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Patriarchy is a theorized concept referring to a system of relationships, beliefs, and values embedded in political, social, and economic systems structured around gendered and intersectional inequalities between socially defined men and women.

It can also refer to a hypothetical social system in which a father or a male elder has absolute authority over the family group, and one or a group of men has absolute authority over the community.

The term comes from Greek patriarkhēs, “ruling father” and can be traced back to the mid-16th century.

Patriarchy, as a system of social, political, and economic structure, organizes social relations into hierarchical relationships. It ensures men’s power and dominance in both private and public domains. Within patriarchal relations, qualities viewed as “masculine” or belonging to men are given preference, and qualities seen as “feminine” or belonging to women are undervalued.

Feminist scholars have associated patriarchy with capitalism, colonialism, and nationalism. They demonstrated that patriarchy manifests in dynamic and flexible ways to sustain itself. As an ideology, the patriarchy justifies the dominance of men as a group over others, women in particular. In this line of thought, violence, and its threat are seen as ways to diminish the power of women and restrain them from resistance. This acceptance of violence against women and the controlled behavior of men has frequently been sanctioned by the legal system as well.

Modern scholars have criticized patriarchy as a hypothesis. They argue that patriarchy is not culturally universal as it was thought to be.

See more resources

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022, December 16). patriarchy. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Oxford English Dictionary