The Patriarchs – the roots of male domination

Alex von Tunzelmann in The Guardian:

Are men and women naturally different, and do the roles socially assigned to us proceed from those differences? Refreshingly, science journalist and broadcaster Angela Saini begins her stirring interrogation of patriarchy by arguing that it is neither constant, inevitable nor unshakeable. “By thinking about gendered inequality as rooted in something unalterable within us, we fail to see it for what it is,” she writes, “something more fragile that has had to be constantly remade and reasserted.”

Anthropologists, political theorists, feminists and, importantly, patriarchs themselves have often reached across time and space to look for the origins of sex and gender division. In 1680, Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha invoked ancient and biblical authorities as evidence that patriarchy (with the divine right of kings at its head) was natural and ordered by God. Even when later revolutionaries rejected the idea of a king as the head of a nation-family, they were reluctant to let go of elite male power. Thomas Jefferson wrote, creepily, that “the tender breasts of ladies were not formed for political convulsion”.

Friedrich Engels broke with this narrative when he claimed that the transition from ancient matriarchies to patriarchy represented “the world historical defeat of the female sex” – a calamity that reduced women to the status of property.

More here.