Hanna Rosin wishes we’d just admit the patriarchy is dead

Did you know the patriarchy is dead? No? Well, that just must be your willful blindness and devotion to the status quo talking.

On Wednesday, Hanna Rosin published an essay, adapted from the new epilogue of The End of Men, insisting that systemic sexism is a relic of history and we should all stop whining. Weirdos like us — the kind who use the word “patriarchy” unironically — are too angry, too loud, too irrational: basically too everything male anti-feminists have been telling us for years to keep us from agitating for change. According to Rosin, everything is fine for all the ladies now. We’re just too invested in the idea of misogyny and the “old order” to recognize our victory.

There are a lot of problems with Rosin’s piece (which I take personally not only as an angry woman who often uses the word “patriarchy” but as someone whose activism was misrepresented to fit an anti-feminist narrative in The End of Men). One of my favorite responses was from my former classmate Nora Caplan-Bricker at the New Republic. It’s worth a read for background alone and links to some other great critiques honing in on irrefutable counter-evidence and Rosin’s complete erasure of everyone who isn’t a wealthy, cis white woman (if you read Rosin’s piece and want to laugh/cry some more, specially note the accompanying photo). But I particularly appreciated Caplan-Bricker’s explanation of how Rosin’s insistence that the patriarchy doesn’t exist perpetuates that same systemic misogyny.

Caplan-Bricker writes:

There’s a long and storied tradition of people (usually men) telling women what they think—“You may be under the impression you think this, but it’s really that.” In recent years, this has been referred to as “mansplaining,” but it used to go by another word: “patriarchy.” And women can be instruments of the patriarchy, too..

Rosin, in her epilogue, says she wishes she could show her incensed critics that patriarchy isn’t what they think, but is “too complicated to pin on a single enemy.” She’s right about that. Patriarchy isn’t just the ratio of men to women in Congress or on Fortune 500 lists. It’s also a set of societal norms, invented by men but internalized and imparted by everyone, that says women shouldn’t be too big or too loud or with hair in the wrong places—that determines women should be one way and not any other… When she accuses feminists of shackling themselves because they’re too scared to be free, she’s not only wrong that patriarchy is dead, she’s keeping it alive.

Check out the whole piece here.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

Read more about Alexandra

Join the Conversation