The Patriarchy is so 20th Century
I’d like to introduce a new term for use in social and political discussion: Kyriarchy.
Kyriarchy: Somewhat newer term for the system of interlocking oppressions, both gendered and otherwise, in society. It is intended to acknowledge that different forms of oppression interact in a wide and complex system of interactions, in which a person can simultaneously be privileged in some dimensions and oppressed in others. Sometimes abbreviated as “the system of everyone oppressing everyone.”
This is to replace the common usage of Patriarchy.
Patriarchy: Somewhat outdated term for the system of gendered oppression in society that defines gender roles and punishes those who fail to conform. Referring to the male-dominated nature of society when it was coined, it has since been criticized for implying a unidirectional oppression that fails to accurately describe the complex nature of the problem.
I’m taking these definitions from a blog I follow, No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz.
I think many men have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear the term Patriarchy. And justly so. Although many aspects of our society are based in Patriarchy, it doesn’t accurately describe the society we now live in.
There are certainly times when I have experienced sexism, but they are only part of my experience as a person. I have to acknowledge that I have benefited from other aspects of the Kyriarchy. I am a woman, but I am a white, hetero, able-bodied, educated, physically attractive woman (one can argue against that last one I suppose), and have many advantages because of it in both small and larger ways.
Kyriarchy is also applicable to discussions of racism. Racism exists within a larger framework. When I think of my upper-class educated black friends, for example, we have to acknowledge that their experiences are part of a wider web of social and economic interactions. I would not suggest that they have not experienced racism, but I also don’t think it’s fair to say they have been Oppressed. As Ivy-league educated people with really good jobs (as a partner in a law firm or working in computer science) traveling in influential circles, the effects of racism are not as great as they are for people growing up in the inner city – people who have not just one “strike against them” but many strikes.
The idea of the Kyriarchy also encompasses Ozy’s law:
The principle that it is impossible to form a stereotype about one of the two primary genders without simultaneously forming a concurrent stereotype about the other. Or, more simply, misogyny mirrors misandry.
This is an idea I would like to see men and woman embracing. For every girl being guided to fit into a mold of pink toys and doll houses, there is a boy being punished for or prevented from enjoying those things. While I do think that women still have a long way to go to achieving full equality, sexism is only one part of a complex system of -isms. Kyriarchy removes the War of the Sexes aspect to sociological discussions. It helps remind us that we are all in this together and that hierarchies are damaging and disadvantageous to everyone.
Being against the Patriarchy is so 20th Century. It’s 2012 – come on people now. We can all fight the Kyriarchy together.