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.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com. During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com.

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