The Patriarchy Monster

Patriarchy exists, but it lives too much in your head

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There’s a destructive belief that holds many women back. It teaches them to be forever fearful, to view another group of people in a highly bigoted manner, and to outsource the responsibility for their own anxieties. They rely on what should be outdated stereotypes by now on what women allegedly aren’t allowed to do or say, how they have to be forever on their guard because the signs of hatred against women are everywhere, because members of this collective mega-power seek to attack them at every turn. This self-limiting belief, which has roots in a very real threat, creates unnecessary suffering for women by keeping them perpetually and artificially angry and fearful of a danger that does in fact exist, but whose power to oppress pales in comparison to their ability to oppress themselves.

Why are they so angry and fearful? “Because I have to live with The Patriarchy!”

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The belief in this all-powerful ‘patriarchy’ feeds a victim mindset. Some women cling to it because, if they let go, they might find the oppressive beast lurking beneath them isn’t The Patriarchy (“Release The Patriarchy!”) but the realization that what’s really holding them back, keeping them invisible, even, sometimes silencing them, is too often— themselves. When you’re a perpetual victim, you’re by definition powerless. The question is, who’s truly victimizing you?


/ˈpātrēˌärkē/ noun

  • a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
  • a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.
  • a society or community organized on patriarchal lines.

(From Merriam-Webster, edited for length)

While men still hold the majority of power in Western countries, it’s eroding. For example, the ‘Blue Wave’ in the House of Representatives that welcomed a historic 100 new Congresswomen is a huge flashing neon sign that The Patriarchy has just been moved into the Intensive Care Unit of the old folks home. It’s still alive, but it’s shitting its trousers.

It’s not a real patriarchy when women are ‘largely [NOT] excluded’ from the power. Failing to recognize progress and particularly your own power feeds the victim mentality. There is, in some quarters, an almost sacred devotion to perpetual female victimhood that teaches women to see danger everywhere, and to hate unto others as they would not have Steve Bannon hate unto them. How do you live peacefully, with yourself and others, when you collectively see men as cells in a large monster called The Patriarchy?

Many women would rather fear a power paradigm that only has some elements in place, rather than ask themselves who’s really holding them back, fearing going out in public, silencing themselves.

Too much self-centered attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering. — Dalai Lama

If there’s one thing every person on the planet has in common, it’s self-centredness. It’s always all about me, me, me. Focusing inward is good if you’re doing it in a healthy manner, but only if you’re confronting, examining and challenging your fears, rather than feeding them. Remember when you were afraid of monsters under your bed? Where were the monsters then?

Patriarchy vs patriarchal thinking

I had a woman once say to me, “I need my safe space so I can continue fighting The Patriarchy.”

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Patriarchal thinking has returned with a vengeance in America and globally with the rise of Donald Trump as the putative leader of the free world. Interestingly, it wasn’t just a bunch of men who pulled this off, but mostly white men with a lot of help from white women. It wasn’t patriarchy that got Trump elected, since patriarchal thinking is multicolored — and sometimes female. Patriarchal thinking exists in all cultures, in all times and places. For genuine patriarchal cultures and governments, as defined above, according to Amnesty International, Afghanistan, the Democratic (!) Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, and India are the world’s worst places to be a woman.

In fact, if you want to know what a truly horrifying patriarchy looks like, just explore the way women are treated in these places.

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These countries are the worst examples of real patriarchy. Here in the West, in Europe and North America…it’s less patriarchy than patriarchal, and still not as all-encompassing as victimist thinking would have you believe, even with the advent of Trumpistan and the rise of Angry White Men.

Not when you can vote, sisters.

That’s the biggest difference between North American women and their far more oppressed sisters in other parts of the world. The power to vote.

That isn’t just whether it’s their civil right. It’s whether their husband or father allows them to go out and vote, and maybe they can’t because they have no male relative to escort them. ‘For their own good.’

That, girlfriends, is what a real patriarchy looks like.

Many of you missed the Golden Age of American Patriarchy

We North American women enjoy rights and self-determination today which didn’t exist in the America into which I was born.

There was no such concept as ‘marital rape’.

There were few if any protections for women in the workplace. The jobs open to women were limited and low-paying, with the expectation that if she was young she was probably going to quit to get married and have babies. A not-unwarranted assumption in those days.

In many states, a woman couldn’t get a credit card without a marital co-signer. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act changed that in 1974.

A single woman couldn’t rent a room or an apartment in many places.

Abortion was illegal in most states.

Today, women’s rights are under attack, particularly abortion rights, but is it The Patriarchy’s fault, or all the people who voted for Donald Trump? Even more critically, for all those hoary old Republican Congressmen?

The Near-Extinction of Pro-Choice Republicans in Congress

What we don’t like to think about is how many women voted for this patriarchal regression.

The difference between patriarchy and patriarchal thinking is that when you can attend a Pussy Hat March, knowing you run a very small risk of personal blowback, you don’t live under a patriarchal system. If you did, you’d get murdered by your family or executed by the state for your arrogance and audacity.

In a true patriarchy, women have very little power and justice. There’s an argument for describing the North American justice system as patriarchal in regards to sexual abuse cases, but it’s still debatable. There are true miscarriages of justice, and there are murkier cases like the Ford/Kavanaugh debacle, which happened so far back in ancient history that it’s reduced to she said/he sniffled. Zero evidence, just highly convincing alleged victim testimony (I believe her), but no basis for bringing charges forward now, as some wanted.

Due process sucks for some.

The mess of a justice system I’ll leave to others to debate, and the difficulty of challenging rape accusations is a huge challenge we may unfortunately not resolve any time soon. But I don’t doubt we’ll find a way. We are human beings. We are the most ingenious creatures on the planet, and we have still the world’s most complex and efficient computers between our ears that no other human-made creation can touch. Humans (Feminist humans!) have reduced rapes by over 60% and we will find a way to reduce them further, and effectively balance justice with the need for evidence.

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Personal responsibility will set you free

At some point feminism began abrogating personal responsibility for women and their choices and turned what was left of a formerly true patriarchal structure into a looming, all-consuming, all-powerful Patriarchy against which they felt nearly helpless.

When you take personal responsibility back, and learn not to confuse it with ‘blame’, it’s wildly empowering and you can go forth more fearlessly.

‘The Patriarchy’ became a way to avoid the darkness in ourselves, that is shared by all humans, and to assign blame elsewhere.

Certain feminists took very real fears and personal experiences — like sexual assault — and extrapolated them to encompass all men as potential rapists, based on the actions of a very small percentage of men compared to the general population. To feed the fear, they augmented the dropping rape statistics by saying, “It’s believed that the rape rate is much higher, but they’re unreported.”

How did they know it’s really high then, if they’re unreported? Why would they want to feed the fear?

Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls this sort of thinking ‘progressophobia’ and he identifies it primarily with the left. I’m not sure he’s giving the right their fair due, but Naomi Wolf observed in her 1993 book Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century that feminists were too-often unwilling to acknowledge or celebrate the real victories that had been achieved in the previous thirty years. [See: The world I was born into a few paragraphs ago].

She described ‘victim feminists’ who identified with powerlessness, and ‘power feminists’ who identified with personal power and responsibility.

Feminists began to deny their own power when they gave it — they gave it — to the Patriarchy Beast that grew in their minds like a toxic oil splooch.

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There’s suffering that’s truly caused by others, and there’s that which we inflict on ourselves, largely through our personalized, skewed perceptions of the world and others, and how we react to events. There’s ‘shit happens’ — things truly beyond your control that may be unfair or grossly unjust — and there’s how you handle the aftermath.

Rhonda Cornum was a female soldier famously and controversially taken prisoner during the Persian Gulf War and molested by her Iraqi captor.

Her main worry wasn’t rape, she says, but rather that the shackled Dunlap might get himself shot trying to defend her. “Other than that, it didn’t make a big impression on me,” she says, shrugging. “You’re supposed to look at this as a fate worse than death. Having faced both, I can tell you it’s not. Getting molested was not the biggest deal of my life.”

— Time Magazine, A Woman’s Burden, March 28, 2003

Not everyone can handle the aftermath of sexual assault this way, especially when they haven’t been trained to expect the possibility in battle, but it demonstrates that it doesn’t have to ruin one’s life.

It’s true that we live in a misogynist society that’s growing worse every day. It’s true that women are more in danger. I see Creeping Patriarchy too. The U.S. government isn’t A Patriarchy but there are clearly powerful elements that would make it so. Look at the expert patriarchs in terrorist organizations— ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram. You see a lot of scary similarities.

Yes, Virginia, there is a patriarchy, but you can still kick it in the ass

Giving energy to The Patriarchy belief feeds the resistance to looking within and ask what you’re doing to hold yourself back. At some point, the buck stops with the woman in the mirror.

Speaking your truth under your real identity is an invitation to patriarchal-thinking abuse to keep you forever afraid and unable to work any longer for fear of death threats.

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Yes. That’s real silencing of women’s voices, and we need to deal with that in a very public, legal, and policy-changing way.

The march for progress may be two steps forward, one step back, but it’s still progress. And, as Martin Luther King pointed out, (and today, Steven Pinker), the arc of moral progress is long but it bends toward justice.

Sometimes, we’re afraid of what might happen if we speak our truth. We brace ourselves for the shitstorm.

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And then it doesn’t happen.

Women aren’t the only ones who silence themselves with self-limiting fears. They’re not the only ones who learn helplessness and self-victimization. Everybody does it. It’s easier to blame someone else, or a group of someone elses, than to look within and challenge your own demons. Just ask the Angry White Men, who blame their crappy lives on feminism, immigrants, Muslims, transfolk, mixed-breed puppies, whoever happens to be in their line of sight. Everyone but themselves.

Even wannabe patriarchs self-victimize. Their own personal demon is the super-exaggerated Feminism Monster.

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I can understand why sexual assault and abuse victims have an outsized fear of men. As many have pointed out before, you can have great interactions with a thousand dogs but the one who bites you changes your trust of dogs forever. I understand.

But still. Just as dog bite victims still have to live in a world filled with dogs (especially a dog-friendly city like Toronto) women must live in a world filled with men. Who won’t like being regarded as potential abusers or rapists when they haven’t done anything wrong. [Counterpoint: If all men are potential rapists, then are all accusers potential liars?]

We can’t always control our suffering. There are those always willing to create suffering for others. What we can control is how we react, how we interpret that suffering, and most importantly, how much we’re willing to let it control us and for how long.

We don’t even know how much we create our own suffering. To avoid acknowledging that, we create monsters in our heads.

What if The Patriarchy isn’t as powerful as you think?

How happy and less afraid might you be?

Think about it.

Nicole Chardenet lives within a highly oppressive Catriarchy in Toronto with Belladonna the Demon Beast who hogs the computer chair and dances the fandango on Nicole’s chest in the middle of the night when he wants attention. When she’s not cleaning up enough sheddings to knit herself a new cat, Nicole publishes a new chapter once a week of her highly acclaimed (by her mother) dark fantasy novel Tales From The Anonymous Divorced Witchbabe on her blog. Which Belladonna horks up hairballs on.

Self-help centrist in the Murky Middle. Egalitarian & feminism critic. Visit me and reclaim your power on Grow Some Labia!

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