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Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination. Historically, the principle of patriarchy has been central to the social, legal, political, and economic organization of Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese cultures, and has had a deep influence on modern civilization.[1]

Most forms of feminism characterize patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. In feminist theory the concept of patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduce and exert male dominance over women.


Definition and usage

Patriarchy is a multidimensional condition of power and status. Whyte's 1978 comprehensive study examined 52 indicators of patriarchy, which corresponded to 10 relatively independent dimensions. The ten dimensions are:[2][3]

Within feminist theory, patriarchy refers to the structure of modern cultural and political systems, which are ruled by men. Such systems are said to be detrimental to the rights of women. However, it has been noted that patriarchal systems of government do not benefit all men of all classes.[4]

While the term patriarchy generally refers to institutions, the term is sometimes used less effectively in describing societal attitudes. It has been argued, "institutions are very persistent and may last, with little change, into a period in which attitudes have altered considerably since the institutions were devised." Gordon Rattray Taylor used the words "patrist" and "matrist" to describe attitudes (as opposed to institutions), and noted that the outlook of the dominant social group seems to swing between the two extremes. However, the patrist assertion that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization, invariably leads to the establishment of corresponding institutions.[5]

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