Scholz On Feminism: Patriarchy.
It is important to note at the outset that Scholz first notes patriarchy under the brand of feminism known as “Radical Feminism” which denotes a specific brand of Marxist feminism that often also blames capitalism for the oppression of women. This is an in-depth theory about the workings of society that we don’t have the space to elaborate on here (I may do a post on different types of feminisms later on), but I think its important to note at the outset that to reject or accept patriarchy, radical feminism, Marxism etc does not mean you have to reject all of feminism. Too much I see extremist or fringe views portrayed as academic or even mainstream feminism. Moreover, as Sholz notes later, Radical feminists views are challenging for a reason, they are trying to challenge mainstream views to shake people form apathy.
Moving forward Scholz defines patriarchy as:
.. a social organization that systematically oppresses women and benefits men. The origin of the word meaning rule by the father, is in political theory but radical feminists mean more than the political organization of society when they use the word.(Scholz 2010, p. 18)
That actual definition Scholz notes later in the book means “rule by the father” (p. 45), but it has also been used to describe both rule in the family and political rule (which we will touch on a bit later). So when Scholz states that it is “a whole network or system of control of women and women’s bodies by men.” (p, 19) we see that she does not exaggerate it’s meaning. It is a power structure that “… identifies women on the basis of their biological sex and, in particular, their reproductive capabilities.” (p. 19) To Radical feminists the root of oppression is based in “sex based childbearing and childrearing roles and the identification of women with their sexualized bodies.” (p. 19) Scholz states that another way to think about this issue is to ask the difference between men, and women, to which most people reply their biological differences (for more on this watch this video), and to Radical feminists this definition is a source of oppression.
Because women can bear children they have been relegated to the private sphere of the family, or domestic life, they are held responsible for reproduction (and men are excused from reproductive activities), and sexual intercourse is defined by pleasure of men. Monogamous heterosexuality, accordingly, is enforced norm rather than a free choice. It is used as an ideological tool to keep women subservient to men socially and ensure men’s power over women’s sexuality. (Scholz 2010, p. 18)
At its core patriarchy is about unjust power relations, and when we talk about power we might be talking about it in the Foucaultian sense. That is as Gary Gutting states of Foucault’s theories of power in the Cambridge Companion to Foucault that:
According to his [Foucault’s] theory, power is a matter of the subtle and meticulous control of bodies rather than the ethical and judicial ideas and institutions. (Gutting, 2003, p. 20)
The point is, to Foucault power influences itself on bodies, or as Gutting shows when he quotes Foucault later: “action on the action of others” (p. 36). Gutting himself states that we walk a tension of “individual relations of domination and control” (p. 36). All this is to simply state, that the idea of relations of domination and control might be academic sounding, or esoteric, but there is a long history of the analysis of such control, for more on Foucault please see here and here.
Moving on, Scholz continues in elaborating how the notion of patriarchy stems from understanding human nature as a “sex-gender” system, that is humans are “embodied sexual beings” whose reproductive capabilities determine their role within society (think of men in masculine, domineering roles v women in caring, nurturing, supportive roles, generally). It is in this definition that they find oppression, in being limited to their reproductive capabilities (p. 20).
But the sex-determined social roles are not the full extent of the oppression of women. Everything from language and knowledge to economics and literature, according to some radical feminists, is affected by enforced heterosexuality and the biological based roles of reproduction. Such an entrenched system of oppression requires pretty radical solutions for overcoming it. (emphasis mine) (Scholz 2010, p. 20)
Stemming from reproductive roles and rights we come back to the notion of the family and its definitional roots in patriarchy. Scholz notes that a standard within political theory is the relation between the family and society and is often characterized by two general models, (1): seeing family as a microcosm of society and (2): viewing family as a distinct society within a larger society. Notably she states that the roles of the family reflect the greater political realm, and perhaps most importantly that the power relations within the family represent the political structure as a whole. What are the implications for women then? On the first model:
If the family is a microcosm of society, and if the family is patriarchal in structure, then society will be patriarchal as well. Women’s roles in such a society would likely be limited to those that pertain to mothering or draw on the skills a mother might exhibit such as childhood, educator or nurse. The social roles that involve political decision making or ruling of any sort would likely fall to men.(Scholz 2010, p. 46)
And how might a woman be subject to patriarchal rule on the second model?:
A hazard of this second model fo the family/society relation is that when the family is viewed as a separate society it has its won set of laws or rules and the larger society or state is cautioned against interfering. It is under just such conditions, when the family is understood as sacrosanct, that women are most at risk for abuse. (Scholz 2010, p. 46-7)
I hope this has given you plenty to think about and to which you have come with an open mind. But, of course if you have questions, or criticisms please drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them based on my extremely limited understanding of these issues.
Gutting, G. (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Foucault. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.
Scholz. S.J. (2010). Feminism. London, England. One World Productions.