5 Things you need to know about the patriarchy

By Carole Lydon

Writer and Responsible Disruptor

There are a few ways to define patriarchy.

The Macquarie Australian Dictionary (the paper one, it’s rather heavy) says that patriarchy is: a form of social organisation in which the father is head of the family, and in which descent is reckoned in the male line, the children belonging to the father’s clan. A community organised and run upon such a system. 

After all the proper reading and little snippets I have read over the years, this is my ‘elevator pitch’ understanding of patriarchy.

Patriarchy is the systematic persistence of male domination across all authority structures.

Let’s just stop and think for a moment about the sheer multitude of ways this male domination has affected our lives, and our families, through generations.

If you are a student of history or philosophy you might wonder why patriarchy is not something that has popped up as a concept, like monarchy, democracy or autocracy. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because the blokes have been in charge all of this time. And if you’re the blokes wielding all of the power, you don’t gather everyone around for an afternoon of vino and reflection on gender inequity. 

If you’re really good at this wielding power gig, on the odd occasion you encounter a challenge from women, you demean and rationalise neatly within the rules of behaviour you’ve already set up for your society. 

Here are some things to think about.

1. It’s not as simple as gender, everyone can behave in a patriarchal way

We’ve all been born into a patriarchal system for generations now. Our parents or carers or the authorities have taught us the way of the world – sometimes with love, sometimes without. The most damaging of concepts can still be taught with love, and by people who have been raised in the patriarchy, so how are they to know? Just because it is a woman making a decision that affects you doesn’t make that decision right for women. 

For example, many of us were taught by our mothers (or someone in that role) not to dress in a provocative way when going out for the night. It will attract trouble. In our patriarchal society, if someone is assaulted while they are out having fun, maybe even drinking alcohol, the notion of provocation neatly switches the blame to the victim.

No-one is immune from unconscious patriarchal bias.

2. Patriarchy enables an individual’s behaviour

Individual incidences of misogyny are enabled by a patriarchal system that either hides or defends them. It’s the system that sits behind, “You can’t expect a promotion to a senior role if you only want to work part-time,” or “I’m sorry that happened to you but you’ll need more proof, it’s just his word against yours.”

Implicit behind this is a set of unwritten rules that value the words of one gender differently to the words of another, and that values roles in society quite differently. For example the unwritten story behind working part-time is most likely the need to take the mental, physical and social load of supporting a family.

Patriarchy is about the systems that are hopelessly impossible, and sometimes dangerous, to navigate for some members of society. It is like being in the middle of a maze and every time you think you have found the way out, male security stands there with arms folded saying, “Not today sweetie, stay in here where you belong or find another way.”

3. Our economy is designed by the patriarchy

I’ll have to start with a disclaimer here, I’m not completely against consumerism and I’m not an economist. Also, Flock is a retail space, so y’know. We all use and consume resources, that’s a good thing. Mindless consumerism is a real problem though.

It would seem most economies, definitely all western economies, have been built on this linear notion of progress as if there is some endpoint that we’re hurtling towards. Apocalypse does  come to mind 😉 

That the only real goal is to take resources, make products, sell products – rinse and repeat. The way that economic success has been measured seems to be fulleing this hunger to consume. To make matters worse, the ‘profit at all costs’ driver of companies listed on the stock exchanges together with superannuation systems that invest our retirement in these same companies, makes us unwittingly implicit in the system. 

Don’t get me started on supply chains that had to be built by people who assumed that they would get everything they want exactly when they want it.

I don’t know whether the blokes in charge meant it to be this way, but this all happened on their watch, just sayin’.

4. The rules of business were written by the patriarchy

There’s so much to write, but let’s just keep it to starting a business. And to start and grow a business you need money.

According to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, “The recent State of Australian Startup Funding report found 82% of female founders believe gender impacted their ability to raise venture capital funding. Just 10% of female founders felt highly confident they would raise their next funding round, compared to 63% of male founders.”

Harvard Business review tells us that in 2020 only 2.3% of US venture capital funding went to female founders. It was slightly better in Australia but still very low.

Whether you are at the bank or pitching for venture capital, there is still an enormous amount of unconscious bias around assessing business ventures that don’t have a man onboard. Most likely not helped by the low number of women in decision-making positions for funding. Remembering of course that women can bring their own patriarchal-tainted unconscious bias.

Let’s face it, it was pretty hard to find anything written about the non-binary experience of business funding. If you have an experience, we’d love to hear about it.

5. It’s all smoke and mirrors, patriarchy is actually a weak system

While we may have all been taught that patriarchy represents strength and all of the systems and values it operates use this strength to provide for the community, I think we can see some holes in that argument.

Mother nature is yelling at us that this is a weak and broken system.

Communities are calling out that this is a weak and broken system.

Children are crying out that this is a weak and broken system.

It has been measuring the wrong things and assigning dollar values to them.

It has declared that a tree is only valuable if it is ripped from the ground and made into a table.

It has assumed care and service should be performed invisibly.

It has elevated the individual over the community.

It has ignored the profound resilience of circular strength.

I promised Flock that I wouldn’t swear and it’s been really hard. So all I will say is this, we don’t have to accept the patriarchy and everything it serves up to us. In our hearts we know better.

FLOCK the patriarchy!

Love and blessings to all of you.