This is a guest post by Lucinda Hancock
I am a wife and the mother of eight wonderful children, and with each passing year I become more alarmed at the societal problems they will inherit. Considering how to prepare them, I’ve realized they need to understand their own nature and to discern which choices lead to which outcomes. I want my sons to become worthy men, particularly in treating women with respect. I want my daughters to know how to balance the desire for self-giving with the desire for self-respect.
I am among many women who are coming to understand that feminism has its problems. But the difficulty is in finding an alternative that ensures women are cared for and protected from men who are likely to demean and misuse them. Women need to have high standards for sexual relationships because of the physical and emotional demands of having children, and men generally don’t consider the price women pay in such a pursuit. Relationship negotiations between women and men affect the larger society, and currently, dishonest men have counterfeited the standards for masculine behavior, causing inflation in expectations of what men will promise on the one hand and debased expectations of what men deliver on the other. This has led to an atmosphere of disillusionment among women regarding their relationships with men.
This disillusionment has been useful to feminism. Before I questioned feminism, I would have put feminism and male chauvinism on opposite sides of a spectrum. Male chauvinists assert that the masculine perspective is superior in every respect, and I believed feminists asserted the superiority of the feminine perspective. Yet I found that, in practice, feminism holds women to a standard which rejects the vital importance of femininity, judging women instead based on measures more apt for assessing genderless, and even masculine, performance. Chauvinistic men have successfully made women feel that having children is mainly a personal feminine benefit, and therefore not deserving more of society’s special attention than any other personal interest. Feminists contribute to this idea by asserting that mothers don’t need men, pushing women further from demanding the help they need from men in doing the hard work of building relationships and families, and society itself.
Feminism, like chauvinism, works against the truly feminine interests of most women. The question is what is on the opposite side? What ideology serves the interests of the feminine perspective? The unexpected answer is patriarchy.
What is patriarchy?
Of first concern to women is being able to count on men to fulfill obligations as fathers, allowing women to take on motherhood without the extreme hardships of single-parenthood. Unfortunately, there are always men who reject the offer of a meaningful connection with their children, obtaining reproductive opportunities by deception, and sometimes force, fully intending to avoid any responsibilities as fathers. The efforts of these men throughout history to gain power and social influence have always posed a threat to society because they disregard obligations to children, even their own, and instead, impose disadvantages on them and their mothers. Good fathers cannot tolerate misbehavior in other men because it endangers their daughters and wives and sets a corrupt example for their sons. As a society, we understand fatherhood as an accomplishment rather than a granted aspect of human nature, whereas we have come to regard patriarchy with a distrust arising from the misuse of male physical dominance. But the term itself is derived from the Greek for ‘rule by fathers’, specifically those who fulfill their duty as heads of a household. Patriarchy is the social project of insisting men act as fathers in a meaningful and productive way before allowing them to lead in society, using their role as father to teach their own children and to promote moral fatherhood throughout society. At its root, patriarchy begins with the same understanding we have of involved and responsible fatherhood, that such men are a crucial asset to their wives and children, as well as the whole society, and that a man who responsibly provides for his children, including supporting their mother in her physical, social, and emotional needs, is the only type of man whose proven trustworthiness secures respectability.
In modern times, men who seek to evade fatherhood have almost succeeded in completely overturning even the idea that men should be judged based on how they act as fathers. In fact, degenerate ‘patriarchies’, which devalue women and children by encouraging abuse of paternal power, have become the standard-bearer for the term patriarchy. These corrupted ‘patriarchies’ have turned their backs on authentic fatherhood as a basis for assigning leadership, and only promote the interests of men who are direct enemies of fathers committed to the protection of the interests of women. The fact that they claim to represent patriarchy is a victory for the kind of men who prefer to deceive or outright rape women instead of sincerely loving them. Fathers must persistently combat these self-centered men, and recognize that they will in turn always fight to undermine and destroy the idea of committed fatherhood.
Patriarchy distributes power throughout society by channeling natural male competitive instincts in fathers toward keeping the bad behavior of other men in check, thus diffusing power to ensure rule of law, instead of rule of individuals. All men have instincts toward behavior inimical to committed fatherhood, so patriarchal structure must be rooted in a fixed moral law which provides the logical consistency and direction necessary to produce responsible fatherhood. Identifying such a law must be done by consulting actual fathers whose personal success as assets to individual women and children signal understanding of true principles regarding fatherhood.
Patriarchy can feel problematic for many of us. But we can examine where patriarchies often fail and determine whether it is a failure inherent to patriarchy or a failure produced by a departure from patriarchy. For example, a double standard occurs when parents fear that chastity is too hard for their sons, so they hold a standard which tolerates a “wild oats” phase for their sons, while demanding a rule of chastity for their daughters. This rests on a false belief that young men can engage in “sowing wild oats” without significantly damaging their ability to be good fathers later on. It usually entails an unjust assumption that men have no obligation to respect certain groups of women and their children. But such behavior severely damages a man’s moral character as he habituates himself to devaluing women and his own potential children. Parents who hold a double standard regarding chastity do so to the detriment of their own sons, and the father in particular is actually betraying his patriarchal duty to guide sons toward responsible fatherhood.
Unfortunately, it may take generations for a large portion of society to recognize the damage incurred by such a miscalculation, leading sincere parents to desire guidance and insight beyond mortal experience. And this is what we find in God. His understanding spans generations, and gives direction to help us achieve our wholesome desires rather than wasting effort on goals that thwart our best interests. God, as the Father of all, values humanity as a father does his own children. He establishes a firm standard of fatherhood, a standard which answers urgent questions about what a good father does and what just treatment of others means. With this framework firmly in place, patriarchy can be established to benefit all those willing to live by it.
Promoting worthy fatherhood
Involved fatherhood is a signal of responsible citizenship because it is not particularly natural to men and must be taken up as a matter of rational intent. Examining reproduction from a biological perspective shows us what is necessary to induce more men to participate as responsible fathers. The fact that children simply cannot survive from conception through infancy without maternal attention has ensured that maternal instinct is deeply embedded in women’s genetic heritage. But the necessarily male biological contribution ends with conception, making men genetically inclined to view continued effort after conception as primarily the concern of women, and making it easy to overlook the fact that male sexual instinct exists as an impetus toward reproduction. (Female instinct primarily involves creating relationships that will aid in a child’s survival, which is nearly impossible without some freely-given assistance, in other words, love.) And where mothers through pregnancy and childbirth have a sure knowledge that the child is theirs, men have a limited ability to know if a child is their own, unless some mechanism exists to give them assurance of female fidelity.
Women forget this difference in genetic confidence and assume that men should be naturally motivated toward being involved fathers in every circumstance. Certainly there are men of exceptional character whose commitment to honorable duty outweighs personal biological interest and it’s a worthwhile pursuit to encourage men to strive to attain honorable character even when it is personally costly to them, but society cannot take such character for granted. It must find ways to induce men of common character to contribute.
Significant factors of paternal uncertainty are that female fertility is intermittent and gestation is lengthy. Men don’t have conscious awareness of when a woman is fertile, only of when she probably is not (due to advanced pregnancy or age.) This means a low-status male can completely fail to reproduce, despite being sexually active. A small amount of marital cheating by a few dominant men can deprive lower-status married men of certain paternity which means that most faithful married men, even in ostensibly monogamous communities, have a decided biological disadvantage. Men are less inclined toward social investment to begin with, so where monogamous sexual mores have failed as thoroughly as in modern culture, they typically don’t see any gain from being married at all. Uncertain paternity means men need a higher number of possible offspring to feel confident that at least one of them is actually theirs. (Technological advances, such as paternity tests, offer no effective assurance of paternity, unless a man has the skills and resources to personally carry out such testing. This natural skepticism is based on men’s understanding that there are other men out to cuckold them, particularly when the entire society disdains the ideal of feminine fidelity.)
It takes quite a bit of time and effort after a man is reproductively capable before he can become a good father with the ability to both provide for a wife and children, and effectively protect them from dangers. They must be able to protect their wives and daughters in particular from seducers, abusers and rapists. A mature, dominant man, in addition to easily gaining focused female attention, can confidently invest some of his effort (including his superior male capacity for territorial protection) into directly ensuring the survival and prosperity of children he knows are his. Most men would prefer to have the focused attention of a fertile woman, but in a state of nature, only a man who has achieved dominance can easily access this strategy. A young man’s inability to materially provide and protect sharply limits his access to devoted women, restricting his options and leading to his instinctive desire to use deception, and sometimes force, to play the odds by maximizing his raw number of possible conceptions, hoping some will survive to adulthood without any further help from him.
Once patriarchy makes sexual misbehavior very costly on the one hand, while providing a reasonable opportunity to access the superior strategy of having a devoted wife on the other, more young men will be able to forgo the odds-playing strategy in exchange for the preferred strategy of dominant men. This aspect of patriarchy which helps to assure a wife’s fidelity to her husband is a reliable way to unlock instinctive desires in fathers to help their children. Giving children their father’s instinctive affection can typically only be done with the assistance of the whole community in requiring men to act with responsibility and testifying to a couple’s marital commitment. Failure of social mechanisms and sexual mores set up to reassure men of paternity means that many men withdraw from innate concern for the welfare of women and children. Individuals who contribute to an atmosphere of retribution against men for wanting female fidelity, and thus certain paternity, are depriving children of the benefits of knowing their fathers.
Patriarchy acknowledges the committed father’s unique authority over the moral instruction of his own children. A woman experiences a biologically driven instinct to go along with the dominant authorities of her social group. Where a mother is at odds with her husband, she has the ability as the child’s mother to use her greater natural influence over her child to undermine her husband’s desire to teach his own children according to his personal knowledge. Rendering authority to her husband appears on the surface to curtail the mother’s immediate interests, but it is an important way to protect her ultimate interests, both in fostering agreement in the prevalent social order and in having the maximum support of an involved father for her children. A system that fails to provide a significant incentive for husbands to stay and remain involved will mean fewer men commit, or remain committed, to responsible fatherhood.
Patriarchy and motherhood
Women in a patriarchy receive help in avoiding men who will not materially alleviate the burdens of bearing and rearing children. On the one hand, patriarchy promotes mature adulthood in men. A single woman has a greater probability of attracting a desirable, marriageable man, because of the greater proportion of such men in the population. On the other hand, and of highest importance to women, is that vulnerability to unscrupulous men who sexually exploit women is reduced when committed fathers, having tied their self-interest with that of their families, hold positions of social leadership and men who refuse to accept paternal responsibility are barred from such positions of influence. A community of responsible fathers imposes significant physical threats that severely curtail opportunities for abusing women and abandoning children.
Requiring men to respect and support women in the pursuit of motherhood is an important aspect of patriarchy. Supporting motherhood is the most urgently compelling purpose of all male social organization and innovation. Men are less naturally dependent on established structures for their own survival. Women, particularly as mothers, are not similarly agreeable to solitude and untamed nature. Mothers will be happier and have an easier time raising children when careful preparation of a secure and comfortable home environment has been made. Human beings have particularly difficult childbirth and especially helpless and vulnerable infants, leading to a need for significant material and emotional help. Attentive fathers know that a mother’s careful preparation is good for children, therefore patriarchy as a matter of course invests in celebrating motherhood and materially alleviating burdens from mothers.
Some have argued that this effort demeans the abilities and intelligence of women, pampering them and encouraging them to be weak. They argue that womanhood in general can be celebrated, without singling out motherhood in particular. But this generalized ‘celebration of women’ effectively discourages motherhood because the sacrifices inherent in motherhood are significant. When women can access greater independence, material gain, and other goals and still be celebrated by dominant social authorities for their contributions ‘as women’, almost all women will restrict their investments in motherhood despite their maternal instincts. Celebration of womanhood in general makes motherhood into an illogical choice for individual women, no matter how urgent it remains to the survival of the community. Also, men are by nature attracted primarily to women who are not yet mothers, and instinctively devote more effort to pursuing relationships with women at the beginning of their reproductive years. Failing to focus on mothers in particular thus leads to society-wide worship of youth and childlessness instead. This leads women to pursuing the ultimately futile endeavor of maintaining youthful appearance and lifestyle, rather than developing skills and experience that bring long-term satisfaction and are particularly useful for prepared motherhood. (This intensified focus on nubile womanhood has also led our society to the shameful practice of sexualizing little girls.)
In the current social climate, many who care for women have come to the conclusion that the best way to help them is to indoctrinate them against the strong desire to become mothers. But this often pushes women further from expecting men to help them in giving themselves and their children the best situation possible. Human nature needs women to cherish goals relating to motherhood. It works against long-term prosperity of society for women to feel ashamed of instinctive desires to move beyond virginal appeal and become mothers. Women will have a better sense of well-being, as well as better results in mate-selection, when they are able to trust that leaders in their community will help them be good mothers. Fathers have the responsibility to identify and repudiate dominant ideological and cultural authorities, such as feminism, which direct women away from achieving goals of motherhood and undermine effective control over disruptive aspects of male instinct. Patriarchy invites a woman toward to fulfilling her most essential desires, and gives women the chance to be at peace with themselves as women, as mothers in particular, an elusive feeling in modern times as a result of our culture’s failure to promote motherhood.
Civilization is preserved through strong families and falls when families disintegrate.
Patriarchy seeks to give children committed parental affection, unhampered by the profound stresses of unprepared motherhood, uncertain paternity, or inadequate paternal involvement, and incentivizes the creation of strong families. It is in the family where children are best prepared for success in life and an ability to contribute meaningfully to their society. The mother is able to offer an unconditional love to her child because she has a special link that develops during pregnancy and the initial phase of a child’s life. During that time she and the child do not have distinct biological interests. What’s harmful to the mother is harmful to the child and what’s harmful to the child is harmful to the mother.
This biological entanglement creates a need in the mother to prioritize the safety of the child, equal to her own survival instinct. This is the basis for the child’s sense of innate self-worth. The father, on the other hand, is best suited to the task of disciplining children and giving them a sense of what they owe to others. His ability to not be overly sympathetic with his children makes him capable of effectively disciplining them, and otherwise challenging them to venture out of their comfort zone. His ability to do so without suffering too much psychological distress makes it relatively easier for him to use the rational part of his mind in helping his children learn. This is essential to moral development. (Some assume that this essentially masculine contribution to parenting is not necessary, but children without a father in the home have difficulty learning to behave in an ethical and moral way.) Thus while maternal attention feeds into a sense of self, paternal attention feeds a sense how to relate to others. Where maternal attention is lacking, children mostly suffer from a low sense of self worth, and where paternal attention is lacking, children mostly disregard any need to consider their obligations to others.
The structure of the family will direct children toward achievement of their most innate desires. This involves intentional instruction, as well as modeling father for the boy and mother for the girl. Some disparage the sex-differentiated social constructs that aid children in their transition to adulthood. Although it’s true that some children seem to defy gender categorizations, it is counter-productive to eliminate traditions which prepare children for future desires. Even supposing most innate differences don’t occur until after puberty, it is better to prepare children for future decisions and opportunities they will actually face. Puberty changes little girls into young women and little boys into young men. We shouldn’t pretend that we don’t know what options they will have for accomplishing their future desires. Predictability is vital for reasonable decision-making and so much more when those decisions need to be made fairly early in life to access their full benefits. It’s heart-breaking to see so many have to learn from personal experience the damage that certain choices bring.
In addition to being an indispensable source of moral citizens, strong families place high priority in teaching their children skills that lead to success, both social and economic. Each generation need not reinvent the wheel. Generational build-up of knowledge is essential to the advancement of civilization. And the morality inculcated in families is what keeps civilization running. The shared morality concerning property rights gives enterprising individuals the strong assurance that the workmanship of their hands won’t be stolen with impunity. Similarly, other shared values that lead to more individual freedom and societal development are fostered in strong families.
Paradoxically, patriarchy facilitates prosperity and civilization, which in turn enables a relaxation of vital social norms and sexual mores, astonishing more natural societies who never effectively instituted principles productive of stable civilization. This has certainly been the case in our time. Once vigilance wanes and important leadership positions are occupied by men who are callously indifferent to the needs of children and women as mothers, patriarchy can no longer function to connect children to good fathers. When a man has no assurance that a wife will prioritize his genetic relationship to children, nor honor his desire to rear his children to success as he sees it, the fundamental incentive for men to marry in the first place, or remain committed to marriage, disintegrates. The inevitable result is children increasingly sired by the least worthy men in society, especially those with complete disregard for the welfare of their children, and raised with far less input from the best of men. Thus, the paternal transmission of morality becomes intermittent. Mothers can assist and enable their children to consume for the purposes of safety and survival, but mothers on their own have a harder time teaching children to be independent, self-reliant and morally accountable. When the proliferation of those who consume and return no benefit becomes the rule, civilized conduct wanes. Production falters as uncivilized conduct leads to the trampling of basic property rights. No prosperity can long survive this kind of consumption in the absence of production.
Genuine patriarchy is difficult to maintain and live consistently, so it is understandable that our society has become suspicious of patriarchy. Men and women, both in their reproductive decisions and as parents, have a host of natural inclinations that work against the successful implementation of true patriarchy. There are many opportunities for men to abuse authority when vigilance ensuring committed fatherhood lapses. But working hard to recognize involved and moral fathers as the only men fit for the task of governing society is a reliable way to ensure the feminine perspective is promoted. Patriarchy gives women a greater ability to benefit their children, largely because of benefits they enjoy as mothers. Men are directed toward more intelligent use of their natural masculine abilities and greater worthiness and participation in a larger project than their narrowest self-interest. Strong families form the basis of flourishing humanity which values children and is oriented toward the future. Unfortunately, the thriving prosperity brought about by these benefits can lead to a decay which threatens our continued existence. As we fail to renew our patriarchal heritage, our future will be subject to calamity as we descend from civilized life into a state of untamed human nature. We must reinvigorate our society through gratitude for our patriarchal heritage. We need to restore it as the foundation of true human prosperity and freedom.