Patriarchy protects women. Modern feminism makes us vulnerable.
When I was a radical feminist, I would tell anybody who would listen that patriarchy must be destroyed.
“It’s an exploitative system,” I would say. “Patriarchy oppresses women. We have to destroy it in order to bring about women’s liberation.”
It was in this mindset that I decided to move from small-town, northeastern America to San Francisco. San Francisco is a very feminist city, nearly the opposite of the more traditional towns in the rural U.S. “Finally!” I thought. “I’ll be around people who share my ideas and understand the way things ought to be.”
It took moving 3,000 miles away from home for me to realize that patriarchy isn’t a bad thing.
I learned very quickly that contrary to my seemingly progressive ideas, patriarchy doesn’t oppress women. It protects us.
Crime Runs Rampant without Strong Men
In San Francisco, I saw there was no shield of good masculinity protecting me from bad men. In San Francisco, criminals roam free, and almost every woman I met there had been the victim of some sort of crime — whether it be a car break-in, flashing, sexual assault, theft, or being followed. Usually, crime and bad behavior went completely ignored, and the streets were filled with chaos.
Every woman I met in San Francisco had been the victim of some sort of crime.
Women are physically smaller than men, and this makes us vulnerable in ways men are not. There’s a saying that the only thing that stops a bad man is a good man, and I learned the truth of this the hard way.
Patriarchy Means Men Protect Women
Patriarchy is a social system in which men are primarily responsible for governing social behavior and in which the father is the head of the family. In patriarchy, men feel a sense of duty to women, children, and the larger community. Men are entrusted to keep women safe.
Without many good men keeping the bad men in check, the worst kinds of men were free to roam San Francisco unchecked. It created a vacuum in which bad men were able to take advantage of the women around them in the absence of those who would act to stop or punish their bad behavior.
In patriarchy, men feel a sense of duty to women, children, and the larger community.
In feminism, being a “free and liberated” woman means “she can handle herself.” Without good men around, I was entirely responsible for my own safety. This left me with a lot to be anxious about! I learned I missed having men in the role of protector. Back in my small town, I could relax a lot more knowing good men were around me. Ironically, the patriarchy I had left behind and wanted to dismantle had made me freer than feminism did. I didn’t constantly have to watch my own back.
Patriarchy is easy to take for granted when you don’t know how things would be without it. Writer G.K. Chesterton used the example of a fence; he said a reformer may go up to a fence and say, “I don’t see any use of this. Let’s clear it away.” But if you want to change something because you think it isn’t useful, you should first learn about its history and try to discover why it was created in the first place.
It took moving 3,000 miles away from home for me to realize that patriarchy isn’t a bad thing — rather, it has a very important purpose and shouldn’t be dismantled. It has flaws and downsides, but given the choice, I’d rather live in a patriarchal society than a feminist one.