Blog By Barry

January 9, 2009

Quote: Kyriarchy, Not Patriarchy

Filed under: Feminism, sexism, etc — Ampersand @ 12:22 am

Sudy at My Ecdysis writes:

Let me break this down for you. When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy. It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

Who’s at the bottom of the pyramid? Who do you think are at the bottom of the pyramid who are less likely to scheme and spend extravagant resources to further perpetuate oppression? I think of poor children with no roads out of hell, the mentally ill who are never “credible,” un-gendered or non-gender identified people, farm workers, modern day slaves…But, the pyramid stratifies itself from top to bottom. And before you start making a checklist of who is at the top and bottom – here’s my advice: don’t bother. The pyramid shifts with context. The point is not to rank. The point is to learn.

It’s about recognizing the power-over relationships that exist because of property, religion, security, economics, citizenship, and geography. Let’s not pretend that just because there are not many propertied males mucking around the fem blogosphere, there aren’t queen bees and wanna bees exercising the same kind of behavior. So when we talk about woman asserting power over other womyn, we’re talking kyriarchy. When you witness woman trying to dominate, define, outline the “movement” or even what an ally should be – that’s the kyriarchal ethos strong at work.

Via Daisy’s Dead Air, which is also a post well worth reading.

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14 Comments »

  1. typo in the title?

    Comment by nat — January 9, 2009 @ 5:20 am

  2. What accounts for having only male presidents in the history of the USA?

    Comment by purplefinn — January 9, 2009 @ 7:14 am

  3. Purplefinn, she isn’t denying that women are discriminated against. She’s arguing that sex isn’t the only dimension of oppression to consider.

    Nat, thanks for the catch — I’ve fixed it.

    Comment by Ampersand — January 9, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  4. […] Kyriarchy, Not Patriarchy Posted by Ampersand | January 9th, 2009 | Crossposted from Blog By Barry Sudy at My Ecdysis writes: Let me break this down for you. When people talk about patriarchy and […]

    Pingback by Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Quote: Kyriarchy, Not Patriarchy — January 9, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  5. OK, this is what I wrote at Alas. Here’s hoping I get some come-back!

    So am I right in thinking that the term Kyriarchy is being offered as an alternative to Patriarchy because the latter term implies that power lies in the hands of men – so that women are, so to speak, categorically exonerated from active participation in it? The “kyr” element, by contrast, could equally refer to master or mistress?

    For my part, I thoroughly agree that we must actually examine a given situation and its agents before deciding who has power over whom, and that such an examination should not be pre-empted by a priori adjudications. And I also agree with what Sudy seems to be driving at – that the term Patriarchy is used by some feminists to shore up such categorical thinking. (If that isn’t what she’s driving at here, somebody put me right.)

    The only thing I feel inclined to disagree with is

    Let’s not pretend that just because there are not many propertied males mucking around the fem blogosphere, there aren’t queen bees and wanna bees exercising the same kind of behavior.

    I think I can guess who Sudy has in mind here, but what has real-world power and privilege got to do with power and influence in the feminist (or other, for that matter) online commentariat? It is possible to be a highly successful queen bee (or silver-back gorilla), to dominate, bully and generally command a small army of online acolytes, without having anything more at one’s disposal than a laptop, an abundance of time and a certain ruthlessness.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — January 9, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  6. Purplefinn, she isn’t denying that women are discriminated against. She’s arguing that sex isn’t the only dimension of oppression to consider.
    Precisely. When a woman is treated unfairly its not always sexism at work.

    What accounts for having only male presidents in the history of the USA?
    A desire for power.

    And before you start making a checklist of who is at the top and bottom – here’s my advice: don’t bother. The pyramid shifts with context. The point is not to rank.
    There are a whole hell of a lot of activists, bloggers, and people in general that could stand to learn from this.

    Comment by Danny — January 9, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  7. By the way, Amp, I should very much like to continue the discussion we were having at FCs, when you’ve got time.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — January 9, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  8. Danny, are you saying there has never, in the whole history of the US, been a woman with a desire for power? Please.

    Comment by Ampersand — January 9, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  9. Tom, I think you’ve interpreted it correctly, although maybe I just have misinterpreted it in parallel with you. As I see it, she’s not denying that male domination and male-centrism ever exist; she’s pushing back against the implication that this is the only, or the pre-eminant, kind of oppression that exists. (For instance, Heart’s argument, discussed in Daisy’s post, that Christian women cannot be part of Christian-centrism.)

    Comment by Ampersand — January 9, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  10. Good point Amp so let me elaborate. Lots of people have a desire for power but in the end there has to be something that separates those that have from those that don’t.

    When it comes to the presidents it just be that those men were able to make the first move and then do everything they could to make sure only certain feet crossed the threshold.

    Comment by Danny — January 9, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  11. In the first paragraph you’ve quoted Sudy seems to miss what I think is the importance of the concept, that power and oppression aren’t based around gender (or indeed any of classic “classes”) but rather based on the complex intertwining of all human relationships.

    But then seems to identify many of the important traits that are of equal or greater importance when considering the issues of power or oppression:

    It’s about recognizing the power-over relationships that exist because of property, religion, security, economics, citizenship, and geography.

    Power in society is primarily a matter of who you know. Sexism (and racism, etc) has played and plays a role in peoples ability to form relationships with people who can empower them but it is far from the whole story.

    Comment by Desipis — January 9, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  12. I think I can guess who Sudy has in mind here, but what has real-world power and privilege got to do with power and influence in the feminist (or other, for that matter) online commentariat?

    Tom, you don’t think people with better educations and connections have more influence online than those of us who don’t have those privileges? Won’t someone with a better education have a superior vocabulary and better command of certain subjects, for example?

    YOU certainly enjoy putting people in their place whom you don’t deem as smart as YOU are, for instance. (((raises hand)))

    Well, the same goes for feminist blogdonia. Why is that surprising?

    Comment by daisydeadhead — January 10, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  13. Sorry, Daisy, I was going on what Sudy said about “propertied” males and females operating in the feminist blogosphere.

    And I apologize if I come over as wanting to “put people in their place”. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes what people write puts me in a towering rage, and I find the best way to avoid actually insulting them as interlocutors is to put a lot of stylistic “distance” between what I’m writing and what I’m feeling. It is honestly not an attempt to put people in their place. (Except in the case of Kiuku, perhaps.) I actually wanted to engage you on FCs recently, and I was genuinely upset when you seemed too embroiled in heated “discussion” (before walking out) with others to notice. I don’t consider myself to have had a superior education – for years I was a dish-washer and a vagrant – nor do I consider myself to be intelligent above the average, and on the other hand I do admire you as a blogger and I think we could profitably debate, as well as profitably agree about, all sorts of things.

    Maybe this is the place to do it.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — January 11, 2009 @ 5:16 am

  14. Won’t someone with a better education have a superior vocabulary and better command of certain subjects, for example?

    I think there’s a stark difference between using the skills developed through education to form and articulate a strong argument to support your position, and simply claiming that your qualifications automatically make your position the “best” one. The later is what I would understand as putting someone in their place (ie “you’re uneducated therefore you can’t possibly have any useful input”).

    Comment by Desipis — January 11, 2009 @ 4:48 pm


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