Sep 14 2013

“Irrational” feminists cling to patriarchy’s rotting corpse

In the event that you are ever called upon for proof that patriarchy is alive, all you have to do is consult the internet, where there is always a new post arguing that it is dead. Nobody would bother writing such posts if patriarchy had actually died, since that happy contingency could only obtain as the result of a lengthy revolt the deets and consequences of which would already be painfully familiar to everyone and their dog. If patriarchy were dead, “Patriarchy is Dead” would be old news, like “OMG! Twerking is a Thing Now!”

Yet down the pike they come, every so often, just as though their declarations were based in fact. No matter; such posts provide a happy excuse for spinster aunts and anarchists and cheese-makers and noted wits to air out their old-skool feminist ideologies. Today’s example: this article by The End of Men author Hanna Rosin. Rosin has declared, as the modern patriarchy-invested woman will feel compelled to do from time to time, the end of patriarchy. She illustrates her declaration with a photo of three white, blonde, female members of Congress.

Even so, you will note that you have not yet received an invitation to the bra-burning victory party on the Lido Deck of the good ship Vagina Dentata. I hate to say it, but that’s because not only is patriarchy not dead, it isn’t even sick. Rosin’s proposition is merely another in a long line of oblivious white lady arguments calling for the shrill, outdated feminists to take it down a notch so the OWLs can enjoy their fantasy “new era of female dominance” and take care of their emasculated husbands in peace.

These OWLy arguments are as alike as curds on a tuffet, and Rosin’s is no exception. Here’s how it goes:

A writer upon whom Fate has lavished a bit of education, as well as the financial wherewithal to insulate herself from some of the more dire ravages of the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women, Rosin posits that contrary to feminist narratives of doom, women are doing just fine nowadays. Feministe blogger Jill Filopovic, she notes, is a New York lawyer; how can she cry foul when obviously patriarchy hasn’t held her back? Clearly the militant radfems have outlived their usefulness.

But uh-oh, the theory goes, those stubborn feminists won’t disperse. Turns out we’re neurotically nostalgic for the patriarchal victimization of yore, harboring an “irrational attachment to the concept of unfair.” So dedicated are we to detecting oppression in every crevice that we can’t comprehend our own deliverance, even as it stares us in the face, calls us irrational, and tells us to smile. Otherwise we would surely see that, what with The Vote and a “revolutionary” 19% of Congress now comprised of Vagina-Americans, women have won. Rather than getting our undies in a bundle, feminists should “treasure” it when cooler heads label us “strident,” since it is our only vestigial connection to the glory days when our beloved oppression was still in effect. Apparently, in this new post-patriarchal paradise, women can not only screw who we want, we’re also free to “quilt and can fruits” at will. Triumph is ours! Feminists, stand down!

It remains unsettled whether or not stridency-treasuring, quilting, and fruit-canning should be considered the ultimate goals of feminist revolution (so few of the world’s women live in Portlandia, after all). I’ll say this, though. The inspiration of these feminist-go-home arguments may be easily understood when one considers the source: the assimilated woman who doesn’t quite grasp what patriarchy is. To wit:

If, despite the fact that she has just called you “irrational,” you care to slog through Rosin’s article, you will come away with the sense that her comprehension of the concept patriarchy lacks nuance. She seems to see it as a sort of cabal of actual “patriarchs” (i.e. a boss or a dickhead boyfriend), rather than as an automated, self-replicating world order — in which participation is compulsory — that strictly enforces femininity compliance for the benefit of a male-dominated megapornotheocorporatocracy.

How has Rosin arrived at this unsophisticated worldview? In her article she avers that neither her husband nor her boss — “patriarchy,” presumably — have personally oppressed her overmuch, so apparently she doesn’t view women’s oppression as especially exigent. On the other hand, maybe she just doesn’t feel like fucking with it. Maybe she just wants to stay home with her kid, worship her man (“the God-ordained head of the household”), can her fruit, and not take a bunch of heat for it from the Internet feminists.

OK. Fine. The Hanna Rosins of the world have made their choice. They’re only gonna work 4 days a week, and their friends will all be getting jars of pickled pineapple for Christmas. It’s no skin off my nose. Be my guest! But this is what I would like to know:

Why they gotta get all up in our grill? What’s it to them if a few feminists wanna continue to agitate on behalf of the real, material liberation that the Hanna Rosins of the world have decided they’re willing to live without? When we point a gnarled claw at the discrimination, misogyny, and violence that still lingers, despite patriarchy’s purported “demise,” who exactly are we hurting?

Just get out of the way already, Hanna Rosins of the world. You may justify your antifeminism by fantasizing that the woman who picks up your trash when you leave at 5 secretly “yearns to bring back at least some aspects of patriarchy.” However, if you really think that a person who isn’t oppressed by patriarchal forces beyond your privileged bubble would be caught dead picking up your fucking garbage, you’re delusional, lady. There’s been no feminist victory. Patriarchy is not dead. Not globally, and not here in the US. For instance, by the time you finish reading this post, about 7942 entertainment rapes will have been broadcast on US television. That’s bad, but this is worse: at least two real, live American women will have been sexually assaulted.

Epilogue: Is “it” getting better, as Rosin postulates? “It” is clearly comfortable for privileged women like Rosin, whose circumstances permit the opportunity to view fruit-canning as a trendy hobby rather than as compulsory drudgery necessary to forestall winter starvation. But for proof that patriarchy isn’t dead, she need look no further than the comments on her own piece. Such as this one, authored by a patriarchy-invested mansplainer. This sterling dude defines feminism, as dudes are wont to do, as “based on a false premise: the equality of men and women.”

Dude. Get over it. Feminism posits no such dreaded “equality.” Godferbid. Feminism seeks to dismantle precisely that bogus equality crap to which the mansplainer alludes, and indeed any paradigm under which women are defined in terms of men. Feminism, it turns out, has nothing to do with men. Astonishingly, feminism is concerned with women. Specifically, the emancipation of women from an oppressive world order that hijacks our bodily sovereignty and controls our personal autonomy. And as long as there are jacknuts out there who believe otherwise, patriarchy will be alive and well and owning our uterus and making damn sure that 70% of the world’s poor are women.


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  1. Natasha Yar-Routh

    Well at least it makes a change from all the ‘Feminism is dead’ article from the end of the last century. Though it does share the fact that it is basically one story with slight stylistic variations to try and fool you into thinking was some sort of trend in thinking. Also both ets of articles are aimed at the same white middle class audience. Which means they ignore about 90% of the world. Oops I seem to be slipping into capitalism blaming, of course capitalism and patriarchy do go hand in glove.

    Mostly Blame On Twisty

  2. fantysq

    Those fruit-caning bits reminded me about how we have a big basket of apples (that my dad picked next to an abandoned house) standing around in the kitchen right now, but we can’t preserve them because we don’t have the money to buy jars. The only good thing about this is that the reason why we don’t have any free jars is because they are all occupied by plum jam (made of plums picked next to that same abandoned house). (Nearby abandoned houses with big gardens are very convenient when you’re poor.)

    Anyway, good post as always, and, as always, class-privileged women’s perspectives sound like they’ve arrived from a different planet. I’ve never been the woman who picks up the trash, but I’ve been the one who takes it out (worked as a cleaner in two supermarkets, an office, and a laboratory) and never once did I think that what I needed was more patriarchy, though back when I worked in a supermarket, I didn’t feel very happy about the fact that the men would drive around a cleaning machine and earn a third more than I did, while I had to wash floors with a mop for a minimum wage. And I did lose my first job in a supermarket close to where I live because my manager decided that the job was “too hard” for me, and so they hired A Man Who Will Do The Hard Man-Job With His Manly Hands, I don’t know if they raised the salary by a third, but I can bet they did.

  3. Kathryn

    What are you talking about?! The patriarchy is totally dead! For example, out of twenty-two finalists for a certain high-profile science-related competition, one is a woman! And she’s only had to endure online hatred and vitriol, not actual real-world discrimination:


    I find it disgusting when people look at obvious signs of progress like this and see something to get upset about!

    (end irony)

  4. ew_nc

    Patriarchy is over? Cool! How about racism, is it over? I hear there are some brown people in the Congress, so it must be. And if one of those brown people in Congress is also female, what more proof do we need?

    I guess since Hanna is contented, we all should be. She’s been able to transcend feminism-clinging. By that logic, the world should no longer be afraid of spiders because I conquered my fear of them.

    People like Hanna Rosin remind me that privileged society has gone beyond victim blaming into straight-up victim hating. The faintest whisper that someone else might have oppressed you or harmed you just fuckin’ enrages these folks. They hide it behind the auspices of “it’s all about taking responsibility, yo”. Because a woman who is afraid to walk the streets for fear of being attacked just isn’t being responsible. She should have a big strong man with her, or else be packin’. Where did she get the idea she should be able to have any sense of safety?

  5. ew_nc

    Also, I had much different ideas of what a book titled “End of Men” would be. MUCH different.

  6. Cyberwulf

    I had much different ideas of what a book titled “End of Men” would be. MUCH different.

    Does it involve the extinction of the Y chromosome and human parthenogenesis?

  7. ew_nc

    Kinda. I sort of had this image of Y chromosones hurling themselves off a cliff like lemmings.

  8. Satchel

    … you will note that you have not yet received an invitation to the bra-burning victory party on the Lido Deck of the good ship Vagina Dentata.


  9. Twisty

    @ew_nc Racism is totally over, because Oprah.

  10. Michele

    Yup, it’s dead all right, just check out this enlightened article which proves it to be true (NOT!):

  11. ivyleaves

    Michele – I forced myself not to click on that at sfgate, I knew it would be too rage/despair-inducing for me at the time. Still not sure if I will read it.

  12. Amber

    I hope Rosin reads this, Twisty. By far the best response to her piece I’ve read!

    I have listened to Slate’s Double X Gabfest podcast for years and I’ve always found Rosin (the podcast’s host) unsettling in a very banal way. I don’t understand how a magazine that has Amanda Marcotte writing for it has Rosin hosting their “women’s issues” podcast. They choose three unarguably feminist issues every week and the cultural critique is quite good, but the politics are always lacking, and Rosin seems to have a pathological need to frame everything in terms of how it affects men (and it’s always so, so very sad for the men).

    Fun fact: Chloe Sevigny played Rosin in the movie Shattered Glass.

  13. gingerest

    OMG I love you, Aunt Twisty.

  14. Jade

    Ugh, when does the backlash end?
    It seems Rosin thinks feminists are the ones keeping women down.

  15. polarcontrol

    Also, men hold about 99% of world’s wealth. Forgot that, Hanna Rosins of the world? 99 percent.

  16. skeptifem

    “It remains unsettled whether or not stridency-treasuring, quilting, and fruit-canning should be considered the ultimate goals of feminist revolution”

    ahhhh, I’ve missed you so.

  17. Maritess Zurbano

    I think my brain was asleep before I read this invigorating post. I haven’t read Rosin’s article, but the question of whether feminism is still necessary is this low hum in the background of everything I do and everything I see about feminism, that aw–we’re making so much progress so stop interfering with the structure of the system that is working so seamlessly already. Thanks for voicing and refining my subconscious protest so beautifully.

  18. Notorious Ph.D.

    Oh, goody. We’re all free.

    I read the Rosin piece (okay, I skimmed it — seemed like I’d read it a gazillion times before), and it reminded me very muchly of Katie Rophie (Roiphe?) in the 90s writing about how most of what feminists called rape wasn’t really rape, but rather the product of feminist investment in victim culture. Because again, we so enjoy being victims. (Perhaps because we secretly want to be rescued?)

    If there’s one thing I learned from reading that stuff back then, it’s that just because I don’t personally experience some of the worst manifestations of patriarchal culture (I’m a successful single woman who has hardly ever been raped at all) doesn’t mean that they don’t exist and aren’t worth fighting for.


  19. chocolatepie

    Rosin should ask her husband what he thinks of the importance of her canning/quilting, and whether he’d ever be caught dead doing it were she not softly encouraging him that his masculinity is not compromised by engaging in such activities. His condescending smile and pat on the head might give her pause.

  20. Kali

    Rosin’s husband, David Plotz, totally creeped me out in the 90s when he wrote an article on how Britney Spears (a young teenager at that time) brings out his inner pedophile. At that time I wondered why a successful woman would marry a guy like him.

  21. Helen Huntingdon

    Only two years ago a super-privileged white dude told me at great length how sexism is all long over now because Anita Hill.

    I don’t have the faintest idea how that works either.

  22. caroza

    Hello, I’m new although I have been known to lurk here when the pressure to fully embrace my victorious despotic womanhood gets a bit much. It’s tough at the top.

    You are so wrong. Of course the patriarchy is over. As in “The rat race is over. The rats have won.” The party was on the Vagina Depilata, silly! With bilingual waitresses!

    I’m going to go and cane a fruit now. Victoriously. (Sorry, fantysq! :) )

  23. emilybites

    I think I hurt my face raising my eyebrows. Hand me my £1 for every dude’s £1, thank you, matriarchy!

  24. wondering

    Hey fantsyq,

    Growing up we ran a little short of cash too.

    Apples keep for a long time in cool, dry, dark places. A cardboard box (with newspaper between apple layers) in a basement or garage or even a closet away from heat sources will do the trick.

    Or if you have cardboard box, tin foil and clear plastic wrap (even white plastic bags), you can build a solar dehydrator if you live in a sunny area. Line the inside of a cardboard box with tin foil, put a single layer of sliced apples inside, cover the box opening in multiple layers of clear plastic, and keep the box facing the sun. You can also make really good prunes this way.


  25. K

    Kathryn and everyone, I just wanted to add some good news:


  26. TwissB

    On paying my daily hope-springs-eternal visit to the IBTP shrine, I find the Fort Hood shooting replay that suits yesterday’s shooting event at Fort Hood. Thanks for the telling comparison of newspaper reports. I do seem to recall one report that the woman who confronted and subdued the shooter responded to praise for bravery by replying tersely “That’s what they pay me for.”

    Unsurprisingly, the current Fort Hood shooting prompted revered WAMU-FM host Kojo Nnmadi to revert to the recent shooting at a Navy shipyard. Said Kojo, the attacker boarded the ship and wrested the gun from a woman sailor on guard…”

  27. TwissB

    Correction: Nnamdi

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