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.
Scholz states that identity politics started as a reaction to the shared experience, or sisterhood coming out of second wave feminism as well as an attempt to gain social, legal, intellectual, and economic rights for oppressed peoples.
Rather than assuming all women have the same experience of oppression, feminist proponents of identity politics seek representation of diverse identities (or diverse experiences of oppression) within the larger society. (Scholz, 2010, p. 78)
As Scholz states it is a movement or “trend” in social and political theory, that recognizes shared identity based on cultural background, community, ascribed background, linguistic community, or other shared experiences of oppression. From this, since different groups and people experience oppression differently, different identities are produced. In short Scholz states:
More specifically, identity politics means that there are a wide variety of different forms of oppression, which in turn create a variety of needs. The political system is thus charged with recognizing these diverse groups and their needs. (Scholz, 2010, p. 78)
Scholz states that this theory is at its core, one of recognition, of validation for the diversity of identity and experience while also catering to the individual groups needs. It is a challenge to social and political theory because in the process of recognizing difference between groups so too must the actions of government reflect that diversity. Most importantly the structures of democracy must ensure that the needs of oppressed peoples are weighed heavily to overcome “historically entrenched disadvantages and oppression which neglected those needs” (p. 78)
In other words, identity politics encourages special recognition of how oppressed group identity has shaped individuals and continues to adversely affect their ability to participate in and be treated with equity in social life. (Scholz, 2010, p. 78)
Scholz notes that identity politics works in juxtapostion to, say, social contract theory, which assumes the involved parties to be “more or less equally situated, equally talented, and equally treated rational individuals.” (p. 79) An example of the way identity politics can open us up to a variety of positions, Scholz states is in politics. We could assume that because a woman is elected to office that she would, by virtue of her being a woman, be necessarily interested in women’s concerns, but Scholz notes that is not necessarily the case as: “people do not often or even usually think of themselves as members of identity-based groups.” (p. 79)
You might note here, that this is perhaps one of the downsides to identity politics, that we might assume a person represents, or even cares about an identity for which they may be part. This perception might even help a woman become elected, for example, even though they have not expressed any interest in women’s concerns (or as in the case of the first Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, or Margaret Thatcher, they could explicitly speak out against feminists and the good they have done). On the other side of this, Scholz notes that there are other versions of identity politics which state that by the very act of having a woman in office, regardless of their views, sets a positive standard for attainment.
Finally she states:
Identity politics has also been critiqued for proliferating identities. If identity groups are the foundation of political representation, then relatively hard lines need to be drawn between identities. In practice, that is nearly impossible to do. Races are not clearly differentiated and individuals may in fact identify with multiple races. In such an instance, how are they represented? Similarly, if women are a group, then the diverse circumstances of race, class, sexual orientation, disability, and gender are overlooked or obscured. That obscures what issues ought to be brought to public or political discusson and often entrenches systems of class or race domination while attempting to obtain representation on the basis of sex. (Scholz, 2010, p. 80)
This issue is very complicated and to be honest I was quite on the side of identity politics before writing this blog. Where do I stand now? Hard to say. I like the attempt to recognize individual differences and the complexities around governing many different people in the cosmopolitan world many of us live in the west. There is obviously much nuance on this issue, and I definitely need to read more n it before taking too strong a stance.
There are often considered to be, depending on who you talk to of course, three waves of feminism (with a fourth potentially being entered into as we speak). Although Scholz doesn’t particularly like the delineation of feminism into waves (preferring themes instead), let us begin nonetheless with a cursory look at them before moving onto the terminology she does like.
This wave stems from a post-Enlightenment era (seventeenth to twentieth centuries) where interest in liberty became prominent, and while interest in women’s rights existed prior to this time, there was a greater movement toward social change in the 1700’s due to the greater philosophical milieu. Scholz states that the abolitionist movement in the United States furthered the feminist cause there by providing forums and rhetoric for public discussions on the role of women in society, she states: “… the first wave focused on women gaining status as human beings with full civil, intellectual, social, economic, and legal rights…” (p. 6) . It is here that what is typically called the “first wave” of feminism began. It is important to note that the feminist thought of this time is largely located to the United States with some influence from France and runs roughly until 1960, there was an apparent ebb of feminist thought leading up to the 60’s which became reinvigorated and became known as “second wave” feminism.
This wave was spurred by “civil rights activism as well as student and union uprisings” (p. 7) and came to look at different forms of oppression, namely that women’s bodies are “sites of domination, stereotyping, violence…” (p. 7). It was in this wave that women came to unite, under their shared experiences of oppression, to form a political force for positive social change. Women would no longer be excluded from the public sphere, they would be involved in discussions about what to do with their own bodies including all forms of reproductive rights (abortion, birth, contraception, and honest, medically reliable information about such), and to remove the stigma around these issues, even celebrating them. More than this, violence against women, domestic abuse and rape was openly discussed, defined and argued.
This wave began in the early nineties roughly and problematizes many issues of the second wave by moving away from unity to celebrate diversity, “not only in identity but subjectivity and thought itself.” (p. 7) Scholz notes this wave finds oppression in thought, language, and culture often using mainstream and alternative cultural theories to challenge dominant thought. This is part of what makes third wave so problematic for some, in that it doesn’t address such obvious concerns as the second wave, but rather challenges “the very structures of consciousness [that] have been colonized by oppression” (p. 7) . There is also much disagreement about the topics, issues and methodologies to use (perhaps stemming from the great philosophical milieu of postmodernism that we find ourselves in) by feminists in the third wave, or even on the use of “theory” as too “totalizing or universalizing” instead choosing PoMo terms like “narratives” to unsettle taken for granted metaphysical categories like “woman”. (p. 107)
Before we move forward we should state that Scholz does find the waves approach helpful insofar as it “indicates a project not yet completed” (p. 6), but she also believes it fails to cover the origins of feminist thought or “feminist praxis” (that is practice distinguished from theory).
The thematic approach is another way to think about the waves of feminism. In this approach, the metaphorical waves are concentric circles rather than generational moments. Consider, for instance, that economic and legal inequalities based on gender are often most visible forms of oppression of women. If we think addressing these as analogous to the first circle formed when a raindrop hits the pond, we could see that there will likely be many reverberations, some more predictable than others, and all reliant on each other. But there will also likely be countless other raindrops all over the pond. The concentric circles of all these drops blend and merge. (Scholz, 2010, p. 8)
To Scholz then the first wave focuses on efforts to obtain legal rights and formal equality, the second wave expands on these goals by elaborating on and providing a wider analysis of oppression and how this affects identity and agency. The third wave moves to the structures of consciousness and language to see how oppression is fluent there and how it might be fought. (p. 8)
She offers a few justifications as to why the thematic model should be preferred:
(1): She states that a chronological model misconstrues the history of feminism as linear and singular, rather than pluralistic, multiple, and varied. To Scholz there are many schools of thought within feminism, approaches too, a global feminism is diluted when looked at generationally.
(2): Generational models seem to be class and race based, as in they trace the history of white, middle class feminism, Scholz sees it as a mistake to disregard the anti-racism movements that helped open doors for feminism (and feminists). “Women of all nationalities, social classes, races, and ehtnicities, have been engaged in the struggle for gender justice.” (p. 8)
(3): The wave or generational model seems to assume that as one wave ends, so do the problems of that wave, and with the solutions of the previous wave in toe, we move cleanly onto the next issue. The example Scholz uses is that of legal rights, every wave aims to maintain (and potentially improve) achieved legal rights
(4): The wave model can, according to Schulz privilege a particular view of feminism and its history. “The chronological waves most likely resemble the development of feminism in the United States and Western Europe. Other feminists, other feminisms, other movements around the globe would certainly order things differently – or even point out that so many of the issues pertaining to separate waves must be tackled simultaneously.” (p. 9)
(5): Finally Scholze states that thinking in terms of waves promotes a misleading idea about progress, an assumption she (and many PoMo’s) feels needs to be challenged:
… part of the project of feminism in general is to continually critique itself. At least part of that is a recognition that some of the causes we fight for or the arguments we make may actually be counterproductive for the overall feminist movement, exclusive of some women, or otherwise fail to account for some of the needs of some women. (Scholz, 2010, p. 9)
She does note however that this isn’t to say feminism hasn’t made significant advances or that the situation for women isn’t improving.
Scholz. S.J. (2010). Feminism. London, England. One World Productions.
- What’s the harm in religious fundamentalism?
- Maldives atheist who felt persecuted ‘hangs himself’ -Charles Haviland.
- Who’s in Jail?
- IQ2 Debate: Atheists Are Wrong
- Atheist group denied entry into Millersville Community Parade– Justin Vacula.
- Matt Slick defends “honor killing”: a woman’s hymen is worth more than her life– Martin Wagner.
- Pushing to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape– Russell Glasser.
- Open Thread: Living Closeted– JT Eberhard.
- We’re still winning– JT Eberhard.
- When in doubt, threaten– Ophelia Benson.
- Meanwhile, in Calabar– Ophelia Benson.
- Fallows on anti-Mormon “bigotry”– Ophelia Benson.
- High School Atheists Take Part in Anti-Bullying Campaign– Hermant Mehta.
- Atheist Students Raise Money for Secular Adoption Agency– Hermant Mehta.
- Jessica Ahlquist on the Front Page of the Providence Journal– Hermant Mehta.
- How Did the Protest of Pastor Mark Driscoll Go?– Hermant Mehta.
- University of Georgia Atheists Will Lead Protest Against Pastor Mark Driscoll– Hermant Mehta.
- Hate the Sin, Beat Up the Sinners– Hermant Mehta.
- Another Oregon Couple Found Guilty in Child’s Faith-Healing Death– Hermant Mehta.
- After a Complaint, One Christian Pastor’s Illegal Healing Methods Come to Light– Hermant Mehta.
- Church’s Illegal Fighting Match Results in Death– Hermant Mehta.
- Jews behaving badly– Jerry Coyne.
- Inter-Amish religious war!– Jerry Coyne.
- Where child sacrifice is a business– Chris Rodgers.
- More godless groups in the world– Ophelia Benson.
- Humanists, atheists drive for wider global impact– Robert Evans.
- More from “religion makes people good” dept– Ophelia Benson.
- Following court ruling, hundreds of Israelis
- Priest takes a holiday after rape claim story breaks
- to declare themselves ‘without religion’– Illan Lior.
- Beauty in the eye of the beholder: The two blue opsins of blue butterflies and the opsin gene-driven evolution of sexually dimorphic eyes. Journal of Experimental Biology. 209 (16): 3079-3090
- Diversity and evolution of the gynoecium in Cuscuta (dodders, Convolvulaceae) in relation to their reproductive biology: two styles are better than one
- Practical cosmology and cosmological physics
- Learn from Your Mistakes – Or Don’t– Steven Novella.
- Race and Perception– Steven Novella.
- race perception 09-11– Steven Novella.
- Well, It Worked for Me! -Steven Novella.
- string cosmology
- Teenage kicks
- Traces of a Triassic Kraken? -P.Z Myers.
- Demonstrating an accident of evolution in a giraffe– P.Z Myers.
- The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine– P.Z Myers.
- Bob Enyart and Will Duffy, partners in idiocy– P.Z Myers.
- Faster than predicted– PZ Myers.
- I get email– PZ Myers.
- Roy Spencer Persecuted By Own Data– Barry Bickmore.
- Roy Spencer Responds With More Excuses– Barry Bickmore.
- Global Warming May Worsen Effects of El Niño, La Niña Events– Michael D. Lemonick.
- Ocean Heat Poised To Come Back And Haunt Us?– Rob Painting.
- A Post-Solyndra Snapshot of Solar Energy In America– Allyson Kenward.
- Living stromatolite found in Ireland!– Jerry Coyne.
- Live-bearing lizards– Jerry Coyne.
- Near-Perfect Young Dinosaur Fossil Found in Bavaria
- A creationist’s ‘scientific’ disproof of Darwin’s theory of evolution– Andrew Brown.
- Is Mitt Romney a Cultist? -Robert M. Price.
- Why you should argue in public and private– Russell Glasser.
- Texas Freethought Convention / Atheist Alliance America Convention– Matt Dillahunty.
- Atheists as Vulcans without Machismo? An e-mail exchange…– Matt Dillahunty.
- Sitting Next to a Missionary– JT Eberhard.
- Is this the best Christian Apologists can do?– Jacob Fortin.
- No, We Can’t Have That– JT Eberhard.
- A Response to “Christianity is truth-ful” and criticism of Christians who ‘make up their own religion’– Justin Vacula.
- “Belief Intolerance”– Justin Vacula.
- Responding to “Atheists Tackle Simple Theology and Arguments”– Justin Vacula.
- Correspondence with a Theologian– Justin Vacula.
- Introductions: Matt Dillahunty– Matt Dillahunty.
- Be Honest, Even If They Call You A Dick– JT Eberhard.
- I Enjoy Philosophy, I Hate ‘Philosophers’– JT Eberhard.
- Let the facts about porn speak for themselves-Alan McKee.
- How religion does dirt on everything good (2)– Russell Blackford.
- Can Critics of “New Atheists” Please Read Some First?– Greta Christina.
- “YOU CAN’T PROVE A NEGATIVE”– Stephen Law.
- GOING NUCLEAR– Stephen Law.
- What is Secularism? Secularism is for everyone.– John Shook.
- Higher bullshitting– Ophelia Benson.
- Julian Baggini and the New Atheism Again– Eric MacDonald.
- Original Sin, the Fall of Man, and the History of Violence– Eric MacDonald.
- Faith and Evidence in John Haught’s “God and the New Atheism”– Eric MacDonald.
- List on Free Will and Determinism (Part One) and part 2 here. – John Danaher.
- The unbearable lightness of atheism– Scott Stephens, with my response here.
- Conditional Statements and God– Randy Everist.
- Did Darwin defeat God? Reconsidering God and evolution– Sarah Coakley.
- Paul’s Conversion: Evidence for the Truth of Christianity– Erik Manning.
- Contra Mundum: When Scientists Make Bad Ethicists– Matt Flannagan.
- ICBI Article 7– Nick Peters.
- Thermodynamics, the Past, and the Multiverse: Arguing about the Kalam Cosmological Argument– J.W Wartick.
- Beliefs and the Will– Randy Everist.