September 15 2013

Patriarchy Update: Prominent Liberal Says It's Dead

Charlotte Hays

In a new epilogue to her book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, Hanna Rosin, the prominent liberal writer, proposes a radical (in some quarters) idea: that the patriarchy, routinely blamed by feminists for holding women back, is dead.  

Rosin begins by describing that inevitable moment when she is giving a speech or appearing on a panel and an angry woman stands up to denounce the patriarchy:

“Can you say that word? PATRIARCHY?” This woman was not gunning for a laugh; she was dead serious, and pretty angry. She looked to be 30 or so, and from the way she spoke seemed well-educated—the type of woman I portray in the book as benefiting from the new era of female dominance, when women are better prepared for the current economy and have more independence to choose their life path

Rosin, however, argues that this overlooks the progress women have made, which should be cause for celebration. Rosin calls attachment to the notion of a harmful patriarchy, as expressed by such women, an “irrational attachment to the concept of unfair.” She writes:

I understand that the big picture is not always reflected in women’s daily experience of life. Maybe a woman has an overbearing husband or a retrograde boss or just a lingering problem that has no name. But as a collective, it sometimes feels that women  look too closely at the spot right in front of us. This is a moment, unprecedented in history—and also pretty confusing—when young women who work how they want and have sex how they want may also quilt and can fruits. When working-class women who quietly leave the only steady paycheck on the kitchen table every week may still believe that a man is the God-ordained head of the household. So I want to tell these women who are seeing only oppression: Look around.

And this:

“The closer women get to real power, the more they cling to the idea that they are powerless. To rejoice about feminist victories these days counts as betrayal.”

Rosin's heresy fluttered the feminist dovecotes. 

“As a feminist,  the recipient of a degree in women and gender studies, a human who just read this disturbing article, and a woman generally beleaguered by sexist bullshit every day, this certainly surprised me,” responds Senti Sojwal in Policymic. Your dangling modifier surprises me, Senti. But that’s for another day.

Not to be outdone, Katie J. M. Baker of Jezebel pounces with a post headlined “Patriarchy Is Dead if You’re a Rich White Lady. KJMB snidely concludes her post:

If you're not currently a CEO who is also an award-winning quilter, console yourself by searching the #RIPPatriarchy hashtag.

Salon is a little more measured. The New Republic charges that Rosin is dismissive of those who disagree with her. But the headline is fun:

“The End of Men” Author Mansplains

We disagree with Hanna on a lot of issues. But she deserves credit for bucking the feminist orthodoxy on this. The angry responses show how desperately feminists cling to the patriarchy.

They need the patriarchy. They need it to explain why government should be bigger (women face an uphill battle against a hostile patriarchy). Some need it to explain away personal failures. But mostly they need it because blaming the patriarchy has been a crutch for a very long time. They wouldn't know what to do without it. 

This is the second time in the space of a couple of weeks, by the way, that Rosin has wandered off the liberal reservation

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