46. There does seem to be a movement in some Christian circles that the proper woman must choose the adages of past centuries regarding housekeeping and keeping her husband happy.

    A few years back in my locale a woman decided to follow such edicts to a frenzied extent. She was murdered by her husband for doing all those very proper things. It seems also that he had another girlfriend.

  47. Funny, I don’t feel in the least bit comforted about BO being in power. Sounds like he already is taking on juvenile tasks.

    We not only need to blow out the fires, we really need to buy the media companies ourselves and hire people with more intelligence to do the talking and thinking.

  48. I had a comment near the end of the “beast obama unleashed” thread where I pointed out that the percentage of female graduate students to males is much greater in many technical fields these days, and that I work with a lot of women who are science /technical experts. Since it is in the earlier thread I will not repeat the details here. I would just add that from what I see women are accepted in professional fields mainly based on their competence. My county DA is a woman, I had a sister who was a assistant DA for many years. Of course what I can see is only a small view of a part of the world.

    There was sudden jump from the end of WW II to the present in the narrative and something I think it skipped is the 60′ and 70′ when the rise of the both parents working household took hold. I think it has been a long time since kids growing up thought of themselvs as sole breadwinning dads or just stay at home moms. mainly this is economics, who can afford to have only one worker in the household

    I also thought there was an awful lot of conjecture in the early history part of the narrative. since there is no written record for the first 8000 years of agriculture and any of the 490,000 years of hunintg gathering before that it is hard to make any more than very broad general statements. The archaeological record only tells so much

  49. Again, this post merely touches on the overarching worldview of our patriarchal society. Yes, women have made strides, and yes there is conjecture about the specific historical data; however, the fact remains that at some point in history, women were saddled with the stereotype of being the “weaker sex” and despite our delusions to the contrary, this perception persists.

    We can celebrate our gains but we should have learned an important lesson from this election. No matter how far we believe we’ve come, there still persists that patriarchal mindset. Unless we recognize and focus on the foundation, what we build will always be on shaky ground – thus, our experience in this election.

  50. from what I see women are accepted in professional fields mainly based on their competence.

    The question is not necessarily acceptance, but acceptance as EQUAL to similarly qualified males. It many instances, a woman still must be more qualified to even be considered equal.

    We can continue to ignore this simple truth…or work to change the perception.

  51. The US is not confined to Massachussetts.

    Pennsylvania was first settled by Quakers, New York by Dutch Lutherans, Maryland and Florida by Catholics, Virginia by Anglicans and much of the rest of the eastern seaboard by a combination of Anglicans and Scottish Presbyterians deported after the Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745. None were as rigid as the English Puritans, though most of them encountered real gender egalitarianism for the first time among the Native Americans already present.

  52. I would be interested in hearing theories that others may have about:

    1) where did the stereotypes of the “weaker sex” arise? and

    2) how did we get saddled with the concept of “women’s work?”

    for me, these are at the root of the sit down and know your place mentality women suffered through during this election.

  53. The dirty little secret is that all one male god religions devalue the feminine, and in so doing, devalue the Earth and Life Itself. Women have been writing about this for millennia. It’s interesting that so many educated people don’t know their names. But that just goes to show how a liberal arts education in the patriarchy is just that, an education of and about patriarchy.

    Women not supporting women is a product of patriarchy. The previously tortured become the token torturers of the young. Mothers torture their daughters so they can get a husband or participate in the social order, “just like I did.” Their pain and suffering is thought of as a custom instead of sadistic mysogyny, which if it were done to men would be called “holocaust.”

    The burning times went on for 3 centuries. The inqusition was systematic and choreographed by the Malleus Malificarum (The Witch Hammer), to torture and kill single women who were targeted because of their independence and high status as healers and confidants in the community. Chinese footbinding went on for one thousand years. Indian sutee went on for a thousand years and continues today. To this day, older women cut their daughters clitoris and labia and stitch up their vaginas to fit the promised husband’s penis. They do this so their daughters can fit into patriarchy, which they believe is the only route to survival.

    Patriarchy is not an accident. The bible tells of the destruction of Babylon, a vast and wealthy city ruled by the Goddess religion. The destruction of all things female is all over the one male god fairy tale books. It is impossible to be a christian and a feminist. How can a woman pray to a dead man on a dead tree who came from a mother who was raped by an angel? The Tree is an ancient Goddess symbol and bleeding is the rite/right of women. In order to grab her power the one male god folks had to do some fancy dancing. The only way a man bleeds is if he is cut. So they wound their hero and make him die and then have him come back so they can use his magical ascension to prove their cause.

    Sacred sexuality had to go, because, formerly it was a great sacrament. Since women had to be devalued, sex with women had to be dirty. Thus we get the virgin birth rape victim mother of the savior. Since the feminine was dirty, menstruation and birth became vile and required purification. Holy femininity, from which sacred life came, became the property of men. And so it goes.

  54. None of my comments ever show up here – will be shocked if this one does.

    What am I doing or saying wrong, pleez?

  55. libbygurl — I don’t know where your comment went. It’s not in the moderation section.

  56. Jewell

    thank you for expanding upon the religious foundations of patriarchy. My comment that

    The value of a woman was now reduced to her ability to produce offspring and carry out the duties of the home. Sound familiar? It should. Many people still hold this worldview today. It has been carried through into the present by organized religion and “holy” texts written by men who wanted to preserve their status as patriarchs, populate the earth, and retain control over their most valuable baby-making commodity -women.

    …rests upon the premise that religion was devised to promote a continuance of patriarchy once established. The more egalitarian views of nomadic peoples helps shed some light on the nexus between agrarian societies and the genesis of pervasive patriarchy.

    The sad part is that we have allowed this concept to thrive in our culture to the present.

  57. The first “one male god” religion was the cult of the Aten as propounded by the Pharaoh Akhenaten. In his religion and in the governance of Egypt, his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti is portrayed as an equal partner. In fact there is ample reason to believe that she was formally invested as his co-regent and held the title of Pharaoh herself, both during his lifetime, between his death and the accession of Tutankhamun and possibly as senior Pharaoh during the first years of Tutanhkamun’s reign. Egyptian women were among the freest in the ancient world, and that did not change when the religion became, briefly, monotheist.

    The Classical Greeks, in contrast, worshipped a number of goddesses along with the male gods, and were, with the exception of the Spartans, among the most systematic misogynists then or since. I suspect that Christianity got its male supremacy from the polytheistic Greeks and Romans as much as it did from its Jewish roots. More so, in fact, given that after the conquest of Judea in CE 70, Christianity lost all contact with Judaism. And while the Hebrew scriptures certainly show a male bias, they are also full of acts of courage and heroism by women–Esther, Deborah, Judith, Yael, Michal, Rahab, etc..

    You can’t blame misogyny on monotheism exclusively. There’s also the larger cultural context. If misogyny is present in a polytheistic culture, it will carry over when the culture becomes monotheistic. If it isn’t, it requires a major cultural change for misogyny to take hold.

  58. There is quite a bit of debate over who wrote the Hebrew scriptures that have been used as a foundation for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious, but scholars agree that the patriarchal themes were from male authors.

  59. Actually, there’s not much debate in scholarly circles about who produced the Hebrew scriptures in their present form –or a form close to it. It was the priests and court scribes in the employ of King Josiah in the seventh century BCE who brought together the various creation stories, heroic sagas, prophecies, hymns and meditations that make up most of the Old Testament. (There are later books, such as Daniel, but they’re not really germane here.) So yes, it was men who gave them their patriarchal themes. By the same token, though, it was men who incorporated the deeds of heroic and courageous women.

  60. So you disagree that religion has been thea significant vehicle by which patriarchy has persisted in our culture?

  61. myiq2xu, on November 15th, 2008 at 7:06 pm Said:
    Only the Northeast was colonized by the Puritans

    The puritans were one of four distinct English migrations to this continent. They are described exhaustively (900+ pages!) in the book, Albion’s Seed, by David Hackett Fischer.

    Jane Smiley, in her pre-Obamabot days, wrote a valuable precis of the contents of the book. Here’s her short gist:

    “Fischer’s thesis, in Albion’s Seed, is that the four major emigrations from England to the US came from four distinct regions and cultures in England, set sail at four different periods of English history, and settled in four different US regions. These cultures have remained more or less distinct; they have set up the structures of American political and cultural life; and they have often rendered Americans inexplicable and hostile to one another. What is most important, from my point of view, is that one of these cultures has taken over American life, denigrating and threatening all of the others, and that it was almost inevitable that it do so. Hackett wrote the book in the eighties, when the four cultures seemed to be in balance. My view is that now, fifteen years later, if we don’t come to understand how these subcultures work in American life, we will be unable to regain the democracy we have often (but not always) had in the past.”

    Her whole article is at:


    It’s really interesting.

  62. Kindly do not put words on my keyboard.

    Yes, religion has been one significant vehicle by which patriarchy has been entrenched in our culture. My point is that much of Western culture was patriarchal well before it adopted monotheistic, “one-male-god” religion. In more egalitarian societies, such as Ireland, patriarchy followed conversion to Christianity by several centuries and was the product of assimilation to Roman Christianity and a Continental culture based on Greek and Roman substrates.

    Mary of Nazareth and John lived in a Greco-Roman society. They also lived in a society in which it was the norm for children to honor and support ageing parents. (And just on a side note, it’s interesting that Jesus made John responsible for his mother’s safety rather than James, the next elder brother and obvious choice. Given the tradition that Mary and John lived in Ephesus, it’s tempting to translate that as “Get her the hell out of here before the bastards kill her, too.”)

  63. Yes, I see your point. The point I’m attempting to make is that the societies that used religion to support patriarchy were patriarchal to begin with; they did not become so upon the adoption of any particular religion. If you want a shining example of this process, look at Mormonism. Mormonism didn’t create patriarchy in mid-19th century America; it grew out of, and exaggerated, the existing gender norms.

    I do differ with your assertion, though, that “the religious texts were written to ensure continuance of patriarchy.” In the case of the Hebrew scriptures, they were compiled under King Josiah for the consolidation of political power in his own dynasty and its territorial expansion into the failed northern kingdom of Israel. Seventh century Judah was already a patriarchal society; what we know as Judaism today could only have arisen from a society in which the role of women was already defined as a subordinate one.

    Just so, the subordination of women in Christianity followed concurrently with the subordination of women in the larger society. It was effect, not cause.

  64. Sorry, I don’t believe we’re saying the same thing.

    You wrote, “the religious texts were written to ensure continuance of patriarchy.” That implies that the raison d’etre for these texts is the suppression of women. I disagree with that. In many cases, the texts were written to validate a particular political faction. That they also supported patriarchy was a side effect, given that said political faction operated within a patriarchy.

    In other cases, especially with regard to the New Testament, the text is directed not to political but to theological questions raised by the interaction of the Jesus movement with Temple Judaism and then with the Roman Empire. Their concern is first, survival of the church as a new institution, and second, the survival of its members. Again, support of patriarchy where it occurs is something reflected from the Greco-Roman society of the day. As far as can be determined, it was not inherent in the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Oh, and Luke shows Mary acting extremely independently.

    What I think we do agree on is that we live in a society in which patriarchy and misogyny are deeply entrenched elements. We also agree that they have been entrenched for centuries, and that religion has been used as a tool, in many instances, to support both abuses. I would prefer, however, that if we are to deal with the historical roots of the phenomenon, that we stick to real history.

  65. Well we just disagree then. I still believe that the texts were written, at least in part, as a way of promoting patriarchy – obedience and submission to men.

    We can agree to disagree.

    The religious aspect was not the point of my post.

  66. And I’m really not a bible scholar so I’ll let you with your opinion and I with mine.

  67. There is no Jesus of Nazareth. When he was alive there was no city of Nazareth. There was an area called the Nazarene, so it would be safe to call him Jesus the Nazarene. Second, quoting scripture can prove any point because the bible is full of contradiction. The epistles were letters written by the prophets to be read aloud to illiterate people in the towns. Those letters were copied by scribes who added their own interpretations. According to Bart D Ehrman, “Misquoting Jesus” there are no remaining originals of these epistles. The copies that were used to create the bible were copies of copies of copies.

    According to Paul, Jesus proclaimed that in the Kingdom there would be equality for men and women. Women were apostles in the early church and were named with respect. Women played an important role in the church through the second century when the original texts began to change like this one,

    “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man: she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became the transgressor.” You get the idea. The point is that over time the thinking of society had evolved into misogyny and it got written down by scribes as truth.

    The doctrine that states that Adam came first had to be supported by a new creation myth. In the past, Life was born through the feminine, but this new doctrine required that life be born from a male. They literally had to stand reality on its head to make this work.

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s Godess entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of womankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    How do you think people will react to changing the noun for humanity to the feminine gender? Why don’t we call ourselves the race of Women? Men are included in that description. It is a more apt description for it includes both genders, whereas the word ‘man’ does not include ‘woman.’

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Women, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —

    In partnership we learn that the male principle is Logos. He inspires life, but the feminine principle creates it in her body. The body of the Universe is feminine, inspired by the Logos to produce all the wonder of existence. A religion without a Great Mother is missing the love of existence. A religion that says women are less than, hates its own existence. This leads to the love of death and killing. Martyrdom becomes a religious sacrament.

    Who is it that bled for you and did not die? Your Mother.

    Anti-feminine attitudes and practices are causing pain and suffering around the world today. It is also causing ecological disaster. As women get more respect the Earth does too. We owe it to ourselves and the future of our planet to love our sisters; to help each other see that we women embody the principle of life-love. We are not threats to each other. The web of women can canvas the world with newborn goodness.

    Hillary was trying to tell us this message, but she is so caught up in the old boy network that she must tread softly. But I don’t have to worry about an office. If you don’t have to worry about your security, then speak out. Speak up when you see destructive practices that hurt women, because when women are hurting there is no joy in mudville.

    Read Mary Daly, Merlin Stone, Barabara Walker, Margot Adler, and Leonard Schlain “The Alphabet vs the Goddess”


  68. SOD — on reality vs perception. Yes, quite true. I gave a seminar for physicians on this many years ago. It was quite a revelation to them because of their training and it remains a befuddling concept to many who are trained scientifically. But of course the reality of politics and public relations is that one has to address perception.

  69. perception

  70. Perception without education is opinion. Your physicians could not “get’ you because they had no experience or education in common with you.

    A person’s reality is not separate from her perceptions. They are the same. Your world view is your reality. That’s what school does. It gets us all on the same page of reality. We learn about the same things and we grow up and form a national perception of our selves. Doctors have a doctor perspective. They have spent a lot of time and money to get that hot commodity.

    Feminists say that we have been taught an incomplete history because all the feminine experience has been expunged from it. This gives women a perspective that is different from men.

    Religion is the same. Since the Divine is one male with one male progeny, it leaves out the feminine experience of the Divine.

    Education about women’s history is lacking. I didn’t learn about the suffragists in school. I didn’t learn about centuries of female holocaust in school, but I did learn about the Nazi holocaust of Jews and the European holocaust of Africans into slavery. In college psychology classes, I didn’t learn that child and spousal abuse was a product of patriarchy. In philosophy classes I did not learn Hildegaard of Bingen, only one man after another with his linear, rational perspective.

    The biggest change that we can make for the women’s movement is to put religion in the back seat and Herstory in the front seat. It is happening. As men and women begin to see the power of the feminine we both will be better off for such an enlightened perception.

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