Towards a Critical Theory of Patriarchy: Origins of Women’s Oppression – Part 3

Towards a Critical Theory of Patriarchy: Origins of Women’s Oppression – Part 3

This is the final part in a three-part series on Patriarchy and the roots of women’s oppression. Part One can be read here, and Part Two here.


Part 3

So, women are just now emerging from a stage of Feminist Utopianism [30]. Like the Utopian socialists, we found that whilst we could condemn the injustice of sex inequality, we could not explain why things are the way they are. For example, why are women oppressed? Is it because of our biology, or is not because of our biology? And what is Patriarchy? What is it for, exactly, and how can it be natural when it so clearly threatens the basis of human life itself?

“…the Socialism of earlier days certainly criticized the existing capitalistic mode of production and its consequences. But it could not explain them, and, therefore, could not get the mastery of them. It could only simply reject them as bad. The more strongly this earlier Socialism denounced the exploitations of the working-class, inevitable under Capitalism, the less able was it clearly to show in what this exploitation consisted and how it arose.”

– Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Part II: Dialectics (1880)

The early proletariats appeared, as women have until now, “as an oppressed, suffering order, to whom, in its incapacity to help itself, help could, at best, be brought in from without or down from above”. From campaigns like She for He He for She, to the belief that men will turn on their own Empire at the last-minute, there seems to be an underlying belief that women’s hope for liberation lies, like our hopes for survival (as documented in Dee L.R. Graham’s wonderful book “Loving to Survive”), with men. But that isn’t how revolutionary struggle works. Men, even if they did turn, cannot end this. They cannot do our job for us (they have their own)*. That we still don’t have a grasp on this, is because we don’t yet comprehend our power. We have been alien to ourselves and to the world that our labour has created.

But this too has not been our fault. As Marx and Engels argued, ideas are the product of history; history is not the product of ideas. Until the struggle reached an advanced stage of polarity, the crude historical conditions that we were presented with could only result in our production of crude theories. Feeling powerless in the face of male terrorism, we could only blame ourselves. [31]

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Anticipating queer theory, one of the founders of Radical Feminism advocated getting rid of women’s oppression by getting rid of women. In one last matricide, women could be liberated from our inferior bodies which left us vulnerable to men’s torture and escape forever into the life of the mind, through technological annihilation innovation (the creation of artificial wombs). She had figured that since men are waging war against women because they seek to control our reproductive ability, if humanity could instead be man-made they would leave us alone once and for all. In the end, we are to give up our once female-only ability to produce human beings in order to share it with men, so that there can be sex equality. In this way, Shulie’s work also anticipated the finally developing Critical Theory of Patriarchy. By providing her stupendously grand solution, she opened our eyes to a re-thinking of the problem: Who the hell wants to be equal to who?

Towards a Critical Theory of Patriarchy and Ama-gi

“Only when the consciousness of the proletariat is able to point out the road along which the dialectics of history is objectively impelled, but which it cannot travel unaided, will the consciousness of the proletariat awaken to a consciousness of the process, and only then will the proletariat become the identical subject-object of history whose praxis will change reality.”

– Georg Lukacs, III: The Standpoint of the Proletariat, History and Class Consciousness

It is impossible to fight something when you do not even know what it is you are fighting against. Patriarchy – its reason for being, it’s goals and purpose – was left undiagnosed, but it doesn’t have to be anymore. Patriarchy directly translates to “Father Origin“, and is a system of social organization based around the paradoxical belief that fathers are mothers.  It is not eternal but a profound evolutionary aberration. Patriarchy stands in contradiction to a reality which remains matriarchal in the sense that women are still the beginning and creators of life, despite men’s many protestations to the contrary. We have no ‘need’ to dominate nor dispossess men – we are already where they want to be.

The underlying process by which the history of patriarchal praxis is objectively propelled is the extension of male control over female reproductive ability. In other words, male appropriation of motherhood. Patriarchy is meninism: they are at war against women because they are at war against themselves. 

In “On Being White and Other Lies”, James Baldwin explains that whilst there are Italian people from Rome, German people from Berlin or Irish people from Dublin, to list a few examples, “there are no white people” [32]. Racism exists as a brutal social reality based on a very real system of power, but the concept of human beings coming in different races is scientific fiction. All of these disparate cultures and groups of people are united under the banner of whiteness, which makes no sense in any other context than that of white supremacy – a class division hardened into a racial caste system through centuries of terrorism.

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White people come from nowhere; and so claim everywhere.

Likewise, male supremacists do not believe that they are in fact the male of our species. To this end, the problem isn’t that women are alien to men, but that men are alien to themselves.

Without white domination, there can be no white people. Without the parasitic exploitation of the labouring class, there can be no rich. And without the negation of maternity, there can be no “God the Father”.

“The goal of the revolution is the abolition of fear.” – Theodor Adorno

It is not our fault. It is imperative women understand that we are not oppressed due to any ‘biological disadvantages’ or ‘vulnerabilities’. The desire to control and dominate another is a manifestation of profound impotence, not innate superiorityYou don’t steal when you have everything you need or appropriate another’s identity when you know who you are. As Lundy Bancroft writes, “Abuse of women by men is so rampant that, unless people can somehow make it women’s own fault, they are forced to take on a number of uncomfortable questions about men and about much of male thinking”.

“Just as indigenous civilizations around the globe were overthrown and colonized by Europeans, the collectivist and egalitarian matrisocial cultures were overthrown and women subjugated by patriarchal men; to say that either violent upheaval was the result of superior strength – or any other kind of superiority – is absurd. The conquering patriarchs, like the conquering Europeans, were armed with more lethal weapons and motivated by more murderous intentions”.

– half the human race: really in depth – Original Origin of the Species | Decolonizing Our History: a restorative history website

Patriarchy is pointless. Men do not oppress women because they can, because they are able to, as though patriarchy were an achievement, or a success, but because they cannot give birth. And what they don’t seem to comprehend is that this does not change. No amount of male violence against women or feat of mental gymnastics can change what we are. Men cannot ‘transcend’ their biology. In their vain efforts to dehumanize women, men instead sacrifice their own. Because what they want is impossible:

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“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou [33]

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If men were the equals of women, they would no longer equal themselves. The concept of male supremacy and the Patriarchal project is both paradoxical – existing as its own self-denial – and at its core, suicidal.

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The end written in the beginning: In order for men to create real life as they have defined it, they must first destroy all that currently exists.

“The imperial act of discovery can be compared with the male act of baptism. In both rituals, western men publicly disavow the creative agency of others (the colonized/women) and arrogate to themselves the power of origins. […] In the eyes of Christianity, women are incomplete birthers: the child must be born again and named, by men.”

 – Ann McClintock, Imperial Leather, (1995) p.29.

Evil, the devil, sin, “scarcity”, all those things from which religion claims to free us, and which economics claim to improve, are really produced by them, and then systematically spread throughout the world. Alchemy has not generated any jolly homunculus, or any gold; it has generated a menagerie of freaks and monsters, e.g., the god-fearing exploiter, the honourable mass murderer, the gentleman conqueror, the salvation-bringing missionary, the torturer in service of the good cause, the innocent rapist, and the creative maker of the atom bomb; it has invented such marvels as “creative destruction”, war as the “father of all things”, the “ethics” of degradation, the “morale” of repression, education to self-destruction, “modesty” as toleration of domination, violence in sexuality, cynicism as the “normal” intellectual posture, and war as a “humanitarian” act.

And yet, in patriarchy all of this is considered as neither evil, sinful nor diabolical, because, in contradiction to what really has taken place, patriarchy sees itself as the one and only instrument, the “weapon”, against evil, sin, and the devil which it sees lurking everywhere in nature, in life, in everything feminine, sensual and erotic, and ultimately in the very world itself. This is the real distortion of things.

– Claudia von Werlhof, Losing Faith in Progress: Capitalist Patriarchy as an “Alchemical System” (2009)

Marx once wrote that history happens twice; “first time as tragedy, second time as farce”. We are currently coming full circle and witnessing the rise of patriarchy all over again, as though we’ve gone back in time to see it emerge the first time round. Trans activists and openly Men’s or Fathers Right’s groups are part and parcel of a stage of transparent male supremacy because Patriarchy is peaking / dying. And in men’s attempts to materialize male maternity they have instead left us with something like ‘female paternity’, thanks to the exploitative practice of so-called “egg harvesting”. In this way, women and men are finally ‘equal’ as parents and in the process, women realize that to be equal to a man means losing everything once and for all.

“No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.”

– A statement made by Nicole Kidman’s team after the birth of ‘her’ child via a surrogate. Notice the refusal to use the word mother, instead opting for the traditional ‘vessel’. As women now experience procreative alienation we can comprehend the delusion underlying patriarchal ideology in a way we hadn’t before, through our basis for comparison.

Maternity is praxis, the unification of action and consciousness of action. The action itself, childbirth, is a mediation between the birth of the individual and the continuity of the race. Female reproductive consciousness is an integrative consciousness, linking the generations in a continuity over time and linking people as equal values. Its mediating force is physical labor as the ground of reproductive knowledge. Male reproductive consciousness, on the other hand, is an alienated consciousness. Paternity is essentially ideal. It is based on concept rather than experience […] It is precisely because technology is now challenging [this] component of reproductive labor that the dialectic of reproduction is emerging in social forms which challenge patriarchal praxis as both a denial of female reproductive experience and a distortion of female reproductive consciousness. It is odd, indeed, that we have still to argue that reproduction is a form of knowledge with profound epistemological significance for women and men, and this fact is itself a massive triumph for patriarchal hegemonic practice.

– Mary O’Brien, The Commatization of Women: Patriarchal Fetishism in the Sociology of Education (1984)

Women are exploited because of what we are: we create life physically, socially, emotionally, ad infinitum. We can destroy patriarchy by creating the world we want to live in because we are the ones who are reproducing it – not men and not Capital. This means looking to ourselves for new ways of relating and being, and to each other across divisions for political action in our shared quest to dismember patriarchal institutions. The reason we are awakening to our power in this way, I believe, is for many reasons but two main ones are:

i) The contradiction inherit to political systems of domination is that they inevitably dig their own graves. The material conditions for new social relations are already in the course of formation and women are in this process becoming conscious of what we are, of our power, in a way we have never been before (under patriarchy).

“[Humankind] inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.”

Karl Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) 

ii) Mother Nature is making liars out of them and their ideology. Creation can never come from destruction. Patriarchy is a delusion and a failure: the track record of the ‘superior sex’ leaves much to be desired. It has been a testament to the strength and resistance of women and our culture that the human race has survived until now. This is all we have ever done. It is what we are:

“Woman is Life and Life wants to Live” – Rojava Revolution

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Dee L. Graham and Edna Rigsby, “Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men’s Violence and Women’s Lives” (1995), p.275. I believe the mix of euphoria and terror that we are all feeling, is because we know we’ve got no choice anymore but to leave.

Key Points:

  • The reason we cannot kill Patriarchy is because it does not even exist. It is a vision in a world that remains matriarchal for as long as human beings continue to live.
  • Patriarchal ideology speculates on reality, but does not seek to explain it. The reality of women as men’s mothers is instead considered something like ‘false consciousness’. Men’s claim to superiority is, ironically, that they create us.
  • For this reason, patriarchy is hostile to life, reality, and human continuity.
  • The secret of male domination is violence. Through it men seek to claim our power as  being due to their own ‘productivity’. But violence does not produce life – we do.
  • Knowing is understanding: Patriarchal ideology is a product of male reproductive consciousness. Their own words will come to incriminate them.
  • Men are valued twice as much as women, because they are not considered or treated as men, but are counted as if they were male and female at the same time.
  • To this end, the worst thing that you can do to a male supremacist, is to remind him of what he actually is: male!

*Note: I believe men will have to make their own sort of ‘men’s movement’ away from Patriarchy now, that works in tandem with the women’s movement, in defiance of Patriarchal prescriptions for their lives and moves toward re-creating genuine social fatherhood (as opposed to the absurdity that is ‘male motherhood’ under patriarchy where they just send each other to war) and a sense of brotherhood based, (like women), on self-respect, dignity, and love for life. 

References:

Featured Image: Atalanta Fugiens – Michael Maïer

[30] Mary O’Brien, The Politics of Reproduction (1981) p.22-24. [x] [x]

[31] Judith Herman, Trauma & Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence — From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (1992)

[32] James Baldwin, On Being White…and Other Lies, Essence (1984)

[33] Images from Left to Right:

  1. Colossal Statue of Pharaoh Akhenaten from Karnak, currently residing in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Akhenaten, who reigned during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt and is believed to have ordered the first monotheistic religion, commissioned images of himself depicted as pregnant to symbolize his creative power. He reversed the original creation story which centred on the procreatrix Nut in favour of the Father-God “Atun”, the “One and All”, (“You rouse them for your son who came from your body” – Hymn of Aten).
  2. Eileithyiae, Zeus and birth of Athena, tripod kothon, C6th B.C., Musée du Louvre. Scene depicts the story of the “birth of Athena” from Zues’ head. The myth entails Zues first swallowing Metis – Athena’s mother – who was pregnant with her at the time, and whose name also means female knowledge or wisdom. He then gave birth to Athena himself via a splitting headache. She emerged from his mind in full battle regalia but instead turned on women, betraying her true origin in the interests of the growing Patriarchal order.
  3. 12th-13th century Mosaic entitled “The Creation of Eve”, as part of the “Genesis” sequence, Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily. It depicts the story of how God in the Christian creation myth created Eve out of Adam’s body.
  4. 19th century engraving of a homunculus from Goethe’s Faust part II. Alchemists would mix female blood and men’s sperm in a jar over heat in an attempt to synthesize life for themselves.
  5. Jesus, son of Mary Mother of God. It is worth mentioning that the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a distorted appropriation of the Three Fates (whose variations span across many different cultures) which were originally how humanity understood temporality and continuity over generations.
  6. Robert Winston, himself somewhat a critic of the commercialization of fertility through the new reproductive technologies. Patriarchy is often claimed to be a product of men’s ‘backwardness’, tradition or a leftover from ‘feudal times’, but the reality is that the exploitation of women’s reproductive labour remains the basis of the modernization process itself.
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6 thoughts on “Towards a Critical Theory of Patriarchy: Origins of Women’s Oppression – Part 3

  1. What do you think of the idea/theory that the female/male ratio in any given human population is unnaturally skewed and without patriarchy we would probably have a lot more women than men. Because we don’t really need a lot of men, we currently have way too much than is necessary. this fifty-fifty arrangement, aka keeping female population down and male population unnaturally inflated, is done to ensure control over us and that every man gets his own personal sex slave/womb from which to make babies from. I mean there are people who just keep going on about how monogamy isn’t natural, especially for men, it’s natural for him to want to sleep with several women–yeah so we don’t need that much of them? like one per every ten women maybe. or even one per a hundred women. How are they gonna oppress us if we outnumber them one hundred to one? Also, on women’s vaginas, you know in medical education texts a vagina is referred to as a vagina, except in the chapters dealing with human reproduction, then suddenly it’s called a “birth canal”. ???? what? so is it a “hole to fuck aka put a penis in” or “canal through which a baby comes out”? Like these people will go on and on about how homosexuality is an abomination because anal sex is “unnatural”, the “natural” thing is for a penis to go in a vagina, uhhhh no. I don’t think so. Vaginas are an EXIT. NOT an entry. Penis-in-vagina aka the only thing that counts as “real sex”(lol) is NOT natural and to think so is brainwashing. imo. A vagina exists for a baby to come out of, NOT for penetration especially not by a penis. Mainstream science even acknowledges that penetration isn’t needed for a baby to be conceived. There is literally no reason for a penis to go in a vagina. Majority of women don’t orgasm from vaginal penetration. There’s NO reason. There ARE accounts of women who orgasm during birth(hour long orgasms) though. Makes you think!

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    1. To clarify–women who orgasm while giving birth, for very long durations(the whole time the baby passes through the vagina presumably). Imagine that. Creating a new human being, being a pleasurable experience–literally, as in physically. Not painful and life threatening.

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    2. I don’t really think much about stuff like that because to me, Patriarchy is ultimately a historical and social (i.e. political) phenomenon. There is this great quote by Catharine MacKinnon that makes the point: “Biological problems have biological solutions.” But I loved this line: “I mean there are people who just keep going on about how monogamy isn’t natural, especially for men, it’s natural for him to want to sleep with several women–yeah so we don’t need that much of them?” Ha! It’s so funny to me when their own ideology backfires.

      Like when they argue that in the animal “kingdom” (lol) there are some species where the male is larger than the female, (and often has elongated horns, a mane, or some other defensive attribute) and this is supposed to justify male violence against women. But in those species the male evolved according to his combative nature – he must fight other males for breeding right’s with the females. It isn’t so he can ‘overpower’ the females for fucks sake – what would be the point? It would be like arguing that the peacock evolved to ‘outpretty’ the peahen.

      So, even by their own explanations Patriarchy is a fragile and absurd evolutionary abherration, whereby they are trying to ‘transcend’ (their word for it) being male. It really just feels like a six millenia long male gender identity crisis. And they keep trying to reverse the mother – child (i.e. son) dyad, whereby they create us…somehow, and then claim that all we contribute to the generation of new life is the sex-act. I think that’s related to the point you are making about their conceptions of our bodies, too.

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  2. Also on men being considered male and female, isn’t it interesting in Western/Christian mythology the “perfect man”, Adam Kadmon(or whatever his name is), is described as being physically perfect and also androgynous aka both male and female in nature, like just literally physically hermaphroditic.

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    1. Here, from Wikipedia and Jewishencyclopedia.com respectively:

      “However, Adam Kadmon itself is divine light without vessels, including all subsequent creation only in potential. This exalted anthropomorphism denotes that man is both the theocentric purpose of future creation, and the anthropocentric embodiment of the divine manifestations on high. This mythopoetic cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis enables the “Adam soul” to embody all human souls: the collective Yechidah (“singular”) soul essence in Adam Kadmon, and the collective Neshamah (“soul”) revealed soul in the Biblical Adam Ha-Rishon in the Garden of Eden.”

      “That Philo’s philosophic views are grounded on the Midrash, and not vice versa, is evident from his seemingly senseless statement that the “heavenly man,” the οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος (who is merely an idea), is “neither man nor woman.” This doctrine, however, becomes quite intelligible in view of the following ancient Midrash. The remarkable contradiction between the two above-quoted passages of Genesis could not escape the attention of the Pharisees, to whom the Bible was a subject of close study. In explaining the various views concerning Eve’s creation, they taught (‘Er. 18a, Gen. R. viii.) that Adam was created as a man-woman (androgynos), explaining (Gen. i. 27) as “male and female” instead of “man and woman,” and that the separation of the sexes arose from the subsequent operation upon Adam’s body, as related in the Scripture. This explains Philo’s statement that the original man was neither man nor woman.”

      A “female” man. hahaha!

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