I govern the Athenians, my wife governs me.

Themistocles, 528 to 462 нс*1

Patriarchy versus matriarchy: government structure versus family structure

You can cut off a man s head if a man be a bachelor, sir; but if he be a married man, no; for a married man is a woman s; for to cut off a married man’s head is to cut off a woman’s head, and I cannot cut off a woman’s head.

Shakespeare in Measure for Measure

When we say we lived in a patriarchy, we think of living under a male – dominated government or power struaure. We forget that a family had at least as much power as the government in people’s everyday life, and that the family was female dominated We forget that it too was a power struaure. As we have seen, though, almost every woman had a primary role in the female-dominated family struaure, only a small percentage of men had a primary1 role in the male-dominated governmental and religious struaures.

Although a man’s home was more likely to be his mortgage than his castle, it has always been a charaaeristic of men that they give lip service to their dominance even as another pan of them is aware of their subser­vience. . .

If taking on a wife for life in an institution called marriage were a sign of male privilege, why did “husband" derive from the Germanic ’house’’ and the Old Norse for "bound” or "bondage?68 Why did it also come from words meaning "a male kept for breeding," "one who tills the soil," and “the male of the pair of lower animals ’69 Conversely, if marriage were as awful for women as many feminists claim, why is it the centerpiece of female fantasies in myths and legends of the past, or romance novels and soap operas of the present?

Spartan boys who were deprived of their families were deprived, not privileged. Boys deprived of women’s love until they risked their lives at work or war were also deprived – or dead. Training boys to kill boys was considered moral when it led to survival, immoral only when it threatened survival. In these respects, patriarchy created male deprivation and male death, not male privilege

In any way that is meaningful, though, we have never lived solely in a patriarchy or a matriarchy but in a combined patriarchy and matriarchy within each society. There was not male dominance but male and female dominance – a division of dominance that reflected the division of roles – each sex dominant in the area in which they had responsibilities and risked death – dominant where they were also subservient.

Like male privileges, female privileges (eg., to be protected without killing or being killed) were the rewards of a role well followed. Both sexes were rewarded with identity when they followed well, punished with invisibility when they failed, death if they protested. The paradox of masculinity was that the men who followed best were called leaders. In fact, they were not really leaders, but followers – of a program called leadership.

All of this can no more be called only patriarchy or male dominance than matriarchy or female dominance In fact, it was neither. And both.