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Patriarchy | What is it? Paid Employment

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There are three main empirical features of gender relations in employment that feminist writers have addressed.

  1. Why do women typically earn less than men?
  2. Why do women engage in less paid work than men?
  3. Why do women do different jobs from men?

Objectors to claims of structures of Patriarchy often list these features as reasons, but seldom ask why. They are put forward as reasons and not as questions. The reason why the wage gap is presented as one of the first, if not the very first, presentations of the existence of patriarchy, is because it is the easiest and simplest way for everyone to see it. It requires a historical context too, something that will become more and more important to understand when we progress towards post-structural feminists like Judith Butler who speak of repeated performance.

Note that some of the figures in this post will be out of date, the purpose of this post is to demonstrate how we can show Patriarchal structures in paid employment. Please feel free to post updated figures in the following posts. I will add them as this thread progresses.

In 1986 women earned 74% of men’s hourly rates. The gap widens if we consider average gross weekly earnings, when women earn only 66% of men’s pay. This increased gap reflects men’s longer working hours and greater likelihood of shift and overtime premia. The disparity is even greater for part-time women workers, who earned only 76% of full time women’s rates of pay in 1986.

In 1988 women constituted 46% of the paid workforce. That percentage rose steadily since WW2. However, if we go back to the middle of the 19th century, we find that the female activity rate (the percentage of women employed or unemployed as a percentage of the total number of women) was which in 1861 as it was in 1971, at 43%.

Employment trends in Great Britain, 1961-88

Employees in Employment 1961 1966 1971 1976 1981 1986 1988
All male 14,202 14,551 13,424 13,097 12,278 11,643 11,978
All female 7,586 8,236 8,224 8,951 9,108 9,462 10,096
% female 34.8 36.1 38.0 40.6 42.6 44.8 45.7
% full time female 25.3 24.3 24.7 25.2 26.2
Part-time female as % of all female 33.5 40.1 41.9 43.8 42.8

Unemployment rates for both men and women are approximately the same. 1984-6, 10% of women and 11% of men were unemployed which is higher than what was shown in the official government statistics, since the latter includes only unemployed people who are also claiming benefits, this excludes many married women who are only allowed to access benefits via the claim of their husbands.

While male unemployment continues to fall from its high point in 1965, female employment, especially in part time, continues to rise.

Different jobs

Men and women typically do not work in the same occupations or industries.

Socio-economic groups by sex, 1981

SEG Men % Women %
Employers and managers 78 22
Professional 89 11
Ancillary 44 56
Supervisory non-manual 52 48
Junior non-manual 29 71
Personal service workers 13 87
Skilled manual 68 32
Semi-skilled manual 68 32
Unskilled manual 58 42
All employees 61 39

Source: Census of population 1981.

Changes in vertical segregation by sex, Britain 1971-81

SEG Men % Women %
1 41.88 101.98
2 10.08 35.10
3 2.78 22.99
4 6.33 12.59
5 28.21 40.45
6 -22.28 8.17
7 11.49 5.19
8 -0.75 19.85
9 -14.34 -28.58
10 3.63 -10.21
11 -25.87 -0.33
12 16.93 2.51
13 -13.68 -18.19
14 -21.04 -35.23
15 -20.26 -12.59
16 -1.71 50.04
17 98.21 9.46

Horizontal segregation shows an extreme segregation of men and increase in extent of mild horizontal segregation of women.

Ethnicity and of women show significant divergence in both economic activity and unemployment rates.

There are considerable inequalities between men and women in relation to access to paid work and the wages received.


The schools of thought that attempt to explain these inequalities:

  • Functionalist (economic and sociological)
  • Liberalism
  • Marxist and Marxist feminist
  • Dual systems theory
  • A small amount of Radical feminist analysis

Functionalist explanation 

  1. Women get paid less due to less skill and labor market experience relative to men
  2. Women have less ‘human capital’ than men because of their position in the household
  3. The household is the unit of rational choice in decision making

The theory predicts certain outcomes for differential wages for men and women and for the extent of women’s and men’s comparative participation in paid work. Women are the home-makers, so are less likely to earn as much as men, or acquire experience on the market. They are more likely to take jobs with less hours and so certain jobs, such as in the cleaning industry and seen as a ‘woman’s job’.

The main problem is that the theory of human capital rests on the assumption of a perfect labor market in which employers pay employees according to their worth. This assumption has been challenged in a number of ways. It is both technical and social. Unions and powerful workers are more likely to get to get jobs designated as highly skilled despite their actual skills.

Women might be skilled in the technical sense, but in the social sense, they are disadvantaged, as they may not be recognized in the same way a man will be for better paid jobs with longer hours.

This is the simplest way to understand the pay gap/wage gap – over time, we have repeated a performance that sees certain jobs as acceptable for men but not for women, even though they are just as capable.


Liberal approaches focus on small-scale processes which differentiate women’s position in work from those of men. They draw on role analysis, broad cultural differentiation of men and women. They analyse dual roles and the relationship between paid work and the family. Women play the role of mother and paid worker. They expose the conflicting demands of motherhood and their time and labor.

the sexual division of labor becomes its main subject. Women face disadvantages in corporations and they describe the proximate mechanisms through which this takes place. The cultural pressures and organisational features which lead to the less success of women than men in reaching the upper echelons of these institutions. Liberals perceive the management ethic as masculine, job hierarchy is the ideology that determines decisions of available job slots, which are gender specific. Male friendship in workplaces were shown to exclude women for instance.

Marxist and Marxist feminist

True to all Marxist analysis – capitalist relations are the determining factors which explain the pattern of women’s employment. Lower pay and lesser participation are shaped by the capital-labor relation. Women are seen as subordinate and marginal as a category of worker whose greater exploitation benefits employers, although a sub-group of this school sees women’s position in the household, rather than paid labor, as an achievement rather than failure of the working class.

  • There is the progressive ‘de-skilling’ of jobs in contemporary monopoly capitalism and that women take most of these new less-skilled jobs
  • The household tasks shift to the factory, reducing the amount of labor to be done in the home and releasing women for waged labor

De-skilling is supposed to increase profits at the expense of the workforce. The amount of housework has decreased as a result of the household buying from the market goods it would previously have produced itself. This is considered to release women from the household to waged work.

Although this has consequences where men are supposed to become more unemployed and housework was supposed to decline, only the latter came true.

Reserve Army Theory

Women are long term labor reserves which is now being bought into employment by the development of capitalism. The function of a reserve, according to Marx himself was to prevent workers from bargaining up their wages and conditions of employment. Married women suit this idea, as they have somewhere to go when employers no longer need them.

There are other elements to Marxist feminism which we can discuss later in this thread, but for brevity, I will quickly cover the other explanations.

Radical Feminists

Only a small amount exists on their literature on this subject. Their answer is that women are subject to sexual discrimination and harassment on workplaces. This has an adverse effect on women in the workplace.


This combines capitalism and patriarchy and they focus on job segregation by sex. Men have an organisational ability to exclude women from better kinds of paid work and keep them at a disadvantage. Trade unions historically, have excluded women.

In the next thread, I will discuss the more recent new approaches towards paid work.

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Patriarchy | What is it?

Basic Definitions

When I ask people what Patriarchy means, some basic definitions come up. Here are just a few of them:

  • Sexism towards women (Misogyny)
  • Wage gaps
  • Rape Culture
  • Expropriation of womens’ labor by men in the household
  • Segregation of the work force
  • Man of the house
  • Denial of right to own property for women

So with that in mind, let’s see if we can better define Patriarchy. The most general definition if we turn to Wikipedia is.

  1. a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line.
  2. a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.

Both of these form of Patriarchy exist today in society. Jewish families are not Patriarchal by the first definition when it comes to descent, they have a Matrilineal form of descent, but other than that they are still Patriarchal as are other religious, tribal and secular communities.

The most recent definition of Patriarchy in terms of Third Wave Feminism:

Quote:Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children. Some patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

Usage in social science prior to feminism

Max Weber in 1947 used it to refer to ‘a system of government in which men ruled societies through their position as heads of households’. This usage has a historical context and, the domination of younger men who were not household heads was as important as, if not more important than, the element of men’s domination over women via the household.

The definition has evolved since Weber as some radical feminists who developed the element of the domination of women by men and who paid less attention to the issue of how men dominated each other, and by dual-systems theorists (a mixture of Marxist and Radical Feminism) who have sought to develop a concept and theory of Patriarchy as a system which exists alongside capitalism (and sometimes racism too).

Incorporation of generational element

The practice of incorporating a generational element into the definition of Patriarchy is viewed by some to be a mistake. It implies a theory of gender inequality in which this aspect of men’s domination over each other is central to men’s domination over women. Heidi Hartmann, one of the proponents of this theory, uses a definition which incorporates generational hierarchy among men, this is not central to her theory of Patriarchy, which focuses upon men’s organisational ability to expropriate women’s labor in paid work, and hence in the household. Inclusion of generation in the definition is confusing. It is a contingent element and best omitted, according to Sylvia Walby.

Walby defines Patriarchy as :

Quote:A system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.

The use of the term social structure is important here. It implies the rejection of both biological determinism and the notion that every individual man is in a dominant position and every woman in a subordinate one.


Patriarchy needs to be conceptualised at different levels of abstraction.

Most abstract Least abstract
System of social relations. Patriarchal Mode of Production.
Capitalism. Patriarchal Relations of paid work.
Racism. Patriarchal relation in the state.
Male violence.
Patriarchal Relations in sexuality.
Patriarchal Relations in cultural institutions.

More concretely, in relation to each of the structures, it is possible to identify sets of Patriarchal practices which are less deeply sedimented. Structures are emergent properties of practices. Any specific instance will embody the effects, not only of Patriarchal structures, but also of capitalism and racism as well.

The six structures have causal effects upon each other, both reinforcing and blocking, but are relatively autonomous. The specification of several rather than simply one base is necessary in order to avoid reductionism and essentialism.

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Foucault and Discourse


Foucault is what is known as a Genealogist and Archaeologist type philosopher. In his Genealogical phase, he looks at discourses throughout history, mainly around the time of the enlightenment up to the secular movements of humanism and discovers how there is always an episteme that preceeds our existence, or a knowledge structure, a truth that is sought after or aspired towards in the time of our lives, that we incorporate into our bodies.

Unlike the existentialists, who transformed Will and Desire into free will and subjective desire, as they were ‘I’ Philosophers, Foucault like Derrida is much more centrifugal, but instead of thinking about signs and how they endlessly and restlessly signify in meaning, Foucault looks at bodies in the same way.

According to Foucault, our sexual instincts are not so natural, unlike the conventional view of sexual instincts. He prioritises culture over biology.

Quote:We believe in the full consistency of instinctual life and imagine that it continues to exert its force indiscriminately in the present as it did in the past. But a knowledge of history easily disintegrates this unity, depicts its wavering course… We believe, in any event, that the body obeys the exclusive laws of physiology and that it escapes the influence of history, but this too false. The body is moulded by a great many distinct regimes.

Sexual instincts are not fundamental. Take child sexuality, which Foucault argues was ‘discovered’ in the 18th century. This is evidenced by the whole new literature on the topic, with precepts, medical advice, clinical cases, outlines for reform and plans for ideal institutions. Great measures were taken to eradicate masturbation, but it had completely the opposite effect, it intensified the desire for our own bodies. In short, the sexuality of the child was created by 18th Century discourse.

He has the same view of homosexuality. While discourse on sex had previously dealt solely with marriage—what one could and could not do within and without the bonds of marriage—discourse on sex came increasingly to focus on those who fell outside the category of marriage: children, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and so on. A distinction arose between violations of marriage bonds, which were seen as violations of the law, and violations of what was considered natural practice, which were seen as sick or demented.

Foucault sees the modern concept of homosexuality arising from a desire to see sexuality as a fundamental aspect of who we are. Before the 19th century, sodomy was simply regarded as a criminal act. Since the 19th century, sodomy has been regarded as just one manifestation of a person’s homosexuality. “Homosexuality” ceased to be associated with certain acts, and became associated with a person’s identity, with his soul. One’s sexuality became a key to interpreting one’s personality and one’s behavior. Rather than work to eliminate homosexual acts, the growing discourse around homosexuality saw these acts as constitutive of a person’s identity.

Instead of sex being a desire, the desire for sex as an object was born out of discourse, out of truth. Instead of thinking of bodies and their pleasures, we should instead think of pleasure and its bodies.

On the one hand, the body does not exist like an idea, but it’s also not like a thing. It’s always being pulled out of itself, toppling forward into newly opened spaces, being drawn across boundaries. The body is not solidity, it is more of a force. Foucault, like Derrida, is a materialist, but in a very special sense.


There is a deeper reality to which can be true, rather than langue, or an epistemic framework, one that is not a thinking force. He is of course, talking about power. Power is not strictly only about wars and battles, for Foucault there is power over bodies and power of bodies.

Power over bodies is the power that invests in power relations, forces it to carry out tasks, perform ceremonies whereas power of bodies is the body’s own power, the source of Will and Desire.

Foucault observes the penal system and questions whether or not the ideal of reform is actually occuring, or if delinquency has emerged, prisons seek to grind meaning out of bodies, it normalises bodies. Just like the quest against masturbation, prison succeeds even though it fails to eradicate crime, there is a mastery of the body’s forces that is more than the ability to conquer them.

He rejects the Marxist view of progression through history towards an ideal and instead uncovers an anarchistic proliferation of forms over and above anyone’s deliberate aims or goals.

Foucauldian Feminism

Foucault’s work on power has been used by some feminists to develop a more complex analysis of the relations between gender and power which avoids the assumption that the oppression of women is caused in any simple way by men’s possession of power. On the basis of Foucault’s understanding of power as exercised rather than possessed, as circulating throughout the social body rather than emanating from the top down, and as productive rather than repressive, feminists have sought to challenge accounts of gender relations which emphasize domination and victimization so as to move towards a more textured understanding of the role of power in women’s lives.

Some feminists have also found Foucault’s contention that the body is the principal site of power in modern society useful in their explorations of the social control of women through their bodies and sexuality.

One of the distinct advantages of Foucault’s understanding of the constituted character of identity is, in Judith Butler’s view, that it enables feminism to politicize the processes through which stereotypical forms of masculine and feminine identity are produced. Butler’s own work represents an attempt to explore these processes for the purposes of loosening the heterosexual restrictions on identity formation. In pursuing this project she argues that Foucault’s characterization of identity as constructed does not mean that it is completely determined or artificial and arbitrary. Rather, a Foucauldian approach to identity production demonstrates the role played by cultural norms in regulating how we embody or perform our gender identities. According to Butler, gender identity is simply ‘a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being’

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Ontic Philosophy Forum

Ontic Philosophy Forum
Ontic Philosophy Forum


Come and join my new forum! I hope to create an awesome resource of philosophy, economics, politics, feminism and spirituality topics there.


We can make it in to whatever we want!


Happy new year 2017! This is a brand new forum. Please feel free to post and open threads. This is mainly a philosophy related forum. The more topics that are discussed, the more sections will be opened and the forum will begin to form it’s own identity. Ontic Philosophy Forum encourages the creation of threads and posts that are in the form of beginners guides. If the topics are more complex, please be as informative as possible. You can either start a debate, discussion, conversation or you can watch as others do so.

Welcome to Ontic Philosophy Forum.

I’m Nemus and I am the admin for the site. I am interested in philosophy and I was kind of fed up with discussions on YouTube, twitter, Facebook etc, as they either descended into irrelevance  and were not enjoyable anymore and I was looking for a medium that was more about writing and text as a means of conveying what I thought. I find forums to be much better for finding like-minded people.

Please make suggestions! Form groups that I can create in the admin control panel, if you want to create a group, please specify what the groups name is and what it’s about, how members can join and then get to it!

The main qualities I am looking for from this forum-

  1. Active members
  2. Quality threads that resemble beginners guides to philosophy, economics, politics and sociology (some psychology too)
  3. Quality conversations (it’s not always a debate you know!)
  4. A helpful community of members

What you can expect from me

  1. I will always remain impartial and indifferent when it comes to moderation
  2. I will discuss whatever is on the forum with any member
  3. I will protect the forum from spam attacks
  4. When the situation arises where conflict may lead to an unhappy mood on the forum, I will try to handle it in a civilised manner
  5. Warnings will be verbal, if problems escalate, then a suspension will be implimented, then a ban.

What constitutes bad behaviour?

This is usually an arbitrary thing to define on a forum. Basically – don’t annoy people! No one likes a sea lion troll – the sort of person who makes it everyone else’s job to spoon feed them day and night, coming across with ‘concern’ but being passive aggressive. It’s not cool. Don’t threaten members, don’t reveal personal information about yourself or others here, don’t share anything that you shouldn’t, like illegal material, copyrighted shit etc, etc.

Also, this should be obvious – no spamming. This will lead to an instant ban.

I will always try to explain the best way to resolve the problems when they arise – it usually involves taking a few days off from the forum – that usually does the trick. Talking about philosophy can seem personal sometimes, if you feel agitated, just relax and take some time to reflect. The forum will be here when you return.

I mostly want to see members sort out their own conflicts, I will only intervene if the threads descend into irrelevance. Unless you can prove a point while being provocative, then you will be warned about your actions.

On a lighter note

I think most forums go wrong by not analysing this behaviour – I think these sorts of interactions should be dicussed and I hope we can review the way people behave in an intellectual way.

Most of all though – be a secret gardener. Don’t worry about people not responding to your posts, most people who like your stuff probably have nothing to add, so when youget a thread with what seem like negative comments, just remember that they are not representitive of everyone on the forum. Please don’t make a ‘I’m fed up with this forum and all the people in it’ kind of thread, it’s very painful to read those sorts of threads and they never go anywhere.

Enjoy the forum!

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What is Capitalism and how can we Destroy it? New Series!

Reference Guide to Capitalism

Continue reading What is Capitalism and how can we Destroy it? New Series!

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