“Patriarchy” is a term that is often thrown around in feminist circles. Loosely speaking, it symbolizes the claim that we live in a male dominated society that condescends, controls, and diminishes women. This is a central tenet of feminism, but is a bit hard to swallow to the uninitiated because it makes it sound like there is some ominous, seemingly-conspiratorial group of men that sits in the upper echelons of society that enacts an anti-woman agenda. And although there are powerful lawmakers with agendas that are largely in opposition to women’s interests, this claim isn’t really being made. However, that doesn’t mean that the Patriarchs don’t/didn’t exist. Lets peruse some quotations from a few of them.
Nietzsche, a philosopher of incredible influence:
“Woman’s love involves injustice and blindness against everything that she does not love… Woman is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at best cows” – in Thus Spoke Zarathustra
“Woman! One-half of mankind is weak, typically sick, changeable, inconstant… she needs a religion of weakness that glorifies being weak, loving, and being humble as divine” – in The Will To Power
Aristotle, one of the first scientifically-minded polymaths in the history of the western tradition:
“Females are weaker and colder in nature, and we must look upon the female character as being a sort of natural deficiency” – in Generation of Animals
“Woman may be said to be an inferior man” – in Poetics
“Woman is more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears, at the same time is more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike. She is, furthermore, more prone to despondency and less hopeful than the man, more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, and of more retentive memory” – in History of Animals
“Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production… Women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions” – in Elements of the Philosophy of Right
Most of us acknowledge sexism’s presence in the religious sphere, but few people expect to find the same bullshit coming from secular philosophers and champions of science and truth. In actuality I haven’t even scratched the surface: Sigmund Freud, Emmanuel Kant, Alexander Pope; the list goes on and on of great, secular thinkers who have perpetuated inaccurate, belittling ideas about women. Antiquated notions about women are part of our intellectual DNA from both secular and ascetic intellectuals. This is Patriarchy.
If Aristotle can hold such disgusting views of women, is the idea that many people in the skeptic community hold regressive views to a lesser extent really that shocking? Being a man of reason didn’t prevent any of these great thinkers from being wrong about women. None of us should consider ourselves above historical geniuses, and somehow impervious to falling into similar traps.
And by the same token, when the argument is made that Women’s Rights isn’t a “rationalist topic” you have to ask yourself, well then why did Bertrand Russell (the genius behind the Principia Mathematica) champion it? Carl Sagan was a feminist too.
Maybe you should rethink joining us?