Feminism and Patriarchy

Patriarchy refers to a situation where power rests on men. Traditionally, patriarchy involved the structuring of the family such that the father had primary authority, responsibility, as well as decision-making authority in a family. The other members of the family had the obligation of respecting the father as the final decision maker in the family. Less consultation of the women was expected in a patriarchy since they were supposed to comply with the ruling of the men. On the societal viewpoint, patriarchy society has men occupying the political as well as leadership positions. Moreover, men are regarded as being superior as opposed to their female counterparts. In the past, the society was strictly patriarchal (Phillips 1991). Currently, patriarchy is used to describe the society in which we live. For instance, male dominate the private and public sectors in almost all the places around the World.

Feminism denotes the move to ending sexism, oppression, as well as sexists’ exploitation. Feminists describe patriarchy as an institutionalized system allowing for male dominance that prevails in the current society. Subordination of women is a general trait around the globe. Women are treated as being lower in the societal hierarchy as opposed to men, and hence they suffer discrimination that is reflected in various life activities (Bock & James 1992). For instance, women are given unequal opportunities in the employment sector, decision making, and in the allocation of resources amongst others. Illegitimacy, negligence, and irrationality of men are amongst the factors that make men discriminate women since they fail to consider gender as a natural condition, and they end up treating it as a human weakness of the female (Kaplan 1992). The paper will criticize the conceptions of patriarchy as feminists suggest.

Criticism of Patriarchy

Feminists believe that women have equal rights to those of men. These rights can be classified into political, economic, social, and intellectual rights. Gender is usually naturally inseparable characteristic defining a person as either male or female. Notably, women in various nations have been denied these fundamental rights. The subordination of women exposes them to many threats concerning granting them their rights. Feminists have expressed women concern of discrimination in three sequential waves. The first wave rose in the 19th and the 20th Century; the second one rose between the 1960s and 1970s, and the third one started in the 1990s up to the present period. The three waves targeted at dealing with the issue of patriarchy (Phillips 1991).

First Wave

It occurred during the 19th and early 20th Century. It primarily focused on the inequalities that the women faced. It targeted at addressing the women right to vote that were infringed as a result of patriarchy that existed in the society. First wave feminists advocated for women legal and political rights. The Western countries utilized the opportunity that made women acquire higher social rank in the society in the respective countries. According to Mill (1859), the women deserved the right to vote just like their men. Denying a woman such a political right is denying her an essential right. The first wave also focused on acquiring equal educational opportunities for women in the society as well as their independence. The advocacy practices against patriarchy during the first wave made the people realize that women were equal beings, and they deserved to be treated as equals on matters regarding their rights. The patriarchy system began incorporating some elements of the feminists’ ideologies (Bock and James 1992).

The first move was an important move in history that laid the basis for feminism. Besides it led to the recognition of women in the society. However, the first step did not fully accomplish societal equality. Still, the first wave failed to end factors leading to gender inequalities as it primarily aimed. Instead, patriarchy changes its course and assumed new dimensions that required new handling techniques. Some changes that took place ended up setting new traps for women, for instance, increased female sexuality expression has led to the emergence of pornography that could see future subordination of women (Corrin 1999). The patriarchy system was collectively viewed as a sexism structure that created the different roles for women and men. However, the creation of such responsibilities was unfair as it reflected subordination of the female who hold lower positions in the society. The first had some remarkable achievements such as the attainment of women suffrage in New Zealand in the year 1893 and 1920; US Constitution granted women voting rights (Heywood 1992).


The second wave started in the 1960s and went ahead up to the late 1970s. Unlike the first wave that focused on addressing legal inequalities arising in the legal arena as a result of patriarchy, the second move focused on a range of issues that encompassed both official and unofficial inequalities (Hooks 1981). Other biases that feminists view as having occurred due to patriarchy that was addressed in the phase include sexuality, family, inequalities arising in the workplace as well as reproductive rights. Feminists in the second wave were more concerned with the issues affecting women both in the homes as well as outside the home setting. During the second wave, patriarchy was depicted as having led to many of the women suffering that was manifested in varying capacities in different contexts (Barret and Phillip 1992).

Many feminists argued that women were disadvantaged as opposed to men and primarily the main reason for the discrimination arose due to their sex. Feminist expressed their doubt on the female discrimination on a political standpoint whereby they showed the manner in which men were regarded as superior and women as being inferior (Heywood 1992). The expression of patriarchy varied in various regional settings. The second wave goals included a success of women suffrage, access to equal education opportunities, increased elite women representation in the public domain, legalization of abortion, termination of female circumcision, and abolishment of dressing code regulations. However, that supporting patriarchy viewed the roles and the responsibilities of women in the society as being natural and thus no need for interfering with them in any manner. Patriarchs used simple biology ideologies in the explication of women. For example, a division of labor in most cases was dictated by simple biology principles since men are usually stronger as opposed to the female (Bock and James 1992).

The feminists also criticized the notions held by the patriarchy system such that women are more suited to indoor or household work as opposed to men. Such an approach saw women engaged in household chore while men were involved in public works. The political theory caused lots of biases in the society as feminists exposed. Besides, the male who dominated the political agendas were reluctant in the examination of the power and the privileges that they enjoyed by keeping the women out of the political agenda. It was the work of the feminists that exerted pressure on the male to consider revising what they deemed as a natural structuring of the society (Kaplan 1992). Most of the power of patriarchy are said to rest on the assumptions of the conventional political thought that have been criticized by most feminists. Essentialism is another concept that contributes to the biases while empowering patriarchal thought since it empowers both men and women to behave as per their sexes. Feminists have also highly criticized the essentialists’ viewpoint regarding the societal structuring and called for an immediate social change. Besides, they have sought to replace the thought with the notion that men and women are equal (Hooks 1981).


The third wave of feminism occurred in 1990, and it is still in action today. It is spread across the globe with feminists advocating for social change as the lasting solution for inequality that exists in most regions. Liberal feminists give imperative postulations regarding unequal distribution of the rights as well as entitlements as occurring as a result of patriarchy systems. Women are usually under-represented in most parts of the World (Bryson 1993). For instance, the Asian countries attach lesser value to women education as opposed to men education. Still women continue to be unequally represented in political matters where most senior positions are usually held by men implying that the society continues to be patriarchal. Different societal structuring has a different explanation regarding patriarchy (Corrin 1999). For instance, socialist feminists usually hold on the economic elements of patriarchy such that it is intertwined with capitalism, class inequality, as well as gender subordination. Most of the radical feminists stress more on the issue of patriarchy as bringing about the gender inequality. The male power is operating at the domestic level usually spreads out to the large society where men continue to dominate most of the societal aspects (Kaplan 1992).

The Western Block of the World has seen the meaningful progression in the transformation of the patriarchy. However, that does not refrain it from being patriarchy-dominated since most of the matters still lag behind when it comes to representation of women. On the other hand, the Asian and African societies are male-dominated. Men usually head their respective families while extending the control to the society (Bryson 1993). The political areas in these regions are male-dominated, and women are typically treated as being on the lower level of the hierarchy. Similarly, the job sector also experiences the challenge where most of the senior positions are occupied by men. Under-representation of women is witnessed in most of the areas and their subordination as a result of patriarchy is still a challenge (Hooks 1981).


Men have dominated the society both in the past and the present period. According to feminists, patriarchy infringes women rights. During the first wave, feminists advocated for women legal and political rights that were denied to their respective nations. The first wave depicted patriarchy system as being oppressive to women. Feminists in the second wave show that the system was still subordinating women, and it is marked with lots of under-representation of women in politics and employment amongst others. The feminists wave show that patriarchy still characterizes most of the societies despite the efforts to address it with the current most affected regions being Asia and Africa. Feminists argue that all human are equal despite their gender. It implies that both men and women have equal rights and thus the society should not perceive women as being inferior as opposed to men.



Bock, G. and James, S., 1992. Beyond Equality and Difference: Citizenship, Feminist Politics, and Female Subjectivity, Routledge, London.

Bryson, V., 1993. Feminist Political Theory: an Introduction, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Corrin, C., 1999. Feminist Perspectives on Politics, Longman, London.

Heywood, A., 1992. Political Ideologies: an Introduction, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Hooks, B., 1981. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, South End Press, Boston, MA.

Kaplan, G.T., 1992. Contemporary Western European Feminism, New York University Press, New York.

Mill, J.S., 1859. On The Subjection of Women, Fawcett Publications, Greenwich.

Phillips, A., 1991. Engendering Democracy, Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA.


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