Is Patriarchy Oppression?

Date March 4, 2006 Posted by Roger Overton

This week Albert Mohler published an article on the “Return of Patriarchy.” He points to an article by Phillip Longman that argues patriarchy will inevitably return due to declining birthrates in Western countries. Needless to say, some people aren’t going to be too happy about that.

Bell Hooks is said to have defined Feminism as the struggle to end patriarchy. From her perspective, and many like her, patriarchy is sexist oppression- a power play to limit the rights of women. Following this line of thought, the return of patriarchy is an awful thing.

Is patriarchy oppression? Certainly most of us can point to horrible men who have mistreated their wives and children, and perhaps much worse, based on the idea that they have authority over them. But is this the norm of patriarchy? Not really. This is the image 43 years of radical feminism has left us with. They tell us that when men are in control bad things happen.

Contrary to popular feminist belief, patriarchy is not necessarily abusive. Patriarchy simply means that men are the standardized leaders. Having leaders does not necessitate mistreatment. Sure we can think of bad bosses or supervisors we’ve had, but most of us have had plenty of fine experiences under the leadership of another person.

Christian patriarchy teaches that men (generally) have been gifted by God to be leaders in their families. It also teaches that husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25). So on this view, those men who abuse their wives abuse their callings as men of God. Patriarchy as oppression is an abuse of patriarchy, not the defining picture of it.

We should hope that if Longman’s claim turns out to be true, what comes to pass would be Christian patriarchy and not Islamic patriarchy.

Related posts:

  1. Interview with Mary Kassian – Part II
  2. An Introduction to Feminism
  3. A Point of Departure
  4. What Fathers Do Best
  5. Some Problems Feminism Helped Cause…
  6. Interview with Mary Kassian – Part I

7 Responses to “Is Patriarchy Oppression?”

  1. Anonymous said:

    Hi Roger,
    I don't think patriarchy “is” oppression, and I don't think patriarchy can be defined solely in terms of the idea put forth in some parts of the Bible that men are to be heads of households. According to my reading of history, the concept of patriarchy slid into place somewhat after Christianity became established, andbegan to fade from practice at some point in the mid-twentieth century. Patriarchy may be generally defined as the idea that males are superior, or higher on the hierarchy of power and fitness to rule, than females. The Bible, however, indicates in many places that male and female stand at the same level on a natural hierarchy: below God, above animals. In the Bible, women are often seen in leadership positions, in both old and new testaments. In my understanding, that which we call “patriarchy” emerged out of the detailed, orderly, and highly unbiblical concept of hierarchy which developed in and after the Renaissance, in answer to previous chaos.
    If anyone has any variant historical reading to offer in agreement or in opposition, I'd be interested to hear it. History and philosophy develop in such close-knit interaction; it's fascinating to think about.

  2. Anonymous said:

    I forgot to mention that some societies, including Greek society, were “patriarchal” before the advent of Christianity; patriarchal concepts of hierarchy appear to fade in and out of other cultures, not just our own.
    Vicky (again)

  3. Anonymous said:

    Hi Vicky,
    I don't know of any society that wasn't patriarchic prior to the success of First-Wave Feminism (non-radical) in Europe and North America. The unifying factor among patriarchic societies is simply that men are viewed as the leaders- the head of households and government. I think it is incorrect that all of these societies viewed men as superior in value to women, but they would agree that men are more

  4. Anonymous said:

    Patriarchy can be oppression, just like marriage can be oppressive – or not – depending on the husband. Patriarchy itself isn't the problem. The problem is the hearts of the husbands and the hearts of the wives. Of course, political agendas, laws, and “rights” don't allow for discussion of individuals. Instead, all men and all women are lumped into two categories defined by our physical anatomy instead of the beliefs we stand by and the causes we support.
    I live in a patriarchal marriage. My husband leads, but his leadership isn't oppressive. We're partners in life. We support each other. When decision time comes, we agree 95% of the time. For the few times we can't agree and a decision has to be made, he makes the choice and pays for the consequences of that choice.
    Terri (a new/old perspective on Christian womanhood)

  5. Anonymous said:

    Roger, have you read about the matriarchic (not feminist) societies in ancient Greece and early Europe? There were such societies elsewhere also. Fascinating books explore the subject, including those by Riane Eisler, Jacquetta Hawkins, John Mansley Robinson, Raphael Patai, and Marija Gimbutas. Some scholars found evidence that these societies existed prior to patriarchal ones.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Hi Roger. If declining birthrates in the West leads to the resurgence of patriarchal oppression; and if one of the reasons for declining birthrates in the West is due to the prevalence of elective abortion, then it is ironic that Feminism (which advocates elective abortion) is actually one of the causes of patriarchy making a comeback. Matriarchy shoots herself in the foot.
    Also consider: we've heard in pop-psychology that behind every man is a woman, and that most of men's emotional/psychological disorders stemmed from his childhood relationship with his mother (see Freud). That means behind every abusive patriarchy is an abusive matriarchy. Matriarchy does it to herself again!

  7. Anonymous said:

    Hi Roger,
    In many far east cultures, women have low social status. For example, in China, inheritance is generally only given to male offspring. (my wife is Taiwanese)
    Another interesting aspect of this, is that in China March 8 (which just passed) is “women's day” a day in which men are supposed to give special treatment to women. A co-worker of mine, also Chinese, asked me on that day why Americans dont celebrate “women's day” and noted that not only in China, but in Europe, they recognize this day. (That argument never works for me …I'm with Scalia) Part of her reasoning was also according to their society “all other days are man's day”.
    Could it be that feminism is on the upswing in these traditionally partriarchal societies?
    Also, is it possible that without the bible, some societies might not recognize that men/women are equal but have different roles?
    Anyways,I just thought you might find this interesting. I enjoy this blogsite.

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