Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Patriarchal Family

For the purposes of this blog entry I will define family as a heterosexual couple inhabiting the same abode with one or more children. This definition in no way invalidates the different forms of families that are in existence today. The family is important to study because it is the first site of socialization. It is where we first learn about patriarchal authoritarian power. Just as power relations in the public sector are male run similarly the family is male run. The hierarchal nature of marriage necessarily means that his needs, desires and whims are first to be catered to resulting in a high level of satisfaction with the relationship. (Bernard 1982) The subservience of the female partner equates to a higher quality of life for men, better mental health and professional opportunities. (Steil 1997)

This is evidenced from the very beginning of the family. Consider the wedding ceremony. Even though today the woman no longer promises to obey the symbolism that is part of a wedding ceremony is necessarily linked to male dominance and female submission. The man gives a woman an engagement ring, which historically represents his ability to support a family. Today we know that most nuclear families are dependent on dual incomes and yet this practice still exists. The woman wears a white wedding dress to symbolize her purity. The genesis of female virginity stems from the desire to ascertain the paternity of any children she may produce. The father or male head of the family gives the bride away, thus transferring ownership of the bride from the father to the husband. Finally she (the bride) relinquishes her identity and takes the last name of her new husband. Some would argue that the aforementioned aspects of the wedding ceremony are meaningless. If they are meaningless then why do continue to perform them? The answer is that it institutionalizes male power. As a society we have normalized female submission.

The maintenance of power structure within the family comes at a cost to women. According to Stats Can (2003c:17) 21% of women devote more that 30 hours per week compared to 8% for men on unpaid labour; 16% of women devoted 30 hours or more on childcare in a week compared with 15% of men; and 20% of women compared with 15% of men reported taking care of a senior generally for less than 10 hours per week. It is clear that there is an unequal division of labour. Not only do individual men profit but society as whole profits from the nature of women’s work. As western economies continue to privatize the burdens of women will continue to increase. It is quite evident that a reduction in services will increase the “double day” that women already perform. Women must juggle to try and balance labour between the private and public sphere. Yet the economy is dependent on the free labour of women (Waring) Consider that women’s work in the maintenance of the family is not counted in the GDP and or GNP of any nation and yet if it were not “freely” performed the cost would have to be covered by the ruling capitalist class. Discounting the value of this labour helps to insure that women are not able to assume positions of power. The work that counts is the work that produces a product that may be sold on the market for a profit. According to Levi Strauss “exchange itself is not constitutive of the subordination of women; women are not subordinate because of the fact of exchange, but because of the modes of exchange instituted, and the values attached to these modes.

It is under these conditions that women must try and raise their children. The rate of reproduction in the industrialized west is declining. Women are no longer bearing 2.1 children. As services that were previously provided by the state or extended families in a communal setting are increasingly “downloaded” to nuclear families women are choosing to reduce their burdens by having less children. The cost or raising a child from infancy to adulthood is prohibitive and yet no national daycare plan exists in Canada. The 100 dollars of taxable income offered by the state does not even cover the cost of one week of daycare. When women “opt” to stay home rather than seeing their income devoured by the cost of daycare they are penalized in the employment sphere. They experience a loss of marketability and are often unable to re-enter equivalent to the level at which they were when they left. Leaving the public sphere to attend to the needs of the family further affects their retirement benefits and leaves them wholly dependent on male financial support. These are sacrifices by enlarged assumed by women. Though there are instances of stay at home dads, by enlarged this role falls to women. Housework is tedious and when women are forced into the position of being a stay at home mother and or caregiver there is never a separation from work and pleasure. From the moment they arise in the morning all of their energies will be devoted to the work that they perform. There is an unspoken need to justify this work as labour in relation to the mans as it does not produce a visible profit. The male breadwinner model ensures that he will have more power in the relationship, as he that earns necessarily assumes the privilege of deciding how they families income is spent.Thus while there are certain intrinsic rewards to the modern nuclear family it is clear that it is fettered with female oppression. Equality that has been proclaimed is not lived.


12 comments:

Octogalore said...

Interesting analysis, Renee. You're right, so much of this is ingrained, but Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose.

My parents interacted for the first time in years walking down the aisle with me. (Luckily by then they were at least on speaking terms). I wasn't going to leave out the one who'd been more available.

Great point about the white dress. As a former stripper, I didn't want to appear to be making some kind of self-statement by doing something different in that regard. But even that concern is problematic.

And the maintenance of power structure within the family -- as you know, I see that as a large problem across class, race, etc. Doing counseling in low-income schools, it seems like often the boy is set up to be the first in his family to attend college and jump income brackets, whereas the girl is expected to become pregnant and get married and hope to do so that way. Not much of an insurance plan.

Unfortunately I do not think we can hope that housework/childcare for ones own home/child(ren) will ever be assigned a market valuation, for a host of reasons. Until those duties are shared, things will continue status quo.

lujlp said...

Acctually the use of white became the norm in 1840 with the marrige of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert.

MAny belive it was an effor by the queen to stimulate the sale of expensive and high maintance lace among the wealthy in Britian.

Before that it was common to wear any number of colors including black. Oddly enough white was considered a color of mourning among royals so it could be argued that she was protesting her marrige by wearing a color of mourning and sorrow on her wedding day.

Virginity was symobized by the veil incedentally.

The wedding industy began to emerge after WWI, and it wasnt the male of the species pushing the trend either.

As for engament rigns, there has been no solid archeoligal evidence to suggest it is a form of payment or symbol of econmic solvency.

I dont really understand you patholigical hatred of a non existant organization feminists call the "Patriachy"
You may as well rail against the Illuminati or the aliens who built the pyramids.

Most households are run by women, and while it is true that having a wife who stays home and care for the children allow a guy to focus more on work it is assinine to suggest the wife doesnt benefit from her husbands increased salary.

As far as two income familles go it noticed you statistics made no mention of the division of labor outside the home, why is that?

And anyone who leaves the workforce for years at a time no matter the reason will not be able to reenter at the postion they left, man or woman.

Women have choices, if they choose to raise kids over working the they have to live with the consequences.

And FYI if you look at the job choices of men who never marry and have no kids, they tend to choose lower paying jobs that provide fleible hours. This would seem to suggest that men would gladly surrrender the "breadwinner" role if not for the pressures of socitey telling us that our only worth as a man is in how we can provide for and care for our famillies.

To recap, I know you pushing some cracked pot agena, but if your going to rail against something as innocuas as mmarrige, perhaps you should do a little reserch first.

I mean seriously nearly every single thing you were complaining about on arrige was wrong.

You usually put in more effort than this.

One last thing if we live in a male dominated society where men have all the power explain this

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1035315/Father-branded-pervert--photographing-children-public-park.html

DiosaNegra1967 said...

oooh, i see we have a MRA here.....they've been trolling aplenty upon the feminist boards as of late....

those blacks, women and gays....always wanting to stand up for themselves and demand "rights"....what about teh menz?

(and by "menz", i usually mean white, male and het)

y'know....i kinda take the whole "adam and eve" story literally sometimes...i actually wish that women had taken out of the equation completely....and the men were left to themselves....

maybe that would solve the damn problem of us women "...pushing some cracked pot agena..." now wouldn't it?

sorry, renee....i just couldn't resist....

lujlp said...

And yet in your entire post you coulnt refuste what I said

Kind of tellig isnt it?

And while were on the subject who is on the council of the patriachy? Where do they meet?
How do them manage to give orders to every man on earth?

lujlp said...

Damn keyboard

Should read

And yet in your entire post you couldnt refute anything I said

Kind of telling isnt it?

lujlp said...

And while I'm on the subject, if we live in a world where eveything benifits men why do men have a shorter life expectancy?

Why do men make up the majority of workers in fields with high mortality rates?

Why do men die at from nearly everything at a higher rate than women?
In fact the only things to statistically cause the death of more women than men are: cardio, lung, and vascular diseases which can be attributed to a longer life span. And of course women also lead in breast, uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leading_causes_of_death
http://www.who.int/whr/2004/annex/topic/en/annex_2_en.pdf


Why does breast cancer reserch get more funding then prostate cancer when the death rate for men and women are nearly the same?
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/index.html

Meadester said...

lujlp said...

I dont really understand you patholigical hatred of a non existant organization feminists call the "Patriachy"
You may as well rail against the Illuminati or the aliens who built the pyramids.


Well, try arguing with people who believe in Illuminati or the aliens who built the pyramids and see how far you get. And, to be fair Patriarchy does exist in extreme Muslim countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where women are beaten into submission with impunity. It could have been said to exist in the West 100 years ago and before, back when women had no legal rights. It could be argued that women in historic Western civilization still had the real power, due to their ability to deny a man's constant desire for sex and their innate superiority in understanding and manipulating informal rules of relationships. But, of course, as the example of Islamic theocracies shows that for women to retain such power they need the men of their society to be civilized enough that violence is not the norm. So the point is since Patriarchy does exist elsewhere and could be argued to have once existed here, believing in it as not as kooky as your typical conspiracy theory.

I did find the Daily Mail article interesting and its subject appalling. It's hard to say how much of it is anti-male bias, and how much of it just a matter of power-hungry people seeking to increase the power of the state and erode the rights of ordinary citizens regardless of sex. Probably, plenty of both.

BTW, since your link was truncated I found the article by truncating it further to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1035315
When I copied and pasted the link as it was it took me to the Daily Mail front page. There I saw an article about rapidly increasing knife related violence in Britain: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-103579
It's great to see another example of how well gun control works.

Renee said...

@Diosa yes they cannot content themselves with staying on their own sites they feel the need to foul feminist sites with their ridiculousness and then they want us to believe that patriarchy doesn't exist....Notice how they cannot stay away from womens spaces...apparently men are needed everywhere.

It could be argued that women in historic Western civilization still had the real power, due to their ability to deny a man's constant desire for sex and their innate superiority in understanding and manipulating informal rules of relationships.
Seriously just look at that shit. We control sex while every 15 minutes in Canada a woman is raped..Don't you love being the boss!

Elena said...

You just helped inspire a post over on the California NOW blog.

Meadester said...

renee said:
We control sex while every 15 minutes in Canada a woman is raped..Don't you love being the boss!


Violent crime changes a lot of power equations. A rich man can be robbed, beaten and even killed by a poor man, but no one would deny that the rich man is more powerful under ordinary circumstances. Rape in Canada, the US and the rest of the semi-civilized world is recognized as a crime and is punished. Whether it's punished severely enough or given a high enough priority by police and prosecutors is debatable, but that's true of all violent crimes. The fact that a small percentage of deviant men commit rape does not make it the normal state of affairs.

The normal state of affairs is women using their sexual attractiveness and sexual teasing to get men to do and give them what they want. If you choose to ignore the evidence of that so be it.

As for "patriarchy" I guess it depends on your definition. I think we can agree that lujlp's idea of a grand conspiracy is wrong. If you say that "patriarchy" means male domination of society I can see you have some legitimate points, but then so does lujlp. Injustice hits the sexes in different ways. And he is right that women usually expect men to buy them the big diamond, and want a big elaborate wedding ceremony. Women usually decide almost all of the details the ceremony itself and the clothing while men are largely indifferent.

lujlp was wrong to attack you personally, and I'm sorry I didn't say that before. I think you do good research especially for the amount of writing you do. But that doesn't make his points less valid.

Finally, do you really have a problem with men being here or just men who disagree with you? You can block or delete comments you disagree with if you like, but I think an open debate makes your blog more interesting.

Renee said...

@meadester...I have not enabled comment moderation at this point. I have long ago dismissed lujlp for the MRA swilling misogynist that he is. So single minded in his goal that he can barely step outside of promoting it to comment on any other post that does not directly deal with gender. I am a big believer in free speech which is the only reason his comments continue to appear.

Whether it's punished severely enough or given a high enough priority by police and prosecutors is debatable, but that's true of all violent crimes.
Which is why the backlog of DNA testing for rape exists right? It is not the same case for all other crimes.

The normal state of affairs is women using their sexual attractiveness and sexual teasing to get men to do and give them what they want.
This is called the internalization of the male gaze. Don't point out colluders as evidence that that all women are like this

Finally, do you really have a problem with men being here or just men who disagree with you?
Here is where I get just a wee bit upset. Why is it because I take the time to point out gender inequality that it is assumed that I have an issue with all men. It is the same thing when a black person calls out white racism, suddenly it is assumed we hate whites. Look if I truly had a problem comment moderation would have been on and I would have moderated out those that I didn't agree with. There are several men that comment here and I don't have a problem with it. I don't have a problem with someone expressing a point of view that is different than mine, I don't expect us all to think the same. I will however refuse to acknowledge someones lunacy as a legitimate argument.

lujlp said...

I find it telling that no one so far has fefuted anything I posted on your inacuracies of the "hidden meanings" of wedding traditions.

And did it ever occur to you that the reason I pot mainly on gender issues is becuse I think you point of veiw on this issue is wrong?

Logically this would mean that when I dont post a disagreement it means I agree with you, or at the very least dont disagree with you.

Also I'm not ure who mentioned the middle east as an exaple of a patriarical example. That isnt the "patriarcy" its a mindless death cult known as Islam which was created by a misogynistic, racist child raper.