Politics in Minutes (2016)

Patriarchy

Literally meaning ‘rule of the father’, patriarchy refers to the universal political structure, which privileges men at the expense of women. It was originally coined by anthropologists to describe a particular social structure in which one man, the father, holds power over the family. Many feminists argue, however, that all societies are patriarchal because within those society’s institutions, men have control over women’s lives.

In her 1970 book Sexual Politics, Kate Millett analysed ‘patriarchy as a political institution’ – ‘politics’, here, referring to all power-structured relationships and therefore leading to a ‘relationship of dominance and subordination’ between the sexes. Clearly there are some societies where women have greater privileges, rights and powers than others but many feminists argue that, within a patriarchy, it is only a token power and not embedded in the dominant ideology. Such feminists believe that women cannot be fully independent until the patriarchy is ended.

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