Patriarchy is a social construction, in other words a belief system based on the discourses which are dominant in a society. A dominant discourse is often seen as the “truth or the way things are suppose to be”. In its most basic form, patriarchy can be seen as rule by father, which gives men the ultimate position of dominance – usually at the expense of women. The male experience is used as the norm, which implies that “the other”, thus women, need to comply with and to the male perspective. In the South African context this male perspective mostly represented and privileged the voice of White, educated men. However, since 1994 there has been a shift in power – mostly to black South African men.
Within most faith communities the patriarchal system was seen (and is often still seen) as a God-given order which should be followed blindly. Patriarchy stems from a patriarchal interpretation of the creation story as portrayed in Genesis 2 and 3, which interpreted God to be solely male. Furthermore, the woman was created from man and is therefore secondary and inferior in human creation. Lastly – and probably the most damning – the male God, having made the perfect world, has it shattered by a disobedient woman. I stand against this interpretation of the creation story because I embrace an ethic which views men and women as equals. You might wonder why I stand against patriarchy. I stand against patriarchy because of its effects on people, relationships and even our environment.
The discourse of patriarchy sees women as lesser beings and always within a particular gender role. It traps women within their sex and sexuality and often leaves them voiceless.
Patriarchy is in essence arrogant as it assumes that it can speak on behalf of others, especially women, without ever consulting or talking with them. It takes voice away, treat women as less than men and assume that all women need to be “managed” by a male. Patriarchy sees men as superior and therefore their opinions and choices should bear the most weight.
Patriarchy can only exist in the presence of unequal power thus by taking power away from others. Unequal power often allows the abuse of power. Therefore, I believe that patriarchy is per definition disrespectful and often harmful to others.