Saturday, June 16, 2007


Thanks, Dad! Patriarchy, the word and the concept, has gotten bad press in the past few decades. And that's a shame, because patriarchy, a.k.a. fatherhood, is perhaps the key element of civilized society.

The mother-child bond is irrefutably primary, dictated by nature, by biology. In a completely natural (i.e. savage) society, the one stable relationship would be the one between mother and child. As social beings, humans would still congregate and form other, lesser relationships (when I hear "it takes a village to raise a child", I picture a circle of grass huts occupied by women and children, with the men off in the bush), but motherhood is primary.

Fatherhood is a bit more tenuous. It requires two steps that go beyond biology: 1) the bonding of the woman to one man, and 2) the acceptance of that bond by the man, the decision to shoulder responsibility. When the woman thus 'belongs' to the man, he can know that her children belong to him as well. Thus he will be motivated to care for the children whom he now knows as his own. Further, he will be motivated to care for his wife. And, thirdly, other men become his partners in this patriarchal arrangement, rather than sexual rivals. And all that makes civilization possible.

In simple terms, civilization consists of the domestication of men, the protection of women, and the nurturing of children in stable homes. And the early feminists were correct: this structure is patriarchal. Only by putting fathers in charge is it going to happen.

Put another way: Without fathers there would be no families (there would only be 'villages'). Without families, there would be no real civilization.

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