Feminism vs The Patriarchy: Kyriarchy

Another video on Feminism and the Patriarchy. This time, I discuss Kyriarchy.


Yesterday, I spoke about Feminism and The Patriarchy and how feminists will never be able to defeat the Patriarchy. I questioned the reliability of feminism and its definition of patriarchy theory – the patriarchal model of social reality – and I discussed its inevitable failings. Today, I wish to address its validity and will attempt to reconcile it, not with logic or any rational thought (don’t want to make the low-hanging fruit too easy) but instead will assess it through the understanding of the feminist perspective.

Well, it appears that patriarchy isn’t the hip thing with feminists anymore. Actually, it hasn’t been the hip thing for a while, since about the eighties. However, it’s only these past few years where patriarchy has been inadvertently questioned and disproved by feminism at large. This is because they are now all about Intersectionality, aka Kyriarchy.

First coined in 1992 by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in her book ‘But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation’, Kyriarchy describes a system of “interlocking structures of domination”. She uses the word to refer to the top-down power structures of domination and subordination effective in the social and political life in the family and the state. She later expanded on this in her 2001 book ‘Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation’ where she says “Kyriarchy in classical antiquity was the rule of the lord, slave master, husband, elite freeborn, propertied, educated gentlemen to whom disenfranchised men and all wo/men were subordinated. In antiquity, kyriarchy was institutionalised either as a monarchical or as a democratic political form of ruling” (I would like to add to this definition that where she says disenfranchised men, she really means approximately 98% of men). Correct me if I’m wrong but, this somewhat enlightened (for a feminist) view of history sounds a whole lot more like class based oppression than gender based … i.e., serfdom.

The idea of kyriarchy had been discussed earlier, back in 1989 Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw wrote ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics’ where she coined the term ‘Intersectionality’. Whilst she did not use the term kyriarchy, she described the pretty much the same thing.

I recently spoke about how feminism will never be able to defeat the patriarchy (FvP Ep 01) because they do not understand patriarchy, we don’t live in a patriarchy and because by attempting to dismantle the patriarchy feminism is in fact ruining the everyday lives of women. Another reason they do not understand it is because they have always worked off the assumption that men have held the power and women have not, that men have historically been above women and have exercised influence over them.

Whilst Schüssler Fiorenza tried to incorporate the notion of patriarchy into her wider definition of kyriarchy, arguing that “kyriarchy is not simply the domination of men over wo/men. Rather, it is a complex pyramidal system of domination that works through the violence of economic exploitation and lived subordination” (again, economical and not gender based oppression), the notion that patriarchy can be included in kyriarchy fails. It fails simply because the definition of patriarchy is definitive: men ruling over women – or, as some more “progressive” feminists like to say: a society that advantages and favours men & maleness over women & femaleness. The definitiveness and finiteness of patriarchy cannot exist in the more fluid and expansive world of kyriarchy because kyriarchy’s parameters allow for circumstances where a female is privileged over a male. This flies in the face of classical feminist teachings.

That leads feminism to a crossroads: do they accept that women can enjoy privilege over men (via class, race, sexuality, disability, etc) or they cannot (thus rendering such identities as irrelevant in the context of oppression and privilege). This has caused much heated debate and controversy.

However, where I have observed the majority of said debate is not pertaining the inclusion of men as victims of oppression (more of that in a moment) but instead I have observed the majority of the debate in the feminist camps where they have been arguing (almost to the point of cannibalisation) over who is the most oppressed. The problem with Marxist teachings is that the self-described proletariat always want to find new ways to assert their oppression and, in turn, demand some form of reparations. This translates into white feminists becoming the new petty-bourgeoisie.

White Feminism is the idea that white women who identify as feminists are oppressing women of colour through their white privilege and are preventing women of colour from letting their voices be heard – white feminism is feminism that ignores intersectionality. Essentially, white feminists need to shut the fuck up.

But this is where they have dug their own grave.

Because, if kyriarchy/intersectionality is correct, and women of colour are being oppressed by white women, then the antiquated feminist teachings that profess the existence of patriarchy need be thrown out the window. Feminism is outdated. Their central school of thought, their most-popular and loudest complaint, that men are oppressors and women are oppressed, has now been rendered inert. How can feminism exist and be valid if their reason for existence has been proven (by themselves) to be a sham? Kyriarchy/Intersectionality is the way.

Consider this, a white female police officer tasers an unarmed black man in the face. He has been non-violent, committed no crimes, broken no laws and, to add icing to the cake, is their own race relations officer. The incident is then filmed and put online. Question: was he oppressing her through virtue of sex? Did his maleness oppress her and subjugate her because of her femaleness? According to patriarchy theory, his maleness automatically means he is favoured over her yet, because of kyriarchy, he is oppressed because of his race. I wonder if he felt patriarchal superiority as he lay on the ground convulsing due to 50,000V running through his face? Patriarchy theory is as outdated and irrelevant as feminism.

There are those who recognise the death of patriarchy, arguing that “Patriarchy just isn’t useful when we want to talk about how its proliferation is negatively impacting on men and women alike. Kyriarchy, by contrast, accounts for the increasing numbers of men who are suffering from sexual performance anxiety or emotional disconnection with women … [Kyriarchy] helps us to recognise the interconnection of education, class and eating disorders such as anorexia, and of domestic violence and poverty, rather than encouraging us to indiscriminately blame men”. But just as soon as an enlightened perspective comes along, so too do the blog posts screaming to the hills about how they are more oppressed. Sigh. [I must add this little snippet from the response blog-post: “It [Kyriarchy] is not about passing the megaphone to men so they can be included in the oppression olympics”. Sad!]

By acknowledging and preaching kyriarchy/intersectionality, feminists have unwittingly disproved their boogie-man: patriarchy. The feminist town is not big enough for the both of them. But, if they wish to profess that patriarchy is still valid, then they have to concede that men are favoured over women and thus disregard the impact of the other identities. Bearing in mind the example I gave a few paragraphs back, I must ask the feminists: does patriarchy exist or has the last 100 years of feminist teaching been utter bunk?

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