On the Origin and Nature of Patriarchy (11)


On the Origin and Nature of Patriarchy (11)
by Azadeh Azad

11. The Core of Patriarchal Ideology

To summarize the process of the advent of patriarchy, it is necessary to state that once a man knows that he can establish a physical connection between himself and the child in the belly of his wife provided that no other man could have impregnated her, the idea of immortality comes to his head. He can transmit his name as well as his power and property to his sons – if he has them or has the hope of having them – and thus hang on to his power and wealth, even beyond death. Children bring the privilege of immortality and consequently, men too will be connected to the future. It is then even more worth the trouble of becoming greedy and accumulating treasures, of becoming a determined and cruel conqueror, to demand the ownership of a land or a herd and hold on to them at any price. Therefore, as the institution of social paternity is the basis of social class differences, its ideology becomes the ideology of the dominant class, spreading the pernicious notion of the natural necessity of the domination of one social group by another.

Patriarchal way of life is therefore motivated by a single condition: for a man to be sure that the child in the womb of his wife is definitely his, that he is the biological father. Since he cannot have the control of all other men, he chooses to have physical, mental and economic control of individual women. The physical control is translated by the appearance of harems, seclusions, veils, chastity belts, and the punishment of the adultery by death. On financial plan, where the woman guilty of adultery is not stoned to death, she will simply be banned from the home and condemned to die of hunger without right of appeal. Two of the most efficient mental and emotional controls are practised by suggesting to women the concepts of virtue, chastity, devotion, love, loyalty and fidelity, and by raising them, from their earliest childhood, dependent and emotionally handicapped. It is the patriarchal family, which provides the social frame for the exercise of this multiform control. Also, taboos enter into the game in order to exercise the necessary mental control. They have the advantage of allowing to spread this control, to a certain degree, on other men. Only a universal repression, especially that of women, can assure lineage by the father.


Azad, Azadée. 1985. La paternité usurpatrice, Editions du remue-ménage, Montréal, Qué.

O’Brien, Mary. 1981. The Politics of Reproduction, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.



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