A little more than a month ago I was the object of a discussion at Libby Anne’s blog “Love, Joy, Feminism” where Libby Anne asked her readership, almost all atheists, which is more “rage inducing,” a secular supporter of patriarchy or a religious supporter of patriarchy? The overall consensus was that the secular supporter of patriarchy was more “rage inducing” though not everybody agreed. I was presented as the case study of a secular supporter of patriarchy to launch the discussion.
After reading through the 61 comments in response to the question at hand I find it interesting that almost all the responses, except one, never for a moment appeared to actually consider the argument in favor of patriarchy I was making even though my argument was very straightforward and easy to understand and was based on very clear statistical evidence. There was some very powerful “group think” going on among the atheists to make sure they would not consider any arguments contrary to their already established pro-feminist position. This makes it highly amusing that again and again in the comments I was condemned for being “not rational” and “misunderstanding” historical evidence and evolutionary theory and being “emotionally motivated” to be biased in my interpretation of evidence so that I would come to the conclusion I wanted to come to in the first place. From my point of view it is the pro-feminist commentators who are willfully ignoring evidence, shutting their minds to contrary opinions, and being emotionally motivated to only accept the arguments favorable to their prior existing conclusion. There was also lots of talk about how “bigoted” and “misogynistic” and “irrational” I was.
I also find it interesting that the starting premise of the discussion was which is more “rage inducing,” the secular or religious supporter of patriarchy. No interest was being shown in actually participating in a debate or discussing ideas regarding gender relations with someone with a different point of view; the only question was who causes more “rage.” I suppose anybody who disagrees with a feminist atheist about feminism is merely a creator of “rage,” not someone who has a different perspective the atheist feminist might learn something from. This is the epitome of being “close minded.” Also it places the emphasis not on the reality of objective truth that the atheist supposedly should be striving towards but instead emphasizes the internal feeling state of the atheist in reaction to somebody contradicting the atheist’s point of view. What is important then is not reality but is instead the severity of the “offense” the atheist “feels” when the feminist atheist is challenged on their views regarding feminism.
A common theme in the comments was that support for patriarchy is “irrational” and that therefore it is highly confusing and unexpected for an atheist who values rationality to support patriarchy. It is more understandable that the religious would support patriarchy since religion after all is superstitious to begin with but for an atheist to support patriarchy makes no sense since patriarchy itself makes no sense and is irrational. Following from this line of reasoning the atheist has “no excuse” to support patriarchy; the atheist supporting patriarchy is even more irrational than the religious person since the atheist has to invent his irrational belief on his own without outside help, the atheist is more culpable and guilty when he supports “misogyny” and “bigotry” because the atheist “knows better” and therefore is acting with willful malice rather than being fooled by religious indoctrination.
I would like to take on this claim of patriarchy being “irrational” directly. First of all patriarchy is not irrational in the slightest; patriarchy makes perfect sense. Patriarchy makes a lot more sense than feminism does; there is a lot more evidence supporting the legitimacy of patriarchy than there is evidence supporting the legitimacy of feminism. There are three main bases of atheist thought; the first is the theory of evolution. All atheists believe in evolution I would presume since all the other theories of the origin of life require a supernatural “creator” that by definition the atheist rejects. Another main bases of atheist thought is adherence to logical models of how the world works. Atheists rely on logically sound models of cause and effect that are at least hypothetically true and internally consistent. Since belief in the supernatural is contrary to atheism an explanation of how the world works must be logically consistent in order to be plausible. The third bases of atheist thought is statistics or empirical evidence. The model of reality an atheist proposes should match the objective evidence regarding the issue in question; statistics being the primary expression of objective reality.
So the atheist relies upon the theory of evolution, internally consistent logical models of how the world works, and statistical evidence to see how well a theoretical model of the world matches with reality. Now to the question of patriarchy. Is patriarchy consistent with evolution? Are there logically consistent and reasonable models of how a social system might work that support the idea of patriarchy being a good thing? Does statistical evidence support the idea of patriarchy being a good thing?
Regarding evolution patriarchy makes good sense. What is important in evolution is that the species survive; that children survive to adulthood and then have their own children who survive to adulthood; etc. In other words what matters most in evolution is children. Evolution doesn’t care about “women’s rights,” it cares about survival and survival in evolutionary terms means focusing on the well being of children. Patriarchy is all about children; most specifically it is about men supporting women so that the woman can focus on her children so that resources will be provided by the man to the woman to maximize the number and probability of survival of the woman’s children. In other words patriarchy is what makes the man invest in children. From the point of view of evolution this is exactly the goal. Patriarchy also represents division of labor where men and women specialize in different activities. Specialization provides survival benefits as specialization is more efficient. In this way specialization according to sex is something that will be selected for; it is something that provides an evolutionary advantage.
As far as patriarchy being consistent with a logical model of how a social system might work; patriarchy is based on division of labor and specialization. Men are better at some functions; women are better at other functions. Men are better at creating rule based systems and abstract thinking and focus and specialization. This leads men to be better at material acquisition, in the modern context making money, and gives men advantages in establishing order and exercising authority. Men have these advantages because women who preferred these characteristics in men were better provided for by men and so had more children who survived to adulthood. Women are better at interpersonal relationships, multi-tasking, and attention to detail. This leads them to be better at direct child care and maintaining the home environment. Women have these advantages because men who preferred these characteristics in women had more children who survived to adulthood. The social system where men are in charge and provide for women then does the best job of caring for children which then leads to a successful and sustainable social system. Patriarchy makes the best use of the natural advantages of men and the natural advantages of women; therefore patriarchy is good.
As far as patriarchy being consistent with statistical evidence; there is a huge amount of statistical evidence in support of patriarchy. The biological heterosexual married couple family is by far the best environment to raise children in. This is not disputable as there are a large number of studies that consistently point to this fact. This is based on looking at the outcomes of children raised in married biological families compared to children of divorce or children raised by single parents. The children raised by both their biological married parents always do better on average on a number of indicators than children raised in “alternative” family environments. Furthermore there are a number of studies showing less behavioral problems in children raised by stay-at-home mothers as compared to children who have spent a lot of time in daycare. Patriarchy maximizes the number of these ideal family situations; it maximizes the number of stay-at-home mothers and it minimizes divorce and out-of-wedlock births. Comparing 1900 to today the divorce rate was 8% in 1900 but is about 50% today (the divorce rate was 3% in 1870); the out-of-wedlock birth ratio among whites was about 1% in 1900 but is about 30% today; the proportion of married women working among whites was about 3% in 1900 and is about 60% today (these statistics are for the United States). The indicators of family disorder have literally increased 20 fold over the past 100 or so years; in addition fertility has gone from far above replacement rates to below replacement level. The statistical evidence that feminism is a bad thing and that therefore patriarchy is good is overwhelming.
Patriarchy is consistent with evolutionary theory, it is a perfectly sound and reasonable basis for organizing society, and it is supported by a vast amount of statistical evidence. Feminism on the other hand is only supported by empty assertions and wishful thinking that men and women despite all their obvious differences are in fact functionally the same. Patriarchy is completely rational and consistent with the atheist’s reliance upon logically defensible models of reality and supporting empirical evidence. It is feminism that is irrational and dependent upon magical thinking and superstitious faith in “gender equality” to be maintained. I don’t personally care about how much “rage” I generate among atheist feminists; as an atheist I only care about where the evidence leads and objective reality. The evidence supports patriarchy, this is why I as an atheist support patriarchy; it is as simple as that.