Feminism and Patriarchy
by Clyde Verner
There is a prevailing assumption that the two are in opposition. Could it be that the two are compatible? Well, perhaps, depending on how you define them.
Let's suppose that men decided they wanted to regain control of their progeny. Let's leave the definition of patriarchy as nothing more than this.
Now let's suppose that women decided they were willing to relinquish the control of progeny that they've temporarily had for the past hundred years or so in western cultures. As a result, they are freer to pursue professional careers, and are just as free to end a marriage as they are now. In short, they are no man's chattel. So far as family roles go, let's leave the definition of feminism as nothing more than this.
Can it happen? The first supposition is a bigger jump than the second. Many men still don't think a father is much more than a money machine. Even today, perhaps most American men still don't know the value of fatherhood.
But this could change, and in fact is changing rapidly. Witness the rise in single father homes, joint custody arrangements, and the growing clamor for fathers' rights. The industrial revolution, with its drudgery of twelve hour workdays in a factory, has largely ended. Men are rediscovering family life and fatherhood.
The second supposed development, that women are not primarily thought of as being childrearers, is already well under way. They may not yet have overtaken their male peers in terms of hours worked or wages earned, but they have made strong gains in these areas in a relatively short period of history.
The ultimate effect of such changes on marriage, divorce, and rates of violence can only be speculative at this point. Such changes may seem unlikely, yet they may be more likely than a further drift towards the new urban tribal matriarchy or a return to traditional family patriarchy, where not only the children, but the wife as well was chattel of the man of the house.
Copyright © 1999
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