Anthropology, Top Stories

On the Nature of Patriarchy

By their very nature, it is said, women are the source of nearly all discord and litigation within the community. Through their ceaseless enticements to adultery, their notorious insensitivity to the sensible commands of father, husband, and brother, and their mindless passion for gossip and intrigue—in these and countless other ways women are the bane of a peaceful society.
~Anthropologist Donald Tuzin, describing the ideology of the Ilahita Arapesh ‘men’s cult’ in Rituals of Manhood, 1982.

Humans are an anisogamous species. For us, as with all animals, reproduction involves the fusion of gametes—small, highly mobile sperm that joins with the larger, relatively immobile egg. This initial asymmetry between organisms who produce sperm (males) and those who produce eggs (females) contributes to the different fitness strategies individuals of each sex tend to utilize.

Sexual conflict is an inevitable consequence of being a sexually reproducing species: the evolutionary interests of males and females do not always neatly align. Being placental mammals, human females gestate, give birth to relatively helpless live young, and nourish their infants through lactation after birth. The potential consequences of sexual activity differ for males and females—since they are not constrained by gestation time, men can often reap greater fitness benefits from pursuing multiple partners, but they also face greater fitness costs if they are cheated on and invest resources in a child that is not theirs. In these core sex differences of reproductive biology—the larger parental investment of females due to gestation and lactation, the greater potential reproductive output of males, and the fact of paternal uncertainty—we find the foundation, though not the true extent, of patriarchal social systems.

In The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology, women’s and gender studies professor Michelle Meagher writes that, “Patriarchy is a theory that attempts to explain this widespread gender stratification as an effect of social organization than the result of some natural or biological fact.” While discussions of patriarchy today do tend to emphasize social organization—and socialization practices in particular—as the primary explanation for its existence, this was not always the case. Some of the earliest, and indeed most informative, work on the nature of patriarchy was done in the 1980s and 1990s by feminist social scientists well versed in evolutionary theory, who integrated primatology and ethnographic data to aid in their understanding of the degree of male dominance across human societies.

Anthropologist Sarah Hrdy, a feminist and self-described sociobiologist, wrote one of the earliest evolutionarily informed analyses of the idea of patriarchy in her 1981 book The Woman That Never Evolved. Much as I do here, Hrdy traced the initial foundation of male dominance to the fact of anisogamy, but also noted the important role of socioecology in expanding or diminishing its extent. Hrdy criticized existing explanations for male dominance that focus exclusively socialization, arguing that:

They cannot explain sexual asymmetry in even one other species. Yet male dominance characterizes the majority of several hundred other species that, like our own, belong to the order Primates. Save for a handful of highly informative exceptions, sexual asymmetries are nearly universal among primates. Logic alone should warn us against explaining such a widespread phenomenon with reference only to a specialized subset of human examples.

The “highly informative exceptions” Hrdy mentions are in reference to three social contexts among some primate species that are most favorable to high female status: where there is a monogamous mating system, where females have a short breeding season, which relaxes male competition for most of the year, and/or where females live in matrilineal (rank inherited through the female line) “sisterhood” groups of relatives. Hrdy emphasizes the role of monogamy in particular, writing that, “Only under one particular type of breeding system, monogamy, do we routinely find anything approaching equality between the sexes in either size or rights of access to preferred resources.”

Because some elements of patriarchal social systems are tied to evolved sex differences, we would expect certain aspects of ‘patriarchal behavior’ to be found in every society, even those that are relatively egalitarian. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the extreme violence some males sometimes employ in the pursuit of women, or in attempts to control their sexuality. As anthropologist Richard Wrangham and psychologist Joyce Benenson note in their book chapter titled “Cooperative and Competitive Relationships within Sexes,” across cultures, “The primary causes of within-community aggression between men are competition for status and access to women.”

Hadza hunter gatherers

Among the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, women have a relatively high degree of autonomy, and are free to choose their own marriage partners. Anthropologist Frank Marlowe writes that, “Female choice appears to be the main factor influencing Hadza marriage.” This is quite notable, because a girl’s first marriage is usually arranged across most hunter-gatherer societies—as well as most small-scale societies more generally—and males tend to have a greater say in marriage arrangements than females do. The Hadza also have one of the lowest recorded homicide rates of any contemporary hunter-gatherer society, as I noted in a previous article for Quillette. Yet even among the Hadza, male competition over women remains a potent source of dispute. Marlowe notes that:

The main source of conflict that can escalate into violence is competition for mates. Almost all murders of Hadza by other Hadza are related to male jealousy. This may be when a man discovers that his wife has had an affair, in which case he may kill the other man and beat his wife, or kill both of them. More often, however, it is when two men are competing for the same single woman.

We see the same pattern among other relatively gender-egalitarian societies. Consider the matrilineal Mosuo (also known as the Na) of China, “the society where a man is never the boss,” according to the Guardian. In Cai Hua’s ethnographic work on the Mosuo, entitled A Society without Fathers or Husbands (2001), we see some of the same conflicts over sexuality, and particularly male attempts to control it, as we see everywhere else. Hua writes that:

In some households, especially those with a member in a high level job, the husband will forbid his wife to receive visitors. Some of them say: “Before she comes (as a wife) to my house, she can do whatever she likes. There is no question of telling her not to. But once she has moved in with me, she can no longer do so.” The husbands however do not stop visiting other women.

It is also not uncommon for young Mosuo males to try and prevent outsider males from visiting female members of their communities; “In certain villages, through insults and violence, young men chase off a visitor who has come from far away and whose only tie to the village is the woman he wants. This phenomenon occurred with some frequency before 1960.”

Hua also provides a number of case studies describing costly conflict over sexual activity. Hua notes one case of severe male violence against a partner over an affair of hers: “During their relationship, Dgimatsie saw [other partners]. Once, when she was returning from Zuo-suo in the mountains, Ishi [her male partner] grabbed her and cut her nose with a knife. Dgimatsie is still alive, and the scar on her nose bears witness to this fit of jealousy.”

For Hrdy, it is largely the problem of paternal uncertainty, and cultural endeavors to mitigate it, that underlie patriarchal social practices: “To keep women (and their sexuality) in check, husbands and their relations (and perhaps especially property-owning families) devised cultural practices which emphasized the subordination of women and which permitted males authority over them.” One important insight here is the recognition that women may themselves sometimes support social norms that control female sexuality, to the extent that it benefits their lineage.

Across cultures, there is frequently a double standard regarding the social disapproval of men who have affairs compared to women who do so. Out of 96 societies in the standard cross-cultural sample which contain information about punishment for adultery, in 72 of these societies there is a sexual double standard where women are punished more harshly than men are, while in only 24 societies are men and women punished equally. Why many men would support such a double standard is obvious, as it may increase their own paternal certainty through the threat of harsh punishment for female affairs, while still allowing them to increase their reproductive success through their extra-marital pairings.

Notably, many women can also reap fitness benefits through inclusive fitness by increasing the paternal certainty of her brothers and sons. If she is part of a particularly wealthy, powerful family, in a patrilineal descent system, she has even more of an evolutionary incentive to support norms that restrict female sexuality and increase paternal certainty, to prevent her family’s resources from being passed down to the illegitimate children of her brothers and sons. Hrdy writes that, where large dowries are offered, “The bride’s family, then, as well as the groom’s, has an interest in ensuring her virginity and future fidelity. Access through marriage or concubinage to a wealthy family is competitive, and the bride’s family has a direct stake in her reputation and eligibility.” Intrasexual competition can also play a role; women sometimes have an incentive to obstruct the sexual behavior of other women, which may reduce the likelihood of her own partner cheating or investing resources in another woman.

In her 1995 paper ‘The Evolutionary Origins of Patriarchy’, published in the journal Human Nature, feminist anthropologist Barba Smuts identifies six factors that she hypothesizes contribute to the existence of patriarchal social systems in humans:

  1. The relatively limited power of female coalitions across human societies, due in part to patrilocal residency (living close to the husband’s family after marriage) being more common than matrilocal residency.
  2. The strength of male-male alliances across cultures, due in part to the demands of warfare.
  3. Male control of resources.
  4. Large variance in male wealth and power, leaving women more vulnerable to the authority of powerful men and reducing women’s control over their sexuality.
  5. Female behaviors that promote male resource control and control over female sexuality.
  6. The human capacity for language (unlike other primates) which allows males to propagate ideologies that promote male dominance.

Smuts argues that these characteristics lead to humans having a unique and more extensive elaboration of male dominated social systems than many other primates. In many primate species, females generally live closer to their kin, while the males disperse into other communities. Further, female primates can usually support themselves and their children without requiring much contribution from males in the way of resources. Smuts notes that these divergences from the primate pattern can contribute to unique sources of sexual conflict. Smuts also intends her paper to aid as a roadmap to enact social change, as she writes that these six characteristics point “directly to the essential counterstrategies that women must develop in order to reduce gender inequality,” such as developing and empowering female coalitions and reducing inequality among males.

Considering the question of female coalitions, Hrdy gives significant attention to female competition in primates, and how the conflicting fitness interests of individual females can impede the development of strong female coalitions, giving examples such as, “competition between females for resources, or female manipulation of males in order to protect offspring or elicit male investment.”

Smuts’s model also draws largely on the primatology data, but we can see how it compares to the ethnographic and historical record. Anthropologist Laura Betzig described the extreme degree of control that powerful males exerted over women and their reproduction in early empires, writing that, “in every one of the six pristine civilizations—Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Mexico, and Peru—emperors collected hundreds of women and had hundreds of children.” Archaeologist Bruce Trigger concurred, noting that:

All early civilizations displayed varying degrees of masculine bias… The position of women appears to have been inferior to that of men in all the early civilizations, given the growing importance of male leadership roles, greater male access to wealth as a result of political manipulation and warfare, and the increasing domination of family life by society and the state. (Trigger 194)

Here we see many of the themes emphasized by Hrdy and Smuts, such as male alliances in war, inequality of wealth and power, as well as male control over women and their reproductive outcomes. However, these early civilizations have long been considered by many to be patriarchal, so we might instead look at more small-scale, less well-known societies, to see how male dominated social systems might manifest.

Consider the Mundurucu horticulturalists of the Amazon, for example, who reside matrilocally. Anthropologists Yolanda and Ryan Murphy note that among the Mundurucu:

Men do tend to be isolated from their close kin, and women more commonly have first degree relatives living in either the same house or nearby. And in a society that phrases solidarity in the idiom of kinship, this means that the women are surrounded by larger groups of supporters than are the men.

Women also produce much of the food. Anthropologist Thomas Gregor writes that, “Women…have effective control over the economy of food distribution, including the distribution of meat provided by the men. Men do not intrude upon domestic activities because they are the province of women.” The Mundurucu are also universally monogamous, with the exception of polygynous chiefs in the past, and monogamy is said to be “enforced by the women.” Further, the Mundurucu have relatively egalitarian relationships among men, with limited wealth and power differences.

Here, many of the conditions are met which should reduce the extent of patriarchy. Yet the Mundurucu are a strongly male-dominated society. Murphy and Murphy write that:

Every woman must have an adult male who will protect her and vouch for her, on condition that she conform to the standards set for women… The custody of a woman can be held by her father or brother, but that of most mature females is held by their husbands, a reaffirmation of the right of the men, and their patrilineal clans, to the sexuality of the women. (Murphy and Murphy, 134)

Among the Mundurucu, “loose women,” or women who challenged the men’s authority, would sometimes be punished with gang-rape by the males: “the men consciously state that they use the penis to dominate their women.” This punishment would transcend kin relationships, with even male first cousins of the woman sometimes participating in her rape. Two core conditions that seem to contribute to the strong pattern of male dominance among the Mundurucu are patrilineal beliefs about descent, where the lineage has a strong incentive to control female sexuality, and the Mundurucu history of chronic warfare. The Mundurucu “men’s cult” promoted strong male solidarity, while their universal monogamy reduced in-group male-male competition in favor of male cohesion to participate in wars against outsiders. Matrilocal residency, rather than reducing male alliances compared to the promotion of female ones, instead allowed males to develop strong coalitions across ethnic lines, which aided in expansionist warfare. Gregor writes that, “the separation between the sexes and the domination by the males [among the Mundurucu] is less an interpersonal matter than an intergroup question.”

We can contrast the Mundurucu with the Tiwi, an aboriginal hunter-gatherer society of northwest Australia. Like the Mundurucu, Tiwi women procured the majority of the food; however, unlike the Mundurucu, the Tiwi had a matrilineal descent system. Furthermore, Tiwi marriage arrangements were strongly unequal, as I described in a recent article for Areo:

The Tiwi—like many other aboriginal Australian societies—had a system that has sometimes been referred to as gerontocratic polygyny, in which most women were polygynously married to old men, while most young men remained single. The Tiwi also practiced infant bestowal and widow remarriage: young girls would be promised in marriage by their fathers before they were even born, while widows were required to remarry soon after the deaths of their husbands.

A 19th century engraving of an Indigenous Australian encampment.

This led to a situation where successful old men could have upwards of 20 wives, men under 30 had no wives, and men under 40 were mostly married to old women. To obtain wives, men would promise their female relatives to other men—sometimes before their sisters, nieces, grandnieces etc., were even born—in exchange for the other men’s female relatives, to take them in marriage. Here, rather than matrilineal descent and extensive female control of resources increasing female power and acting as a check on patriarchy, we have a scenario where it provided males with a pool of female relatives they could use as bargaining chips: to gain allies through marriage exchange, to get many wives for himself, and to get a work force of women that would produce a surplus of food, allowing him to hold feasts and increase his status.

The general pattern across cultures is that polygyny tends to be associated with greater female contribution to subsistence, less resource inequality among males, and strongly male-biased marriage arrangements, in which female marriages, but not male marriages, are arranged. We can see that the relationships between control of resources, inequality, and patriarchal social practices are quite complicated. Even the mostly monogamous, relatively egalitarian Hadza have a religious complex known as the epeme, where important parts of the largest game animals are reserved only for adult men. Marlowe writes:

When a male is in his early 20s and kills a big-game animal, he becomes an epeme or fully adult man. Certain parts of all larger game animals can be eaten by the epeme men only. Not only can females and sub-adult males not eat the meat, they cannot even see the men eat this meat or, it is said, they could die or get ill or suffer any number of misfortunes.

Smuts’s model points to some key factors that contribute to patriarchal social systems, but we can see that strongly patriarchal systems can still occur even where most of the conditions she identifies are not met. Similarly, Hrdy says that, “As it happens, a particular subset of human societies (patrilineal and stratified) takes the prize for “sexism.”” But as we see here, even among relatively egalitarian, non-patrilineal societies, we can find strongly male-dominated institutions. Numerous relatively egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies were known to have engaged in wife-capture practices against neighboring groups throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

With these points in mind, we might consider an alternative explanation for male-dominance across human societies. Evolutionary psychologist David Buss, for example, attributes patriarchal social systems largely (but not entirely) to female choice:

My view is that women’s preferences for a successful, ambitious, and resource-capable mate coevolved with men’s competitive mating strategies, which include risk taking, status striving, derogation of competitors, coalition formation, and an array of individual efforts aimed at surpassing other men on the dimensions that women desire. The intertwining of these coevolved mechanisms in men and women created the conditions for men to dominate in the domain of resources.

One issue with this explanation remains the ubiquity of male-biased marriage arrangements across cultures. Young girls who are married off usually have very little say in the matter; overwhelmingly marriage arrangements tend to benefit males from powerful or high-status kin groups. Still, the fitness interests of a young girl and her kin do align in some respects, and young girls may exercise some choice in vigorously protesting a marriage, or divorcing when she can, but this is a quite limited degree of choice. Furthermore, looking specifically at the Tiwi case, a ‘female-choice’ explanation for that kind of social system seems to me utterly implausible. Buss, like Hrdy and Smuts, also places strong emphasis on male control over resources as a key fact of patriarchy, but as the patterns above show, strongly male dominated social control can be exerted without males necessarily dominating resources. We can also point to various patriarchal social institutions which control female sexuality, such as female genital cutting, which may benefit some women through inclusive fitness or intrasexual competition, but can’t be said to be the result of female choice in mating, and instead often reflect the interests of a man and his lineage in assuring paternal certainty.

To be fair to Buss, across many small-scale societies, successful warriors are often rewarded with greater mating opportunities, which fits with female choice playing a role in some male-dominated social practices, but it can be difficult to tell how much of this pattern occurs through choice compared to how much of it is fundamentally coercive. Male-male competition, competition between lineages, and cultural evolutionary processes all likely also play some role in many male dominated social traditions, particularly in domains such as warfare.

While female choice may sometimes support more domineering male behaviors, in many socioecological circumstances, women are likely going to want someone who will help provide for and protect herself and her children long-term. In such circumstances, if they were choosing males who were chronically engaged in warfare and pursuing ever more mates, it would seem to be a poor fitness strategy (Buss is not insensitive to these concerns). Humans are a pair-bonded species after all, with heavy male investment into their children—such as through provisioning, protection, or direct caregiving—often needed to support our highly altricial (dependent) infants. My own impression, which I’ve noted elsewhere, is that people around the world really do tend to prefer pretty stable, monogamous pair-bonds across most societies. Divorces, affairs, intimate partner violence happen in every society, of course, with variable frequency, but in every society, people form long term, cooperative bonds with members of the opposite sex. They usually live with each other, help feed each other, and raise children together.

Similarly, male-female cooperation can lead to cultural solutions to issues that otherwise might have led to more patriarchal social practices. For example, across many small-scale societies, there are often strong taboos imposed on menstruating women, who are not infrequently segregated in huts, and/or banned from touching certain objects or engaging in certain activities. This was the case across many Andaman Island hunter-gatherer societies, where women were usually segregated from the rest of the group during menstruation. The Onge, however, were a notable exception to this pattern. Onge men would cut soft green leaves from special trees: the leaves would then be made into a garment, known as a bataghē, that the husband would give to his wife, who would wear it while menstruating. The Onge thus had no taboos or restrictions on women during menstruation.

At the end of her work, Hrdy writes that modern advances toward sex equality reside on a “unique foundation of historical conditions, values, economic opportunities, heroism on the part of women who fought for suffrage, and perhaps especially technological developments which led to birth control and labor-saving devices and hence minimized physical differences between the sexes.” As Hrdy sees patriarchal social practices as being rooted in our ancient evolutionary heritage, she argues that progress towards sex equality should not be taken for granted. I will conclude with the final sentence of her book; “Injustices remain; there are abundant new problems; yet, never before—not in seventy million years—have females been so nearly free to pursue their own destinies.”


William Buckner is a student of Evolutionary Anthropology at UC Davis. He is interested in cultural evolution and understanding human conflict patterns across cultures. You can follow him on Twitter @Evolving_Moloch


  1. 南沢山 says

    It is peculiar how often it is said that men have greater access to resources, as if these “resources” were obtained without effort and given to them by virtue of existing. It demonstrates a profound ignorance of how resources are procured. Behold the paradox.

    Human beings have been around for tens of thousands of years. What prevented a woman from walking into a forest and fetching whatever the hell she wanted?

    • ga gamba says

      Spiders. Definitely spiders.

      Other creepy ‘n crawly things, I suppose. And startling sounds.

      • Saw file says

        @ga gamba…and possibly, the lack of toilet tissue, as well?
        BTW…thx for the post on the ‘conspiracy’ article. Took me 5 min. to read it all, I was laughing so hard. :)))

      • Hutch says

        Woman: I feel like a coconut up that really high tree, with a wasps nest on those dangerous rocks.

        Man: I feel like breeding and you look like you could use a coconut.

    • I think what feminists mean by access to resources is the initial upstart resources they needed before they could become more self-sufficient, particularly education. There is still discrimination in some societies. What bugs me is that this discrimination has not only mostly vanished in developing countries, but the reverse trend is quickly taking hold, and yet they still claim rampant discrimination because some men tell stupid jokes.

      Your second question has a much worse answer from the feminists. They seem to think all that was preventing women from self-sufficiency all these millennia was patriarchal oppression, not, maybe, I don’t know, the baby on her breast and the several children crying at her feet, while she demands of her man (or men) that they work even harder and risk their lives even more to provide a more comfortable lifestyle for her. There was oppression for those few women who didn’t want to marry and have babies. They weren’t given much of a choice in the matter, but this had a lot to do with the lack of birth control.

    • She is much weaker then your average man that’s why and no smarter on average. She also mostly doesn’t want to have to with a few exceptions. That’s why the patriarchy exists.

    • Alan D White says

      A woman in the forest stands a better chance than a man of becoming food for larger animals.

  2. Monogamy, strictly adhered to, binds both men and women and is useful not only in creating stability but also in a society of private property (because it stops the man dissipating wealth into other families that he creates and it stops the woman bringing in the offspring of another male to pocket the loot).

    Those who oppose and demonise private property, and who laud and worship revolution (instability), often thus tend to oppose and demonise monogamy as well.

  3. Emmanuel says

    This is overall a very interesting article. However I believe the author should question more the concept of patriarchy itself. The idea that relations between men and women over time and cultures can be summed up as “domination of men over women” has become an unchallenged dogma of the modern academic left and of the journalists and activists who follow them. But the facts are much more complex.

    I mean, women have a huge influence over the men of their family circle, their husbands and their sons, and therefore can contribute to shape their choices to a massive extent. It means than even in societies where women are excluded from many aspect of public life, they can still exert a strong control over it albeit indirectly. As a recent article on areomag reminded us, the oldest surviving manual about women education, it tells “of the importance of women’s wise interventions when sons, fathers, husbands, or rulers strayed from the path of virtue” (from “hunting predators : me too and the strange mentality of mob justice” on areomag). If you study European history, you can find plenty examples of kings and rulers who were said to be heavily influenced by the women in their lives, often to such an extent that it harmed their credibility among other men. And I really doubt that it was specific to the upper classes. From anthropologists who have done fieldwork in South America, I have heard several times that local native authority figures did everything their wives told them to do. The strong influence of women over men of their family circle is a major and transcultural phenomenon that is seldom discussed (perhaps because it is hard to study) but should not be forgotten if you want to understand interactions between men and women.

    Another important aspect, in Western societies, would be the division of the world between the women’s sphere of control and the men’s sphere of control : outside of the house men were in charge but everything within the domestic sphere was under women’s control. Both spheres of control had their advantages and obligations, and in a world shaped by such a division women were definitely “powerless” or passive victims of male oppression.

    • E. Olson says

      Good comment Emmanuel. Men are who they are because of women’s choices. Even in societies dominated by arranged marriages, the mothers are invariably influential in choosing a husband suitable for their daughter based on the best available physical fitness/appearance (indicators of good genes), bravery/power (protection), and wealth/status (resources). The absolute dominance of patriarchal systems across time, geography, culture, and even species is also an indicator of what actually works in practice for perpetuating and enhancing the family, tribe, nation, species, which no doubt also influences the preferences of both males and females in the characteristics and dominant/subservient role they prefer their mate to take.

    • Saw file says

      @Emmanuel…good comment.
      I was the eldest, raised by a ‘stay st home mom’ (4kids). Massive influence and stabilizing ROCK. Dad was home after work (constructor) and weekends.
      When I was older, dad introduced me to the’world of men” (construction) and I became a man.
      Myself and my siblings all laugh at the “patriarchy” trope.
      Aside… In my industry, it has become a huge challenge, dealing with the children of ‘single mom’ raised kids. The majority of them don’t have a clue about living in the ‘world of men’.
      A bit more “patriarchy”, would definitely make the world a better sphere.

    • Pierre Pendre says

      It’s well documented that Churchill was strongly influenced by Clementine because they were in the habit of communicating by note even when living together. I remember one from her to him in which she enjoined him: “Please do not repeat to anyone else what you said to me at breakfast until we have spoken.” I think most of these notes are from the war years but they seem mainly to have been a restraining influence and imagine occurred throughout their marriage. God knows what orders he would have given if she hadn’t been there to stop him. General Alanbrooke seems to have spent much of the war chafing at the orders Churchill did give and controlling a strong desire to strangle him.

    • I think you’re confusing third-wave feminists’ capital-P Patriarchy with the original, anthropological definition. “The Patriarchy” according to feminists is a society in which men have all the power and lord it over the women because male privilege and toxic masculinity creates a rape culture where men feel entitled to women’s bodies. They’ve tried to transform patriarchy into a political ideology.

      The original definition of patriarchy, which Buckner uses here, is not an ideology but merely descriptive of a society in which men are the head of the household and property and familial descent is traced through the male line. Unlike the feminist redefinition, women can still have plenty of power in such a system, but this power tends to be more focused within the household rather than outside it.

    • My most angry responses to others were often planted by my wife. I’ve noted most over-reactions on my part have tended to be after hearing complaints and worries. Like the proverbial mama bear, it seems that the sense of protecting children and wives can elicit stronger reactions to others than would occur if they were not present.

      • Emmanuel says

        @Marshall Mason, you are right to say that the original anthropological definition of patriarchy and the modern feminist definition are not the same thing, at least in the English speaking world. However you should not forget that the postmodernist, neomarxist (and everything more you want) of the discipline of social anthropology : one of its consequence is the conflation between those two concepts.
        On top of that, the French intellectual world (my own background) has been heavily influenced by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and anthropologist Françoise Héritier (little known outside of France but very influential there, thanks to the support she received from her mentor Claude Lévi-Strauss rather than the quality of her works which rely heavily on unsupported assertion). Both those authors described “la domination masculine” as a universal phenomenon and I must say their analysis of that phenomenon were fairly silly. Héritier went so far as to invoke a global prehistoric patriarcal conspiracy theory in order to explain why men are taller than women.

        • Andrew Mcguiness says

          @Emmanuel, well said – the slippage between different meanings of the same word is responsible for a lot of careless thinking and confusion in sociology and gender studies.

          • I just had this same discussion with my wife who insisted Nationalist no longer meant what Oxford or Merriam-Webster says, but in the American vernacular it means Nazi…White Nationalist. When I challenged her to explain how to describe onesself if one sets your country above all others in the international setting be it foreign policy or trade, we went down a bunny trail to no answer. That’s the problem. Steve Bannon says he’s an economic nationalist. Trump self-describes as a Nationalist because he wants to MAGA. But the Left twists that to Nazi/KKK the same way the third-wave fems have distorted patriarchy.

  4. It is surely the case that in understanding the different gender rols in society an approach that considers the innate differences in the distribution of characteristics between men and women and evolutionary and practical pressures makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is seeing the outcome in anyway as male dominance. The most striking difference between men’s and women’s roles is society is exposure to risk, men are expected to expose themselves to risk for societies benifit while women are protected from risk again for societies benefit. The explanation in practical/evolutionary terms is obvoius. What is not recognised is that this accounts for at least the majority of the differences between male and female roles and that the people who suffer most from this are men for whom the risks do not pay off. Yes the most powerful in society will most often be men but so will be the least powerful. In evolutionary terms the average outcomes between men and women will necessarily be the same and the organisation of society will be stochastically optimised. Portraying the result as one in which society is organised for men’s beneift is a gross distortion and i think ultimately quite damaging and destructive.

    • @AJ
      Brilliant. This is exactly right. It’s a complimentary system, or it’s supposed to be. While woman may feel they are constantly on the short end of it, even while living a decade or more than the men in their lives, they are on average greatly benefiting from the ‘system’.

      Years ago when raising kids was there ever a choice for me to just decide I didn’t want to work outside the home like my wife did? No, and hell no… She did, of course, quit her job arbitrarily – things worked out well, but it was never a choice for me, I was trapped by the need to provide the resources. Some patriarchal advantage for me.

    • Nate D. says

      @ AJ

      “The most striking difference between men’s and women’s roles is society is exposure to risk,men are expected to expose themselves to risk for societies benefit while women are protected from risk again for societies benefit.”

      Succinct and well put. I think that if you take all this data and distill it, you’ll be left with something like this statement.

      • US WNT and US MNT is a great example here in their dispute about salary. The US WNT complained about the pay disparity but ignored that they chose a higher salary and less performance bonus than the US MNT (at least in part because lower salary & higher performance bonus is the norm in their clubs). Women accepted the security of the “lower total” but higher guaranteed portion, until they performed well and then they complained that they didn’t get that great bonus. They were not; however, willing to take the big cut in the guaranteed portion.

  5. John Johnson says

    From the beginning of the article:
    “By their very nature, it is said, women are the source of nearly all discord and litigation within the community. Through their ceaseless enticements to adultery, their notorious insensitivity to the sensible commands of father, husband, and brother, and their mindless passion for gossip and intrigue—in these and countless other ways women are the bane of a peaceful society.”
    This leaves no good word on women. There is more to them, you can even say than in an extreme sense, men are a destructive element (war, hunting, physical competition and rivalry), while women are a constructive element (caregiving, nurturing, emotional support).

    I would argue that it is exactly the ‘bad sides’ of women which are the initial motor for human progress. Men competing with other men over women is universal in every society, but men who compete with other men over the same women won’t work together for more than bare necessities. To solve this male-male conflict over women, there are basically two options:

    First option: Create a system that distributes a woman (or more) to every man so that competition is reduced to an absolute minimum – patriarchy.
    Second option: Become a man so great that the women compete over you.

    The first option reduces male-male conflicts to a minimum. When males compete only with other males, individuals are concerned with individuals. But when males don’t compete with each other, they might become concerned with society. So men who don’t compete with each other might work together on bigger projects like building, economy, war. The result might be prosperity and progress through solving issues than only teamworking men can solve. I would even go as far as to say that every early civilization is the result of patriarchy, of tuning men-men competition to a competition of society-society. However, when the society is too strict and too hierachical, men might lose their incentive to improve because they can’t progress socially. The result might be a vulnerable and stagnating society.
    The second option bases on the simple observation that while there is male competition over women, there is even greater competition among women over the best men. The best man is not left by women and not disrespected (by adultery e.g.) for fear of losing him. The initial quote then becomes irrelevant for these types of men.
    The option is different for tribes and for bigger societies. In tribes, the best hunterer or gatherer is the greatest male, so men strive to be this. However, this doesn’t create progress because it repeats with each generation. But in a bigger society, there are more trades to be great in, like construction, trading, technology (and even art, diplomacy). So men strive to be great in these as well – and the lasting results are prosperity and progress.
    In history, there are examples of many great men, the men who move the world, who had lasting greatness because of the women who supported them in hard times – and even more examples of men who became great men because of the woman they didn’t get! Harshly said, if women supported and loved the loser, society would be doomed.

    What can we learn from this for today? Either we have a patriarchy that ‘distributes women’ or great men. In today’s world, in which women are less oppressed than ever, this means we need great men instead. And this is a huge problem today: We live in a very toxic environment for great men to emerge. One factor is our very high standard of living: Great men are made through struggle, not by being pampered for their whole lives. Another factor is political correctness and feminism – we are teaching that being male is disrespectul and despicable. Men should treat women with all respect and do them every favor (=men should compete for the woman) when it should be the other way around (men should focus on themselves and have the women compete for them). The result of both of these factors are weak males (for the lack of a better term). (Google the ‘mice utopia experiment’, a scenario scarily similar to what is happening today.)

    So, in conclusion, condemning women for what is stated in the initial quote or men for patriarchy is easy, but the effects of both of it is what made human progress possible and is outstanding for our species.

    • Susan McGee says

      Humanes always get into trouble when they try to control Mother Nature. It gets worse when they try to explain it.

    • Debbie says

      That statement is from an anthropologist describing the beliefs of some little hunter gatherer tribe. It wasn’t supposed to be an endorsement of that sentiment.

  6. derek says

    Thanks for this article. I’m wondering if something fundamental is missing.

    An mentioned, many of the arrangements stem from the fact that women bear the children, lactate and care for the very dependent children.

    But that doesn’t seem to account for many of the other things. In grizzly bears the young male without territory is the cause of change, instability, long distance mixing of genetic strains. The female looks after the cubs and in the second year they become independent. The female will mate with the dominant boar, repeatedly through their life. The young males are chased off to find territory and complete with the older boars for mating opportunities. A biologist friend tracked a male grizzly from the southern interior of BC to Montana in the US and back.

    Young men are full of energy and strength, both a resource for their community and a danger, destabilizing and violent. Young women would quickly become preoccupied with child rearing, but unattached young men are the seeds of roving bands. Likely much of the decrease in violent crime in the West is due to a decrease in the numbers of young men in particular with the changing demographics.

    All the intricate arrangements for controlling men, women, resources collapses when a roving band of unattached males show up.

    Is it possible that almost all of these arrangements at the core are structured to control, incentivize, harness, or simply arrange for the survival of the young men and the communities they are capable of destroying?

  7. martti_s says

    We have biological facts such as those with uteri give birth. It is a remarkable strain. Physiologically, the circulation has to increase by 30 per cent and the same goes for energy requirement. Psychologically, this means that the pregnant unit is not as apt to protect herself against predators or in-species competition as her peers. She has to have somebody to lean on. Somebody who thinks that the offspring about to appear is his. Yes, love is blind. It happens. But how often is love strong enough to overcome cuckold?

    Wouldn’t it be stupid to think that during the hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, these facts would NOT have had an influence on the way the societies have developed?

    Then, there is the childbirth, a very risky thing for the human female.
    Our heads are too big, the pelvis is too small. In natural circumstances, the maternal mortality is about 10%. Then we have postpartal complications, fistulae and such. It is surprising how little the modern feminists give attention to the problem of rectovaginal fistulae and their social consequences. They could really DO something on this issue, especially in the African countries where child pregnancies are the rule.

    Now, the baby is there, who is going to feed her. Only half of the human species have mammary glands that are productive enough to feed a growing baby. That means, the job is up to the females.

    In the natural setting, only about 30 per cent of the babies born ever reach maturity.

    Then you have starvation, diseases, war and predators.
    Men go to war, who takes care for the offspring? the mothers. The mothers. with a strategy for survival. And ones with grandmothers, of course. Let’s not forget the grandmothers.

    These are the cold facts of the life of the Sapiens Sapiens until very recently.
    And now you want to tell me that these circumstances have had no effect on how the psyche of the male and the female have evolved?

    Come on. Open your eyes. We are mammals. Exceptional mammals but mammals still.
    Our neocortices are a recent development. Our cultures more recent still.
    A fight against history will always be an uphill battle, doomed to fail

    • Right on. It almost seems as if you have been pregnant and given birth to a baby with a big head. I managed a high end career, but only with the support of my husband.

  8. Richard says

    Another jaw dropping article on Q, really quite brilliant and thorough. Loved it! Thank you!

  9. Mart Murdvee says

    Men’s Domination! Patriarchate! The investigator, who claims it, should try to establish a total patriarchate in his mother’s kitchen. After healing of the wounds (some kitchen utensils are heavy and sharp), the discussion can continue.

  10. ADM64 says

    The evolutionary argument tends to focus on mating strategies and child-rearing. No doubt these are very important. . I’d suggest that even if men and women were socialized identically, the differences in physical strength and reproductive biology would dictate a host of gender roles by themselves. The sexes notice these differences and make judgments – and adjust behaviors – accordingly. Then, there’s the issue of hormones and brain structures…

  11. Wilson says

    Feminists like Hrdy and Smuts employ evolutionary perspectives not to gain a more holistic understanding of the evolution of gender roles but to strengthen feminist oppression theories.

    The idea that women have been historically oppressed is never called into question; instead anecdotes from primatological data and ethnographic data are cherry picked to spin a tale of historical female oppression.

    The tone is accusative throughout, using such phrases as “male dominance” and “subordination of women,” but the truth is that gender roles evolved to complement each other, though of course we can find instances of injustice to both sexes if we look for it.

    “Contrary to the view that men or women are united with all members of their own sex for the purpose of oppressing the other sex, each individual shares key interests with particular members of each sex and is in conflict with other members of each sex. Simple-minded views of a same-sex conspiracy have no foundation in reality.

    “Although today men’s sexual strategies contribute to their control over resources, the origins of their strategies cannot be separated from the evolution of women’s desires. This analysis does not imply that we should blame women for the fact that men control resources or blame men for their relentless pursuit of hem. Rather, if harmony and equality are to be achieved, women and men both must be recognized as linked together in a spiraling causal chain of this coevolutionary process. This process started long ago with the evolution of desire and continues to operate today through our strategies of mating.”

    ~ David Buss

    • @ Wilson
      The notion that the very word patriarchy is a negative connotation is troublesome. When we look around at the technological, big city world we live in we can only conclude that the ‘patriarchy” built that – feminism surely didn’t!!!

      My wife recently discovered the term mansplaining and has been tossing it around jokingly. It is basically a cutesy feminist word with a negative connotation for when a man says any declarative statement -at – a woman. It’s pure BS.

  12. This article fails to address the relatively long period from birth to independence in humans. It doesn’t mention the continued need of children for their fathers and the great benefit to men of continued support for their children in terms of reproductive success. In order to be reproductively successful, men need to behave in ways that promote the relative success of their children. Across cultures this involves continued material and emotional support for their children often into adulthood. Dilution of this support does harm reproductive success for men.

  13. Farris says

    Are men really in charge or just hold the illusion of being in charge?
    Men have shorter life expectancies, die in wars, are expected to provide. Women may be sex objects but men are success objects. Notice most of the top heterosexual feminists are married to high preforming males.
    “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:9
    Females are excellent at manipulating and guilting males. That’s not to denigrate women but rather to point out strategies, that have evolved. Females have been known to encourage conflict among males. Men search for strategies that allow them to procreate. Women search for strategies that allow them to thrive. In the long run which search is more prudent?

      • Farris says


        Good read. I especially liked this quote.

        “the women will quarrel. Mind you,” continued this prophet of disaster, “I don’t say that some of the men won’t quarrel too, probably they will; but the women are bound to. You can’t prevent it; it’s in the nature of the sex. The hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world, in a volcanic sense. A woman will endure discomforts, and make sacrifices, and go without things to an heroic extent, but the one luxury she will not go without is her quarrels.

        • Peter from Oz says

          I can highly recommend Saki. He was a great Tory writer who could see the quiet desperation of life as well as the wit and glamour of his time.

  14. Wilson says

    You can see one example of cherry picking in the epigraph for this article.

    It leads you to believe that women in this tribe are uniquely oppressed.

    But in this same society:

    “Boys as young as three years old are pinned down by adult males dressed as frightening boars and their genitals are forcefully rubbed with stinging nettles. . . . Later in childhood
    their penises are abused again with bamboo razors and pig incisors, this time in a wooden
    structure built over a stream. Following the assault, the boys insert their penises through the floor
    boards to let the blood drip into the water below. Marriage brings little relief to the abuses of
    childhood. After their first evening together, the naked couple walk to the stream in the presence
    of spectators, where the wife builds a dam and the husband lacerates his own penis (see Tuzin

    We see quotations from Smuts and Hrdy about men controlling women’s sexuality, but in monogamous societies men’s sexuality is also controlled.

    Also, in several other Papua New Guinea tribes discussed in the same book, the boys are forced to give older men fellatio and imbibe semen orally and anally.

    “In all these areas, the ingestion of semen through fellatio or anal intercourse is depicted as essential to the growth of boys.” (p. 10)

    So which sex is more oppressed?

    Mightn’t it be accurate to say they are equally challenged but in different ways?

    But we won’t find an intellectual debate about it in gender studies or the “goddess’s discipline” because they are concerned with advocacy, not truth.

    • William Buckner says

      Hey Wilson,

      Thank you for your comment. I understand the point you are making in arguing that I did not give sufficient attention to the ways cultural practices also constrain and control male behavior. That is fair. However, I would like to draw your attention to a previous article I have written on exactly this topic:

      As you can see, I give a great deal of attention to the very social practices you are referring to. In this article I was focused primarily on the way fitness concerns can drive both males and females to attempt to control female reproduction. In the article I linked above I focus primarily on the way young boys in particular are treated in the societies with ‘men’s cults’, being subject to torturous rituals and socialized to become warriors. I am not making any claims about one sex being “more oppressed” than the other, I am primarily interested in why these traditions and practices develop, and seeking to explain that


      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        Will, the last paragraph of your article belies your claim that you are not making a claim about one sex being more oppressed that the other. You quote Hrdy: “never before—not in seventy million years—have females been so nearly free to pursue their own destinies”. However, the men in Tiwi society can hardly be said to have been free to pursue their own destinies. If “successful old men could have upwards of 20 wives, men under 30 had no wives, and men under 40 were mostly married to old women”, the options for men are closely circumscribed and male reproduction is effectively controlled.

        I think your thinking would be clearer if you acknowledged that you begin with a feminist perspective of patriarchy as male oppression. In fact, you mention that perspective early in the article, before going on to investigate the evolutionary origins of ‘male dominance’, a woolly concept which you never elucidate. In general, there is a tendency in your article to conflate the requirements of cultural tradition with male agency, a slippage between the evolutionary interest of the successful male and the actual interests of an individual male. this is evident for instance in the assertion that female genital cutting reflects the “interests of a man and his lineage in assuring paternal certainty”. The interests of male lineage are measured here against ‘female choice in mating’ (the choice of the individual) rather than to the acknowledged benefit to the woman’s evolutionary interest through ‘inclusive fitness or intrasexual competition’.

        I’m not sure what your thesis actually is, if it’s not that one sex is more oppressed than the other. Do you mean to argue simply that cultural practices with regard to sex, marriage, and reproduction give rise to the control of female reproduction but not male reproduction? I can’t see how that can be so – anything that controls female reproduction necessarily controls male reproduction. For example, a society which keeps women at home and stops them having sex with men who are not their husbands, to the extent that it is successful also prevents men from having sex with women who are not their wives. A polygynous society controls the reproduction of unsuccessful men and not the reproduction of women. What is it that you are arguing?

        • I had very similar thoughts, and a similar confusion about the thesis, other than to give some more or less plausible arguments as to why the scientific notion of patriarchy is, or was always, equivalent to the feminist version.
          The article analyses how patriarchal systems are unjust to women, omitting any analysis of how unjust it is to men, or indeed whether some equally plausible evolved social system could have been more just overall. And besides, what is the argument for using justice as a scientific yardstick? The perspective and purpose is left unstated, but it seems to be a restatement of the predictable ruminations of some feminist anthropologists
          Presumably a fairer system would have each female’s partner choices unfettered, so each woman would be free to mate with a powerful warrior, and and then have a somewhat less fit, but more stable male help to raise her offspring, with his reward being the opportunity to father children with her at some point. Each female would have an opportunity to raise children. The least fit males would, I suppose, would be disposed of somehow at puberty.

  15. Stephanie says

    Great article, informative. An important point that often gets ignored is the role women play themselves in creating patriarchal societies. Women not only demand competence, they tend to prefer a powerful husband they can influence over being powerful themselves. Same with wealth. Why go through the trouble to compete with more aggressive men, when you can find an aggressive man weak to your feminine charms? It’s much of the benefits with few of the drawbacks, particularly for pre-modern people without birth control or dishwashers.

    While the tendency for women to be home oriented makes sense with women’s biology and preferences, it’s not clear to me how polygamy could be allowed to take root if women had any influence at all. Your husband spreading resources and intimacy elsewhere defies women’s biological and emotional needs. The only thing I can think of is that in such societies, women actually are slaves, in that they are commodities purchased for a given function, their thoughts on the matter inconsequential.

    This means the focus of modern feminists on mandating an equality of outcome for both sexes essentially erases the natural preferences of women for competent mates. Meanwhile, their support of polyamory and Islam amounts to advocating that women deny their biological and emotional needs in service of pleasuring men.

    • Alistair says

      (compared to Monogamy) Polygamy moderately benefits Beta Females, and imposes equivalent costs on Alpha Females.

      (compared to Monogamy) Polygamy greatly benefits Alpha males, and imposes huge costs on Beta Males.

      Polygamy vs Monogamy is not a Female / Male split. It is an Alpha-Beta split. If anything, Polygamy is slightly more “efficient” as an algorithm (but is much more vicious for the losers, and consequently adverse social effects).

    • @Stephanie
      RIght, thus the man-boy situation we now see where young men aren’t even bothering to try to become competent in order to woo women. High status career women are going to find fewer and fewer prospects among men at their income and status level. A young man with a reasonable income is satisfied living in his mama’s basement. Unless he wants children of his own why does he need to preen himself with competence and status. Video games don’t care about such things…

  16. Stoic Realist says

    It is fascinating to me how often these examinations forget to include the necessity for the application of force in early cultures. They frame the discussion in terms of resource access and war alliances, but they skip over other significant elements such as the propensity in early civilizations for the leader of a nation to not just lead it in warfare, but to lead it from the front. Cyrus, Darius, Alexander, Khufu are good examples of this. Safety in the times involved having strong leaders and men to die on the battle fields. And it could be difficult to convince men to go out to do that when they were worried that their wives would be at home adding mouths by other people.

    As far as ‘hundreds of wives’ and ‘hundreds of children’ many of those same kings were attempting to select an heir of suitable capability to manage, protect, and hopefully even expand their kingdom. Since they wanted dynasties they weren’t accepting resumes to find candidates they were building the largest pools of candidates that they could.

    Of course this also ignores that fact that many of the wives of kings were arranged marriages to tie bonds between the kingdoms to prevent the wars that killed people, destroyed land, and caused carnage. Also it leaves off details of how, like the Pharoahs of Egypt, many Kings were expected to display excelling sexual potency as proof of their powers and superiority.

    Once upon a time there was a requirement for a broad liberal arts foundation for every discipline. People had to learn their literature, their history, their philosophy, and even their theology, art, and culture as a broad base that they then built a specialty upon. This requirement enabled knowledge to include elements of other disciplines and common sense rather than winding up a victim of the hammer maxim. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. Well when all you’ve studied is one particular narrow field all of your explanations come exclusively from that field even when more rational ones exist at the basic levels of other disciplines.

  17. Markus says

    One thing I am missing here, although it has been pointed out in a comment above, is the part that the women play in arranged marriage. Arranged marriage in most forms, benefits the family group and the wifes (and aunts) are as much invested in the outcome as are the men.

    I think, anecdotally (or through reading Shakespeare), everybody is aware that in a marriage, women are as much the driving factor for status and money/resources as are men, if not sometimes more (but on average probably close).

    Another thing is, that some time ago I’ve read an article from an (female) anthropologist who was invited to a marriage in a tribal community where (female) genital cutting was the norm. Much to her surprise, she found that the ritual was mostly an something about status between and among the females, transitioning from girl to woman, thus gaining respect and good standing from the circle of elder woman.

    The anthropologist even offered the bride pain pills, which she (the bride) later gave back, because she did not want to use it and told (the anthropologist) that she didn’t understand the multi faceted factors of the whole endeavor.

  18. Martin Van Creveld argues that “patriarchy” is fundamentally related to protecting women from rape. Men, especially strange men from outside the group, will rape women. Men, because they are generally bigger and stronger, are more effective at protecting women from men. Therefore, any woman who can obtains a male protector (starting with father or uncle, then husband). Those outside the system of male protection end up being subjected to rape or become prostitutes or both.

    Restrictions are placed on female sexuality and female movement in order to avoid situations which could result in homicidal feuds between families or tribal bands.

    If this is correct, than modern egalitarianism is a function of effective modern police forces, which have taken over the role of protector from fathers and husbands. Because male relatives are not required to engage in the hazardous job of violent retaliation for sexual violence, they lose interest in maintaining older social norms (intended to prevent potential sexual violence and the cycle of blood feuds). If this is true, modern policing is a necessary precondition to modern feminist notions.

  19. to all you JP fanboys, patriarchy exists, and all your moaning an whining about feminism undermining your masculinity is a waste of mental energy, try maybe deprogramming your head of all that “masculine” bullshit the culture industry keeps throwing at it and actually try to understand what a shit deal women all over the world are still getting…

    • Stoic Realist says

      Since your contention is that Patriarchy Exists it would be helpful if you would supply actual evidence for your assertion. Start by providing a detailed and exclusive definition of what ‘Patriarchy’ is and then provide a list of objectively verifiable facts that will support the assertion. Take care when providing those facts that they can only be explained or at least reaches the 85th percentile of likelihood to being only a trait of ‘Patriarchy’. After that you can try to provide a list of what is ‘masculine bullshit’ and what isn’t.

      The problem is that the word ‘patriarchy’ does appear to exist, but it is impossible to get people to agree on the meaning. Since no hard frame has been put upon what it means people have reached the point where ‘it’s the patriarchy’ is functionally equivalent to ‘the devil made me do it.’ A similar issue is in place for what is ‘masculine bullshit’. Good luck getting consensus on what does and what doesn’t fit within these scopes. The words are being used now specifically because they’re a catch all for the people using them.

      As far as the ‘deal’ women are getting that’s a rather subjective evaluation that loses a lot of persuasive power when the same people who shout about it ignore the cultures and societies which have the most harsh policy sets on that front. ‘Still getting’ is another fun one. For all intents and purposes the world sucked for ninety percent of the population of the world until the 20th Century and even for most of that. Fortunately a few of the currently demonized societies, economic movements, and political movements managed to culminate in a period of time that has seen an astronomical improvement in the quality of life for people all over the world.

      Unfortunately people who have spent their entire lives living in comfort and luxury have lost the sense of what actual suffering is. The truth is that for all of the ‘inequality’ current times are the wealthiest, most comfortable, most luxurious, and fairest times that the world has ever seen. If you don’t believe that try putting yourself in the shoes of a middle ages peasant who could be killed by his local lord for almost any reason.

      Am I willing to be convinced that patriarchy exists? Sure, as soon as you provide a precise definition and a set of verifiable measurements to use to evaluate it. Until then I’ll store ‘Patriarchy Exists’ in the same mental file as ‘The Earth is Flat’.

      • X. Citoyen says

        I agree with you Stoic Realist, but I have to give Blip credit for covering all the empty rhetorical postures in so few words:

        1. Pigeonhole with pejorative category: “JP fanboys”

        2. Bald assertion without evidence: “patriarchy exist”

        3. Characterize argumentation as motivated reasoning based on identity: “whining about feminism undermining your masculinity”

        4. Impute a mental disorder: “deprogramming your head…”

        5. Accuse the author of “not understanding” (often with the imperative “educate yourself”)

        6. Accuse the author of being callous: “the shit women deal with.”

      • It’s sort of like when one is charged as a racist, or —phobic. One cannot respond “that’s bs, I have friends” or any other such defense as that defense becomes the ah-ha moment proving your guilt. One cannot offer up any defense, and when I challenge the accusers they say “you shouldn’t have to, because if you were not it would be obvious on it’s face.” There you have it, if it was obvious on it’s face, you wouldn’t have made the accusation. Since you did, it’s not obviously false and any defense is proof. Figure that one out logically.

    • @blip
      Whatever… We all deal with shit. If you think that the masculine is just a good ‘ol boy’s club where we plot to keep the women folk down you’ve got it totally wrong. Getting by in a ‘man’s world’ is just as hard on men, devastating to a weak man. He is useless to women and even more useless to other men. There is no one to cry for a weak man.

  20. Men and women enter social pacts that allow them to further biologically specialize in order to produce extremely intelligent offspring. This specialization generally affords males greater physical strength and agility. When this power is used to benefit individual men in a way that is not in the best interest of their offspring then women push back. Look at the relative success of societies where women fail to successfully curtail cultural practices are harmful to their offspring. These are failed societies.

  21. Jezza says

    It seems to me that there is a conscious movement, in Australian society at least, to ‘de-masculate’, to diminish the contribution men make to the welfare of all. This entails restrictions on telling truth, allowing boys to be belittled and thwarted in school, or establishing government controlled ‘safe schools’ grooming gangs to encourage young boys into buggery. The net effect is that we now live in world of pretense: men pretend to be women, women pretend to be men, and the rest of us have to pretend how wonderful it all is. Society cannot survive like this. Unless men are given their due, we will be swamped by Islam’s lopsided gender disparity. Then the feminists can go to the toilet together and complain (under their breath) how cruel the world is.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I could argue that you are exaggerating the problem for rhetorical effect. But that would be to miss the point. Your point is a valid one. The West is becoming far to precious and puritanical.

  22. Pingback: Open Thread, 11/26/2018 – Gene Expression

  23. B. Scott Michel says

    Is it really patriarchy/matriarchy power structure or is it mutual dependence with distinct roles, where some roles are relatively ranked to others? By today’s standards (and some of yesterday’s), some cultures have strange rituals when it comes to male and female organization, mate selection, etc. Ultimately, though, men and women have to make their relationships work; hence, mutual dependence.

  24. jukkaaakula says

    Interesting reading! Thank you!

    “My own impression, which I’ve noted elsewhere, is that people around the world really do tend to prefer pretty stable, monogamous pair-bonds across most societies.”

    Maybe you are too optimistic.

    Without the beta males co-operating against the alpha males – beta mates demonizing both alpha behavior of resource monopolization and female adultery – monogamy as institution becomes labile. War parties against enemies probably help men to keep those coalitions cohesive. Thus co evolution of monogamy and war (in-group morality) is probably a fact.

  25. Morgan says

    The early civilizations all had male domination, and the West, in particular, was built around it. It baffles me how these people imagine it was only a coincidence, that in a more egalitarian society we wouldn’t have just remained like those primitive tribes feminists like to use as an example. The most important thing said in this article is the fact that ‘control’ of female choice leads to more cooperation between males. THAT is what built the West. Monogamy does benefit women, of course, and so that was included. But men had to be in control. Most marriage had to be arraigned, because otherwise everything becomes about mating and competing over a mate. Men have to fight one another in order to display their fitness to other women. In arraigned marriage, they already have a wife. They don’t have to compete with anyone. It provides a social base from men, and women, to stand on, and therefore allows them to focus on more important things, like building civilization. As for women, it provides them with protection and stability for their children. They don’t have to compete either, and they are effectively allowed to always have a male of higher status than them (as all males are higher status), which satisfies their instincts, and perhaps more importantly they don’t drive men to fight with one another due to their so-called ‘freedom of choice’ – because their choices seem to invariably tends to high fitness, and not some romantic notions of compatibility. If you aren’t aware of your own instincts, you tend to follow those instincts and make excuses or fantastical stories to justify them.

  26. I am concerned by a number of incorrect statements in this article.

    1. Not all animals reproduce sexually with sperm and egg. To start the laundry list we have hydras, aphids, certain lizards, certain sharks, boa constrictors, rotifers, etc.

    2. The claim that placental mammals as a whole bear helpless young — there are numerous ungulate species that bear young that are up on their feet and able to outrun predators in hours. See also elephants and whales which birth extremely developed offspring. As well there are non-placental mammals that produce young that are no less helpless than your average placental mammal’s.

    3. I realize this is Hardy’s claim, but I feel the need to point out that the claim that monogamy is the ONLY primate sexual structure within which we find “equality between the sexes” wrt size and access to resources is dubious. There are heavily polygamous species (bonobos) with relatively minimal dimorphism and an altruistic social structure that favours females. Female bonobos are extremely promiscuous and also dominate socially.

    I will also point out that many primates previously thought to be more or less “monogamous” were later found to bear offspring outside of the pair bond.

    I question the validity of comparing humans to primates /as a whole/ at all. Look at the difference between a chipmunk and a guinea pig, socially. A Norway rat and a Syrian hamster. We learn nothing about the rat from observing the hamster beyond basic things shared by all rodents like ever-growing teeth and a propensity for grooming. We cannot look at animals in an order to say some broad thing about another, highly different animal in that order.

    I realize the article is more concerned with theory but you cannot start off an evolutionary psychology theory based on incorrect assumptions about evolution and biology.

    • I’m also just now realizing that my brain conflated equal sexes with “female-dominated”, which is… interesting.

    • William Buckner says

      Thanks for the comment, but on your first two points:

      1) All of those animals, as far as I am aware, also reproduce sexually even if they also have alternative means of reproducing. The fact that say, some species of aphids alternate between seasonal asexual and sexual reproduction does not conflict with what I said, in my view.

      2) I can see how the phrasing can be a bit confusing there, but I was only referring to humans specifically in that point, even though I was connecting the foundation to sex differences in reproduction that are ubiquitous among mammals (the general fact of female gestation with the particularly altricial infants of humans).

  27. I liked your essay very much. However, the reference to Cai Hua’s research is questionable. As Clifford Geertz always expressed skepticism about any claims regarding human nature or human universals. He was constantly in search of ethnographic studies that demonstrated that particular societies were so culturally different in order to undermine any notion of human universals or aspects of a human nature. In his defense of cultural relativism Geertz made the claim that anthropologists are the ‘merchants of astonishment’ as they describe the exotic ways in which cultures differ (1984). For example, Geertz wrote a praiseworthy review of Chinese anthropologist Cai Hua’s ethnographic study by of the Na (Mosuo) of southern China that suggested that they were matrilineal, matriarchal, and had no fathers or husbands (2001; Cai Hua 2002). Cai Hua’s book has been thoroughly criticized by both Chinese and Western anthropologists as a distortion of Na society. The Na are patrilineal, patriarchal, and they have fathers, marriages, and families (Harrell, 2002).

    Geertz, C. (2001). The visit. New York Review of Books 48, (16) (October).

    Harrell, S. (2002). Review of Cai Hua A society without fathers or husbands: the Na of China. American Anthropologist 104 (3), 982-983.

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