« Liberal Hawks and The Last Kiss. | Main | What Is Anti-Semitism? »

October 05, 2007

Don't Blame the Patriarchy

I quite agree with Dana. The patriarchy lives! That said, it's not why "auto workers are unionized, but house cleaners and hair dressers aren't." The variance in union density between those professions has much more to do with the legal and political era in which the auto companies were unionized, and the differences in organizational structure between hair salon employees (diffuse, lots of small businesses) and manufacturing employees (concentrated, large amounts of machinery which create value outside of the worker). Over the last few decades, various laws have made organizing tougher, and beyond that, it's simply harder to unionize service sector employees -- particularly immigrant service sector employees -- and when you do, there are fewer gains to distribute, as each individual worker's labor creates comparatively little value.

So salon workers aren't unionized for much the reason that most service sector employees aren't unionized, and for much the reason that only 7 percent of the private sector workforce is unionized. Things just aren't going that well for the unions. Which is a shame. Particularly for salon workers, who, as The Nation usefully explains, really need some regulatory help.

Update: Folks are right, trucking was a poor example. Unions are finding it very tough to organize contract truckers, but UPS, etc, also count as trucking.

October 5, 2007 | Permalink


Um, I think it might be wise to define "truckers." Teamsters were the original truckers, and while their membership and influence has waned drastically, this doesn't seem to be the most ideal sector of employment to use as an example.

See, for example, UPS.

Posted by: abject funk | Oct 5, 2007 2:02:36 AM

..and as for haircutters, the good ones need unions less than most of us. If you're good at your job, and your salon owner decides she can double her profit by doubling the price of your chair, you leave.

As did my wife's.

Guess who followed the scissors, not the chair?

Oh, it is to laugh.

Posted by: wcw | Oct 5, 2007 2:15:45 AM

Are you a fucking idiot Ezra? Here is the post you cite:

Over at Feministe, Jill posts a sad lament from a reader. See, she has this friend. And he's great. But he doesn't get feminism. He doesn't believe there's a patriarchy.

But do you think facts can ever convince a skeptic?

Shorter that post:

Lisa, I'd like to buy one of your rocks.

Ezra, you fucking politically correct asshole, there is no "Patriarchy" with a capital P. It's unfalsifiable pseudo-science.


All of your Modern feminists friends would agree that "the Patriarchy" is not just sexism.

Do you agree with that?

We all agree sexism exists. The feminists that seek to eliminate sexism are called equity feminists. You can find them at ifeminists.

But Amanda and all the other modern feminists that think you're dreamy insist that The Patriarchy is not just feminism.


And how do you measure it?

We can measure sexism. We can send people of different sexes, races, ages, religions to banks, employers, restaurants, renters, house sellers, and we can observer and measure who gets loans, who gets jobs, who is seated and how quickly, who is rented to, who is sold a house to, what rates people get, and all sorts of other observables related to sexism, ageism, racism, religious bigotry, etc.


Since you and your buddies insist that the Patriarchy is not sexism, HOW DO YOU PROPOSE WE MEASURE THE PATRIARCHY?

It cannot be measured.

It cannot be falsified.

If the Supreme Court had voted differently, would Dana be saying the Patriarchy didn't exist?

NO. She would just find something else to blame.

The Patriarchy cannot be falsified. It cannot be observed. It cannot be measured.

EZRA, you big brained fucktard, SHOW ME THE WORKS OF FICTION, show me the works of non-fiction, show me the plays, the movies, the books, the TV shows, the music that describe a world without the Patriarchy.


HOW DOES THAT WORLD LOOK DIFFERENT than a world without sexism. And it has to look different, because all of you patriarchy blamers insist that Patriarchy is different than sexism.

You can't show me these works describing a work without the Patriarchy, because in the entire history of feminism, ALMOST NONE HAVE BEEN CREATED.

What the fuck should that tell a sentient creature such as you claim to be, that there is no common well known works of fiction or art describing a world with the Patriarchy?

I can show you many such works describing worlds without sexism or ageism or religious bigotry. Star Trek leaps to mind.

Now then Ez, I've asked this question at many feminist forums, and at your forum, and at Matt's and there has never been an answer apart from some very old (1900ish) and acknowledged BIGOTED works describing a world without MEN.

So Ez, show me how the theory of the patriarchy can be falsified, show me how to measure it, and show me understandable and clear differences between the patriarchy and sexism.

Or go fuck yourself.

Posted by: blowme | Oct 5, 2007 3:23:08 AM

A world without the patriarchy would be one in which these experimental results did not obtain:

Dr. Urry cited a 1983 study in which 360 people - half men, half women - rated mathematics papers on a five-point scale. On average, the men rated them a full point higher when the author was "John T. McKay" than when the author was "Joan T. McKay." There was a similar, but smaller disparity in the scores the women gave.

Dr. Spelke, of Harvard, said, "It's hard for me to get excited about small differences in biology when the evidence shows that women in science are still discriminated against every stage of the way."

A recent experiment showed that when Princeton students were asked to evaluate two highly qualified candidates for an engineering job - one with more education, the other with more work experience - they picked the more educated candidate 75 percent of the time. But when the candidates were designated as male or female, and the educated candidate bore a female name, suddenly she was preferred only 48 percent of the time.

So much for your falsifiability worries.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 5, 2007 3:41:14 AM


Have you done a single fucking thing to examine your assumptions?

Try putting this guy on your RSS feed. Read him for a two weeks and then come back and tell us if you think he's a reasonable person. Come back and tell us after a two weeks what your thoughts on the Patriarchy are.


Are you so politically correct that you're scared to click a link?

Posted by: blowme | Oct 5, 2007 3:43:19 AM

So Neil, how is that different from sexism?

Posted by: blowme | Oct 5, 2007 3:44:32 AM

Neil, if you took that study and swapped Jewish names for female names, or African American names for female names, would you call that "whiteiarchy" or "patriarhcy"? Or would you call that anti-semitism, and racism?

When you blame the Patriarchy, don't you want to understand exactly what it is you are blaming? Shouldn't you be able to explain what it is you are blaming?

What is the value of spending all this energy blaming the patriarchy when the same energy could be change the world by changing laws and social mores and eliminating sexism?

How is sexism different that Patriarchy in ways that racism, ageism, religious-isms do not have or need?

I'll start you off Neil.

Here's the WikiAnswer on "How does Patriarchy differ from sexism?"


And here is TwistyFaster the beloved host of I Blame the Patriarchy. Can you measure her definition? Is it falsifiable? Can you design an experiment to show it exists? Can you take her description of the post Patriarchy world and flesh that out and somehow not just describe our world without sexism?

Note what she feels is needed to eliminate the Patriarchy IS A COMPLETE REVOLUTION.

The Twisty Weltanschauung

I Blame The Patriarchy exists to advance the radical feminist views of Twisty Faster. These views revolve around evidence that patriarchy is a violently tyrannical but nearly invisible social order based on an oppressive paradigm of class and status fetishizing dominance and submission. Patriarchy’s benefits are accrued according to a rigid hierarchy at the top of which are rich honky adult males and at the bottom of which are poor female children of color. The Twisty Revolution envisions a post-patriarchal order free of theocracy, gender, race, deity worship, marriage, prostitution, exploitation, the nuclear family, reproduction, caste, the oppression of children, pornography, rape, and government interference in private uteruses, domestic arrangements, drug habits, lives, and deaths.

If Patriarchy is just sexism, of what value is the name? (Since the name alone has turned into a fighting word, why keep it if it just raises everyone's blood pressure and if it means the same thing as sexism?)

If Patriarchy is not sexism, provide a well defined, observable measurable.

Posted by: blowme | Oct 5, 2007 4:10:30 AM

Yeah, when I talk about patriarchy, I mean systematic sexism. It's not just the sexism of one random weirdo, but prevalent sexism among socially powerful groups. Does that help?

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 5, 2007 4:45:46 AM

A world without the patriarchy wouldn't have rambling, incoherent comments from people who think "blowme" is a great nickname. That alone would make such a world a near-paradise.

Posted by: Stephen | Oct 5, 2007 8:16:03 AM

the reason auto workers are unionized while hair dressers aren't ...

You're missing a key ingredient, I think. Most of the jobs that were historically first to unionize were jobs where the health and safety of the workers was an issue. Miners, industrial jobs, railroad workers and even teamsters all had to deal with serious safety issues in their jobs. Those who owned the businesses often felt that properly dealing with safety issues was a "waste of money", and unions were often organized to force employers to spend money on things that would keep workers safe.

Modern employment in the US has a lot less of that - we have OSHA, usually some kind of health care benefit, Workman's Compensation, and other systematic safety nets in place to deal with the problems that unions once had to use hard-nose negotiation tactics to get from their employers. It's notable that the increase in unionization of the service sector has corresponded with the instability of the American health care system - as health care costs have skyrocketed, interest in service sector workers unionizing has increased. I'd like to see a study done, but I suspect that much of the reason that service sector workers are finding unions attractive is because they are losing (or don't have) health care benefits that you really need to have nowadays.

Posted by: NonyNony | Oct 5, 2007 8:21:38 AM

I don't know whether it's his cheekily irreverent handle, his liberal yet tasteful use of CAPS, or the way he's posted several multi-paragraph rants in row before anyone else has even had a chance to respond, but "blowme" sure strikes me as a sober, reliable, and objective commenter.

Posted by: tps12 | Oct 5, 2007 8:47:30 AM

In a sense, it's nice to have crazy misogynists like blowme around, because one of the most annoying things about Internet discussions is the vestigial libertarian tendency to deny the existence of structural discrimination against women and minorities. With obvious nutjobs like blowme and joeblow polluting the threads on the "patriarchy", basic feminist stances that should be de rigeur in any progressive community look like the obviously acceptable position.

In terms of the content here, I think there are dichotomies, and they are false.

The fact that union organization has become harder, and the fact that the worker who need to organize have become more and more female are not disconnected. It was much easier for white, male "breadwinners" to organize for their health and prosperity than it will be for non-white women who are not thought of in such terms.

This isn't to say that the consolidation of management power (the power of capital, one might say!) hasn't been a very real historical effect, and this isn't to say that this consolidation of power is self-identical to structures of oppression of women. Obviously, we can talk about differences. But the fact that a much more heavily female workforce is finding it harder to unionize is not wholly unrelated from the fact that the workforce is much more heavily female.

Posted by: DivGuy | Oct 5, 2007 8:55:12 AM

In terms of why certain workers were able to form unions and others weren't, it should be remembered that large groups of workers were deliberately excluded from the National Labor Relations Act.

The law was written to NOT cover agricultural workers and workers who perform services in private homes (like house cleaners or laundry workers), presumably to mollify Southern conservatives who feared African-American farm and home service workers gaining any semblance of power. The law also excluded healthcare workers at first, but they later fought for the right to form unions in the last 1950s and early 1960s.

You can argue over how much of the motivation behind these decisions was racist and how much was sexist, but it's clear that fear of women and nonwhite workers was a factor.

Posted by: Brendan Sexton | Oct 5, 2007 9:11:54 AM

While a little overamped, I believe "blowme" is essentially correct.
The "Patriarchy" is a load of succotash. Those who ascribe to it's existence, like the (un) lovely Marcotte, blame it for all of her shortcomings and if it weren't for it, they would blame something else.
I have found that many of these people need the conflict and the excuse in their lives. They lament that they were not born 50 years ago before the heavy lifting was accomplished in feminism so they now invent a new boogyman.
These people will always be with us and you just have to take them with a grain of salt.

Posted by: El Viajero | Oct 5, 2007 9:31:18 AM

Where do some of you live that Hairdresses-- actual professional ones who have licenses to operate beauty salons-- not part of a guild system?

Feminists who demand that all liberals must side with them on all issues or not be liberals are asking for the liberal coalition to be a very small one. You don't have the right to dictate the terms of a discussion on gender in our society. You don't have the right to demand that other people bow to your political beliefs, or not be good liberals. It is amazing how many of the same people who shriek 'Purity Troll' when you mention not voting for pro-war Democrats go batshit insane when it's suggested that Democrats don't have to kneel to their own personal pet issues.

Posted by: soullite | Oct 5, 2007 9:32:16 AM

Wouldn't teachers be a good counterexample? It's a heavily female occupation, and very highly unionized.

Posted by: SamChevre | Oct 5, 2007 9:56:45 AM

I pretty much agree with the post, but have one economic cavil. Ezra views manufacturing as easy to unionize in part because the manufacturing firm has a huge amount of sunk cost in its plant, and service industries do not.

This is true, but irrelevant. It is not plant that is important; it is sunk cost. Many service industries have substantial sunk costs: generally in their trademark. In terms of sunk costs, there is no reason why Wal-Mart can't unionize. I think that most of the explanation for non-unionization is legal.

This is why we need 60 Democrats in the Senate. As John Judis pointed out, it will be possible for a 55-57 Democratic Senate to do meaningful healthcare reform, but the Republicans will not budge on unions.

And a final comment. Don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: Joe S. | Oct 5, 2007 10:13:59 AM

It is amazing how many of the same people who shriek 'Purity Troll' when you mention not voting for pro-war Democrats go batshit insane when it's suggested that Democrats don't have to kneel to their own personal pet issues.

What are you talking about? Every time someone puts up a post about immigration, you're tearing a path of destruction through the whole thing. You go completely nuts even on people who essentially agree with you but don't go to the rhetorical extremes you do.

And that's fine. Illegal immigration is really important to you. But don't get on some high horse and tell "the feminists" to take it down a notch and deal with it, because you refuse to on your "pet issue."

The only evidence of a patriarchy that we should need is the inevitable whining and name-calling from people like "blowme" and the crude dismissals from people like Viajero who just can't resist including their opinions on the way various women look while telling them that their worries are groundless.

But of course there is so much more. Males enjoy a systemic advantage in every country of the world. Progress has been made in several countries, but nowhere is a woman able to live with the sense of personal safety, freedom and expectations out of life that men so take for granted they deny they even exist.

It's a rather profound display of selfishness and callousness that should make any real progressive ashamed.

Conservatives, of course, have very little shame to begin with, so I don't have as high expectations for them.

Posted by: Stephen | Oct 5, 2007 10:26:56 AM

Ezra: Over the last few decades, various laws have made organizing tougher, and beyond that, it's simply harder to unionize service sector employees -- particularly immigrant service sector employees -- and when you do, there are fewer gains to distribute, as each individual worker's labor creates comparatively little value.

If true, this is a very strong argument against globalization, which tends to replace manufacturing jobs with service jobs.

Joe S.: This is why we need 60 Democrats in the Senate. As John Judis pointed out, it will be possible for a 55-57 Democratic Senate to do meaningful healthcare reform, but the Republicans will not budge on unions.

Why not just get rid of the damn filibuster? It's nowhere in the Constitution. The composition of the Senate (which cannot be changed) is bad enough as it is; why tolerate extraconstitutional rules that make it even worse?

Posted by: Josh G. | Oct 5, 2007 10:40:33 AM

I'm amused by your punctuation of the first sentence. It makes you seem gleeful at the dreadful prospect.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Oct 5, 2007 11:57:44 AM

It would help to have a definition:


1. a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging to the father's clan or tribe.
2. a society, community, or country based on this social organization.

In order to deny that you live in a patriarchy, you have to convince yourself that you live in a society where lineage is not passed from father to son---i.e. you have to convince yourself that naming children and wives after men is not the most common practice, for instance. Good luck with that. It's like denying the sky is blue. You also have to deny that the male authority that translates from paternal authority in the home out into the real world doesn't exist, which would mean, for instance, denying that Chris Matthews and company go into giant swoons over someone's paternal-seeming qualities as if that's synymous with "leadership", to begin with. I'd practice denying grass is green to warm up to denying the obvious.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Oct 5, 2007 12:02:18 PM

As part of the larger discussion, big labor is getting much more eager to embrace the service industry, and is getting much better about overcoming traditional issues of sexism and hostility to environmentalists. The labor movement has shunned "big picture" thinking for a lot of reasons in the past, and I'll bet red-baiting is one of the reasons, but if they want to survive, they'll have to get past the small picture thinking. SEIU, Change To Win---there are hints on the horizon that things could improve.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Oct 5, 2007 12:35:50 PM

"each individual worker's labor creates comparatively little value."

Errr...maybe in some things, but if you're talking about hair styling, the worker's labor actually provides most of the value of what is offered. There might be some expenditures for supplies and all that, but the value-add by the stylist is a really high % of the total cost.

In fact, I really doubt you get many fields with such a high value-add ratio.

The problem is that it's really clear that the "market" doesn't value labor in terms of value added, but in terms of how easy said labor can be replaced. (Which is why a lot of talk regarding labor markets misses the point entirely)

Posted by: Karmakin | Oct 5, 2007 12:53:06 PM

"a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe"

Anyone who believes this is obviously not married. Sure, I wear a big set of nuts out in the world, but I check them at the door when I get home. And when I leave the next morning, I thank my wife for letting we rent my nuts for the day.

Posted by: DM | Oct 5, 2007 1:43:25 PM

...you have to convince yourself that naming children and wives after men is not the most common practice, for instance.

And this has exactly *what* again with the evil you believe this causes??

And YOU must deny the Supreme Court is not open to women and that women don't occupy positions of power in government to buy into your rant about how all of your problems are caused by men.

Shorter Marcotte: :Waaaaa.....

Posted by: El Viajero | Oct 5, 2007 1:54:35 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.