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.

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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.

Practical Definitions: Defining the Acceptable Fringe

Something that is important to keep in mind is the concept of the Acceptable Fringe.  This would be behaviors, beliefs and practices that are considered weird or fringey, but do not result in the person or family practicing them being considered “not one of us”.  It’s very important to distinguish acceptable fringe things from unacceptable fringe things mainly because if you don’t understand where the lines are, you can’t really work to combat truly dangerous fringe practices that are being protected by their acceptable-fringeness.

Vision Forum was acceptable fringe until the scandals exploded with Doug Philips’ sexual misconduct and abuse of authority.  Many conservatives didn’t buy into the whole shebang, but owned a few videos or books.  Bill Gothard/ATI was also acceptable fringe, along similar lines.

Quiverfull is (barely) acceptable fringe.  Christian Identity (white nationalist Christianity) is not acceptable fringe.  Interracial and international interracial adoption is acceptable fringe.  A lot of people aren’t really into it in conservativeland, but they don’t want to upset their friends and family who are.  It remains relatively uncommon and fringe in practical terms, though.

Homeschooling is acceptable fringe.  Homeschooling is an interesting case because it’s being successfully co-opted and drained of its fringeyness and, well, that’s another post for another day.

Acceptable fringe: homebirthing.  Unacceptable fringe: unassisted homebirthing.

Acceptable fringe: living off the grid.  Unacceptable fringe: not getting your kids Social Security numbers and birth certificates.

This post is also a work in progress.

Practical Natalism: A conservative approach to fertility

Every few months there is a fertility discussion somewhere on the internet.  It is generally either “lalalala women can pop out babies on demand after age 35/40/45 and anyone who says otherwise is sexist!” (liberal flavor)  or “lalala women’s ovaries dry up instantly at 30, better marry at sexy 17 to be on the safe side girls!” (conservative flavor).  Once in awhile a vague gesture is made in the direction of male fertility having a time limit, but the main show is the endless binary battle between the delusions of liberals and conservatives regarding female fertility.

The truth is that both the liberals and the conservatives are a little bit right about the nuances of female fertility, and a whole lot wrong about what normal female fertility looks like.

It is certainly the case that we women cannot expect to conceive in our 60s or later barring explicitly Divine intervention.  But at the same time, women are not all granted the same level of fertility.  Some have a more robust baseline than others.  There are women who can start at 35 and have one each year until 45, while others can struggle to have three or four starting at age 21.  Obviously we shouldn’t give advice to young women based on the first case, because it has such a high margin of error if a young woman is not so blessed in the fertility department.  But neither does it really do much good to expect all women to start at 20 in a world that mostly doesn’t support young marriage.

We should instead be honest with women about the number of children it is reasonable to hope for at different age ranges assuming decent health. Start at 25, having 5 in 15 years is not unlikely.  Start around 30, having 5 in 10 years is much less likely.  Better to expect 3.  Not all women want more than a couple, but my experiences with women who sincerely seem to think it’s reasonable to start at 35-38 and still end up with 4-6 kids by 45 suggest that they are clearly not getting the best information on what’s reasonable at that age if that’s the family size they hope to have.

And honesty about how much more physically demanding kids can be after 35 would also go a long way towards honest fertility information.  Natalism, properly understood, is about more than just having babies.  It’s about having energy and time and a loving community to raise them so that at the margins, women do have that extra child or two.  So what if it’s possible to conceive and birth healthy, term babies after 40 for the first time? You may not live to see that kid or kids have their own children, and that’s profoundly self-centered.  You may not even live to see that kid reach adulthood.  The very act of conceiving for the first time at such ages comes with its own problems, since women are designed to be optimally fertile from 18-35, as far as the balance between growing babies and being able to wrangle them too.

And fertility should be whole-body, not just about getting pregnant over and over again.  Breastfeeding the kids for at least the first year of their lives, and ideally for some portion of their second and third years provides time for mother to recover physically and adjust to the demands of each new infant more smoothly than trying to get pregnant within seconds of the previous delivery.  This can produce breastfeeding-related temporary infertility, but simple consideration by husbands to not try for more in rapid succession is also part of whole-body fertility.  I know that for many women, there is pressure to closely space due to marrying in the late 20s or early 30s and wanting more than two kids, or a fear that if you aren’t constantly pregnant, he won’t let you have more than one or two.  Or pressure from the guy to build up the family as quickly as possible.  Some men count coup in how fast they can get their women to conceive again after each delivery.  This is a terrible thing, but it’s usually related to men not having proper outlets for healthier masculine expression.  But whatever the reason, it breaks the female body down faster and leaves her less to give to the raising and tending of the home and family in the medium and long term.  A lot of those historically fecund multi-great grammas keeled over promptly after finishing up with number 12 or 14 in their early 40s.

ETA, 5/2015: This guy writes a long book review concerning a book about the birth control debate among Protestants from 1870 to 1970.  The book review is not why I linked though, I linked for note at the end of the article, where he describes his fellow professors at a private Christian college as being fecund and gives the total number of children for 13 of them, totaling 63 children.  He boasts that the average is 4.84, but misses that the mode (most common number) is 3.  This isn’t the best post to tack this onto, but it is about natalism.  Part of practical natalism is understanding statistical reality as it reveals patterns of human behavior.  His colleagues are having one extra kid much more often than they are having 11 (one family).  Six of the thirteen professors have but three kids apiece.  This is more than the usual two, but it also means the average of about 5 is a bit misleading.  Also, related, the private Christian college in question has had a number of appalling scandals attach to it, ostentatiously left out by this smuggerson mcsmuggypants.  That link doesn’t cover the Ayn Rand acolytes peopling the college, but I can’t find that reference right now so I’ll just end here.

Practical Definitions: Sustainable Natalism

Natalism in the common parlance usually refers to government policies designed to make people want to have children.  Practically speaking, that puts the cart before the horse.  I favor natalism that starts with social norms and then is reflected in government policies.

Sustainable natalism is arranging society so that children are acceptable parts of the public sphere at all child ages.  It’s making sure women aren’t broken and worn down by the stresses and strains of bearing and caring for little ones so that they have energy to pop out more than a couple and raise them to adulthood afterwards.  It’s also about granting higher social status to married mothers and fathers, so that marriage is once again considered the correct place to bear and raise children in.

Sustainable natalism is people setting things up so that women feel that they can handle 3-6 kids, so that men can marry before age 30 because they have a good shot of being able to support three or four kids and a wife, and helping parents by being the real village, full of loving friendships and support.  It’s discouraging atomic living and moving every couple of years for a job, it’s encouraging social norms that have extended family nearby.  It’s remembering the value of cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles.  It’s restoring healthy relations between single childless adults and children.  It’s creating a social milieu that leads to grandkids and great-grandkids as a norm.

Tax credits are neat and stuff, but they won’t do the job.  Society has to be oriented strongly towards children as a good in themselves, living the idea that they are a blessing, because modernity shows us that once any ethnicity or culture gets rich and bloated with cheap consumption, they get very uninterested in having children.  Children are hard, even easy ones are hard.  Without lots and lots of explicit support and status accorded to motherhood and fatherhood, people simply don’t bother.

 

Practical Definitions: Conservatives and Multi-Level Marketing aka MLM

MLM is short for “Multi-Level Marketing“.  This is a form of sales in which the majority of the income is earned by signing other people up and receiving a portion of their sales (and the sales of those they sign up).  This is a variation of a pyramid scheme.  Conservatives tend to fall prey to MLM scams because the veneer of capitalism appeals to conservatives tricked into monetizing their relationships.  With liberals, the scam tendency is towards self-help, self-improvement and spiritual awakening cons, in which the veneer is monetizing friendships and relationships for “spiritual growth”.  Liberal scams cater to self-focus and individual autonomy.  Conservative scams cater, with their more pseudo-democratic pyramid structures, to the idea of community while horrifyingly undermining it in (ineffective) pursuit of money.

While both conservative men and women tend to fall prey to such schemes, the reason for this post is what I have observed among conservative housewives on and off the internet.  There are an astonishing number of schemes designed for them far beyond the kind of stereotypical makeup and cookware MLM businesses.

Three in particular that one runs into are book sales, essential oils (this one is health-risking as well, since they are not designed for internal use and yet that is part of the con), and even a bolting-on of MLM to real estate brokering.

There is nothing about books, essential oils or real estate sales or anything else that requires an MLM component and yet over and over I find “conservative”, “homeschool”, “Biblical”, etc. “work at home opportunities” seem to have MLM tacked on no matter what the supposed product or service for sale is.

If you’re discouraged from just selling the product or service without signing other people up, it’s probably MLM and you should walk away before you sink too much cash into startup costs (which MLM usually has more of than other at-home business opportunities).

The following conservative Christian SAHM, who is an excellent blogger in many respects, has written some insightful posts detailing the problems with MLM.

http://thecommonroomblog.com/2014/08/of-mlms-truth-and-beauty.html

http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/09/essential-oils-and-mlms.html

http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/07/mlm-some-of-my-concerns.html

Each of her posts is longer than this one and worth the read, she delves into the problems of monetizing your relationships with friends and family.  She also unpacks the flaws of MLMs as a business model, and most importantly covers the spiritual pitfalls of these terrible schemes.

This post is just an introduction and overview, a lot of conservative people truly don’t understand that business structures don’t have to look like Amway or any of the other MLMs I’ve linked to because all the stuff they see and pass around does look that way.  But no, these are a bad deal and should be avoided.

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.