Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:15 on 21-09-2009, Andy G
"I think it's incredibly tough to make this call"

That's why I said it was pointless quibbling ... though I think I came across "patriarchy" in the feminist sense by osmosis rather than by ever being explicitly taught about feminism. I think I probably originally came across both terms in some D&D manual, which provided most of my education in my teenage years ...
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at 16:35 on 21-09-2009, Arthur B
The Guardian thinks he's being persecuted, but I think that Tesco have cunningly caught out the Sith within our midst. (Read their response to him at the bottom of the article.)
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at 16:20 on 21-09-2009, Arthur B
Elite is 25, and the BBC has a really nice video on the subject.

Completely overshadowed these days by EVE Online, of course, but I have fond memories of it...
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at 15:50 on 21-09-2009, Arthur B
For fear of quibbling pointlessly ... it seems to me that people are more likely to come across the term "patriarchy" in its modern usage than the word "patriarch", so that someone unfamiliar with the first term is just going to have to look in a dictionary rather than try to interpret it in terms of some other term they're less likely to have heard of.


I think it's incredibly tough to make this call. I was aware of Patriarchs long before I heard the term "patriarchy"; I suspect the same is true of anyone with even a passing contact with Orthodox Christianity. And how many people are really closely acquainted enough with feminist discourse enough to be familiar with the term?

I was never taught feminist philosophy in school, but I was taught about the major forms of Christianity in RE.
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at 15:05 on 21-09-2009, Andy G
"Confronted with the term "patriarchy", they're going to grasp for contexts in which they've heard similar words before, and hit on "patriarch""

For fear of quibbling pointlessly ... it seems to me that people are more likely to come across the term "patriarchy" in its modern usage than the word "patriarch", so that someone unfamiliar with the first term is just going to have to look in a dictionary rather than try to interpret it in terms of some other term they're less likely to have heard of. And I'm not sure you really need to have studied classics to understand the modern usage which can be grasped through pop feminism and an awareness of modern European societies. I think more unusual interpretations (e.g. the Patriarch Conspiracy Theory) are due to misunderstandings of these modern concepts, rather than a lack of a classical education.

I think advantage of the term patriarchy over andocracy is that it does, like you say, have the stronger suggestion of fatherlike power relationships rather than the more general idea of males having more power.
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at 15:00 on 21-09-2009, Robinson L
That interpretation problem is one I've had in using the word "patriarchy" in conversations with some of my friends. Not that I knew the precise derivation either—I just picked up the gist of it.

@Dan: Thanks for enlightening me, and fair enough. I'm just used to people using terms like "natural," and "the way the world works" as synonyms for "inevitable."
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at 14:01 on 21-09-2009, Arthur B
I'm not sure that's a problem with the term patriarchy itself, but with the way in which these kind of terms get interpreted.

And who is interpreting it.

"Patriarchy", as a term, makes a lot of sense if you are talking about the subject with people who've had a classical education and understand the family structure of ancient Greece and Rome, where the family patriarch (the "man of the house") was basically king of his own little domain. In that sense everyone understands that "patriarchy" is the idea that men in general, and men in a position of seniority in particular, are automatically put in charge of all decisions within their sphere of influence by society.

On the other hand, most people haven't studied classics. Confronted with the term "patriarchy", they're going to grasp for contexts in which they've heard similar words before, and hit on "patriarch", which I suspect for most people has (perhaps thanks to the Orthodox church) connotations of distant, powerful, influential men given vast amounts of power, rather than Mr Wilson of the Wilson family next door.

On the other hand, "patriarchy" does sound much more grown up than "Daddy knows best", even though it's the same concept (so long as you have a wide enough definition of "Daddy").
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at 12:53 on 21-09-2009, Wardog
Yes, I know :) I sent Dax an email on that very subject yesterday - also in a bizarre turnabout of smallness it turns that Mr Dillon and I have already met (he was dropping a cricket bat on my friend's head at the time).
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at 11:42 on 21-09-2009, Jamie Johnston
Hello all, I'm back from being briefly away. Haven't yet caught up on the lots of words that seem to have occurred in the last few days, but meanwhile: I inadvertently got us mentioned on the Eclectic Podcast. Wooo! (Although Mr Dillon reads it out so quickly that quite possibly no one will be able to work out what the word before 'dot com' is. But still.)
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at 08:54 on 21-09-2009, Andy G
"I think the problem with the term "patriarchy" is that to many people it implies the existence of Patriarchs"

I'm not sure that's a problem with the term patriarchy itself, but with the way in which these kind of terms get interpreted. It's the same issue as with "racism", which as Dan has argued is often assumed to be a problem with individual cardboard cut-out racists rather than widespread social trends that almost everyone unconsciously participates in.
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at 23:44 on 20-09-2009, Rami
it implies the existence of Patriarchs, which in turn evokes images of shadowy men conspiring to keep women down behind the scenes
Arthur! Are you forgetting Section 3, Subparagraph 2b of the Agreement we signed when we were issued our Y chromosomes and PrivilegePaks™? *Never* even mention the existence of you-know-who!
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at 17:53 on 20-09-2009, Arthur B
I think the problem with the term "patriarchy" is that to many people it implies the existence of Patriarchs, which in turn evokes images of shadowy men conspiring to keep women down behind the scenes. Which is kind of a misnomer, since I would bet that 99% of the time the beneficiaries and/or perpetrators of patriarchy (as Dan defines it) don't consciously think about this sort of thing at all, which is what makes it so pernicious.

But then again, what better word is there? Androcracy?
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at 10:55 on 20-09-2009, Dan H
I'd rather avoid the "nature" argument altogether (I've never understood the logic that says that "natural" is the same thing as "good").

Broadly I'd tend to define "patriarchy" as "pretty much the way the world works" - that's not the same as exiting in nature, it's just a statement of the state of society as it is. In particular, I think people tend to assume that "patriarchy" has to mean "a conscious attempt by men to repress women".

"Alien brood mother" is one of the "standard" female archetypes in SF - including it is therefore not *contrary* to conventional definitions of femininity, and is therefore patriarchal.
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at 20:00 on 19-09-2009, Robinson L
Dan: the fact that the people who ran it thought that a quiz of that sort was a good way to test how well students had been taught. That, to me, betrays a rather terrifying attitude to the business of education.

Rami: In that case I strongly suggest, for your sanity's sake, that you never read the details of the No Child Left Behind policy that's run US public education for the last few years.


And they wonder why I favor homeschooling ...

Dan, that was my understanding of the original article's intention. I'm curious to learn more about your understanding of the concept of "patriarchy" though, as it seems to differ from mine. (By my understanding, patriarchy is a wholly human system with no direct parallels in nature, although its apologists often point to specific aspects of nature in attempts to argue its inevitability.)
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at 17:26 on 19-09-2009, Arthur B
I am pretty sure that most 5 year olds believe that kissing is gross, whoever is doing it. At least, that's what I thought.
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at 15:54 on 19-09-2009, Dan H
Perhaps I'm a cynic, but there's something that rings false about the five year old fanfic thing. It just doesn't feel like the way a real five year old would talk. Like the note about them going into the "big movie room" which "ebi calls a the-ay-tahr". Kids learn the proper names for things from the people around them, if somebody you trust calls it a "theaytahr" then that's what you'll assume it's called.

I'm not saying it's definitely a fake, but I would be largely unsurprised to find out that it was.
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at 00:10 on 19-09-2009, Viorica
Ladies and gentlemen, the youngest fanfic writer ever.
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at 22:44 on 18-09-2009, Rude Cyrus
I found the rachni queen to be pretty damn sexy. *bow-chika-wow-wow*

Um, anyway, I read both of those Mass Effect articles, and I'm reminded of why I refuse to debate the ethical or artistic aspects of a video game -- inevitably, the discussion devolves into a virtual shouting match of "You're wrong!" and "No, YOU'RE wrong, you homophobe/misogynist/feminazi/bigot!" All I care about is whether or not the damn thing entertained me. If there was some misogynistic or bigoted detail in the game, I'll take that into consideration. Was I disappointed in the lack of females for the alien races? Yes, and I hope it gets addressed in the sequel. Did it ruin my enjoyment of the game? No. It's great that there are individuals willing to debate the finer points of gaming, but sometimes it's taken way too far.
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at 21:21 on 18-09-2009, Dan H
First, am I the only person to understand the original author to be saying: “the decision to have an ugly arachnoid queen whose only purpose is to have lots of children as the only non-sexy female alien in a game with six all-male races is patriarchal,” not “having a character who is an arachnoid queen whose only purpose is to have lots of children is patriarchal in itself”? Was that really less clear than I thought?


I think it's a bit of both actually, part of the problem is that "patriarchy" isn't the vast slavering demon which anti-feminists pretend that feminists are talking about. It's just kinda the way the world works. The actual line in the original is just a pre-emptive rebuttal to anybody who might suggest that the Rachni brood queen (who, let us not forget, chooses to speak through a hot Asari chick) constitutes a "strong female character" who isn't an over-sexualised fantasy figure aimed at straight men.
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at 20:48 on 18-09-2009, Rami
the fact that the people who ran it thought that a quiz of that sort was a good way to test how well students had been taught. That, to me, betrays a rather terrifying attitude to the business of education.
In that case I strongly suggest, for your sanity's sake, that you never read the details of the No Child Left Behind policy that's run US public education for the last few years.
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at 20:44 on 18-09-2009, Dan H
If they're not being taught effectively all these things (which while not desperately important are frequently repeated) then how effectively are they being taught all the things which are more important but less often repeated?


Maybe it's my hatred of rote learning, but it strikes me that there's two options here:

1) The Oklahoma schoolkids didn't know the answers to these questions because Oklahoma schools have stopped drilling these facts into kids' heads, in favour of actually teaching them stuff. This would be a good thing.

2) The Oklahoma schoolkids didn't know the answers to these questions because although they *had* been drilled into their heads repeatedly, they hadn't remembered them. This would strike me as strong evidence that drilling factiods into students' heads isn't a good way to teach them stuff.

To put it another way, what I found depressing about the study was the fact that the people who ran it thought that a quiz of that sort was a good way to test how well students had been taught. That, to me, betrays a rather terrifying attitude to the business of education.
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at 19:58 on 18-09-2009, Rami
fundamental to understanding how the American government works
Not sure I said that -- and in fact I think you can have a fair idea of how lots of the government (and quite likely the parts that are relevant to you, e.g. your Congressperson's policies) works without even knowing the legislature is bicameral. But they are fundamental to how they're taught, which I think is the greater issue here. If they're not being taught effectively all these things (which while not desperately important are frequently repeated) then how effectively are they being taught all the things which are more important but less often repeated?
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at 19:47 on 18-09-2009, Rude Cyrus
It distresses me because a lot of those questions are, like Rami said, fundamental to understanding how the American government works.
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at 19:07 on 18-09-2009, Rami
But I still don't know if I'd say that made them markers of intelligence.
Oh, absolutely -- I don't think they are at all. I think what they do show, though, is either that none of the students could be bothered with the test (not inconceivable) or that the Oklahoma school system is quite significantly suboptimal.
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