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.

Real Talk for SAHMs: Why Christian mommybloggers need to put down the shot glasses

It’s practically a trope among popular Christian mommybloggers like Simcha Fischer to promote liquor drinking among SAHMs as a coping mechanism.  It’s increasingly hard to tell how much of it is is haha only serious or just serious.  And it’s got to stop.  It’s incredibly alienating to the average SAHM because most people don’t drink, much less drink at the bingey rates implied by some of those ostensibly Christian mommybloggers.

And it’s especially the case that most women don’t drink.  Alcohol tastes gross or smells gross to most women during the time in their lives when they get pregnant and nurse (ask me how I know!), so the kind of conservative Christian housewife reading these bloggers for commiseration is going to feel weird that she doesn’t want to turn to drink when things are overwhelming and wearying.  She’ll wonder what’s wrong with herself for not being able to consider such a cheap and easy means of short term respite.  Or she’ll wonder if all the other SAHMs do that and she’s just the puritan weirdo who’s too uptight.

Or she’ll take a chance and try it, and end up like this dame.  Before she broke up her marriage, she was big on posting pictures of her drinking and doing “Girl’s Nights Out” as a SAHM.

That’s the other poisonous aspect.  It positions having a few drinks as the only respite housewives are allowed that’s socially acceptable, so support among friends and family shifts to providing “Girl’s Nights Out” rather than actual help when they need it during the day.

It’s insidious even though it looks like joking, but it’s way too frequently thrown about to feel very funny.

The Amish have the highest living standard in the United States

If you define standard of living increases in terms of an individual having more opportunities to enjoy private experiences and consumption of individual goods, you get one kind of society.  If you define standard of living increases in terms of local-level collectives (families, towns, cities) having more opportunities to enjoy shared experiences and consumption of individual and collective goods, you get a whole nother kind of society.

If technological benefits are communally shared and not solely focused on individual gratification, you get a very different picture of improved living standards over time.

To put it another way, a four bedroom, two bath house of 2000-2500sq ft is considered just right for a family of four, but it’s not at all unpleasant or crowded to have eight people living in such a large home.  But the relentless march of progress always portrays the choice as “cram 20 people in” or “have 3-4 people knocking around a giant house” when one could have an intermediate situation where one enjoyed the benefits of modern technology with the benefits of accountability due to living with what has typically been a bit more than nuclear family in your home.

Related, this family lives “off the grid” in terms of energy use, but is very much tightly interwoven and connected into the grid of real community:

That couple is raising their children with teachers and adults they knew and liked, among people who know their parents, among blood kin and friends who also have long-standing multi-generational roots in that particular region.  They aren’t nearly as isolated despite their lack of public utilities as the modern SAHM living in a suburb far from both sets of relatives, in a town nowhere near even distant kin or college friends.  A lot of people think it’s limiting or provincial to spend your life living among multiple generations of blood and soil, but it’s natural, it’s normal and just because it’s not American* doesn’t mean it’s not something to be pursued in America.

*American: traditional American living is this, if there’s no religious aspect as with the Amish.  For all the right wing vitriol towards that kind of music and, uh, black people, that’s the real American essence, distilled.  Money, money, money, getting wealth, getting a big chunk of land far away from other people to lord over, these are a few of (white) America’s favorite things.  One of the reasons the social institutions conservatives love are failing is because of that GetRich aspect of Core America (h/t one Mr. Sailer).  It combines with individualism to be ultimately not that predictive or productive of wealth in the amounts desired by nearly all the individuals, but it has created a nation with wealth that none will likely ever see again.

But the Amish and that couple have a higher standard of living than the people with bigger houses on giant lots with a car for mom and dad and junior and sally precisely because the former two are less traditionally American than the latter household.


Real Talk for SAHMs: When maternal instinct leads to poor maternal health

This is just to say that SAHMs lose sleep because it’s hard to get to sleep at night when you expect the wakeups and in fact they come for years on end.  Then there’s the food issue.  Yes, there is joking around about eating the crumbs the toddlers leave you, but it can lead to either overeating to compensate for the sleep deprivation or slow starvation (and corresponding increasing exhaustion) as appetite shuts down in response to stress.

So people hear about SAHMs being up at 3am doing laundry and think they are silly and frivolous and making up reasons to make it all seem harder than it is, but they aren’t thinking about the four wakeups the SAHM already had to deal with since attempting her own bedtime at 9pm after the kids were down between 7pm and 8pm.  If you can’t even hope to get any sleep and everyone around is convinced you never need a helping hand because you’re home all day and what on earth is there to do, really, then yeah, you just might go ahead and save the laundry for at night since you have to get up every other hour to nurse anyway, or quell a nightmare, or get a water sippy for a toddler’s dry throat and hacking cough.

Then there’s the putting off of medical and dental care because the prospect of trying to deal with the entire process with a bunch of little kids underfoot is too overwhelming to even think about.  It used to be obvious as recently as the 1980s that trying to leave the house with many small children was just not something a woman could do on her own, but it’s now a bizarre expectation towards SAHMs specifically.

Basically, a lot of women are in really bad shape mentally, physically and spiritually, and it’s because they are just trying to follow their natural maternal instincts in an environment set up to work against that in poisonous and damaging ways.  They just need a break.

What living near each other could look like

I sometimes read a little group blog called The Orthosphere.  It’s run by a bunch of conservative men who seem really sincere about promoting traditionalism.  The problem is that they profoundly misunderestimate what kind of polemic would serve to promote traditionalism as an abstraction.  A recent post there is a case in point, but what this post is about is not the abstract, overlong attempt at conversion rhetoric, but a comment following the post about living more normally/traditionally.

Here’s the relevant half of the comment:

“…living correctly is not currently allowed. It’s politically incorrect. But individuals can score small victories in their everyday lives. They can refuse to agree with what they know is wrong. They can act rightly in their own lives or, when forced by overwhelming power to act wrongly, they can do so minimally, under protest. Perhaps we should open a new thread where people are invited to share the ways they resist the current order, act rightly, and maintain their sanity. We must not lose heart because our ideals have been declared thoughtcrime. Current conditions will not last.”

This assertion is correct in that living correctly in a piecemeal, cafeteria fashion is policed and getting increasingly difficult to do if one is conservative.  But this commenter misses the observed reality that doing so in a complete fashion, with a real parallel system is still on the table.  That is the gist of my post here.

Serious conservatives could be buying properties like this with a few other families and setting up a practical agrarian/distributist lifestyle and even potential spouses for their children and a real possibility of grandchildren and future inheritance.  That property has multiple single family homes and enough acreage for each family to “own” one of several crops (livestock is a potential crop, not just plants) and use that specialization opportunity to maximize returns.  Also, with several families living near each other but having their own homes, household tasks could be split up and rotated in traditional agrarian fashion so that nobody was overwhelmed.

Since the property is located in the super-boonies, living near several like-minded families would make the stresses of driving 2-4 hours to the “big cities” to sell the farm products a great deal more tolerable.  And the small core of families could still build relationships and friendships with the locals, but wouldn’t be demoralized if those social ties never formed to a deep extent (which is sometimes the way of things in isolated rural areas).  Living far away from one’s biological relatives would have a lot of the sting taken out, as the redundancy of multiple families means it would be possible to maintain regular visits and contact without the problems that come from leaving crops to do family visiting.  And financially, the property doesn’t require each individual family to have a huge income to pay their portion of a mortgage or massive savings to buy outright.

This is one path to “having all things in common” without ignoring the importance of access to private property and individual opportunities to build wealth and inheritance long-term.  I would also note that there are dozens if not hundreds of these sorts of properties for sale right this very minute, all over the United States.  The work would be hard and challenging, and certainly people have to save up something first, but this is on the table as an option instead of laments about being priced out of the suburbs, where one would have to struggle in a very different and more risky way with a piecemeal approach to living normally.

One doesn’t have to go full Amish, but one does have to set up a lifestyle that lays groundwork for restoration of healthy social structures and institutions by starting with a small group of like minds and branching out from there.  The barnacle approach of continuing to cling to the pieces of liberalism that appeal to you while rejecting the pieces that don’t is not going to continue to be a path for conservatives going forward.  Just as the True Way of faith in Christ is narrow, so too is the list of viable options for preserving normal life for future generations.

Them’s the breaks.  Industrialization and modernity mean we just can’t rely on the old dividends of traditional living.  They’re spent up and we have to just grit the old teeth and give up some precious temporal things now or see our children lose them all.