Patriarchal and matriarchal societies
The difference between patriarchal societies and matriarchal, isn't so much about which sex is dominant, but rather type of society that rules. Patriarchy and matriarchy are all encompassing concepts and include more than men and women and which sex is in control. Patriarchy concerns itself with science ruling over nature and exploiting of the earth's resources, whereas matriarchy involves working with nature and respect for mother earth. matriarchal societies rule by farming and working with nature, patriarchal ones by lording it over nature and exploiting the earth's resources.
No society is purely patriarchal or matriarchal, but contains elements of both in balance. Today is seems, the balance has shifted too far towards patriarchy and capitalism - an expression of patriarchy - which only serves to polarise society into the rich and poor, is in its final stage.
Different types of feminism explained - radical feminism, liberal feminism, socialist feminism, marxist feminism and militant feminism.
Radical feminism is a "current" within feminism that focuses on the theory of patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships based on an assumption of "male supremacy" used to oppress women. Radical feminism aims to challenge and to overthrow patriarchy by opposing standard gender roles and what they see as male oppression of women, and calls for a radical reordering of society. Early radical feminism, arising within second-wave feminism in the 1960s, typically viewed patriarchy as a "transhistorical phenomenon" prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, "not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form" and the model for all others. Later politics derived from radical feminism ranged from cultural feminism to more syncretic politics that placed issues of class, economics, etc. on a par with patriarchy as sources of oppression.
The term radical in radical feminism (from Latin rādīx, rādīc-, root) is used as an adjective meaning of or pertaining to the root or going to the root. Radical feminists locate the root cause of women's oppression in patriarchal gender relations, as opposed to legal systems (liberal feminism) or class conflict (socialist feminism and Marxist feminism).
The term militant feminism is a pejorative term which is often applied to radical feminism, but also to other currents within feminism.
Patriarchy doesn't benefit all men
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.
Feminist Mumbo-Jumbo! - Do Men have the right to question
Nothing in fact could be farther from the truth. Feminists are not man haters at all, feminism is not a male hate group of women, and it is in fact the union of ideology and activism. A critical philosophy, a way of life, a critical look at the patriarchal society that dominates the world, even feminist philosophers have not been able to give a single definition. Some of the currently used definitions are: (a) a doctrine advocating social and political rights for women equal to those of men; (b) an organized movement for the attainment of these rights; (c) the assertion of the claims of women as a group and the body of theory women have created; (d) belief in the necessity of large-scale social change in order to increase the power of women.
“I myself have never been able to figure out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” - Rebecca West in ‘The Clarion’, 1913.
Where do men come into feminism? Is there such a thing as male feminism? Can a man be a feminist at all? Some thoughts men/boys have, which make them doubt their support. Add to that the male stereotype, and patriarchal society, reinforces the paradigm that they should give up such blasphemous thinking. Personally I had these doubts myself and tried umpteen times to justify the ‘Male Gaze’ (ogling and lewd gawking) believing that women at most times overreacted until I saw a documentary ‘Unlimited Girls’ (Dir. Paromita Vohra) about feminism. Shattering the notion I had of being a feminist and a female supporter, also encouraging the change in thought of actually becoming one.
Men can most definitely be feminists, it is not unmanly, nor is it being a sissy and dominated by women. Patriarchal society has ingrained in us so deeply the thought that women are lesser to men, that it is bound to surface (even if it is subconscious). Unlearning many rules and customs taught to me, I had a hurdle to climb and something so simple as a documentary film brought in that realisation. Such is the dominance of patriarchy that mothers, mother-in-laws, grandmothers and even sometimes sisters reinforce the superiority of the man. “A woman is a woman’s biggest enemy!” is it not centuries of male domination speaking through a woman? Life does not exist beyond the patriarchal male dominated society, for a woman and more so a man who cannot think or know otherwise, it is an unnatural deviation from life.
Is asking to be treated equally wrong? Some uncomfortable questions feminists ask, and why not? ‘Service to man is service to God!’ Man includes women, mankind includes women. Why think of them as lesser beings? Why refer to women as ‘them’? Mere physical differences cannot be the reason for discrimination (even in the most subtle form). Men hide behind the veil of religion, which according to them advocates that women are indeed the lesser being. The right to give birth, to grant life, is that what makes women lesser mortals? Religion interpreted (in most cases twisted) by men for men, to uphold the ‘values’ of a patriarchal society. Men, we have a long way to go before women trust us completely. What do women want? they want, what they deserved from the very beginning, the respect and equality, which is not a male prerogative.
There is no single definition of ecofeminism, and ecofeminists may well disagree with at least some of explanations I give in this section, but there are core principles. Ecofeminists agree that the domination of women and the domination of nature are fundamentally connected and that environmental efforts are therefore integral with work to overcome the oppression of women.
The primary aims of ecofeminism are not the same as those typically associated with liberal feminism. Ecofeminists do not seek equality with men as such, but aim for a liberation of women as women. Central to this liberation is a recognition of the value of the activities traditionally associated with women; childbirth, nurturing and the whole domestic arena. Some feminists have criticized ecofeminism for reinforcing oppressive stereotypes and for its tendency toward essentialism.
Women and nature
In Western society women are treated as inferior to men, 'nature' is treated as inferior to 'culture', and humans are understood as being separate from, and often superior to, the natural environment.
Throughout our history nature is portrayed as feminine and women are often thought of as closer to nature than men. Women's physiological connection with birth and child care have partly led to this close association with nature. The menstrual cycle, which is linked to Lunar cycles, is also seen as evidence of women's closeness to the body and natural rhythms. Our cultural image of the 'premenstrual woman' as irrational and overemotional typifies this association between women, the body, nature and the irrational.
Ecofeminists focus on these connections, and analyses how they devalue and oppress both 'women' and 'nature'.
Ecofeminism believes that Patriarchal society is built on four interlocking pillars; sexism, racism, class exploitation and environmental destruction. Ecofeminist analysis reveals that it's not only women who are portrayed as being 'closer to nature'; oppressed races and social classes have also been closely associated with nature.
The author of 'What is Ecofeminism?' writes:
Ecofeminism has made a particularly useful analysis of power relations, and rejects any form of hierarchy. The emphasis is on shared power, finding our own 'power-from-within' rather than needing to impose the manipulation and control of 'power-over'. For more on power relations see Starhawk .
Most forms of ecofeminism rely on a historical analysis of ideology. According to this analysis, the oppression of nature and women emerged with a Western ideology called patriarchy which arose roughly 5,000 years ago.
Western patriarchal thinking is based on 'dualism', a world view that orders the world by dividing it into opposed pairs of concepts: Mind is split from body, spirit from matter, male from female, culture from nature. One concept in each pair is deemed superior to the other. This 'other' is sometimes demonized and always discriminated against. Concepts on both sides are bound into complex relationships which become mutually reinforcing. Groups that are oppressed in our society are often associated with the body rather than than the mind and may be portrayed as intuitive but overemotional.
This hierarchy clearly shows the common prejudices of sexism and speciesism. Many aspects of racism, classism and imperialism operate through this same hierarchy.
The patriarchal belief system valorizes 'male' qualities of reason and analysis and characterizes intuitive, emotional 'female' qualities as passive, weak and irrational and therefore inferior. Qualities such as passivity, weakness and irrationality are not in themselves bad, but they are within the ideology of Patriarchal dualism. It can be educational to note our own feelings about such qualities.
Some theorists have suggested that this degrading of the 'other' is driven by fear of nature and mortality, and because of their biological connection with birth women are a constant reminder of death.
According to Rosemary Radford Reuther it was the invention of the concepts of 'nature' and 'culture' that allowed man to degraded the former.
Ecofeminism demands a radical critique of the categories of 'nature' and 'culture' together with an affirmation of the degraded partner in all the patriarchal dualities. 'Female' qualities such as co-operation, nurturing, being supportive, nonviolent and sensual are especially appropriate for creating an environmentally aware society.
Some ecofeminists believe that traditional 'male' qualities like competitiveness, individuality, assertiveness, leadership, and intellectuality, are valuable in appropriate contexts and should be integrated with 'female' qualities in a balance person.
The feminist critique of patriarchy is not just an intellectual attack on men. Most feminists, though not all, do not see men as 'the enemy'. Patriarchy is a particular way of thinking which can used by any gender and ecofeminism can be a common ground for both sexes.
"In Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, Val Plumwood identified a pattern of dualistic thinking that permeates some cultures and is implicated in their destructive attitudes toward nature. Dualistic thinking involves setting up two [opposites].
Plumwood characterized dualistic thinking is "an alienated form of
differentiation, in which power construes and constructs difference in terms of
an inferior and alien realm" (42). Subsequent Plumwood blames dualistic
thinking for creating "logics of colonization." Ecofeminist Karen
Warren gives dualistic thinking a similarly central role in supporting
"oppressive conceptual frameworks." [ "Power and Promise."
Warren, Karen. "The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism."
Environmental ethics 12 (summer 1990): 125-146].
The Self and the 'other'
A closely related critique focuses on the disconnected 'sense of self' which typifies modern consciousness. Ecofeminists argue that men tend to view the world in terms of a self-contained self and a separate 'other' that is the world. The world is analyzed into discrete units with the self 'in here' & everything else 'out there'.
"We are separate, unconnected, & the boundaries are set by that Sacred Cow of the West, the big 'I am �, the ego...Each of us occupies a little box, & most of us remain shut up inside our heads for our entire lives."
This analytic mind-set encourages the notion that the natural world is simply a mechanical system that humans can exploit. Because women are also viewed as 'other', they are also manipulated and control.
Ecofeminism emphasizes the interdependence of all life, humanity's role as part of the earth's ecosystem, and the non-hierarchical nature of a system in which all parts affect each other are emphasized to counteract relationships dominated by values of control and oppression.
Ecofeminists disagree about whether these 'male' and 'female' qualities are innate to the sexes or are simply human character traits common to us all.
Most feminists believe that soft 'female' qualities are socially imposed as part of a patriarchal strategy of oppression, but ecofeminists seek a positive re-evaluation of them:
"Women's values, centered around life giving, must be revalued... We know how to feel for others because we have been socialized that way."
Judith Plant, 'Women and Nature'
Plant believes that men have been alienated from the domestic world which "nurtures all who participate" (ibid.), and need to embrace that dimension of life.
Katherine Davies and other ecofeminists argue that though there is a deep connection between women and nature, it is socially created. Revaluing this bond is important, but it is also vital to change relationships between men and women and between men and nature.
Most ecofeminists believe that men have as much potential as women to adopt a deeper environmental awareness, but they will need to work harder to fully embrace those values."I find it more useful to think of the whole range of human possibilites - aggression, nurture, compassion, cruelty, creativity, passivity, etc - as available to us all, not divided by gender, neither inner nor outer"
Starhawk, 'The Spiral Dance', (revised edition) p.215
But 'Cultural' ('Radical') feminists, some of whom embrace ecofeminism, disagree. Cultural feminism believes that women are in essence more nurturing, peaceful, co-operative and closer to nature than men. Mary Daly encourages women only areas, and believes that if women align themselves with 'feminine nature' they will be able to create spaces that are free of patriarchal influence. (See Mary Daly, 'Gyn/Ecology').
Many ecofeminists believe that there was a time before written history, some 250,000 years ago, when cooperation, not competition, was valued. During this period female deities were widely worshipped and societies were more women-centered.
Ecofeminist believe we can learn from these pre-patriarchal societies.
Although most ecofeminist see patriarchy as the root cause of dysfunctional human behavior, theorists like Chellis Glendinning believe that that our separation from nature goes back some 20,000 years ago to the time when humans shifted from being a gatherer/hunter culture to domesticating plants and animals.
Other ecofeminists focus on the ideological shift that occurred during the 18th Century European Enlightenment. Carolyn Merchant (see 'The Death of Nature') describes how the organic cosmology that had helped protect nature for centuries was overturned by the scientific and cultural revolutions of the Enlightenment. She focuses on the emergence over last two hundred years of a scientific, technological and capitalist ideology obsessed with 'progress'.
Judith Plant believes that pre-industrial Western society used organic metaphors to explain self, society and nature. These metaphors served as 'cultural constraints' because the earth was understood as alive. (See 'Women and Nature'). The scientific revolution of the Enlightenment replaced these organic metaphors with mechanical ones. The Universe was no longer understood as a living organism, but as a machine, and nature became perceived purely as a resource for human use. (For a deep analysis of the concept of nature as a resource see Heidegger.)
Given the ecofeminist respect for non-linear, non-rational, emotional understanding, it's not surprising that spirituality is a core element. Most religions are considered to be patriarchal and often exemplify the way humankind aims to transcend nature through the realm of culture. Mainstream religions portray God as a transcendent being, somehow beyond this world.
Why Women Should Rule the World (Hardcover)
What would happen if women ruled the world?
Everything could change, according to former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers. Politics would be more collegial. Businesses would be more productive. And communities would be healthier. Empowering women would make the world a better place—not because women are the same as men, but precisely because they are different.
Recalling the pressures—both invited and imposed—of her West Wing years, Myers offers a hard-hitting look at the challenges women must overcome and the traps they must avoid as they travel the path toward success. From pioneering research in the laboratory, to innovations in business, entertainment, and media, to friendships that transcend partisanship in the U.S. Senate, she describes how female participation in public life has already transformed the world in which we live.