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Brutal Antipathy is a pseudonym for a blogger and forum debate enthusiast whose views often rest well outside of social baseline. A self confirmed atheist, misanthropist, and sadist, his commentary ranges from parched textbook facts to satire and sarcasm. He is a proponent of free speech and individual liberty even when these are taken to excess. His political views shift between lower case libertarian and enlightened despotism depending on the level of contempt he is feeling for his fellow humans at any given moment. His reading interests include history, general science, archaeology, comparative religion, psychology, & sociology. Other interests and hobbies include practicing various crafts, torturing his slave, blogging, playing with his dogs, collecting antiques, role playing & tactical simulation games, renaissance fairs, and cheerfully making other people miserable by holding up a mirror of their shortcomings and repeatedly bashing them in the face with it. L is the owned slave of BA. She basically has the same interests and views as her owner except in music.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Search For The Elusive Patriarchy

This post was originally published on my blog SkepTex back on 11/14/2012

In order to address the accusations that will follow, I should mention in advance my perspective on this subject, and perhaps more importantly, what angles I am not coming from.

I am a skeptic by nature, and much of what I have encountered of feminism has given me cause to be extremely skeptical of it.  The hostility in which feminist's react to valid criticism, especially when much of that hostility is viscous character assassination and ad hominem, brought my suspicions to the surface years ago.  Since that time, I have taken it upon myself to investigate many of their claims, and have found them to be lacking more often than not.  In my research I have seen others write online articles on many of these topics in a piecemeal fashion. I am of the opinion that a more unified presentation of them together might have more of an impact than scattered refutations.

My assessment of feminism is not founded on religious ideology.  I am an atheist, and do not subscribe to those notions.  Neither is my position based on misogyny.  I hold women in no less, or more, regard than I do men. I am in fact in a committed and mutually fulfilling relationship with a woman.  My opinion is not based on right wing Conservative notions.  My political views do not subscribe to any of the conventional or minor political parties.

I should also point out that I have no desire to turn back the clock and retract female equality.  I believe that the Equality movement was a great step forward and was sorely overdue.  I also believe that women, like men, must be vigilant in preserving their rights and health.

Women have gained numerous rights in America, and they are wise to continue preserving those rights through activism.  But to hear feminists tell it, things remain terribly unequal.  This is where I begin to draw the line.

There are people who tell us feminism has achieved its goal, and now their goal has shifted from retaining their rights to one of power acquisition at the expense of men.  Among these people are the likes of Christina Hoff Sommers.  Others will argue that feminists are using misleading statistics, distorted facts, and outright lies to accomplish this.  Feminists counter that these people are women brainwashed by the Patriarchy, and disgruntled men with troglodyte mentality who wish to revert to a less progressive era.

   This will be my first installment of a skeptical evaluation of modern feminism.  More will follow as time and energy permits.

The Patriarchy is the source of our social ills

The concept of the Patriarchy is the cornerstone of feminist theory, and the bulk of their arguments orbit it.  But just what is a Patriarchy, and what would a Patriarchy look like?

While the literal translation would be rule of fathers, a Patriarchy by most definitions is a society in which men hold almost all power.  Feminist's are often strangely ambiguous in defining a concept they use as a building block, and it is not uncommon to find their definition change even in mid argument.  Despite their apparent differences of definition, feminists tend to  further refine the term to mean an unfair, male dominated society that is oppressive to women.  A concise definition of the feminist concept of patriarchy was further spelled out in a conversation between two feminists on how to talk to men about sexism.  In their definition, patriarchy is a privilege system in which a small group of mostly men have power.  They then cover all the bases by admitting that women such as Margaret Thatcher can be part of the patriarchy.  Other feminists have used the same argument by insisting that women can be part of the Patriarchy system as well.  I am here only giving an example.

Were we to stick to the classic definition of Patriarchy, it would be a simple matter to conclude that America is not one.  Our second definition by way of dictionaries is also easily dismissed when we consider that women in America have had the right to vote here for almost a century.  We are left then with a need to examine the feminist definition of Patriarchy in order to see if it is applicable to American society.

As the feminist definition adds a seemingly illogical element (powerful women are part of the Patriarchy) and has moved the goal posts (Not all men, but a small group of men-and women), if we are to conclude that the feminist definition is true, we must be able to demonstrate not only that a small group of men (and women) hold near absolute power, but that their system is also  unfair and oppressive to women.

Now that we have some idea as to what the Patriarchy is supposed to be, we need to look at what would indicate a Patriarchal society.

The culture of a society would be the first indication of Patriarchy.  Any society that was repressing women should show outward signs of this in the way their women were treated and represented.  If women were routinely ridiculed, negatively stereotyped, and portrayed as powerless in a society, we might reasonably suspect that the society is biased against their female population.  A culture might enforce a policy that mandates women to cover their heads in public, for instance, or wear clothing traditionally reserved for men, or cur their hair.  No such policy exists in America, though some religions may require it.  Were women and children considered the property of their fathers and husbands we could even conclude that America was a Patriarchy of the first order, but this is not the case.  An outsider observer unfamiliar with America would wander through any average American city and observe unescorted women driving vehicles, using their personal bank accounts to make transactions, opening stores and shops, wearing clothing that ranges from conservative to minimal, laughing, waving, talking, shouting, screaming into the faces of police at pickets and rallies-and the observer would have no idea where this Patriarchy claim came from.  But this is only the surface of the city.  Can it be that if the observer turns on a television set they will see something subtle and concealed from the casual prying eye?

What we see in American television does not show us a Patriarchy, because what we find are strong, independent, and empowered female figures in the most popular of television programs.  30 Roc protagonist Liz Lemon is an educated, capable woman, as are many of the single and married female characters on television.  The women on The Big Bang Theory for instance often hold doctorates in hard sciences such as physics, neuroscience, and biochemistry.   Comedy is often used as a tool of oppression, and through laughing at gross caricatures and stereotypes we demean and trivialize.  Yet we find little of this directed at women  in American comedy programs.  Instead we see popular current and recent comedy such as Family Guy, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, the Simpsons, and American Dad portray the lead male characters as loutish knuckle draggers, poor fathers and role models, incompetent, and ignorant.  Men are routinely dragged through the mud in television programs and in advertisements.

 While it might be argued that men dominate these industries, some fact checking would be in order.

Since 1995, the President of television giant CBS Entertainment has been a woman; first with Leslie Moonves, then Nancy Tellem.  Comcast, which now owns NBC, has Amy Banse as its president.  Anne Sweeny is president of the Disney-ABC Television Group which includes ABC's Daytime, Entertainment, and News divisions, as is Abbe Raven the president of A&E network.  OWN networks's president is not surprisingly Oprah Winfrey, and Deborah Lee is CEO of Black Entertainment Network. While Turner Broadcasting's president is male, the two executive vice presidents, Louise Sams and Kelly Regal are female.

Television programs then do not give any indication of a Patriarchal society in America.  Commercials fare little better.  In American advertising, men remain the frequent source of humor.  Many commercials do tend to reinforce traditional gender roles, showing men at work or outside more frequently than women while showing women indoors or in association with housework more often than men.  The majority of voice-overs in commercials are male.  We may not know to what degree media confirmation of gender roles may influence us, but we would be foolish to assume that it has no impact.  Gender role reinforcement is not evidence of direct and intentional oppression though, and we will cover this matter at a later time.

While there is evidence of sexism in advertising, it does not point toward a Patriarchal society.  Commercials which attack a gender routinely display a hostility toward men, not women.  We will need to look elsewhere if we are to find evidence of this Patriarchy. The most obvious place to look would be government.

Government could be a primary indicator of Patriarchy, and indeed, we see few seats in governmen occupied by women.  Feminists will point to this and insist that the lack of women in those seats is proof that women are under-represented.  This is in fact a straw man argument.  Representation is not dependent upon the chromosomes of the person occupying the seat.  Women constitute 50.8% of the population, and as such maintain a fractional majority of voting power along with the representation that comes with it.  In this, it is within the power of women in America to choose and elect officials, male or female, who represent their interests.  It is even within the ability of women to nominate and elect a female president.

In fact, feminists have demonstrated exactly this representation through lobbying government officials to support their causes.  That their causes are not always carried through does not mean that they are under-represented or oppressed.  Rather it is a part of the political dance in which no party or special interest group gets their way every single time.

The straw man argument further dissolves when we look at the women that do hold offices.  South Carolina Governor Niki Haley consistently votes for abortion restricting bills.  New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez is pro-life, against elective abortion, same sex marriage, and progressive taxation along with being opposed to seeking alternative energy sources.  Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest, and seems to have no concern over environmental issues.

The first female Governor in America also deserves mention.  Rebecca Latimer Felton, one time Georgia Governor  briefly senator, and leader in the women's suffrage movement was racist to an extreme that was rare even in her age. Felton advocated the lynching of blacks, suggesting that educating them led to their committing more crime. She further elaborated that giving blacks the right to vote would lead to the rape of more white women.  Rebecca Felton also holds the distinction as being the last former slave owner to serve in the U.S. Senate.

The women in the House of Representatives fare no better when it comes to issues of equality.  Alabama representative Martha Roby, California's Dana Rohrabacher, Florida's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen & Sandy Adams, Georgia's Lynn Westmoreland, Kansas' Lynn Jenkins, Michigan's Candice Miller, Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, Missouri's Vicky Hartzler & Jo Ann Emerson, Nebraska's Adrian Smith, New York's Nan Hayworth & Ann Buerkle, North Carolina's Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx & Sue Myrick, Ohio's Jean Schmidt, South Dakota's Kristi Noem, Tennessee's Diane Black, Texas' Kay Granger, Washington's Jaime Herrera & Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, West Virginia's Shelley Capito, and Wyoming's Cynthia Lummis all routinely vote against abortion.

The voting history of the above mentioned people can be viewed here.

Clearly, more women in office does not ensure equality.  The fact is that even with a majority of men in those seats, women's issues are still addressed and acted upon.  Women have obvious power and undeniable representation in American government.

Where then are we to find evidence of this alleged American Patriarchy?  It is not evident in relationships as divorce has become a streamlined process which can be initiated by women as easily as men.  It can not be seen in our justice system as there is no widespread repression or incarceration of women by police agencies.  It is not found in the social arena because women are free to gather, rally, and protest.  Women in America own property, graduate from college in greater numbers than men, serve on juries, hold positions of power, and have the same rights to free speech as do men.  Some women are criticized by the way they dress and present themselves in public, but such criticism is not the norm for society.  It is noteworthy that some men are similarly judged by attire and presence.  This is not a sign that women or men are being oppressed.  It is a sign that societies adopt standards and ideals which may seem arbitrary to an onlooker, but which are usually of chance rather than design.  A cabal of billionaire power mongers do not convene weekly to plot social discrimination based on choice of clothing.

While it is undeniable that a small amount of people hold enormous wealth and power, the systemic oppression and subjugation of women by men that is demanded by Patriarchy theory simply cannot be seen with the naked eye.  We will have to peer much deeper into American culture and society if this elusive Patriarchy is to be revealed.

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