The United States of Patriarchy
Popular culture and media has been bringing the idea of feminism to the forefront. From celebrities to hashtags, feminism has become pop culture, and with that it’s become watered down and misunderstood. Now feminism is just referred to as “equality of the genders,” when feminism is so much more than that. Many of the more in-depth theories and ideas within feminism have been pushed to the fringes because of this popularity. The idea of the patriarchy is one of those theories. Anti-feminists and feminists alike argue that society in America is no longer considered a patriarchy because women have more rights here than women in other countries. This idea is simply untrue. Men hold a majority of the power in every aspect in America, even if one would like to believe otherwise
To understand this idea better, one must first know the definition of patriarchy. Patriarchy is defined as “a social system in which: males hold primary power; males predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property; and, in the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children.” Although America seems like such a progressive country with women holding many different leadership roles, men still hold the majority of the power in political, moral, social, and familial roles.
In America, Men dominate political roles.“In the U.S., for example, 17 percent of Congress is female, relatively unchanged from 2005.” Men hold a very high percentage of the seats in Congress, and continue to push the small percentage of women out. Sadly, America comes in at 95th in the world for percentage of women in its national legislature, which is down from 59th in 1998. Congress isn’t the only office women are under represented in — state governors, statewide elected officials, state legislators, and mayors all see less than 25% of women in office. This is no coincidence though, there are many factors leading to this disparity. Women are more likely to agree that the electoral environment is more biased towards women. This might be because they’re much less likely to think they’re qualified to run, because they’re not even likely to receive the suggestion of running.
Looking at the statistics for the gender disparities in political offices, it comes to no surprise that men also have more moral authority in America. “Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws.” There are many examples of men being awarded moral authority over women. One example is Elizabeth Kenny, who was a nurse whose treatment of polio was laughed at by male doctors, but later widely accepted because it worked better than their treatment. Regardless of all of the wonderful scientific contributions women have made, they still aren’t taken as seriously within scientific fields, leading them to leave. Another example of male moral authority is Ben Barres, a transgender male, who was given much more respect after he transitioned. Men even dominate print and online journalism. It comes to no surpise then that men dominate conversations in both real life and online, and are given the right to, because “women talk more” is another example of moral authority being held by men. Women are also interrupted more, especially by men attempting to assert dominance in the conversation, and even when they’re doctors being interrupted by their patients. Women and minorities are also systematically less likely to get responses from professors than men. “Faculty at private schools were significantly more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty at public schools. And faculty in fields that were very lucrative were also more likely to discriminate. So there was very little discrimination in the humanities. There was more discrimination among faculty at the natural sciences. And there was a lot of discrimination among the faculty at business schools.” and, “In business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities.” These are also causes of the wage gap. Women aren’t given as much attention or praise as men in STEM or business fields, leading to them thinking they are less qualified in these fields, making them less likely to apply.
After everything that’s been explained so far, it really is no surprise that men have more social privilege — through laws, gender roles, power distribution, etc. “Privilege and right are defined and supported by laws, rules, customs, conventions and individual strength.” Men have more political pull, seeing as they have more control because they saturate political positions. “Customs and convention are social determinants of structure, e.g. the privilege based on caste, religion or economic class.” Within religions men usually have better roles (although religion is not law within Western societies, we still see households that are structured through religion), and men are economically better off (i.e. the wage gap). “Individual capacity and personality strength also define social privilege, e.g. the rights accruing to the strongest, wisest most skillful or most courageous individual.” Men’s social privilege can be seen again through the reasons the wage gap occurs, like the John vs. Jennifer case. This is also seen through the way that women are openly not welcome in physically demanding male dominated fields, like construction.
Women can own property in America, but that doesn’t mean that they have the most control. Men actually have more control of property. “Overall, 70 percent of the householders are homeowners, but male householders have a homeownership rate of 74 percent, while only 65 percent of female householders are homeowners — a statistically significant difference.” Men own and control more of the property in America, but it’s also higher value — “male householders own houses with 8.9 percent more value than female householders. However, when comparing equity, the gap narrows to 3.2 percent.” A statistic from this source that also works as to the patriarchal control of the family is that married men are more likely to be the home owner in their marriage. The percent of the total sample is 39.0 for men and 16.1 for women. The gap isn’t that far in African American households, 22.5 compared to 12.2. But for white households, it’s very large, 41.3 compared to 16.6.
As much as feminism has tried to eradicate gender roles, men are still seen as breadwinners, and the father figures are still held in a higher light than mother figures. In divorce cases, fathers are actually more likely to get custody. It’s just that they don’t ask for custody like women do. Men even win custody if they’re unfit as parents. Judges have been ruling more for 50/50 custody, but in the past ten years, the men’s rights movement has been devastating to women seeking custody in court, and women are awarded sole custody about half as many times as men. Men are also given more rights within familial contexts because when it comes to domestic violence, men are given lesser sentences for the same crime. The average prison sentence for men who kill their intimate partners is 2 to 6 years while women who kill their partners are sentenced, on average, 15 to 17 years.
It’s true that there are places with more a prevalent patriarchy, where women can’t vote or drive, but that doesn’t negate the fact that America’s society is still a patriarchy. Just because men here don’t hold women under an iron fist and women have been awarded rights doesn’t mean that men don’t hold the most power. The patriarchy is still alive and well.