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Apr 14 2009

Patriarchy on autopilot

Not long ago I posted a blurbette on the Saudi asshole who married his 8-year-old daughter to a middle-aged creep in exchange for $8000; the Saudi courts wouldn’t grant her a divorce because — yup, it’s true — the kid was too young to file the suit.

By way of updating the case: now the Saudi Justice Minister is “planning to review” the “arbitrariness by parents and guardians in marrying off minor girls.”

I mention this, not because I foresee great strides in women’s liberation in these Saudi plans to “review’ tribal godbag customs of child sex slavery which have been set in stone for centuries, but because of the first line of the story in the Telegraph.

The country is a patriarchal society that applies a form of Sunni Islam that gives fathers the right to wed their sons and daughters to whoever they deem fit.

Forget, for a moment, that the sentence is itself awkward. It is almost comical, the way the words “the country is a patriarchal society” may appear in Western mainstream media only when alluding to some distant barbaric land where violent men are not constrained by noble humanitarian considerations. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia.

The concession that patriarchy exists at all seems only to heave into view when those vulgar philistines over there omit to exhibit sufficient subtlety in the way they go about oppressing women. Here in the West we subscribe to a more civilized mass delusion: that giving lip service to “more equality” for women is the same as liberation. This belief allows the seamless integration of patriarchal ideology with our supposedly progressive politics. Thus may our jingo-happy media single out Saudi Arabia as “patriarchal,” implying that the dudes who run our patriarchy are the moral superiors of those ham-fisted forced-marriage-ists over there.

We don’t need anything as clumsy and obvious as Sharia up in this mug. In fact, our patriarchy is so elegantly engineered that women themselves voluntarily do much of the dirty work of oppression, so greatly do they enjoy and freely choose dudecentricity as the logical conclusion of their natural-born femininity. Many Western women hardly need more than the occasional implied threat to keep them on their little painted toes.

For example, here in the US, patriarchs don’t need to marry off their daughters to assholes; the daughters are sufficiently saturated in the patriarchal imperative (“a husband gives you an identity without which you are worthless”) that they marry themselves off to assholes. And then they call it The Happiest Day of My Life.

50 comments

1 ping

  1. virago

    Twisty,

    “For example, here in the US, patriarchs don’t need to marry off their daughters to assholes; the daughters are sufficiently saturated in the patriarchal imperative (”a husband gives you an identity without which you are worthless”) that they marry themselves off to assholes. And then they call it The Happiest Day of My Life.”

    I agree that this is true, however we have our own version of the marrying young girls to old men against their will when we look at the FDLS polygamy crowd. I made a mistake by marrying my patriarch, but I was able to correct that with a nice big divorce. The girls in the FDLS and saudi culture really don’t have a say.

  2. Twisty

    “the FDLS polygamy crowd”

    I wonder how big that crowd is? Wait a sec, while I Google.

  3. Tiziana69

    True. I married for convenience (both times) but at least I did not lie to myself about those days being the happiest of my life.

  4. Twisty

    This oddly-written site says 10,000 FLDSers in the US, a preponderance of whom are women.

    Unfortunately, for the FLDS members, the practice of polygamy has commonly led to a shortage of women within the FLDS membership, leaving one to believe the preference in gender birth is, most likely, female.

    Yipes!

  5. virago

    There are probably more than 10,000. I read some of these guys have like 80 some kids with thirty wives or whatever, and then these women live as “single mothers” to collect welfare. Yipes is right. One guy can impregnate a hell of a lot of brainwashed women and girls. Islam allows four wives, but the FDLS guys seem to want an unlimited supply.

  6. Lizard

    “Unfortunately, for the FLDS members, the practice of polygamy has commonly led to a shortage of women within the FLDS membership, leaving one to believe the preference in gender birth is, most likely, female.”

    That’s what you get in polygamous groups. It’s why sects like those tend to kick out boys: you can’t have multiple wives for each dude, one dude for each woman, and gender parity unless you’re leaving a lot of the men single. Being allowed a wife (or multiple wives) becomes a status symbol: the men at the top of the hierarchy own the most women, and the boys toward the bottom of the hierarchy are told to get lost (without much in the way of skills that would allow them to cope with the outside world.)

    On gender parity/preference for babies of a certain gender: there are millions fewer young girls in China than there are boys due to the anti-natalist policies of the government. Women are going to get bought/sold/kidnapped there when the boys grow up and want wives. They’re already trafficking them from North Korea, apparently. Says some Chinese official: “”Such serious gender disproportion poses a major threat to the healthy, harmonious and sustainable growth of the nation’s population and would trigger such crimes and social problems as mercenary marriage, abduction of women and prostitution.”

  7. Pantsuit Sally

    “For example, here in the US, patriarchs don’t need to marry off their daughters to assholes; the daughters are sufficiently saturated in the patriarchal imperative (”a husband gives you an identity without which you are worthless”) that they marry themselves off to assholes.”

    Truer words were never spoken. I know so many women who are miserable and wondering why a husband doesn’t do his fair share of the housework and childrearing and gets more say in all major decisions, but wouldn’t have given the time of day to a guy who didn’t fit the traditional dude role (or forgone marriage altogether). It’s baffling, but they really can’t see the forest for the trees.

  8. virago

    “Truer words were never spoken. I know so many women who are miserable and wondering why a husband doesn’t do his fair share of the housework and childrearing and gets more say in all major decisions,”

    You said it! That’s why I divorced the asshole. I would rather have a kid via sperm donor that I raised myself rather than put up with this shit.

  9. notmandy

    Aren’t they one of those groups keep their young dude numbers down a bit by dropping the young ones off on the side of the road for banishment?

  10. Pantsuit Sally

    I’m glad you got out of that situation, virago.

  11. yttik

    In the West we simply allow people to rape and sexually exploit our 8 yr girls, one out of four of them, without even thinking of marrying them.

  12. virago

    Yttik,
    Technically, that’s true because the polygamy and underage sex that the FDLS practices isn’t even legal in this country. That said, the usual pedophile just wants to have sex with a child, not get married like you said.

  13. virago

    “I’m glad you got out of that situation, virago.”

    Me too and kid free because I didn’t want to be trapped to said asshole. Glad there’s birth control. Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to it. OTOH, my ex-husband’s insurance was one of the few health plans that covered birth control ironically.

  14. Pantsuit Sally

    I particularly love it when “biology” and “science” are used to justify men’s sexual interest in young girls, whether it’s marriage to an eight-year-old in other countries or the schoolgirl fetish that’s so popular in the good ol’ US of A. And by love, I mean hate.

  15. Twisty

    Hey yttik, where are you getting that number?

    Here’s RAINN’s victim statistics page.

  16. yttik

    Darkness to Light has good statistics.

    http://www.darkness2light.org/KnowAbout/statistics_2.asp

    They refer to the ACE study done by the CDC.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/ace/prevalence.htm

  17. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the stats page, Twisty. It’s a new one for me.

    Aside from the really grizzly facts of woman-ownership in all this, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around being old enough to marry but not to “file” for divorce. I know the legalese, but it still boggles the mind. Eight years old, crikey. This makes me want to kill somebody.

  18. PhysioProf

    a shortage of women

    This phrase is per se dehumanizing, implying as it does that women are fungible.

  19. rootlesscosmo

    @Lizard:

    “On gender parity/preference for babies of a certain gender: there are millions fewer young girls in China than there are boys due to the anti-natalist policies of the government.

    In 1990 the Indian economist Amartya Sen (later a Nobel Prize winner) estimated that owing to the effects of gender bias (expressed via selective abortion, selective infanticide, selective neglect etc.) there were roughly 100,000,000 fewer women in the world than simple statistics would predict. The article is at

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/3408

    and there’s no reason to think these practices have got anything but worse in the intervening years.

  20. Jonathan

    @Lizard:

    Says some Chinese official: “Such serious gender disproportion poses a major threat to the healthy, harmonious and sustainable growth of the nation’s population and would trigger such crimes and social problems as mercenary marriage, abduction of women and prostitution.”

    The disproportionate number of male children in China is the result China’s one-child policy coupled with traditional Chinese misogyny. When parents are limited to one child, they’ll keep one of the valued gender.

    Logically the best solution for China would be to fight the cultural imperatives that make girls worthless. Being a Patriarchy, they’ll do the exact opposite. If the dudes start complaining about the dating pool, they’ll probably pull all pro-birth control policies and return to their 8 children per mother average of 1965.

    Patriarchy only functions with a complete lack of birth control. Otherwise you end up with either liberation, or a dude-packed Masonic Lodge.

  21. gayle

    “Logically the best solution for China would be to fight the cultural imperatives that make girls worthless. Being a Patriarchy, they’ll do the exact opposite. If the dudes start complaining about the dating pool, they’ll probably pull all pro-birth control policies and return to their 8 children per mother average of 1965.”

    Actually they are shipping in brides from other, poorer countries.

    Problem solved.

  22. speedbudget

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around being old enough to marry but not to “file” for divorce.

    She can’t file for divorce, as that would require the law to recognize her personhood and agency. Her father decided to marry her off. She can’t make decisions for herself. Of course, if the husband wants a divorce, he only has to say it to make it so.

    I just started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and it opens with the narrator relating that her mother called her a bastard like it was a horrible thing, and she didn’t realize until she was much older that the man who caused the situation should have been the one blamed, not her. It was nice to see this sentiment in type somewhere other than Twisty’s blog.

  23. birkwearingblamer

    One girl saved from FLDS:

    From AP:
    “AUSTIN — A 14-year-old girl allegedly married to polygamist group leader Warren Jeffs when she was 12 may be placed permanently in Texas state custody.

    Family and Protective Services Commissioner Anne Heilingenstein (HIEL-gen-STIN’) said during a legislative hearing today that Child Protective Services would seek permanent custody of the girl because efforts to reunite her with her parents have failed.

    The girl is the only one of the 439 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch last year still under court oversight. She has been in temporary foster care since last August.

    Jeffs leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape and awaits trial on charges in Arizona and Texas related to underage marriages.”

  24. Mare Island

    “…a form of Sunni Islam that gives fathers the right to wed their sons and daughters to whoever they deem fit.”

    Whomever. It’s WHOM. Geez, patriarchy, get it right.

  25. slythwolf

    I love that phrase, “sons and daughters”, as if the fathers are actually marrying off their sons without the sons’ consent. Name me one fucking case where this has happened.

  26. rootlesscosmo

    “I love that phrase, “sons and daughters”, as if the fathers are actually marrying off their sons without the sons’ consent. Name me one fucking case where this has happened.”

    One Bay Area transit operation has signs reminding riders to yield seats to “seniors, persons with disabilities, and pregnancies.” Huh? Lard forbid they should say “pregnant women,” because they’d be flooded with righteous whining from MRAs.

  27. keshmeshi

    persons with disabilities, and pregnancies

    Maybe they mean persons with pregnancies. If so, that’s some appalling grammar.

    Child Protective Services would seek permanent custody of the girl because efforts to reunite her with her parents have failed.

    Well I’m glad for that. It’s not too hard to guess who married the girl off to Jeffs in the first place.

  28. Clare

    Whoo excellent post!

    When you put into words the great ‘subtle patriarchy’ in the West, summing it up in a short sentence, now that’s power dearest.

    I’m with you – I think the problem is totally male gaze. If women didn’t consider themselves under’t, we’d have value past our youth and beauty, and past the ugly man we marry.
    That’s why men MAKE SURE we live under the male gaze, what this sexist bollo advertising gets up to. The old, overweight, ugly – never escape the male gaze. Just like the beautiful, male gaze is all women are judged by. Not pleasing it doesn’t mean you by any means escape it!

    If we didn’t live by it, because men either backed the fuck off or women gave their painted toenails a rethink, we’d have our damn ‘empowerment’ (which I choke as I say, the term is so washed over everything).

  29. Clare

    Reading Jonathan’s post… What do you suppose would happen if a misogynistic country could have its way like China? No women existing except the prostitutes they shipped in?

    Do you reckon that’s desired? Makes you wonder the ultimate goal of a patriarchy! And about why men are so opposed to separatism!

  30. Amananta

    On rape statistics:

    The RAINN page you linked to lists some officially obtained statistics about rape and attempted rape.
    What it does not address is something that is an overwhelming problem for girls and women that almost no one addresses. It’s a phenomenon that arises from godbag patriarchal hymen worship – namely, the idea that you can sexually abuse a young girl anyway you like and it really is no big deal so long as the hymen is left intact at the end. This is quaintly referred to as “being molested”. This has happened to almost every woman I’ve ever met, usually before the age of ten, almost always by a close family member. The message is clear – your body is not yours, should not be under your control, is only here for the pleasure of the males in your family, and if you complain too much about it, you will be called a troublemaker. So it practically never gets reported. But ask any woman you know well enough to talk to about it – something along these lines will have happened to her.

  31. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Amananta, I’d point to something that flies even lower under the radar. Every girl is subject to the abusive, pejorative language the males in her family direct her way. (“Superbone” I was to one drunk uncle, at the tender age of 6.) I suppose it only serves to prepare her for the stupid remarks and catcalls that will follow her the rest of her life.

  32. virago

    “Logically the best solution for China would be to fight the cultural imperatives that make girls worthless. Being a Patriarchy, they’ll do the exact opposite. If the dudes start complaining about the dating pool, they’ll probably pull all pro-birth control policies and return to their 8 children per mother average of 1965.”

    And probably foot binding as well. Makes it harder for the women to leave or run away.

  33. muchell mesaventur

    Young girls, indeed, seem to suffer the most under the boot of the patriarchy–it’s one way the system replicates itself, priming future women to believe they have no autonomy, no value that isn’t dependent in some way on patriarchs. If you are lucky enough to escape verbal and physical abuse at home, you certainly get your share in public schools. The Saudi girl (who, I believe, walked her brave self to the seat of patriarchal legislation to ask for the divorce), those FLSD girls, the young women growing up in China and those who will be abducted, displaced, and violated to “fill the gap”, the new Duggar daughter-in-law: they all break my heart. Those who do manage to grow up then get blamed for behaving as they’ve been primed to behave. Those who find understanding by naming the system–patriarchy–are derided as humorless, hairy-legged, man-hatin’ feminists. Thank you for being out there and naming this shit for what it is, Twisty and blamers.

  34. Lu

    I used to think, long ago before the scales fell from my eyes, that when these societies were faced with the consequence of selective (female) infanticide and limitations on the number of children a family could have–i.e., a disproportionately large number of males–that the result would inevitably be a far greater valuation of women. After all, if you (a man) have no one to marry or have children with, wouldn’t you be the best darn guy in the world in order to attract a woman? Wouldn’t the society respond by making conditions so much better for women that THEY could pick and choose their husbands?

    Bitter, BITTER laugh at my own expense. Of COURSE the result was always going to be: go elsewhere for a ready supply of exploitable women.

  35. Lu

    Okay, wait, I didn’t mean “exploitable” in a woman-blaming way. I meant “women to exploit,” placing the blame on the men, with the accompanying sense that those women were in that predicament because of the worldwide patriarchy.

  36. Galloise Blonde

    slythwolf: There are certainly cases of forced marriage of males known in the UK, with the Forced Marriage Unit estimating that around 15% of cases they deal with are of boys and men. It’s often the case that young men may be pressurised or coerced into marriages if they are having relationships the family don’t approve of, or are going off the rails through drugs or crime. Thus the new wife (9.5 times out of 10 an imported bride who has no knowledge of the language or law of the UK) is sidelined by the existing relationship, or resented for causing its end, or is completely isolated in a foreign country with a husband who never wanted her in the first place and is a drug addict and/or criminal. So yeah, men are indeed forced to marry and women suffer for it. Compared with either ‘love’ or regular consensual arranged marriages, forced marriages are extremely likely to be violently abusive.

  37. TwissB

    Twisty: “Here in the West we subscribe to a more civilized mass delusion: that giving lip service to “more equality” for women is the same as liberation.”

    The first time I marched in a women’s rights event, I carried a sign that read “There’s no such thing as a little bit equal!” I wanted men to get jabbed by their own gotcha and, judging from the comments along the way, they did.

  38. PatriarchySlayer

    By the by, isn’t it about time that womens’ issues and womens’ rights be officially converted into human rights? I’m really sick of being relegated into the background, because it’s just about women. Women are half the population of humanity, when are we going to start acting like it?

  39. PandanCat

    Actually, I do know a Thai-Pakistani lad in town who has an arranged marriage coming up. I think that’s why he’s calling me every day, inviting me over to hang out with the family and such. He’s desperate to not marry the Mystery Woman in Pakistan. Unfortunately, whatever Mother says, happens. (Alas, I cannot reveal to Mother the real reason why /I’m/ not married.) Of course, as a Dude, he will have it better than her, but he is, indeed, being married off against his will, and it isn’t an isolated incident. That’s why it’s called ‘rule of the fathers’, after all. Kids — all kids — are property. Boys just get to grow out of it.

  40. tinfoil hattie

    PadanCat, your friend is getting married because he doesn’t have the gumption to stand up to his mother. This is far from being “forced” to marry.

  41. swanage

    Lu, I lived with the same vain hope for a long time. It just seemed logical that the treatment of women would improve. Not only that but wouldn’t it be the simplest and most moral solution to the problem? Apparently simple and moral and logical don’t measure up. IBTP.

  42. Lu

    Hi, swanage. Not to mention the almighty power of the “free market,” right? So much for the sacred principle of supply and demand. I guess in this case, the Invisible Hand would rather keep women down.

  43. Margaret

    Back in the old days of starter-blaming, a friend and I pondered the China’s one-child policy and the emerging knowledge that male were chosen to be that one. We had visions of the girls gaining the power to determine their future because, being fewer, they would be worth more. Alas, as I grew older I realized that they would be worth a lot – and it would make the guy who owned them and could sell them off very happy. IBTP.

  44. Agasaya

    There are no ‘rights’. There is only the permission of the stronger entity when appealed to by the ‘weaker’ one because

    - They are feeling magnanimous and wish to be known as such. A bit of ego strength.

    - There is profit in that dispensation (e.g. money as a vendor, getting votes after women could be a decisive factor etc.)

    - The ‘weaker’ entities comprise a threat to the larger one by virtue of greater numbers disposed to join together if forced to do so (e.g. unions).

    Unfortunately, the divide and conquer strategy works well with us – threats of loos of the children, murder and torture, poorer job opportunities and/or getting the ‘kicks’ of being more desirable property through adopting ‘uberfeminine’ appearance and behaviors. Countries aren’t about to go to war over treatment of women and are only marginally offering lip service to the armies using rape as a routine weapon (clears out villages before invading forces have to risk their lives).

    No, it isn’t about ‘rights’ at all when you have to buy them or use blackmail (votes) to have them put on the law books.

  45. zelda1

    Well, hi. This is my first time. Delagar sent me the link. So, here’s what I think. All we have to ever do is look at the media or walk into a department store to see the age we begin preparing our female children for patriarchal consumption, and folks, I hate to tell you but it begins when they are old enough to hold their first doll or wear their first pair of real panties or their first pair of real shoes or real pajamas. And I won’t even mention those men and women who hold beauty contests and cheerleading camps as prized-must-make-sure-my-daughter-participates or else she cannot be complete. In a hotel in Columbus, while I was waiting on my friends to come down so we could head out to our conference, I watched in horror as toddlers dressed in sexually suggestive cheerleading uniforms, painted with huge eyes, sprayed with big hair were carried to their competition. Many were still wearing diapers and still drinking from a bottle. Tell me, is our society any better?

  46. Twisty

    “is our society any better?”

    Nope. That’s pretty much the whole argument of this blog.

  47. Kuleana

    # Women who report childhood rape are 3 times more likely to become pregnant before age 18.
    # An estimated 60% of teen first pregnancies are preceded by experiences of molestation, rape, or attempted rape. The average age of their offenders is 27 years.
    # Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to be sexually promiscuous. (39, 59, 60, 70)
    # More than 75% of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused.

    Great. So all dudes have to do is rape and molest little girls to ensure a future supply of vulnerable, exploitable women. It really is a lot more calculated than most people care to believe, isn’t it?

    (And I mean “exploitable” in the same way as Lu, of course.)

  48. Banisteriopsis

    This is particularly apropos to me, as I have a good friend who is a pre-doctorate psychology student, and is preparing to marry a 20+ older man, and spends all her free time pursuing home maker-type classes (sewing, cooking, etc.) to become a perfect wife for her parent ascribed mate. She’s an otherwise smart person, who is being suckered into christian mores about marriage when all she wants to do is get fucked. It’s thoroughly depressing. She has double pressure, because while being raises in America, her heritage (and church) are Vietnamese, strongly focused on tradition.

  49. PatriarchySlayer

    @ Kuleana, that is very disturbing. I guess that lends even more credit to the idea that men rape women for control. When you think of it from the point of view of future control, it makes even more sense.

  50. PandanCat

    Okay, totally super late, but I still don’t have a stable connection at my new apartment.

    Tinfoil hattie, it’s not as simple as that. In his culture (Pathan), marriage isn’t between one man and one woman — it’s between two families. His thoughts or hers are irrelevent. Were he (or his fiancee) to stand up to the arrangement, it would be throwing mud on The Entire Pathan Tradition. That kind of shame can only be erased with a good honor killing or three. That he’s actually a Thai national wouldn’t mean a thing, as his kinsmen are influential in local politics.

    The P is a nasty thing, and it destroying those who stand up to it. In some times and places, it’s just more literal than others.

    (If something vaguely less evil comes of it, though, it will be that his fiancee will be moving out of the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley (their tribal home) to Southern Thailand. The Marriage Mandate stands strong, but four generations in a more liberal society have had a positive effect in other areas of oppression.)

  1. links for 2009-04-14 « Embololalia

    [...] Patriarchy on autopilot at I Blame The Patriarchy It is almost comical, the way the words “the country is a patriarchal society” may appear in Western mainstream media only when alluding to some distant barbaric land where violent men are not constrained by noble humanitarian considerations. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia. (tags: patriarchy saudiarabia gender) [...]

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