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Patriarchy: 7 keys to understanding cultural machismo

Patriarchy: 7 keys to understanding cultural machismo

May 6, 2021

Patriarchy has been defined as a system of subordination of women to men that has been reproducing over thousands of years.

This concept, closely related to machismo and inequalities, has had much weight in both psychology and social sciences, since it tells us about a relationship dynamics that makes part of the population totally or partially dominated by the other.

What is patriarchy?

The discussions and debates that revolve around the idea of ​​patriarchy generate much controversy, among other things, because it is difficult to study their existence or their presence in certain societies, but also because of the long range of implications this has for us , both politically and philosophically.


But patriarchy is not just a controversial issue, it is also a relatively difficult concept to understand . These are some of the keys that can help us better understand what we mean by patriarchal society.

1. Machismo and patriarchy are not synonyms

Although they are two very related concepts, machismo and patriarchy do not refer to the same . Machismo is a set of beliefs, cognitive biases and attitudes that predispose people to act as if women have less value than men, while patriarchy is defined as a social phenomenon that historically has been the engine of machismo and certain privileges that only man enjoys.


While machismo is expressed through individuals (regardless of whether they are men or women), patriarchy is something that exists in large collectives, a dynamic of power that can only be understood if we consider many people at the same time.

2. It is not just a system of cultural domination

When we talk about machismo, we often tend to think that this is only a psychological phenomenon, a way of thinking in which women are undervalued and reified. However, from gender studies and feminism it is customary to speak of machismo generated by patriarchy as a phenomenon that has two pillars: one psychological, based on how individuals think and act, and another material, based on objective characteristics of our environment and institutions: clothing, laws, films, etc.

In this way, the psychological aspect and the material will be fed back, giving rise to individuals whose macho attitudes are reinforced by the environment in which they live and which they contribute to reproduce through their actions.


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3. It is believed to be related to the property system

Patriarchy is understood as a phenomenon that is leaping from generation to generation, and that is why a relationship between this and the idea of ​​property has been hypothesized. This idea, deeply rooted in Marxist philosophy, proposes that, just as the properties are inherited and offer the possibility of exploiting others to work with them generating a part of value that the owner can remain despite not having worked , Women have been conceived as a resource, something that can be possessed and with what the patriarchs of the family have dedicated themselves to trade, either to have cheap labor (usually applied to household chores) to be able to have offspring (something that is also linked to the domestic sphere and, therefore, so much, private).

Since the woman could not aspire to be an owner, since she only took care of the goods necessary for the family's well-being, she could not aspire to negotiate on equal terms with the man, which would put her at a disadvantage even when Female participation in work outside the home began to be normal.

4. Your relationship with capitalism is confusing

Within feminist currents, there has been a long talk about whether patriarchy is a system of domination linked to capitalism (as understood from Marxism) or whether they are two separate phenomena. Both have been theorized as dynamics of relations based on repression and exploitation , but it is not clear if its historical engine would be the same.

5. Patriarchy has been universal

It is very easy to find societies in which men have a clear power over women, but so far it has not been possible to find any example of a relatively broad and stable culture in which the opposite occurs.

The idea of ​​matriarchy, proposed in the nineteenth century by the anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen, talks about primitive societies from thousands of years ago in which the woman had the power, but it is not based on empirical evidence that supports it .

6. It is not clear if it originated from the genes

As patriarchy is conceptualized as a universal system spread throughout the world and that has resisted all kinds of political changes, some researchers have proposed the idea that its origin has to do with genetic propensities. Specifically, a possible explanation of its existence would be the presumed differentiation in the way of behaving of both sexes whose direct responsibility is DNA. According to this idea, men would have a kind of natural tendency to dominating and aggressive behavior , while the woman would more easily manifest submission behaviors.

The other proposal, much less controversial, is that the patriarchy occurred because of cultural dynamics in which men and women were educated to divide the work , leading this to a situation in which men came to negotiate power over women who have been exploited over the generations.

Of course, between both proposals there are theories that could be considered intermediate between these two extremes.

7. It is a terribly abstract concept

Being a social phenomenon with different forms of manifestation, the existence of patriarchy in certain countries is not given as an obvious fact. This is so because this concept is not in itself an explanatory model that can be proven or refuted by empirical testing, and therefore the same fact can be interpreted as proof of the existence of patriarchy or as a proof of its absence .

For example, the abundance of famous actresses that conform well to beauty canons can be understood as a sign that women need to sell their bodies to thrive, but it can also be interpreted as an example that women can have more be able to men without having to work much more than them.


Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity (May 2021).


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