{Note: Being the cheapskate that I am, I am a non-paying member of medium. As such, I am prevented from accessing the comment feature on your starred article, The History of Patriarchy. Therefore, I will publish my remarks with respect to that article here.}

“Patriarchy is a social system that came into being approximately 10–12 thousand years ago. It is largely recognized to have coincided with the advent or agriculture.”

Another innovation that occurred 10 to 12 thousand years ago, coinciding with the advent of agriculture, is written language. That innovation allowed populations to record their beliefs and practices so that we are able to actually know how they lived. Prehistoric populations could not leave records, so it is difficult to know how they actually lived.

Nevertheless, one might confidently surmise that the emergence of a profound transformation in the methods that a population uses to procure life sustaining resources would result in the emergence of a profoundly modified system of social order.

Agriculture is believed to have emerged independently, without having been introduced by an outside population, in at least three different locations:

  1. First, in the area known as the fertile crescent along the northern border of Saudi Arabia around 10 thousand BC.
  2. Second, about two thousand years later, in the Yellow River Valley in China.
  3. Third, in central Mexico around 5000 BC.

In each case the social order that emerged in response to the innovation in food production had the characteristics to which Feminists apply the term “patriarchy.” In each case, patriarchy emerged independently, without having been introduced from outside. This suggests patriarchy’s emergence in connection with the emergence of agriculture, while not necessarily inevitable, is highly probable. Such a consistent association between the emergence of patriarchy and the emergence of agriculture strongly suggests that one may be an essential characteristic of the other.

The modern populations that you have identified as being ordered on a non-patriarchal basis consist of relatively small populations, and constitute an insignificant portion of the world’s total population; they have been less successful in propagating their social order. So again, while patriarchy may not be inevitable, it can be considered highly probable. It is also seen to be more successful at self-propagation than other forms of order.

Stipulating for purposes of this conversation that prehistoric populations are indeed consistently non-patriarchal, I, for one, have no interest in reverting to hunting and gathering, but if it is your wish to do so, I will not stand in your way.

“For most of human history, people lived together in small bands, barely subsisting as hunter-gatherers, sharing nearly everything in order to survive.”

Everyone was equally miserable, but at least there was equality.

“…when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”

When no one had anything at all, everyone was equal.

The linked article that you quoted, Strong Mothers, Weak Wives: The Search for Gender Equality by Miriam M. Johnson, is a particular interpretation of historical events that is consistent with Feminist ideology. That is not surprising since its author is a practitioner of Feminist ideology. Other scholars offer different, sometimes broader interpretations of events. You and I are each left to use our own judgement regarding how we apply the various interpretations of historical events to our understanding of the world. My guess is that you and I would differ in our understanding.

Here is an excerpt from Johnson’s article:

“Each country’s story is different in detail, and I now begin to speak mainly about the United States. By the nineteenth century, as production was increasingly removed from the home, a recognizable “modern” family ideology began to be touted in middle-class periodicals and from the pulpit. The family no longer farmed, it was no longer an enterprise, but a haven — no longer the world in microcosm, but a refuge from the world. The home was often depicted as a vine-covered cottage with a picket fence, but unsullied by cows or chickens or crops. Husbands were to go out from the haven to work in the world and wives were to stay at home and cheerfully perfect it, to re-create the male worker. Wives were also to be mothers, cherishing children and preparing them spiritually and psychologically (though the word was not used then) to leave home to make their mark in the world. Although this ideology was centered in the rising middle class, in time it came to affect all of the society. Men wanted their wives not to have to work, and black women’s having to work became a racial stigma.”

Here is an excerpt from a different source describing the same events with a slightly different interpretation:

The following is from a United States history textbook written for high school students. The book is titled “History of the United States” by Wilbur Fisk Gordy.

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It was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1925.

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Below is a transcription of text from pages 268 and 269 of the book. It is describing events from the 1820's.

“Other marked changes were brought about by the factory system, noticeably in the life of American women and in the character of the American home. For in colonial days — as noted, and the same was true even down to the early part of the nineteenth century — manufacturing was a household industry and was mostly carried on by women. After the introduction of machinery it followed naturally that women took up in the factory the work they had formerly done at home. There were other reasons, also for the employment of women in factories. At that time it was easy for a man to secure a farm of his own, and his chances of success were so inviting that he was unwilling to work in the factories. And even if he did not have his own farm, the demand for farm laborers was so great that men’s wages were comparatively high. Besides, there was a strong prejudice against diverting men from the farm to the factory. It was argued that, as men were adapted to agriculture and women to manufacturing, there was an economic gain for the community in this division of labor. Since women could be hired at a lower wage, this argument was especially applied in the textile industries in New England. It was urged that they could be more successfully carried on by employing the cheaper labor of women. For the same reason children were employed in large numbers in textile mills and factories. Although in some cases they worked to supplement the family income, their employment in factories was largely in response to the industrial demand.”

“In the course of time, with the progress of invention and the building up of new trades, the work of women was enlarged to include many industries besides those they had formerly practised in the household. The new adjustment in women’s occupations brought many changes in community life. When women entered the factories they worked during the same hours and under the same conditions as men, and the old family life at home was at an end in those households where the mother and sometimes the older children spent the long working day away from home under the factory roof. Even in those households where families remained unbroken the removal of many industries from the home gave leisure to women which they frequently employed in public ways.”

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Johnson and Gordy have each offered a different interpretation of the same events.

Johnson’s descriptions of patriarchy suggest that she conceptualizes it as an external force disassociated from the individuals of whom society is comprised. Her descriptions imply that patriarchy is exercising independent will. Since society has no existence independent of the individual members of whom it is comprised, it is unclear how society (patriarchy) can exercise will or harbor intentions independently of the collective will of its individual members.

“…patriarchies…are rationalized and guided by differing religions and religious teachings.”

By whom are the religions and religious teachings rationalized and guided?

Johnson’s statement suggests that theologians, philosophers, and scholars develop thought which the population then converts to social order — thought produces order.

Our old friend Professor Morris avers:

Each age gets the thought that it needs.

Suggesting that social order emerges through lazy, greedy, frightened people, who don’t know what they are doing, looking for easier, more profitable, and safer ways to do things. It emerges as a result of interaction among individuals who collaborate with one another as they seek to procure life sustaining and other essential resources. Afterwards, theologians, philosophers, and scholars develop thought that supports the emergent order — order produces thought.

Johnson’s perspective is entirely distinct from Morris’s.

You and I are each left to use our own best judgement with regard to how we apply these two perspectives to our understanding of the world.

“Far from being the inevitable social system that we’ve always had as a species, patriarchy is actually a brand new experiment. It is one that allowed human civilization to grow and expand exponentially…”

It can be argued that growth and expansion is the cause rather than the result of patriarchy. While not necessarily inevitable, the system referred to as “patriarchy” may be the probable outcome of growth and expansion.

Patriarchy tends to emerge among populations that have certain characteristics. They practice agriculture and they have large, even massive population numbers. Modern non-patriarchal societies tend to have smaller population numbers, and are insular or exist in isolated locations. Since outside environmental circumstances have a significant if not decisive influence on the form of social order that emerges within a population (under Professor Morris’s paradigm), it might be enlightening to look for unusual environmental circumstances that tend to occur in areas inhabited by non-patriarchal populations and are absent in areas inhabited by the more common patriarchal populations.

“there can be no doubt that women’s status worsened under these restrictive patriarchal systems…”

…worsened in comparison to what?


“…some features of patriarchy can be interpreted as advantageous for women.”

Apparently there can be some doubt after all.

“…gender equality…”

…equality according to whom?

Your article, The History of Patriarchy, does answer some of my questions and raises some new ones. One question that remains unanswered:

Is anyone actually able to successfully manipulate the forces that produce social order and achieve predictable results?

A bastion of defensiveness. Bringing you all the Gish Gallop that’s fit to print (and some that isn’t). — Which reality is the real reality?

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