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Thread: Is Patriarchy inevitable?

  1. #1 Is Patriarchy inevitable? 
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    Hello,

    I'm a new user here, and I'm actually not in a science related discipline, but I thought this was an interesting topic to discuss. I'm a woman, so the idea of this makes me uncomfortable, but that's no reason to shy away from such concepts or ideas.

    I"m curious to know what other people think; I came across a Sociology professor named Steven Goldberg who proposes this theory, and writes about it here: http://www.debunker.com/texts/fallacy.html

    I am interested to know your thoughts?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    There are instances in some human societies of matriarchy arising. However, as males tend to be the stronger sex it is much easier for them to achieve the dominant position in early societies where this would be the deciding factor in both intrasexual and intersexual relations. Thus, patriarchy is perhaps favoured by our biology, but not inevitable. Although, this isn't to say that patriarchy is good or sacred in any way.


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    What I don't like about what Steven suggests, is that 'women are more passive' I disagree with this. I think women found ways to circumvent our rigid gender roles. But I haven't found examples of any matriarchies in human societies, but I do note that Steven didn't mention the bonobos, an animal that is mostly female dominated.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Well it depends on how you want to define matriarchy, there are numerous examples of matrilineal societies, as well as aspects of societies being dominated by women while others are dominated by males. A good example of this is the Iroquois natives, where domestic affairs like how the tribe would distribute food or where they would spend the winter were determined by a woman, and matters of war and hunting were determined by a male.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...ocal_societies

    Edit:

    "When Americans and Canadians of European descent began to study Iroquois customs in the 18th and 19th centuries, they observed that women assumed a position in Iroquois society roughly equal in power to that of the men. Individual women could hold property including dwellings, horses and farmed land, and their property before marriage stayed in their possession without being mixed with that of their husband's. The work of a woman's hands was hers to do with as she saw fit. A husband lived in the longhouse of his wife's family. A woman choosing to divorce a shiftless or otherwise unsatisfactory husband was able to ask him to leave the dwelling, taking any of his possessions with him. Women had responsibility for the children of the marriage, and children were educated by members of the mother's family. The clans were matrilineal, that is, clan ties were traced through the mother's line. If a couple separated, the woman kept the children. Violence against women by men was virtually unknown.[32]

    The chief of a clan could be removed at any time by a council of the mothers of that clan, and the chief's sister was responsible for nominating his successor."
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  6. #5  
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    Large, intelligent, pack-social, long-lived mammals often install significant social power in older females. Elephants, cachalots, chimps, hyenas, wolves, etc.

    There is some evidence that patriarchy as we know it today is an effect of agriculture.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    What other animals, like bonobos do is somewhat irrelevent to the question, which is whether humans are naturally patriarchal.

    The easiest way to answer that question would be to evaluate as many different societies as possible, chosen at random, and determine what percentage were male dominated at the 'top'. I strongly suspect the result would show humans are naturally patriarchal.

    The societies I am most familiar with are (obviously) western modern societies, but also Pacific cultures, ranging from Polynesian to Papua New Guinean. In the Pacific cultures, tribal chiefs are male. Females often had a powerful role, but never one of complete dominance. I strongly suspect that this tendency is strong across most of Homo sapiens.

    Why? Probably because of the greater aggressiveness and assertiveness of males. Women learn to placate rather than control.

    However, I also see an evolution as we move further into the 21st Century, for 'civilised' cultures to include women more and more in government. So it looks as though patriarchy is dying.
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    Is the implication that power is desirable in human society?

    Which gender is more devious? Which is more knowledgeable about relationships in the tribe? Which is more skilled in raising the next generation? Are these means to power?
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    If I were a good little Feminist critic I would point out that our definitions of power are based in male patriarchy, so patriarchy becomes inevitable by definition. This would make it tautological rather than based on any natural reason, the only way patriarchy disappears is by redefining "power" in a gender neutral fashion.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Skeptic's note about the relationship to agriculture is probably the closest to my knowledge of patriarchy.

    Hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist (small scale gardening) societies do not favor either sex when it comes to investment, ownership, or general leadership. It is not until you see the emergence of accumulable, material wealth (what we anthropologists like to call extra-somatic wealth) that you begin to see a favoring of investment by parents in sons, primarily by having them inherit and own material wealth given to them from their parents. This is not limited to agricultural societies, but is also seen in pastoralists, or herders, since the animals they own are as much material wealth as is fertile, farmable land. Simply by favoring investment of material wealth in sons, you get the development of patrilines and patriarchies.

    So the question is, why would parents prefer to give their sons control and ownership of material wealth over their daughters? This is answered primarily by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis.

    This hypothesis begins with two conditions: 1, when the variance of reproductive success of one sex is higher than the other (a higher variance in reproductive success means that a few individuals are very successful while many others are not), and 2, parents are able to increase the quality of their offspring by investing in them. Both of these conditions are true in many societies with material wealth. By giving their offspring resources, parents can really improve the chances those offspring will have to reproduce, much better than without that inheritance. And, as in most mammals, males are the sex with a higher variance in reproduction; why? A very rich man can support multiple wives and have multiple families of children. He can be very reproductively successful. A poor man may be lucky to get one wife. Women, on the other hand, do not have a very high variance in reproduction. Each child takes at least 2 - 3 years of time and having many different husbands won't speed up that process. Any woman who gets married will achieve similar numbers of surviving children.

    Now that these two conditions are met, the Trivers-Willard hypothesis states that parents in good conditions (aka, with lots of resources) should invest more in the sex with higher variance in reproduction (aka, sons). Why? Like I said above, a rich man can have many wives and can have huge reproductive success. If you have a lot of resources, give them to your son, not your daughter, and he will create many grandchildren for you. If you're very poor, you should invest what little you have in your daughter, in making sure she's an attractive mate for a man with resources. If you have little to give your son, he has no chances of reproducing at all. But as long as your daughter gets married she will at least have some children.

    So it became that most "developed" societies, those with material wealth and resources, favored investment in their sons, and created patriarchy and patrliny. In most modern western societies, times have changed, and both sons and daughters are equally likely to have similar numbers of children - in the case of the US for the past 30 years, 2.1. And of course generally increased education and cultural ideas of fairness. But it is not female weakness or meekness that creates patriarchies. It's parents making reproductively advantageous decisions.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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