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Patriarchy: Use of the Term

The following discussions of the term "patriarchy" took place on WMST-L in 
May 1994 and March 2003.  See also the related file from 2006,
Teaching About Patriarchy.   For additional WMST-L files available on the Web,
see the WMST-L File Collection.


Date: Mon, 23 May 1994 10:22:06 -0800 (PST)
From: Theresa <60840883 AT WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: term: patriarchy
Hi.  Just a quick question about the term "patriarchy."  Some of the people
here at my university have recently stated how tired they are of hearing the
term, how overused it has become, how meaningless, and so forth.  Not all of
these people were men or students.    Also, in a recent debate with a new ph.d
student, I was asked to define patriarchy and explain where it was really func-
tioning in U. S. society.  I had no real trouble doing this, but I found myself
wondering why a white male (this student) didn't already know the answer?  He
claimed it was because his family was run by women (a moot point, I think, sinc
e his father brought home the paycheck and had the final say).  Anyway, patri-
archy is at times a limited term, isn't it?  I mean, it isn't just men running
things; it is certain men of a certain class and background who run the gov't.
and not all men everywhere.  Of course, in the family, it is all men in most
cultures anyway, who have the financial power, I believe.  Anyway, I guess what
I want to know is, if the term patriarchy is overused, what other alternative
term will work better?  Is the term really overused, or is this another aspect
of "backlash" against new paradigms for society other than patriarchy?  I have
recently taken to using phrases like "thoughts limited by gender binaries..."
in place of "patriarchal thought" and so forth.  I would appreciate some ideas
from others on this, on the list or off, as appropriate.
60840883    AT
P.S. There is also always the issue of power and hierarchy which any substitute
term would have to encompass--and which "gender binaries" does not quite manage
to do.  I am at a loss.  TT

Date: Mon, 23 May 1994 18:47:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: term: patriarchy
Theresa's post raises some interesting questions.  Some suggestions:  Zillah
Eisenstein's discussion of the term patriarchy is pertinent (in Radical Future
of Liberal Feminism).  She argues that historically patriarchy was tied to the
rule of the father in the family.  In pre-industrial society, the divine right
of kings was legitimated by political theory through a homology with the
family.  God ruled over humanity as the king ruled his subject as the father
ruled the family.  Sir Robert Filmer in Patriarchia is a good example of this
legitimation.  Locke in rebutting  Filmer and in establishing a space for Whig
politicians to limit the king's power during the restoration (1660s), argd th
that the citizen's position in relation to the king was not analogous to the
child's position in relation to the father.  First of all, he argued, in the
family we have to talk not about paternal power, but parental power (yes, he
really argues that mothers have something to do with it, though I doubt he is
really making a feminist argument).  It is possible that Theresa's student's
objection to the term patriarchy might be related to his reading of Locke
(perhaps I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt).
An interesting alternative has been suggested by Juliet Flower MacCannell in a
book called The Regime of the Brother.  She argues that the 18th century saw a
transition from patriarchy to the regime of the brother in which fraternal
rather than patriarchal relations dominate.  It's a fascinating idea which I
don't think she is entirely successful in developing, but which I think has
real potential for rethinking how power relations work in a post-industrial
My two cents anyway.
Laurie Finke
finkel    AT

Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 09:16:07 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gina Oboler, Anthropology & Sociology, Ursinus College"
Subject: term: patriarchy
About the term "patriarchy":  I like, for my own purposes, to define the
term in a way that is cross-culturally applicable.  A patriarchal society
in this definition is one in which men, as a group or class, systematically
hold power over women as a group or class in most spheres of social life.  Europ
ean and American society certainly WERE once patriarchal in this sense, and
it is arguable that our society still is.  A matriarchal society would be
the inverse:  women as a class have systematic power over men as a class in
most spheres of social life.  This does not seem to exist empirically.
But there ARE numerous examples on record of societies that cannot be said
to be patriarchies because male authority is not all-pervasive, controlling
most spheres of life.  I believe that mild tendencies toward male
dominance that are not institutionalized male power should NOT be called
"patriarchy," and that this term is more useful when given this more
limited definition.  My two cents, FWIW.
  -- Gina (roboler    AT

Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 09:26:52 -0400
From: "Giavanna J. Munafo" <gjm9u AT DARWIN.CLAS.VIRGINIA.EDU>
Subject: term: patriarchy
However much I'd want to stand by the importance of the term and the
concept behind it, it's also true that terminology tends toward
shorthand--both a useful and a potentially obfuscating tendency. For me
the limitations of the term have to do with something touched on in
Theresa's original post, that 'men' figured as the culprits does not
provide a very
specific articulation of the cultural, racial, economic conditions often
being confronted when 'patriarchy' gets trotted out. I've been reading a
lot of bell hooks lately, and have gotten use to and adopted, to some
extent, her habit of referring to a heterosexist, white supremacist
patriarchal culture. It gets cumbersome sometimes to attempt specificity,
but her work might be an example of how it can work to one's advantage.
gjm9u    AT

Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 10:19:30 -0400
From: Delese Wear <dw AT UHURA.NEOUCOM.EDU>
Subject: term: patriarchy
SILENCE, makes a distinction between patriarchy and phallocentrism.
she prefers the latter.  she writes, "i want to signal an expanded
notion of the system within which women have been subordinated
worldwide.  while the term patriarchy has come to mean a total system
of entitlements and privileges accrued through specific acts of
domination, oppression, and exploitation in the social, political,
and economic realm, i believe (here she quote gerda lerener) that the
common usage of the term patriarchy distorts historical
reality....male domination is not only a concrete political and
economic organization but, as well, a linguistic and social
organization which defines women and simultaneously oppresses them
accordingly (she's quoting toril moi here).  for this reason, my
preference is to use a term that, as a symbolic discursive system,
includes not only the material constraints of women's lives, but also
the namings, meanings, and referents through which these constraints
are given social connotations."  that's why she uses phallocentric.
she develops this further in the book, which is published by
routledge (1993)
delese wear
dw    AT

Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 08:31:24 -0800 (PST)
From: Theresa <60840883 AT WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: term: patriarchy
Gina widens the original query about the term patriarchy in a way that I feel
needs more explanation on my part.  What I don't think I mentioned in connect-
ion to my interests in the term was my own work with Laguna Pueblo culture.  I
agree that patriarchy needs to be understood in its cultural and social context
(s), and certainly the phallus doesn't reign supreme in many cultures--includ-
ing Laguna culture.  But is Gina correct in placing Anglo American society out-
side the paradigm of men, or a class of men, holding systematic power over wo-
men as a class or group?  Something close to 98% of the Congress is white males
of privilege, isn't it?  Even local gov'ts remain largely in the hands of men.
I don't mean to essentialize too much here, but by men I do mean biologically
male regardless of sexual orientations or social identification with women's
causes and issues.  Since women is a class identified in Anglo society by their
biological functions when they are being oppressed (i.e. welfare, jobs, etc.),
I think we must examine power distributions along those same lines.  Has the
balance of power shifted toward the biological female in anglo culture and US
society?  I don't think it has.
Just an addendum: I found a great book put out by WAC called, Statistics about
Women (I think).  It's only $5.00, and it has some truly amazing (and frighten-
ing) statistics that are very very up to date about women's position in US
society currently.

Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 10:25:00 -0700
From: Harold Frank <hfrank AT BCF.USC.EDU>
Subject: hierarchies and patriarchies
Alternatives to the term "patriarchy."
"hierarchy based on male norms of behavior," also, "traditional corporate
hierarchies," or simply, "male hierarchies."
These terms obscure the paternalistic aspects of hierarchies (almost
irrelevant in these days of "down sizing") but maintain the notion of
"order of influence."  Hierarchies derive from the command structure
of military and church organization (which is to say male organization
designed for speed and certainty of implementation of action).
The revolution in information technology has enabled large numbers of
people to get information simultaenously and as a consequence reduced
the need for costly layers of management arranged in hierarchy.
+  Dr. Hal Frank                           hfrank    AT     +
+  University of Southern California                                +
+  P.O. Box 41992                          Phone:  (213) 254-102    +
+  Los Angeles, CA 90041-0992              FAX:     (213) 740-0001  +

Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 16:21:27 +1200
From: Adele Fletcher <phil024 AT CSC.CANTERBURY.AC.NZ>
Subject: Terminology, patriarchy
I've recently read lit. that claims "patriarchy" is an "emotive"
term and should not therefore be used. Probababy the perceived
emotiveness has its roots in the scholar's response to feminism.
I've also read somewhere that "patriarchy" should only be used to
describe industrial societies- this seems unfair, gendered power
structures favouring males are not solely the province of
I think "patriarchy"is perfectly adequate as a term to apply to
societies where gender is used to construct power relations which
favour males  (whether they are brothers or fathers ). Most (all?)
societies make distinctions of class/status or race which in many
respects cut across genders. This  complicates any analysis of how
patriarchy operates but doesn't seem a good reason to abandon the
term, or to always prefix it with other terms such as "white
supremacist". Any layering of terms will leave something out, eg,
class, sexual orientation,..... It's more a question of maintaining
a nuanced definition, which recognises that social structures are
always complex and seldom (if ever) reducible to a single factor
analysis (class, race or gender).
Also, on the topic of brothers vs fathers. Cross-culturally, and
historically, is not uncommon for a woman's brother(s) to be the
person(s) who are powerful figures in her life. In many societies,
by the time a woman has reached adulthood (however that is
defined!), her father is usually  no longer alive. Societies where
matrilineage occurs also favour the brother's relationship to the
woman concerned over the husband's. Or else it is sometimes a matter
for dispute/negotiation between brothers and husbands.
Adele Fletcher
Maori Studies/Religious Studies
phil024    AT

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 07:35:47 -0400
Subject: term: patriarchy
since the fall of the soviet union, modern ideologies classes have
concentrated on third world/liberation ideologies. feminism, not
patriarchy, is treated as an ideology. indeed few of the books even
define patriarchy. it is usually discussed in terms of radical feminism,
but is presented as meaning a male centered culture.

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 10:28:49 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gina Oboler, Anthropology & Sociology, Ursinus College"
Subject: term: patriarchy
Delese --
Lewis's treatment sounds interesting -- I will look for it.  It wasn't
absolutely clear to me from your post, and perhaps you can clarify:  in
this usage are partiarchy and phallocentrism two distinct concepts, one
for the material/social and the other for the symbolic aspects of male
domination?  Or is "phallocentrism" meant to include it all and thus
completely supercede "patriarchy"?
  -- Gina (roboler    AT

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 10:24:25 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gina Oboler, Anthropology & Sociology, Ursinus College"
Subject: term: patriarchy
Theresa --
If it seems as if my post put Anglo American society "outside the paradigm"
of patriarchy as I defined it, that was emphatically not my intention!
I thought I said that our society arguably still IS patriarchal, even
though some aspects of patriarchy, e.g. the legal doctrines that gave
husbands virtually absolute authority over wives, may have been
dismantled.  Anyway, the definition has the advantage of giving us a
basis upon which to debate how patriarchal our society still is, or the
degree to which one society is more patriarchal than another.  I also
tend to think that it's important to distinguish between institutional
structures of domination and the symbolic privileging of male over female.
Does this require two different terms?
  -- Gina (roboler    AT

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 11:30:11 -0400
From: Delese Wear <dw AT UHURA.NEOUCOM.EDU>
Subject: term: patriarchy
gina:  good question!  i didn't know, so i opened up lewis again to
that place and there it was.  shewrites: "my preference is to use a
term that, as a symbolic discursive system, includes not only the
material constraints of women's lives, but also the namings,
meanings, and referents through which these constraints are given
social connotations." (p.20)

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 12:42:42 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gina Oboler, Anthropology & Sociology, Ursinus College"
Subject: term: patriarchy
Delese --
Re; the Lewis quote:  My reading would then be that she intends the
term "phallocentrism" to supercede and include "patriarchy."  Correct?
  -- Gina

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 13:47:43 -0400
Subject: term: patriarchy
I have trouble with the term phallocentrism. It smacks of penis envy
and seems to be a term that is clumsey at best. Jane

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 14:14:12 -0800 (PST)
From: Theresa <60840883 AT WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: term: patriarchy
Jane Eliza writes that patriarchy is seldom treated as an ideology in the 
Soviet Union, though feminism is.  I find that a very scary omission....
60840883    AT

Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 14:17:28 -0800 (PST)
From: Theresa <60840883 AT WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: term: patriarchy
Gina: Maybe, but I do like your idea that the earlier forms of patriarchy now
provide a setpoint against which we might determine the degree(s) of current
systems of masculinist-type oppression(s).  (I do mean "masculine" as a con-
structed view of "male" that can include both females and males acting in a
certain manner toward each other.)  As for the possibility of husbands' author-
ity having been dismantled, I have seen little evidence of it outside the small
world of the academy.  Among many working class families, husbands still have
much power and it is still based on differences in pay as well as upbringing.
I also see it among the educated (or so-called educated) classes, and it often
has nothing to do with payscales.  I still feel obliged to negotiate money and
other issues in my own marriage though I make a decent salary of my own.  I do
this at times when my spouse would not necessarily see the same need on his
part if the situation were reversed.  And I often consider myself quite free of
most patriarchal restraints!!!!  Go figure.  So, patriarchy seems to require a
degree of consent (even unasked consent) from the females involved....
To further trouble these questions about the patriarchy, I wonder to what degree
same-sex partners find themselves working their relationships out along the lines
of patriarchal paradigms?  I don't know how to put this question any more
clearly, but at the point when any couple might need to negotiate power relations, and I can't envision this as unlikely, do patriarchal or hierarchical rules
suddenly emerge, or are they always present in all relationships contained w/in
patriarchal american society regardless of sexual orientations or not?

Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 07:23:12 -0400
Subject: term: patriarchy
no, no. I said books which teach modern ideologies use feminism as an
ideology, not patriarchy, since the decline of the soviet union has made
people revamp their courses. environmentalism (sic) is also treated as an
ideology and some include liberation theology as an ideology.
On Wed, 25 May 1994, Theresa wrote:
> Jane Eliza writes that patriarchy is seldom treated as an ideology in the
> t Union, though feminism is.  I find that a very scary omission....
> Theresa
> 60840883    AT

Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 07:53:18 -0400
Subject: patriarchy/correction
I did not mean to say the soviet union treats feminism as an ideology. I
meant to say that those who write modern ideologies books for modern
ideologies  courses treat feminism and not patriarchy as an ideology.
They also treat liberation theology and 'environmentalism' as ideologies.
Since the desolution of the Soviet Union, those who teach ideologies will
have to find another justification for the courses. Since it is assumed
that capitalism 'won', the argument goes that there is no need to study
ideologies. In the US, socialism, in the popular mind, is not
distinguished from communism or is assumed to be on its way out, too. The
way feminism is taught, leaving out patriarchy, panders to the popular
assumptions that ideology is a 'false belief'; patriarchy is a power
relationship only, with no accompaning attitudes or habits; patriarchy
as the literal rule by men formally doesn't exist any more, therefore
feminism is complaining about a nullity. I am writing a paper on this,
how feminism is presented in ideology texts. if anybody has any
suggestions for reading references, please send them privately.

Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 21:47:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: term: patriarchy
As a very slow processor, I have been thinking more the past few days
about the term "patriarchal."  I agree that it has been devalued through
both overuse and misuse.  It is also one of those "trigger" words that
can instantly alienate students, especially the young white males we
often encounter in gen. ed. courses.  And "phallocentric" does seem
to move the debate away from the issue of power.
I have been playing with the term "phallocratic" and wonder if anyone
has found it a usable descriptor.  (In the dim recesses of my memory are
some echoes of this term being used--somewhere--perhaps in the early or
mid 80s.  Any ideas?
Cindy Herman
cherman    AT

Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 23:13:29 -0400 (EDT)
From: Lynne Tirrell <tirrell AT UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU>
Subject: term: patriarchy
Cindy Herman asks about the term 'phalloctratic'  and wonders where it may
have appeared.  Marilyn Frye used it in *The Politics of Reality*, and many
of the essays which became the chapters of that book are now classics of
radical feminist philosophy.  I have taught that book  in my feminist
philosophy courses at UNC and now at UMass, and my students have been just
as put off by phallocrat at first as they are "phallologocentric" and its
kin.  BUT, 'phallocrat' has the advantage of the ending signalling political
alliance.  We talk about these terms, and generally the students come to decide
that it is a fact about our current situations that no single term names
our oppressions accurately.  Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the
various terms is a helpful way for the students to take some control of the
discursive space of the classroom, and shows us all how useful it is to get
 clear together on what we mean by what we say.
Lynne Tirrell
Tirrell    AT

Date: Fri, 27 May 1994 11:05:43 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gina Oboler, Anthropology & Sociology, Ursinus College"
Subject: patriarchy/correction
Jane --
I agree that restricting "patriarchy" to legally institutionalized power arrange
ments could lead to the wrong idea that once such arrangements are
dismantled, the problem of gender inequality has been solved and feminism is
no longer needed.  But still, we may need to be more specific in our
language, speaking of, perhaps, "institutionalized patriarchy" and "informal
patriarchy" and "patriarchal attitudes" or "patriarchal ideology."
Just trying to think through the issue....
  -- Gina

Date: Fri, 27 May 1994 10:55:55 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gina Oboler, Anthropology & Sociology, Ursinus College"
Subject: term: patriarchy
Theresa (and others) --
My claim is not that patriarchy is not present any longer in our marital
and other relationships.  I am NOT saying in any way that problems are
solved.  I'm not sure, though, that the kinds of domination through
economic dependency and informal role expectations you refer to should
rightly be called patriarchy.  Maybe it should -- it is certainly at
least the residue of past patriarchy.  But I find it interesting that
you say patriarchy may require consent.  There are forms of patriarchy
that do NOT require consent.  Remember that through most of the 19th
Century in most states, husbands had various forms of legal authority
over wives, including right to control their property and earnings.
Women could neither vote nor hold public office, nor be admitted to
most prestigious professions -- all BY LAW.  That is patriarchy in its
purest form.  Women in countries like Saudi Arabia are still
experiencing that kind of patriarchy.  Are these situations different
in degree, but all subsumable under the term "patriarchy"?  Or do
we need to make a terminological distinction?  How great does male
domination have to be to be termed "patriarchy"?  I don't have a strong
feeling one way or the other, but I do think that it is worthwhile to
have the discussion and be aware of the distinctions we would wish to
  In anthropology, the interpretation that not all societies are
patriarchal has become usual, it seems to me.  But even those that are
defined as egalitarian sometimes have hints of male dominance or the
valuing of male over female (e.g. "shaman" is the most prestigious
social role; it is open to both sexes, but the overwhelming majority of
the occupants of the role are men).  Such societies still seem to me
very different from those I feel at ease calling "patriarchal."  The
difference in the latter cases is that male dominance is completely
institutionalized in law and custom.
   As to whether patriarchal family forms are more entrenched in the
working class -- I think Lillian B. Rubin's analysis in WORLDS OF
PAIN was intriguing.  Her working-class informants were more likely to
say that husbands SHOULD have authority over wiives, but from
analyzing people's discussion of decision-making processes, she came
to believe that middle-class husbands actually DO dominate their
wives at least as much, though less formally.  One factor that plays
into this is that, until recently, working-class and lower-middle-class
women were much more likely to be in the labor force than were the
wives of high-earning male professionals.  I think the waters are
somewhat muddy in this area.
   Finding the discussion interesting, I think we're not in basic
  -- Gina

Date: Fri, 27 May 1994 13:02:00 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: patriarchy
maybe those debating the issue would find my definition of patriarchy
is too long to quote here. reference The Creation of Patriarchy (1986)oo,238-9.
I find it an essential term in conceptualizing a system of male dominance over
both resources and ideas. Like feudalism and capitalism it has taken many
different forms historically, but it is a system of institutions
 which gives men control and advantages which are witheld from women. Like all
societal systems it consists of legal, political, economic structures and  of
systems of ideas which tend to reinforce these structures of power. -- Students
object to many terms that are unfamiliar to them or that force them to think on
a different level of consciousness. Some students object to the term
 "feminism". Does
that mean we should not use it?  Glerner    AT

Date: Fri, 27 May 1994 12:56:43 -0600 (CST)
From: Rebecca Hill <hillx018 AT MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU>
Subject: hierarchies and patriarchies
   The thing I like about the term "patriarchy" is that it deals with the
"father as master" family as an institution which oppresses women. It deals
specifically therefore with issues that can't be explained by other kinds
of oppression based on economic systems or even colonialism by themselves.
That is, it is a structure based on "gender oppression" (wife battering/
     When people roll their eyes at the term, I do think that Theresa is
right to suggest that it represents a "backlash" against radical
feminism which many now seem to think is the same thing as "cultural
feminism" (I think not!). I have encountered this belief in feminist
theory courses as a graduate student - it's as if people think it's naive
and simple minded to have a really clear analysis that not only mentions
"hegemony" but states clearly that there is such a thing as "oppression"
and identify specific causes of it & possible solutions. Imagine!! - at a
seminar table??  It depresses me to see graduate students preferring
"academic rigor and sophistication" to participation in an activist
discourse. That would make us "traditional
intellectuals" because we do not seem to bring our membership in the
"community" into our understanding of feminist theory once ensconsed in
academe. I have found this to be more true with my generation of "post-
feminists" (20 somethings) than with older faculty, who seem to have
more recognition of feminism outside the academy.
    I'm not against "theory" when I criticize academic feminist seminars
(I've been chewing on this problem for a while) but what appears to me to
be a complete disavowal of feminist community activist discourse by
feminist scholars, a focus on the importance of gender difference as an
analytical category as if this constituted feminist consciousness, and a
desire to make things more "complex" than any analysis of oppression (such
as the identification of patriarchy) will allow for.
  Sorry this is so long, but that's my two cents.
-Rebecca Hill
hillx018    AT

Date: Mon, 30 May 1994 08:17:21 -0400
Subject: term: patriarchy
"Phallocratic" dates back much farther than the early 80's.  It was
extensively used in French post-structural criticism.  For a number of
people, it may have even more echoes than "patriarchal" in my opinion!
Maureen O'Meara, Languages, University of Dayton
omeara    AT

Date: Mon, 30 May 1994 09:43:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: term: patriarchy
Patriarchy may not be the only term we should scrutinize.  Many
of us still teach SEMINars, and the root of that word is obvious!!
Further, the word testimony seems to come from an ancient tradition
whereby a man held his testacles in his hand (and then figuratively
did so by using the word) to indicate that the claims he made were
true--sort of like saying "on my mother's grave, I swear this is
true."   Think we should have "ovularies" in the courtrooms instead??
Julia T. Wood
wood    AT

Date: Mon, 30 May 1994 09:54:05 -0400
Subject: term: patriarchy
On "SEMINars":  This may be a male "seedy" term, but I thought it came
from the Roman Catholic Church's belief in seminaries and their teaching
as places for a greenhouse effect.  Of course, there is also a lot of
male-oriented reproductive politics present there too!
Maureen O'Meara, Languages, University of Dayton
omeara    AT

Date: Tue, 31 May 1994 10:49:31 -0400
From: Linda Wayne <bones AT BOSSHOG.ARTS.UWO.CA>
Subject: term: patriarchy
Re: Julia Wood's reply
Your message is well taken, however, I would like to add a few concerns
to this line of thought. I know that as feminists we have had a long
standing relationship to the "male" roots of language and have, i
believe, done a tremendous job in making changes to everyday language
usage. This is not to say that there are not more changes to be made, but
perhaps it is time, perhaps well past time, to look also at the white
privilage contained in our language as well. Indeed, I would like to see
a twist in the way that North American feminist scholars have approached
issues of language which veers away from etimology as a whole, for the
roots of a word do not necessarily dictate its current socio-political
significance, to looking at the inscription of power in language. This is
for two reasons aside from the one mentioned. Firstly, the question of
racially oppressive language usage may finally be included in the
feminist project of language analysis. Secondly, as pointed out to me by
Minette Gaudet at the French Dept. of the University of Western Ontario,
there are many words which have had women-positive roots but which have,
over time, been turned into derogatory terms within male-centred culture.
In these instances it is interesting to know the roots of the words, but
it seems that the crucial point is how is power configured so as to
facilitate the determination of everyday language use in favour of males,
whites, heterosexuals, etc. My fear is that we spend so much time rooting
out the bad words (testimony, seminar) and in the meantime, the word
"feminist" is being turned into a tool to be used against women.
 - Linda Wayne

Date: Tue, 31 May 1994 15:16:19 -0400
From: Linda Bernhard <Linda=Bernhard%AHI%CON AT NURSING.CON.OHIO-STATE.ED
Subject: patriarchy
Wilma Scott Heide refers to her "breastimony" and briefly discusses its
difference from testimony in _Feminism for the Health of It_, 1985,
Linda Bernhard
BernhardL    AT

Date: Wed, 01 Jun 1994 20:42:47 -0400 (EDT)
From: Beatrice Kachuck <BEABC AT CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: term: patriarchy
i find the term "patriarchy" useful because it captures the sense of hierarchy.
but it goes beyond simple "all male" dominating "all female."  instead, it
breaks out into a pyramid that threads in class, race, and whatever other
factors are relevant in a context.  an examination of where it does and does
not hold up, why, and how becomes interesting theoretically and for activism.
certainly, theresa's point on masculinity as a construct is important to keep
in mind as often to be differentiated from male. i see it as an idealized male
behavior, attitude, etc., valued in certain societies.  a problem with which to
grapple, tho: what behavior is attributed to whom?  e.g., if i'm strong,
aggressive, independent - am i exhibiting masculinity? or am i a strong,
aggressive, independent woman?  for me it's the latter. i'm not trespassing or
manifesting the other gender.  the problem with the concept of androgyny, of
which this is a part, is that it assumes a dualism, a false one, and takes for
granted concepts (feminine, masculine) that should be interrogated.
the solution? maybe analyze, define the concepts when you use them.
beatrice   beabc    AT

Date: Thu, 09 Jun 1994 09:25:31 -0700
From: Betty J Glass <glass AT UNR.EDU>
Subject: RE: Patriarchy redux
As a footnote to May's discussion of the use of "patriarchy," I'd like
to share this.
I've just become familiar with the feminist magazine "On the Issues,"
published by CHOICES Women's Medical Center in Flushing, NY. (ISSN 0895-6014)
In their spring '94 issue, Editor Ronni Sandroff uses the term "Phallic
Drift" meaning "the powerful tendency for public discussion of gender
issues to drift, inexorably, back to the male point of view.
Phallic Drift is when television coverage of incest concentrates on the
injustice done to a few falsely accused male victims, while the masses
of genuine (female) victims fade to invisibility.
Phallic Drift is when the 'radical feminists' invited to talk shows are
the women who take the 'enough already' male-friendly point of view that
the gender wars are won and feminism is already victorious ...
Phallic Drift is when efforts to combat acquaintance rape are labeled
puritanism, Miss Grundyism, anti-erotic, and anti-fun -- all code words
for taking the (male) sport out of sex." -- Ronni Sandroff, "Front Lines,"
     _On the Issues_. (Spring 1994), Vol. III, no. 2, p. 2.
Betty Glass
glass    AT

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