I recently watched the cult classic Dangerous Beauty for the umpteenth time, and I noticed a curious link between patriarchy's policing of bodies and the modern phenomenon of transgender identity. The patriarchy is often thought of as an innate biological truth by many who identify as conservative, but this is a misconception. According to David Graeber’s brilliant book,
My grandmother was born in 1907 in North Dakota. She wanted to be a nurse but her father equated it with prostitution. She worked as a Red Cross volunteer for over 50 years... long after her father was gone 💔
Thanks for this Chloé, very thought-provoking. For sure the left tends to emphasise the role of manmade institutions (money, government, laws, capitalism) in creating and perpetuating inequality because those can be changed; while the right emphasises natural and biological factors and argues that we're stuck with them and have to work within them. I tend to think of humans as incredibly adaptable and malleable: it's incredible to me how much we're *not* stuck with, how radically our societies, customs and default assumptions have changed from place to place and time to time.
For all that, I don't think we can pin all the assumptions and behaviours of patriarchy on modern money-based hierarchical societies. Before money determined one's status, women would have made mating choices based on men's physical strength and practical skills, and men who didn't fit the bill would have been out of luck. Meanwhile, men would have sought out attractive women and protected them from threats at times when they were vulnerable (e.g. during pregnancy). Would Graeber's argument be that these traditional gender roles served us OK until money and hierarchy corrupted them from a mostly-benign complementarity into the oppressive system we now call 'patriarchy'?
Two things that come to mind. 1) the power balances created by technology. Guns vs spears. Steel vs bronze. Bronze vs stone. short term benefits of annual agriculture vs hunter/gatherer. Yes, there's greed and malevolence. There's also stupidity and as quoted in Think fast/Think Slow, How does society take care of those who make bad decisions? 2) Division of labor/the need for a scapegoat. Does patriarchy explain our proclivities for certain necessary jobs? Setting aside sex-biases of child rearing, society still might divide out jobs based on aptitude which may be influenced by innate differences like size/finger dexterity/etc. Likewise, humans tend to designate rulers which blended with greed or access to storable wealth leads to power imbalances. The flip is, as Rene Girard said, Leaders are scapegoats in waiting. So, humans choose to grant leaders privileges with the implicit agreement that it's their azz if it goes south.
I think that's why there's a limit to "Who are you if you cease to internalize the voices of those who have come before you who told you what you are, who told you that you needed to be a certain way to be loved, respected, feared, admired, or belong? Who told you you would be banished otherwise? "
You can be who you want (or maybe accept who you are) however know that there's some human (perhaps deranged) that's coming up with a technic that's gonna put you at a disadvantage.
Hi Chloe, I have to disagree with the premise that the patriarchy originated as a result of wealth inequality. There is much anthropological and historical evidence showing that what we call the "patriarchy" actually has a strong basis in human nature. The idea that is just a cultural phenomenon which teaches us to value wealth and money and status is I think a misconception.
There are some deep, horrifying truths about human nature that it is difficult to look at, and we cannot wave them away by attributing them solely to culture and/or economy.
Regarding Trans-identity issues, yes I agree that there is something culturally that is causing many people to be deeply uncomfortable in their sense of self, I just don't believe that it is the "patriarchy". My gut sense is that it has to do with the amount of time that we are all spending on screens - somehow this uproots us from any real connection to community, place, culture, and even our own bodies.
Regarding the dynamics of your family home, it doesn't seem to be a negative environment at all. It was this environment that helped to shape you - an independent and intelligent woman. Just because a father takes the lead, does not mean that the mother and children are not essentially valuable an important. In fact I think that structures in which everyone "has a place" are healthy.