Patriarchy today is often defined as an unjust social system that enforces gender roles and is oppressive, typically evoking male dominance over women. My own sister was recently taught this version of patriarchy in her women’s studies course at a state school here in Texas in which she was specifically asked to state times in her life when male dominance was enforced upon her, either by her father, or any other male she came in contact with. Unfortunately for the teacher who was trying to make a point, my sister couldn’t remember a single time when this notion of misogyny rained down upon her. While my heart sincerely goes out to any woman who has felt harassment from men, I’m not sure we can blame patriarchy.
As Dr. Esolen pointed out many men and women have never really experienced what patriarchy is. In a time where one out of every three homes are fatherless, can we really keep blaming patriarchy for the social ills we are experiencing? For a patriarchy to be in order there must be a male in a leadership role. Men aren’t in the homes, instead, they’re abandoning their posts and pursuing selfish expeditions. If he has abandoned his family, as many men are today, it’s not oppressive, its cowardice. I think the tired old adage of blaming men for being oppressive only works when men are actually present. Though the women’s liberation movement was meant to free women from abstract oppression of patriarchy, the reality is that the movement has caused a backsliding serfdom of women as men are using women more now than ever. With little to no sense of commitment, men are now given the immediate gratification of the sexual act while women praise this as true freedom. Is it truly freedom to be tossed aside as nothing more than an object for use? This isn’t love, it isn’t freedom, it isn’t truth. This is a cowardice of men that stems from the ongoing cycle of boys being raised to fear their male leadership and their own innate ability to make a difference in the world. It is also a sum total of education that teaches men and women that freedom from patriarchy is equivalent to releasing the shackles of moral responsibility.
This ideology has sprung up because we have been taught to view everything through the lens of victimhood. The greatest heroes of our time are those who are most oppressed. Rather than looking at the virtues to uphold, and more importantly the vices to eradicate, two or three generations have been taught to glimpse every action or reaction of society as a matter of oppression. Due to this foolish, Marxist ideology of social awareness presenting a different option becomes near impossible, if not downright dangerous. Under the cultural fiasco of misguided feminism and a masculinity characterized by violence and indignation we find an entire demographic of men who no longer know what it means to lead a family. The misguided principles of feminism and their definition of patriarchy are just as errant as those of the men who treated women like cattle. Both mistake leadership for oppression and both impress upon the culture a fear between the sexes.
Could it be that a reinstatement of Christian patriarchy might just be the necessary change that can be a positive catalyst towards changing our social ills? Some of the clear distinctions of patriarchy are its clarity, its conflict, and its control. Whether these are to be praised or blamed would depend on how one perceived the object of the actions it pursues. Patriarchy is clear in that laws within a patriarchal system typically meant harsher punishments. Just as the father of a home meant a larger amount of fear in times of misbehavior, so too, in a patriarchy the leniency toward breaking the law is much less. It is also clear in that a patriarchal system calls things for what they are. An enemy is an enemy. In our modern era we have a difficult time defining an enemy. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and confuse mercy and justice with today’s notion of nice. Jesus told us to love our enemies, not pretend like they don’t exist. If a threat were on its way into the tribe or nation, the men gathered together to discuss how, to eradicate the threat and how best to protect those in their charge. This meant warfare. It meant conflict. It meant control. Not the control of a dictator, but rather the control earned through self-sacrifice and courage. Men had to lay their lives on the line in order to keep the tribe viable. They understood that if some of the men die, their progeny will go on. However, if the women died, they would have less opportunity to “fill the earth” with their offspring. Women were held in such high regard because their survival meant the survival of the people.
Indeed, there were obvious times when patriarchy was misused and are partially to blame for the misunderstanding today. Which is why I mention specifically “Christian Patriarchy.” The Christian man knows and understands the necessity of living like Christ Himself. He willingly lays his life down for his family and his people. St. Paul boasts patriarchy as we see in Ephesians 5, “For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church”. St. Paul’s understanding of patriarchy beseeches the male head to act just as the Crucified Christ did; self-sacrificial and honorable, he exhorted men to earn the right to be the head of the household, not through brute force of will but through charity.
This is yet another reason why Jesus is such a dangerous figure. He offers the way out of our troubles. He offers Christian patriarchy. When the Pharisees question his allegiance of Moses’ prescription of law, who allowed divorce to keep men from killing the women they were married to, he answers, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so”. Jesus refers back to the beginning of man. By going back to the beginning he doesn’t abolish the ideals of patriarchy, rather he challenges the status quo of vitriolic chauvinism and brings back to mind the role of Adam himself. Adam, finding himself alone and unfulfilled seeks his beloved. He seeks that which will be truly flesh of his flesh and fulfill the internal need within. Jesus thrashes the mere notion of fear between the sexes and rather institutes a masculinity based on crucified love. He doesn’t ask the men to be nice, rather he challenges them to interiorize the eternal law. He bids man to once again recognize the incredible gift of the feminine in their lives and to treat it as the crown jewel of creation.
I think it is high time we revisit the ideals of Christian patriarchy. A system of expectation given to men to step up and be the leaders they were called to be. For far too long men have set aside their duties as the protector, provider, and leader of their homes in both physical and spiritual matters. Patriarchy, complete in Christian virtue and principles, allows for a society and its morality to thrive because when men are leading their homes in following Christ, protecting them from physical and spiritual dangers, and providing the necessary material and spiritual goods, families thrive. This means men need to step up and stop acting like victims. Build your virtues, pray for grace, and get ready to take the helm. This is the way God intended it. This is the way we ought to as well.