An Essay on Patriarchy
The word Patriarchy comes from the Latin word ‘pater’ which means father as ruler or male authority. It is a process, which took nearly 2500 years to its completion. Men also form it and women developed largely from that of the ancient Hebrews, whose families were patriarchal in structure. The patriarchal family is the basic unit of its organization expressing and constantly generating its rules and values. Gender, on the other hand could affect the formation of a state and to find how it was created, defined and achieved will help us understand better the patriarchal society (Lerner, 1986, p.
During the Neolithic period, when the inter-tribal “exchange of women” was fostered, women were commodified not only to cement marriage alliances but also used in their reproduction capacities and services. Alliances between non-relatives are formed and maintained through gift giving and the showing of respect. The highest such form of gift giving occurs when a head of household offers the opportunity of a temporary sexual liaison with the most valued adult woman of his household.
An example is the Inuits, who are people inhabiting small enclaves in the coastal areas of Greenland, Arctic North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. In their society, women were given as gift to visitors thus showing their low status in the society.
Patriarchy has continued because of the consequences of the “exchange of women” appropriated by men as bride price, sale price and children. Their enslavement by the conquered tribe became not only a status symbol for their leaders but it is also a way of acquiring tangible wealth. In the Neolithic period, women themselves became a resource, acquired by men much as men acquired the land. Women were exchanged in marriages and later when their tribe is conquered, they are bought in slavery. An example is in the Mesopotamian society by the second millennium B.C, when the daughters of the poor were sold into marriage or prostitution in order to advance the economic interests of their families. Another condition firmly established by 1750 B.C shows that if the male in the family cannot pay the debt the females, wife and children could be used as pawns. Another example that exist in slave societies and in Ancient Mesopotamia when dominating males have access or are denied access to the means of production and to resources. Their sexual behavior is their tool in gaining access to class (Lerner, 1986, p. 215).
Its implications are that up to this time, women are still struggling for emancipation and freedom from slavery. When the women’s rights movement brought with it new ideas about patriarchy the gender system became clear to us that the feminist demand that the men can do better than being dominant. According to some feminist thinkers, patriarchy signified the cultural and social domination of women by men they even questioned why sexual inequality persisted even after women had won the right to vote. They also debated whether patriarchy is universal to all societies throughout history.
Another implication is that women are not very oppressed because from its inception in slavery, where men were primarily exploited as workers, as providers of sexual services and as reproducers. Other, more radical views argued that patriarchy would not diminish, and women should either live in separate societies or secure legal and political protection from men’s violence against women, which they believe is predominant. Still others think that the differences between the sexes are determined by the culture of a society, and therefore can change. They believe that winning political equality alone will not alter cultural beliefs about the roles of the sexes and that feminists must take action if they want to change those attitudes.
According to When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, women in the ancient times as pointed in the Bible women were considered as God, worshipped by men. In her book, she postulated that during prehistory matriarchy dominated the society but was destroyed by the patriarchal Indo-Europeans. She concludes that because of the clearly patriarchal outlook of the Hebrew who hated women as dominant and hatred of goddess worship. Thus, it was clear that women were not always subordinate in position to men because even during the biblical times women were worshipped as Gods.
However, in contrast, according to archeologists who studied women in the Syrian farming village in 8000 BC using bone pathology. They discovered that the women ground the grain in these villages because the knee bones of their skeleton shows scars due to the constant stress of kneeling and pushing on grinding stones. This proves that women during the 8000 BC in some societies were subordinate to men. For example, the Classic Maya figurines of males and females, which both were having different style. Maya figurines of men are much more ornate than those of women, indicating that Maya women had relatively low status compared with Maya men. The plain, unadorned style of Maya female figurines persisted over time, which indicates to archaeologists that women had very low status in their society.
To conclude, women may never win over patriarchy but to stand their ground they must continue whenever possible to change the tide in our society. It requires only small process to start with and the more women who are bold in their world and never worried about men and their power, the better chance women and men can be equals in life.
Lerner, Gerda. (1986). The Creation of Patriarchy. ACLS Humanities E-book. (pp.212- 215).Oxford University Press.
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