Let's Bring Back The Patriarchy

Warning: political post ahead.

I could write a Modest-Proposal-style post heaping ironic praise on patriarchy, but really what I want to do is bring back the concept of patriarchy as an analytical tool. Whenever a feminist uses the word, s/he's immediately branded hysterical. Maybe it's because the term has expanded to appear to mean something like "how men rule women." Actually, to get to the root of the matter, patriarchy is the rule of fathers. And it doesn't mean that every father is a ruler; it might just mean that most rulers are fathers. Maybe it's because I've spent all day looking at propaganda for Louis XIV, but I wonder whether we've progressed much beyond him. What better prerequisite is there for influential office in the US government (and any other government, for that matter) than to be a male with children? Why else did Elizabeth Edwards undertake two pregancies after age 47? Why else did John Roberts adopt two children in the same year Bush was elected? (By the way, why are three out of five of the "sponsored ads" on this page gay themed?)

I came to this conclusion when commenting on this rather irritating article on Salon. My irritation began with the flippant title (the article means well, but the title convinces me all the more that the American punditocracy, even on the leftish side, is totally out of touch with the realities much of the world faces) and continued with the comments -- a flood (ok, it was a small flood) of disgusting racists brought out of the woodwork by the article to express their outrage at "savage" practices in Africa. (The story is about girls whose mothers "iron" their breasts to slow down breast development in order to allow them to continue going to school, not be forced into preteen marriage, not get HIV, etc.)

Yes, it's horrifying to think about, but so are a lot of other things people go through. Among the responses was someone who wrote that "if you can't see the difference between pillage in war and holding down your daughter and sewing her vagina closed or ironing her breasts, you're either stupid or crazy or both..." His (I assume) point being? Pillage in war is really pretty much OK, but this practice is abominable.

My sneaking suspicion is that the people so vehemently expressing so much horror are actually more interested in their own fantasized enjoyment of young girls' developing bodies than anything else about their well-being.

So I commented that the root of the problem was not the practice itself but "patriarchy, in one of its more brutal forms." But now I'm reconsidering. Actually, that phrase might just be a better description of the US government, at least in its imperial activities.

There's a postscript to this: certain psychoanalysts (following Freud's Totem and Taboo) have argued that what we have now is not the rule of fathers but the "regime of the brother." I don't know quite what I think about this; it's hard to imagine George W. Bush, in fact, as anything but a son (a #$%^&*ed-up one at that). But I think it doesn't matter whether he's convincing as the Father Of His Country to those of us who aren't convinced by him. To the core right wing supporters, he's the "Father" because he fills that function, not because of anything else about him. He just is (kind of like any fascist ruler, in fact).


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