Reposting my latest column for The Guardian Nigeria, which was there titled “Why I am going to stop using the term patriarchy”. If you have any thoughts about this, leave a comment.
When feminists use the word patriarchy, it is usually followed with a shrug, a rolling of the eyes, or a sigh.
This is because when we speak about patriarchy, we are referring to the sanctioning of male dominance in society. We are taking issue with boys clubs that exclude women from matters which concern them. We are pointing to a binary hierarchy system where the value of the female sex is diminished by tradition, religion, culture etc., while the value of the male sex is given unreasonable preference.
There is no denying that this system exists, but I have started questioning how accurate it is to call it patriarchal.
See, patriarchy may imply all the above in theory, but the origins and archetypes that imbue a term are equally interesting to me as their theoretical uses are. Perhaps it’s due to my Finno-karelian and Yoruba ancestry, both ancient cultures to whom poetry, mythology and archetype were integral to understanding the world around us.
The etymological roots of the term patriarchy are associated with the Greek “pater” and the English term “father”. Patriarchy literally means “the rule of fathers”. Or to put it differently, patriarchy connotes rule which is fatherly.
Only there is nothing fatherly about the way we are ruled. Just look at the present state of our world – it is clear that although society is led by elderly males, it is not patriarchal in the sense of fatherliness. To be fatherly is not simply to provide the semen for child-making, it is to be concerned, kind and tender of those whom you father. When it comes to government, a truly patriarchal leadership would be paternal, meaning it would behave with love, benevolence and protection if also with authority.
Instead, what we have is a system which is dominated by the male adolescent archetype. Whether it’s a Donald Trump or a David Cameron, a David Mark or a Dino Melaye, it is boy- rather than father psychology that governs us. Unlike the father archetype, who invests in a positive future for his kin, the boy archetype wants to conquer everything in a hurry. It’s the ego gone wild, whose every action is rooted in the fear of losing power. We are governed by the “boyarchy”.
The boyarchy is characterised by qualities such as rowdiness, braggadocio, violence, territorialism and incapability of commitment. It is the reign of the eternal Bachelor, the buster, the Rambo, Tarzan and the Wild Wild West, and it’s ruthlessly controlling.
In family relationships too, the cantankerous boy archetype is more common than the mature father archetype. Our culture just does not encourage men to reach the stage of archetypal male maturity that is characterised by compassionate concern and emotional connection. This is why men who, despite the odds stacked against them, embody these latter qualities are seen as “feminine”.
There are exceptions, of course. The Nelson Mandelas and the Barack Obamas of the world have brought paternalism to the boy-structures that they lead. Also, let me point out that there are positive attributes to the energy of young male adolescence. This archetype can be courageous, vigorous and potent. A healthy society needs these qualities. But it’s not what should lead the way.
Moreover, let me add that women are equally capable of “boyarchal” behaviour as well as its equivalently unuseful (for leadership) girlishness.
Last but not least, the true patriarch knows that he is nothing without the matriarch. I do not mean that he simply “respects” women, especially older women or his own wife. I mean that the true patriarch knows that a combination of patriarchal and matriarchal sagacity is needed in our governing structures. He knows that society will not prosper until there is an alchemy between the masculine and the feminine because he knows that both exaggerated masculinity or femininity creates disorder and dis-ease.
These are some of the reasons why I’m going to stop referring to our form of rule as patriarchal. It is too generous a term to describe a system devoid of fatherly responsibility.
Image is by John Bosco Kanuge, The Protector (1998)
Graham Askey says
Obama may have demonstrated some of the positive characteristics you refer to in domestic policy but in foreign policy he has been just as wedded to violence, territorialism and the ruthless controlling that presidents always have. Are you really sure he is such a good example?
Johnny Mnemonic says
At least Obama didn’t start wars or behave in a belligerent manner like his predecessor, George W. Bush. What I see in both Obama’s predecessor and successor are two opposite extremes from the Republican Party. On the one hand you had Bush who was belligerent. On the other you have the new Trump, who wants to dismantle America’s geopolitical alliances and return America to isolationism, which invites China and Russia into more aggressive roles. Obama was the middle ground between these two extremes.
Compared to Bush and Trump, Obama was the lesser of two evils. Compared to Russia and China, the U.S. as a superpower is the lesser of three evils, and Obama, who took the middle ground between belligerence and isolationism was the embodiment of that “lesser evil.”
Graham Askey says
Whilst I can agree that Obama is the lesser of two evils you seem to rather deluded as to his actions in suggesting he didnt start wars or behave in a belligerent manner. He must be held directly responsible for the whole debacle in Libya as the war would never have happend without his support. The war was clearly an abuse of the UN Right to Protect resolution as it was always an illegal war of regime change. The threat to benghazi was a total fabrication as has even been demonstrated in a recent UK govt committee. It has escaped your notice that we armed and funded a bunch of Islamic extremists, killed 1000’s in a huge bombing campaign, which deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure -another war crime. When our extremist allies massacred hundreds of black africans did Obama demand we invoke the Right to Protect? Hillary Clinton, obviously with Obama’s support, refused an unconditional offer of surrender from Gadaffi, which could only be motivated by the illegal insistance on regime change and removing the last possibility for any kind of stable transition. Can I suggest you start with this article by British historian and researcher Mark Curtis for more details https://markcurtis.info/2016/09/26/the-case-for-a-public-enquiry-on-the-war-in-libya/
As for not being belligerent, what about the huge numbers of civilians killed in his drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. What about his unquestioning support for the Saudi war crimes in bombing Yemen? Including providing the bombs to do it with and the targeting intelligence that has led to the destruction of hospitals and schools. What about the unquestioning support for Israel’s mass murder of Gazan civilians? What about his support for mass murdering dictators like SIsi in Egypt? You might ask why his response to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar was to declare and end to sanctions on the regime.
How much more do you need me to go on and what have any of these actions got to do with the fatherly notions of patriarchy in the article?
Johnny Mnemonic says
[Whilst I can agree that Obama is the lesser of two evils you seem to rather deluded as to his actions in suggesting he didnt start wars or behave in a belligerent manner. He must be held directly responsible for the whole debacle in Libya as the war would never have happend without his support. The war was clearly an abuse of the UN Right to Protect resolution as it was always an illegal war of regime change.]
You seem completely unaware of the reasons for that war: the Arab Spring. There was a series of revolutions in a number of Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim-dominated countries. Some of the established governments started killing their own people. Gaddafi’s government was one of them. Obama had to intervene to save the Libyan people from Gaddafi. You are therefore wrong. He didn’t start that war. Gaddafi did. Gaddafi declared war on his own people.
[As for not being belligerent, what about the huge numbers of civilians killed in his drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.]
These were wars that had already started before Obama even came to office. Again, Obama didn’t start them. He simply continued wars started by his predecessor. He kept the status quo, but only temporarily. It was always his plan to slowly de-escalate and eventually withdraw.
[What about his unquestioning support for the Saudi war crimes in bombing Yemen? Including providing the bombs to do it with and the targeting intelligence that has led to the destruction of hospitals and schools. What about the unquestioning support for Israel’s mass murder of Gazan civilians? What about his support for mass murdering dictators like SIsi in Egypt? You might ask why his response to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar was to declare and end to sanctions on the regime.]
You’re talking about things done by other governments, not the U.S. government.
[How much more do you need me to go on and what have any of these actions got to do with the fatherly notions of patriarchy in the article?]
I was responding specifically to your comments about Obama.
Graham Askey says
Although I am happy to agree that Obama may be the lesser of two evils, your assertion that he didn’t start any wars or act belligerently is complete nonsense. The war in Libya and the ensuing catastrophe was entirely his responsibility as the Europeans would not have gone ahead without US backing. The illegal war was an abuse of the UN right to protect motion as it was only ever about regime change. The justification of the threat to Benghazi was a complete fabrication, as has been admitted by senior officials and the recent UK govt committee on the war. An unconditional offer of surrender from Gaddafi was refused by Clinton, therefore endorsed by Obama and the end of the one hope for any kind of peaceful transition. We armed a funded a bunch of Islamic extremists who went on to massacre hundreds of black Africans that Obama showed no interest in protecting under the UN Right to Protect clause. Thousands of civilians were killed in a bombing campaign that deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure, yet another war crime to add to the list. My I suggest you start with the following two articles by respected researchers for more details. https://markcurtis.info/2016/09/26/the-case-for-a-public-enquiry-on-the-war-in-libya/ https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/us-military-leadership-s-resistance-regime-change-1343405723
How are his drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali and Iraq that have killed huge numbers of civilians not belligerent?
How is his unquestioning support for Saudi bombing of Yemen not belligerent when, with American bombs and targeting intelligence, schools, hospitals and other civilian targets been wiped out?
How is his unquestioning support and arming of Israel in their mass murder of Gazans not belligerent?
Where are the fatherly notions of patriarchy the article refers to in his support for mass murdering dictators like Sisi and the Myanmar regime, who he rewarded with dropping sanctions as they continued their genocide of Muslim Rohingya?
Even your comparisons with Russia and China don’t stand up to much scrutiny, despite both powers being far from perfect. It is Russia and China who have been forced to respond to aggressive US posturing in the placement of missile and military bases around them, not the other way round. China’s domestic policies may be brutal but it has bombed and invaded absolutely no one, unlike the US, which hasn’t stopped doing both ever since WWII.
Obama’s foreign policies only look benign to those with their head in the sand, happy to lap up Whitehouse propaganda.
Johnny Mnemonic says
[Although I am happy to agree that Obama may be the lesser of two evils, your assertion that he didn’t start any wars or act belligerently is complete nonsense. The war in Libya and the ensuing catastrophe was entirely his responsibility as the Europeans would not have gone ahead without US backing. The illegal war was an abuse of the UN right to protect motion as it was only ever about regime change.]
As I already explained in my reply to your other post, the war was already started by someone else.
[How are his drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali and Iraq that have killed huge numbers of civilians not belligerent?
How is his unquestioning support for Saudi bombing of Yemen not belligerent when, with American bombs and targeting intelligence, schools, hospitals and other civilian targets been wiped out?]=
How is his unquestioning support and arming of Israel in their mass murder of Gazans not belligerent?]
As I already explained in my reply to your other post, these are the actions of other governments, not the actions of the U.S.
[Where are the fatherly notions of patriarchy the article refers to in his support for mass murdering dictators like Sisi and the Myanmar regime, who he rewarded with dropping sanctions as they continued their genocide of Muslim Rohingya?]
As I already explained in my reply to your other post, I was responding specifically to your comments about Obama.
[Even your comparisons with Russia and China don’t stand up to much scrutiny, despite both powers being far from perfect. It is Russia and China who have been forced to respond to aggressive US posturing in the placement of missile and military bases around them, not the other way round. China’s domestic policies may be brutal but it has bombed and invaded absolutely no one, unlike the US, which hasn’t stopped doing both ever since WWII.]
It’s not a question of being invaded, but a question of what threatens liberal, secular democracy. Sure, the U.S. has invaded other countries, but it was usually to keep us safe from threatening ideologies like communism and dictatorships like those under Stalin and like those in Cuba and the People’s Republic of China, which, if allowed to spread or become too powerful, would destabilise the world and bring us closer to World War 3. Democracies are inherently more peaceful, especially liberal and secular ones. Dictatorships must be continually fought and opposed, otherwise they will spread and become too powerful.
I think you’re wrong about China. China did invade a group of people and their land. It invaded a region of land we refer to as “Tibet” and denied them the right to call themselves an independent country. China often insists that it has never invaded anyone (actually they invaded Vietnam several centuries ago under the Ming dynasty) but it’s all semantics. With millions of Han Chinese flooding into Tibet, I find China’s claim of never being an invader hypocritical. China has invaded Tibet militarily, politically, economically and demographically. At least the U.K. is willing to give the Scots the opportunity to vote for independence.
You’re wrong about China’s brutality being limited to domestic policies. Domestic policies are an indication of what China would do on the world stage if it became too powerful. It is therefore right for the U.S. to counter China’s influence.
[Obama’s foreign policies only look benign to those with their head in the sand, happy to lap up Whitehouse propaganda.]
Like I said, it’s about choosing the lesser of two or more evils, the greater good. Yes, tragically, some countries had to be invaded, but the purpose was to delay World War 3. Look on the bright side. We’ve had 70 years of relative peace.
Graham Askey says
Sorry for the confusion with the two posts I had some problems with Disqus.
Your entire understanding of world events, at leaast as far as US actions are concerned, seems to derive entirely from government compliant mainstream media. You clearly have not read the links I supplied. As, both US officials have admitted and a UK govt committee has determined, there was NO THREAT TO BENGHAZI. The war was justified on this premise under the UN RIght to Protect Clause. Therefore Obama knew it was based on a lie and thus illegal, but still went ahead. As is also abundantly clear from politicians’ statements it was only ever about regime change – again contrary to international law. In addition, the bombing campaign went well beyond actions required to nullify the imaginary threat in any case, thus was illegal on three counts.
What war in Pakistan or Yemen? There never was one in Pakistan and Obama’s drone campaign in Yemen started years before the war. The wars were over in the other countries, Obama just chose to continue involvement in the ongoing violence and far from winding things down he escalated the drone bombing massively. The campaign has lead to no discernable improvemnts and killed huge numbers of civilians. All attempts at independent inquiries into the deaths were refused despite overwhelming evidence of numerous massacres. Added to which even US citzens were executed by drones with no legal process. The government has consistently downplayed and lied about civilian casualties.
How can you separate the moral responsibility of Obama’s actions just because the crimes were carried out by other governments, when he supplied the weapons, as well as providing technical support to allies, knowing what they were going to be used for and then refused to condemn their crimes against humanity depsite overwhelming evidence and blanket condemnation from humanitarian agencies?
Whilst I totally condemn all China’s actions you describe, particularly the invasion of Tibet, the idea that they have ever been a comparable threat to international peace as the US is utterly absurd. As for your vacuous defense of US imperialist, military endeavours and toppling of democratically elected governments around the globe, it is not even worthy of Fox News. I don’t even know where to start with such a slavish view of US propaganda for its behaviour since WWII – a tradition admirably upheld by Obama
This write up is nothing but an empty
drivel. Most men were brought up by women hence they have the highest proportion of the blame of patriarch society.
More so, significantly successful and domineering men were brought up by single mothers whose population is increasing exponentially in the world today. If these men had been brought up with good maternal instincts perhaps they would’ve turned out far better according to the conjecture of this writer.
The world ruled by men had prospered over the ages and will continue to do so if only but not exclusively in material terms. Don’t ask me who benefits from the wealth of the world.
Yes, I concor that women should be encouraged more but not to the disadvantage and detriment of men. British education system is a typical example whereby girls are encouraged at the expense of boys. School results in the UK and the behaviour of boys attest to this fact.
Rabid feminists like this writer are the baddies of the present day ideal new world order, causing more widening schisms between men and women with their ultra feminist and wonky gobbledygook.
They use and twist terms to suit their virulent and hidden agenda. They’re cloaked misandrists of the modern day. They appear magisterial but full of putrid sophistry. They use their power of words and language to bamboozle to the extreme deception.
Wittingly or less so, they’re successfully pitting boys against girls and men against women. They’re very savvy in the approach to deconstruct the world stealthily and rebuild it into their new feminine world order. This write up is a waste of space. The writer is bereft of fresh and innovative idea. She struggled to fill this space up with new idea, hence her nonsensical drivel.
Daniel Maina says
Minna was specific on her views as to what patriarchy should imply. For example, “Patriachy connotes rule which is fatherly……”
“To be fatherly is to be concerned, kind and tender of those whom you father…”
“A truely patriarchal leadership would be paternal, meaning it would behave with love, benevolence and protection…..”
I’m disappointed at your comments which neither addresses any of the issues raised nor does it offer a better argument. You justify the writer’s position that individuals as yourself are governed by the “boyarchly attitude” by attacking her person.
Johnny Mnemonic says
@Tyarow: I really don’t understand the negativity. This is a great news! The less I see the word “patriarchy,” the more comfortable I feel. “Boyarchy” is a welcome change to “patriarchy.” I find it very annoying when feminists continue to insist that somehow we live in a society that revolves around “the rule of men.” It hasn’t been that way for a long time.
I am really not that fussed how men are doing, as long as we are not denied freedom and self-determination. Men and boys have 10-20 times more testosterone in their bodies. This is the reason why we continue to dominate this world. Testosterone is the self-empowerment hormone. Take, for example, feminist opposition to self-defence training for women. It’s likely because women do not have the same level of self-determination as men do.
I actually agree with what this “feminist” said about men today not being the same men as older generations. A lot of it has to do with women gaining power. Some of it also has to do with greater sexual freedom, which implies less responsibility.
In earlier times, before the 1960s and further back in the 19th century, during the Victorian era, there were strict social barriers and rules that kept men and women apart. A man couldn’t just march into a woman’s life. There was a rigorous code that enforced men’s respect for women. The sexual liberation movement dismantled the layers and layers of inhibition against men’s invasion of a woman’s personal space.
The so-called “rape culture” controversy is really a consequence of the dismantling of these layers of social inhibition. Before the sexual liberation movement, men had a responsibility toward women. They don’t any more. Sexual freedom implies freedom from responsibility. You no longer have to marry a woman to have sex with her. You can just walk away.
Men today don’t have the sense of “honour” and “justice” that they had in prior generations. This is why the author of this article refers to them as “boys,” because they are nothing like the old “patriarchs” of the past.
The patriarchy is dead. I applaud the author for conceding, as a feminist that patriarchy no longer exists. If more feminists can start admitting that there is no patriarchy, we can finally move on to more important debates.
Paul Eric says
Looks like your thinking has evolved a minor notch! Is this really all you have to say on this subject, as profusely as you’ve written about these issues on these pages? So indeed it was all just recycled verbiage from your secular goddesses, and no original thinking on your part! The coining of a word like ‘boyarchy’ is simply too trivial to critique. Based on how you have been portraying yourself, you surely can do much better! This is the intellectual laziness in Afrofeminist women that I am offended by. You begin by looking up the etymological roots of the word “patriarch” (any dictionary will give you that, without employing the fancy word ‘etymology’) yet you can’t use the principles used to derive a better term for the concept you are trying to express! You annoy me! Stop ranting at men for pursuing beautiful ‘dumbass’ women, when you can’t hold up your end of the bargain! There is a reason they do, and it’s rarely because they are dumb. Fighting over words and ideologies in my relationships is the least productive thing on earth; can afrofeminists create an African society we can be all proud to associate with!?
M RV says
Thank you for making the distinction, that word is coming into my vocabulary right now 😉