No, Patriarchy Is Not Dead; The Facts Prove It
Real Clear Politics writer Cathy Young posted an article in 2013 wherein she attempted to make the point that the American patriarchy has been slain at last; she says that, to her mind, the evidence of patriarchy comes down to “complex issues oversimplified into a war on women… outlandish exaggerations…culturally marginal irrelevancies…or grievances so petty that it’s hard to tell if they’re satirical or serious.” She makes a few good points as well; she mentions that some people try to find patriarchy evidence in things like “some ultraconservative Catholic group advising against college education for women,”and any reasonable person can see that that point is valid. That may not be the kind of rhetoric that we like to hear, but it also certainly is by no means conclusive evidence of a patriarchic system. However, if we take an honest look at the society we live in, we see ample evidence of a patriarchy.
For example, being a socially-minded woman I’m certain Young has heard of the concept of the “glass ceiling,” whereby women generally make a lower wage than men for the same work. That point is contestable – we’ve seen very good arguments attempting to explain the income disparity, and very compelling statistics one way or the other. However, there is a much simpler metric by which we can judge the state of women in the workforce, and the Economist makes that very easy to find. “[W]omen account for 46.5% of America’s workforce,” they write. However, that news is not as encouraging as it might seem: “Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that monitors departing chief executives in America, found that 0.7% of them were women in 1998, and 0.7% of them were women in 2004.” This is very discouraging; astute readers will note that if 0.7% of departing chief executives are women, that means the other 99.3% are men. A reasonable person will agree that that statistic points very strongly at a deeply ingrained patriarchic system.
Another slightly more covert indicator is the common American practice of women, upon marriage, assuming their husband’s last name. This may not be the first thing we think of when it comes to patriarichal systems, but it’s very poignant; that is a holdover from when women were literal legal property of their husbands. Now the legality of that has changed, but the practice has not — Phillip Cohen, writing for the Atlantic, tells us that “[a]mong U.S.-born married women, only 6 percent had a surname that differed from their husband’s in 2004.” That means that a stunning 94% of married women in the United States are still taking part in a practice that is at best outdated, and at worst an outright rejection of their identity. The implicit meaning, of course, behind women changing their surname to that of their husbands is that they are then joining “his family” by taking his last name. However, if women and men are truly equal as Young tries to tell us, the family that results from a man and a woman getting married would then be their family, not his.
We can find ample evidence to support the idea of an American patriarchy in virtually every aspect of American life, whether it be government, business, or family, and singing “Ding Dong the Patriarchy is Dead” only serves to make the entire system more covert, and thus more dangerous. If we are going to truly combat the patriarchy and strive toward true gender equality, then we need to take an honest look at our society, find the sources of systemic injustice, and either modify or eliminate them.
1. Cohen, Philip. “America Is Still a Patriarchy.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 19 Nov. 2012. Web. < http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/11/america-is-still-a-patriarchy/265428/ >.
2. “The Conundrum of the Glass Ceiling.” The Economist. The Economist, 21 July 2005. Web. < http://www.economist.com/node/4197626/ >.
3. Young, Cathy. “Yes, Patriarchy Is Dead; the Feminists Prove It | RealClearPolitics.” Yes, Patriarchy Is Dead; the Feminists Prove It. N.p., 23 Sept. 2013. Web. < http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/09/23/yes_patriarchy_is_dead_the_feminists_prove_it_120031.html >.