Repost: Practical Definitions: What is Patriarchy?

This is not meant to be a college textbook excerpt, but to introduce a basic way to think of key concepts of traditional living. Though key to any real revival of normal living, patriarchy doesn’t really exist in the modern world except in very specific subcultures. Patriarchy, specifically Christian patriarchy, is the beginning of the rule of law, with its devotion to those not of the blood.  It is a move away from clannishness and blood bonds towards something larger.  A patriarch is a specific role that only some men can hold.  The guy on the internet pontificating about how he’s the patriarch of his home is profoundly misunderstanding what patriarchy is.  A patriarch is head of a household, but a head of household is not often a patriarch.  This distinction is crucial to understanding why both the fundie “patriarch of mah haus” and the feminist “we b overrun by tha patriarchy, yo” premises are both wrong.

Patriarchy is thus rule by a small, established group of patriarchs with the wealth and authority to enforce their rule.  In Christian patriarchy, these patriarchs are under authority as well.  Patriarchy is not simply a husband being married to his wife and having headship over her. Patriarchy, reliant in the Christian form on granted authority, is by nature more organic than pagan patriarchy. A patriarchy is about ownership with responsibility.  Patriarchs are supposed to take very good care of the people and property under their demesne, including other men’s families.

This is true in any form of patriarchy, but it has a specific spiritual component in Christian patriarchy that makes this form of patriarchy superior.

Now, while this post about patriarchy speaks of it in blood and soil terms, it nevertheless contains practical examples of what it means to live under patriarchal authority.  An excerpt:

How many people would be interested in being part of a tribe or clan again? There are some, I’m sure, who opine of tribal allegiances, based upon race or religion, or something similar. But the day-to-day stress, communitarianism, and sacrifice required for maintaining such allegiances are more than most people are willing to give.

How many men who lecture about the virtues of patriarchy have ever lived in one? How many of them realize that the rule of male elders doesn’t mean that each man rules his home like a fiefdom, but that he rules the decisions that affect primarily his own household and has to consult his male elders on everything else? How many men are willing to submit to the moderating influence of family councils — the same family councils that kept ancient patriarchy from dissolving into the abuse of women and children, even when the immediate father’s rule was inadequate?

How many people who lecture about the genetic ties of race have managed to cultivate these strong tribal allegiances within their own closer-related extended families? How many of them would sacrifice for second or third cousins they’ve never even met? So why the expectation that anyone would do that for someone of the same race that doesn’t even have blood ties with them? The heart doesn’t speak the language of genetics, it just knows that family is family.

How many people who think of themselves as patriots understand that patriotism is a progression of piety? That people loved their families and were willing to die for them, so they cooperated with other families, and those groups of families grew into towns, regions, and nations? Do they really think they can keep that patriotism going in a nation with nothing but a flag holding it together, and the individual families, towns, and regions disintegrating?

As the excerpt shows, patriarchy cannot even exist in a normal society without a willingness among men to accept that their authority is partial, and interlinked within a hierarchy where they are not likely to be at the topmost levels.  In America, contrary to many beliefs, there’s not much, if anything resembling patriarchy as described either by myself or the authoress of that writing.  Patriarchy is about a web of loving obligations and connections that begin in blood and proceed through adoption to become rules and laws for a brotherhood beyond kindred.  It’s not about individual men lording it over individual wives.  That’s certainly something, but it is not patriarchy.


Repost: Patriocentricity is not Patriarchy

Some things just have to be endlessly repeated over and over, clearly.  Patriocentricity is father-worship, with an emphasis on individual family units being subservient to unrestrained false “patriarchs” who themselves have no higher authority to be subject to (not even other father-leaders).

Unfortunately, patriocentricity is what a lot of conservatives think of as patriarchy.  It is worst in abusive fundamentalist Christian subcultures like Quiverfull or the now-former Vision Forum and Gothard/ATI subcultures, but it certainly appears over and over among other kinds of conservative or traditionalist Christians.

One reason these subcultures are relatively small is because there is no coherent authority or hierarchy.  At best they are cults of personality, which cannot be lasting sources of invested authority.  At worst it’s a bunch of isolated families being ill used by a man who answers to no-one and does as he pleases, which was not really the case in any historical patriarchy, not even the pagan ones where a patriarch had life or death authority over his familias/clan.

Patriarchy means men have responsibilities and have to answer to other people outside their immediate family.  They also, in addition, have headship in their own individual households, but it doesn’t supersede their hierarchical status within their local community.  I find it quite telling that a lot of self-proclaimed patriarchs on and off the internet fight the hardest against actual patriarchy being implemented.  An unfortunate and recent example is Doug Philips of Vision Forum.  He failed to accede to the authority or intervention of his (supposed) co-elders, which again is rebellion and not patriarchy.  More prosaic examples are the guys who can never attend a church because the leadership just isn’t Godly enough for them and “pastor” their families at home.

For the purposes of those interested in Western traditions and restoring them to the extent possible given time and technology, polygamy is practical patriocentricity rather than patriarchy.  So anyone supporting or encouraging polygamy is not advocating a pro-Christian patriarchy or pro-Western patriarchy position.  Patriocentric systems work against patriarchy, and polygamy tends to degenerate into patriocentricity fairly readily.  While not a common conservative theme, there are nevertheless a noticeable minority who promote polygamy either implicitly or explicitly and this promotion should be discouraged among those who are pro-Christian patriarchy.

H/T to Hester at Scarlet Letters, who is slogging through old Vision Forum stuff and brought the term patriocentricity into play.  It’s a very useful term.

ETA: From the comments, it appears the term was coined several years ago by Karen Campbell over at the blog That Mom.

A Tale of Two Patriarchs, a Manosphere Patriarch and a Practical Patriarch

Once upon a time in Alaska, there lived two men who felt called by God to go live out in a cabin in the woods with their huge families.  One was a patriarch in the manosphere mold, one was very much not.

The manospherian patriarch called himself Papa Pilgrim.

He married a teenager who was about 20 years younger than he was.

He had 15 children with her.

He required that wife and children all refer to him as “Lord”.

He used “dread”, both metaphorical and literal.  This is, apparently, deemed perfectly Christian and proper for husbands to do by manospherians.

He did not submit to any male authority, religious or otherwise, assuring his family that his authority was ultimate and needed no constraint.

They lived in the woods on hundreds of acres, the children recording music and touring, the entire family developing impressive homesteading and survival skills as well.

As time went on, despite those skills, the family could not make it through the harsh Alaskan winters reliably, so the manospherian patriarch had his family go spend a particularly harsh winter with another very large family (nine children).  I may have left a couple of things out.  Nothing that would be considered bad in the manosphere of course.

As it turns out, the manospherian patriarch ended up in jail because the practical patriarch heading the family of nine felt it was his duty to subject the manosphere patriarch to the rule of law for the manosphere patriarch’s mistreatment of his family.

The practical patriarch also raised self-sufficient children, was openly and clearly the buck-stopping head of his household and lived a simple, back to the land kind of life with his wife and nine children.  Some of those children even married the children of the manosphere patriarch.  But the practical patriarch regularly sought his close to his own age wife’s input and her advice and counsel were a big part of his ultimate decision to bring external authority into the situation.  The manosphere patriarch’s children were astonished that a husband and wife would have private time with each other to reconnect and be close as a couple, they were used to such private time being a sign of their father’s displeasure with their mother.

Their mother did not stand by her man, she stood by her children, who came to forgive her slowly and painfully over time.  The manospherian patriarch died alone in jail, unrepentant.



If the Christian manosphere wants wives, they should be nicer to middle aged married women

Despite the generally hilarious claims of the manosphere’s Christian rump to be interested in traditional sex roles and traditional understandings of marriage and authority, they ignore the obvious traditions when those traditions mean some woman somewhere might have actual social status and a respected position in her community beyond being a wife or a mother.  They write endless screeds on marriage readiness as a sort of role playing game where it’s just a matter of hitting some benchmarks with “the current girl” enough times and you’ll get to the final boss fight (wedding ceremony) of Marriage: The Quest for a Purest of Pure Godly Submissive But Also Hardbodied Wife.  Or they write about finding a wife as though it’s about sifting through character traits like a basket of costumes, wearing only the ones “women care about the most”.

Left out of all this, of course, is going to the conservative Christian women who are most likely to be swimming in under 25, chaste, often Christian young women who want to marry and be housewives.  That is middle aged women in their 30s and 40s.  Older such women usually have all the kids out of the house and are mostly around career types or caring for their relatives’ kids.  Younger such women are swimming in very young kids of their own or working.  But women in their 30s and 40s usually have at minimum stuff like the teachers and administrators of their childrens’ activities and school (yes, even homeschooling women) or their own teenagers/young 20somethings heading into marriageable age range.  Some also have the (usually young) women who help out around the house and/or younger female relatives who really like children enough to buck social norms and hang out with them a lot.

Middle aged married women used to serve as a bridge between young single men and young single women, gently and sometimes not so gently guiding compatible personalities towards each other even in ye olde times when marriage was supposedly never about romantic attachment, just babies and property.  And yet, those women are no longer treated as valuable assets in the quest for a wife by young Christian men.  The Christian manosphere is just jerky and disrespectful about it rather than oblivious.  As a result, even though many middle aged married women are still able to have acquaintance with young marriageable women, they don’t get any opportunities to revive the old traditions of guiding and matchmaking compatible young people towards a clear marriage path (no long engagements, as one example).

In a legitimately Christian patriarchal social structure, married women have real social power as a result of being married women.  This is something the Christian manosphere doesn’t get about the realities of Christian patriarchy.  Non-Christian patriarchy can be this way, but needless to say, women have more freedom in Christ and that extends to their roles in a patriarchal system too.  One of the ways you can tell the manosphere talk about restoring traditional sex roles is not “sex realism” is that they don’t believe that the state of being married confers real status on a woman.  They believe the status conferred is just stuff in her silly female brain, that the only real status accrues to men.  This is a lot of things, but it’s not very traditional for Western Christian societies.

Even in our deracinated, atomized society, middle aged married women are the ones who are around the kind of teenaged and 20something young women who still want marriage and babies and staying home with them more than any other group of people and therefore the fact that nobody knocks on middle aged married womens’ doors offering to help them throw parties and social events to bring together young singles in a neutral but emotionally complex setting that allow for getting to know someone’s personality and attitude (they don’t) is part of why the Christian marriage situation is so dire for men and women alike.

An Unprincipled Exception of wifely submission

Many conservatives talk a good game about submission, authority and hierarchy, but they don’t want to deal with having to live it.  Thus “submitting” solely to your husband is enough and suddenly you have no bothersome obligations, responsibilities or duties to anyone else, including your own children.  This extremely common position on wifely submission is frankly little better than the modern feminist position that any submission (except to employers of course) is oppressive and not to be borne by women.  It’s just a peculiar inversion of the Austerian unprincipled exception.  There is a clinging to individualism and patriocentricity that is quite telling.  The response to the idea that both husband and wife have obligations to submit to others under real patriarchy is generally to declare that this is a secret plot to have the wife determine who those authorities are by simply noting they exist.

This is essentially American, the usual individualism problem and inability of individuals to either be in or see themselves as part of an organic whole that is the village, so to speak.  I find all the talk in many Christian organs about submission to be a little weird, because it’s always so separated from the totality of life.  It’s just some husband-wife deal, which is just one little piece of the big Christian puzzle for a married Christian couple.  I mean sure, I submit to my husband as the head of our household, but it’s not something that I have to think about consciously, because it is natural and normal to submit to proper authorities, of which my husband is one of several that I have in my life.  And my husband doesn’t have dude-angst over submission to the authorities he is under in his life (mostly but not entirely the same ones that I have, for obvious reasons).  We don’t live in a perfect Biblical village with Divine Hierarchy perfectly applied, but we reflexively respond to what is there in the normal, historically typical ways.

What not to do when promoting traditional gender roles

Just stop giving fodder to feminist and leftist critics.  It’s not true that men are the only ones who came up with anything useful ever.  It’s easily disprovable and where it’s not, there isn’t any data at all because we’re talking prehistory anyhow.  Further, this whole presentation of women as useless except presumably for teh babies  is Pashtun, not Western Christian Patriarchal.  Patriarchies that like women and think they’re groovy are the ones that find it easier to build excess wealth for the community.  If you really believe women have this role to submit to and serve men, they can’t be properly effective in that role without being taken seriously as fully human, fully realized beings.

The first post I linked to is trying to debunk the idea of the “strong independent woman”, but it does so by reducing women to useless appendices incapable of bringing any value to, well, existence.  Except of course having babies.  It veers well into the exact kind of transactional mentality that feminists love to claim proves All Conservatives Are Like That.  It’s not even a Christian view of male and female roles.  It’s exaggerated, demonstrably false and just an excuse to be petty and mean to what end I knoweth not.  Normal men like women and normal women aren’t caught up in some idea that they are particularly independent in the first place.  Normal women have zero problem accepting that they exist as part of a community.

The second link is someone talking a very little about the Pew data on SAHMs but mostly ranting about how housewives are useless eaters and glorying in how A Man He Knows Did It Better Anyhow.

Much of femininity and marriage is socially constructed but you can socially construct it well or you can socially construct it stupidly and marriage and patriarchy are BETTER, so there’s no need to dismiss the contributions of women and play into the feminist frame that supporters of traditional gender roles he-man woman-hate.  Let’s stop socially constructing marriage and traditionally oriented gender roles stupidly.  Separate from the feminist-fodder issue, it just scares off normal women who would otherwise delight in the chance to tend the hearth and home and in other, subtler ways contribute to the upkeep of their communities and villages.

ETA: Apparently Mr. Pashtun Impersonator wrote an angry angerson screed that I missed when this first went up, lol.

Lindsay’s unhistorical logic, or fisking some typical conservative dismissals of the domestic sphere

Fisking is a fine old internet tradition and this is a pretty good example of the kind of conservative polemic that actually dismisses the domestic sphere it claims to promote. So the post (most of it) follows below, with my interpolations to the post and a few remarks on the comments.

The Vital Importance of a Wife and Mother at Home

 *snipped intro*
We live in a culture that sees us primarily as individuals who simply make associations with each other. Marriage is generally seen as just a partnership between two separate people. The Christian view of marriage, however, is radically different. The Bible says that the two become one. Not two that have a connection, but one. God doesn’t give separate overall missions to each individual person. There is only one overall calling for that one marriage entity. A husband and wife are a family and have a calling together, but the husband bears the primary responsibility for fulfilling that mission while the wife bears the primary responsibility for supporting her husband’s work toward the family’s calling.
This is not really where the danger lies.  Wives supporting husbands is fine.
That is what it means, for example, that the husband is the spiritual head or leader of the family. A husband will answer to God for the spiritual health of his family in a way that the wife will not because it is the man’s primary responsibility. His calling, above all, is to lead his family to know and serve God. Other parts of his mission may involve outreach beyond his family such as missions work, serving in the church, witnessing to coworkers, etc., but his primary responsibility before God is to lead his own family and ensure their spiritual health. A wife’s primary responsibility in this area is to support her husband’s leadership to ensure that chaos does not derail their family’s spiritual journey and that her husband has the time and energy to devote to spiritual leadership because he isn’t distracted by other minor concerns.
This is getting a little patriocentric, but we haven’t quite gotten to the core derailing tactic yet. Lindsay sounds like she’s starting to talk about delegation of properly ordered authority.  Let’s see if that’s the case.
The story comes to mind of Acts 6 and the choosing of deacons to take care of details like feeding the needy so that the apostles could concentrate on preaching and teaching. This kind of hierarchy is found throughout life, not just in marriage. It’s not about inferiority, it’s about efficiency in fulfilling a purpose. It was the deacons’ role to handle logistics so that the apostles could spend their time pursuing the main mission of preaching the word and saving souls. In the same way, it is a wife’s role to handle logistics of the home so that her husband can concentrate his energy on pursuing the family’s main mission for God.
This sounds like properly ordered delegation…. BUT!
The other thing to consider is that the responsibility for providing for the family is given primarily to the man. It simply isn’t the wife’s responsibility in the same way it is for the husband. Not only are men given the responsibility of spiritual leadership, but they also must provide for their family’s economic needs. In both cases, men will answer to God for how they do so. Providing is a heavy burden given to a man. It requires much time and effort. It is a great support to the husband when the wife takes care of the logistical details of the household so that the husband can devote his efforts to providing and the spiritual training of the children and then, if energy is left, to outside endeavors to further the Kingdom of God.

Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman. We all have limitations. It’s just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of children and the home is primarily a woman’s responsibility in a way it isn’t for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she must keep the home and her husband as her priority.

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children’s lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

There it is.  Three paragraphs of false dichotomy in which the only economic activity possible must occur outside the home in a full time capacity.  Further, Lindsay also ignores the extensive history of the domestic sphere not being carried on the backs of individual housewives at all, but upon mistresses and delegation to their servants or shared labor among the women of the village/town/neighborhood.  She’s also presenting a fundamentally anti-patriarchal view of the housewife by dismissing the loving community relationships that children gain access to in traditional Christian patriarchal societies. In this following paragraph, she continues with the straw-housewife portrayal.
So, given the needs of children, I am convinced that women are called to be with their children, training and caring for them as their primary caregiver. Does that mean a mother can’t have any job outside the home? In theory, no. In practice, yes. A woman’s priority must be her own family. If she can have her children with her or leave them for only a short time each day, she may still be able to provide the necessary training and care they need from their mother and earn some income. But in doing that, she needs to be sure she is not neglecting her husband’s needs either. Theoretically, a woman can have it all – keeping a job and caring for her family too. The problem is that it is a very rare woman who has the energy to keep up with the constant needs of her children for care, training, discipline, and love and those of her husband for companionship, sex, and a partner in life as well as the logistics of running a household and still have something left for even a part-time job.

What usually happens when a woman has an outside job is that her family simply suffers the lack. Either her children spend a lot of time with other caregivers or teachers or her husband does without the companionship and marital intimacy he needs or some of the household chores descend on the husband, taking away some of his time and energy to train his children spiritually and impact the world for Christ. Often it’s a combination of these. A woman simply cannot meet all the needs of her family when she is spread that thin and, as a result, something important gets left undone.

A tired, worn down woman doing all the childcare and (somehow) all the household chores like cooking and cleaning also cannot meet all the needs of her family when she’s spread so thin.  The idea that just being home all day with no breaks from the needs of the children while still being expected to produce a Better Homes and Gardens style domestic haven is even possible for a solitary housewife with no paid or unpaid help should reveal itself to be obviously impossible.  Yet here Lindsay is, dutifully pushing this classic conservative trope of housewiving.  And she follows it up with more doubling down on the false choice of “work full time outside the home and GOD WILL HATE YOU AND YOUR BABIES” or “work yourself into exhaustion and early physical breakdown FOR THE KINGDOM GURLFREND”.
Of course, there are circumstances where it is necessary for a family’s survival for the wife to work outside the home. That is not the ideal, but it sometimes happens. In that case, the goal should be to do whatever is necessary to make it a temporary situation so that the wife can return to the home and children and be available to meet her husband’s need as well. If that means downgrading the house, foregoing vacations, having the husband take a second job or a better paying job, having the wife work from home, or whatever, the goal should be to work towards having the wife available to fulfill her responsibilities at home. It is vital to the health of her family – both physically and spiritually. There is no replacement for a wife and mother. The family will never be as effective for the Kingdom of God as it could be if the wife is not at home, taking care of her family.

I and a few others responded in the comments, one brave lady named “Mrs. Lamp” attempted to confront the silliness and was met (as was I in my own comment along those lines) with doubling down or a redefinition of history to fit the narrative that mom as primary caregiver is the One Way to Love Jesus if you have kids.  I am so, so tired of this craziness.  It is craziness, you see.

No, mamma is not always going to be the sole caregiver, or even primary one, and that’s not unholy or unBiblical or even untraditional or unpatriarchal.  A good case could be made that the real problem is pressuring women to forego the fellowship and support of other women to carry a heavy burden alone and tying that to Heavenly salvation.

It’s also possible for housewives to be economically productive in the home or on a part-time basis outside the home.  There is a whole range of possibilities, even post-industrially.

The token mansplaining from “Conan the Cimmerian” in the comments is only worth mentioning for how ridiculous and silly it is, effectively nonsensical but so, so usual and standard among a certain kind of conservative man.

The reason I fisked this at all is not because it’s unique or unusual, but because it’s pretty standard-issue.  Way too many conservatives love this black and white view of the wife’s role in marriage.  They love this unhistorical, unreal, unhealthy, not doctrinally sound idea of a housewife as a sort of Platonic being of pure love with no real physical, spiritual or emotional needs or reality.  They love her being a consumption good in herself rather than a potential economic contributor to the household coffers (unless, in a post I really will someday finish, she does Amway or some other similar scam/exploitation).

It’s so poisonous and terrible, especially the Christian variation Lindsay used, where not being on board with this false ideal means you’re a bad Christian wife.  That little bonus should be far less common but is all too sadly quite easy to find among Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant housewives all.  Ultimately it subverts the ability to maintain a properly ordered domestic sphere and thus is an own-goal.