Monday, June 25, 2007


When I studied counseling a few years ago, we discussed the subject of Patriarchism for several weeks. I found the introduction engaging wishing to one day further this brief initial research. I jotted down some thoughts taken from my counseling note book dated Nov. 2005. Unfortunately, I didn't include the references I used.

The word Patriarch sounds so ancient no one would suspect it has anything to do with human interactions today. By Patriarchy historians refer to male headship of family, clan and tribe, as an "institution or organization in which power is held and transferred through males.” Theologians see Patriarchism as a Biblical principle that had it's original roots in following God's ordinances and purposes. However, in modern times people often refer to Patriarchism as an oppressive system since Biblical societies lived periods when they had strayed from God.

We see a redemptive concept of male headship in the New Testament that points to Jesus Christ and his relationship to His bride, the church – how He gave his life for her in sacrificial love. The idea of sacrificial love is a revolutionary concept in comparison to the Old Testament social systems (long historical periods of godless degradation) where women were treated as property, with little regard for their safety or health.

Prior to the 1870s, there were no such things as separate prisons. Women were housed with men and were thus sexually exploited by male inmates. Since then, patriarchy has changed its fa├žade, but not in regards to primitive caveman principles. The modernization of patriarchy appears to carry favorable connotations, but actually we face the same vile creature only it now wears a suit and tie.

Oppressive patriarchy has so penetrated our society that we fail to see how prevalent and harmful it is to our psychological makeup. Years ago I read John Gray’s “Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus.” I thought the ideas were so true to life without understanding the harm the author was promoting (even though the book sold 20 million copies). I never suspected the book as preserving the patriarchal status quo, while claiming the opposite. Gray’s main argument throughout the book is that men will always be men and therefore everyone will be happy when we accept men just as they are rather than attempting introduce change in any way.

While the ideals of family life in the twentieth century are given lip service – especially the myth of equal collaboration between family members -- the reality is that in many households, men use their power as a pretext for irresponsible and aggressive behavior. Unthinkingly, many women reinforce this sense of entitlement, even if it goes against their own interests. Women give men the license to be negligent in domestic chores, discourteous, and demeaning in joking ways, disregarding feelings, slighting parental obligations, sexually too aggressive, insensitive to their partner’s need for love and promiscuous. What would be intolerable characteristics for women are excused because, “men will be men.”

Since my family suffered under the hands of an aggressive "family head", I witnessed first hand what a wrong example looked like. At an early age -- what germinated -- was a seed of empathy in favor of women and against the injustices toward women.

Only once we are re-educated, do we learn that tolerating any kind "machoism" is wrong. When we become emotionally literate, deep feelings of injustice are no longer just feelings, but become clear ideas that we can articulate. We begin the path toward freedom once we develop that vital vocabulary.

I'd like to finish this essay with some thoughts by Tim M Kellis that I read today and that would make a great conclusion:

"Prejudice. One of the greatest gifts that has been discovered because of our wonderful system of democracy is the problem caused by having prejudicial beliefs. Prejudice breeds ignorance and contempt, results in anger, produces an overwhelming urge for power, blinds individuals from seeing the path to happiness, and in reality is the cause for the troubles within our relationships. Unfortunately, this concept has not yet breached the walls of the ivory tower of the psychology industry."-

© TR 2010

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