12 Brilliant Quotes That Explain Patriarchy

by Kat George

If you want to know exactly what "patriarchy" is and what we can do to dismantle it, look no further than Ananya Roy's genius TEDxMarin Talk on power and gender in the 21st century. Roy is a Professor of City & Regional Planning and Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty & Practice at the University of California, Berkeley, an amazing public speaker and eloquent feminist. She's an author, and her book Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development won the 2011 Paul Davidoff Book Award of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, which is basically Pulitzer of book awards in urban planning. And now she's also produced the essential guide to patriarchy and taking it down in her TED talk.

Speaking from her own personal experience with divorce, male affairs with mistresses (or "little thirds" as they are called in China where her story begins), and working in the male-driven world of the tertiary education institutions, Roy has powerful words about the way patriarchy controls both men and women. As well as elucidating exactly what constitutes patriarchy and the insipid ways in which that patriarchy controls even the most innocuous of interactions, Roy's talk is a call to arms. Here are the best quotes from her talk, and you can watch the full talk in the video below, which you will not regret for a second.

  • "I had mistaken the immense betrayal that has unfolded in my life — the little thirds I had not known about — as infidelity. That was not it. It was patriarchy. There was a betrayal of love for sure, but there was also a betrayal of equality. What I had thought was a marriage between equals, had turned out to be a relationship of profound inequality in which male power required the profound subordination of women, either as dependent little thirds or as wives who were not worthy of fidelity and honesty."
  • "It had happened to me. Patriarchy had happened to me. Raised by my parents to be strong and strong willed. Finding my way to the US alone at the age of 18. Successful on my own terms in academia. I was not the sort of women to whom patriarchy happened."
  • "[Patriarchy] implies a social system of male power exercised not only through domination but also through benevolence and protection, even love."
  • "As Americans, we often think that patriarchy is some other culture's problem."
  • "We also think that someone big and bad has to happen to us for it to be patriarchy. But sometimes patriarchy is a phrase, a name, a stereotype."
  • "Patriarchy also defines the identity of men. It is as much the enforced script of proper masculinity — how to be a real man — as it is that of proper femininity. To chose ourselves not as wife or little or third, not as mother or childless, not as whore or madonna, not as patriarch or eunuch. We need institutions that enable dignity and equity."
  • "With all due respect, Sheryl Sandberg is wrong. To say that women can solve the problem of patriarchy through self confidence and well meaning men can help suggests that this is all about good will and will power of individuals. My feminism is about the rules of the game… Whether institutions reproduce or dismantle patriarchy."
  • "I can't describe to you a world free of patriarchy. There is no blueprint to get us there, no Eureka solution."
  • "I knew then, in that moment, that I could either learn the rules of the game, or that I could demand that the rules be changed."
  • "We associate civil disobedience with grand protest movements. But it is quite simply the active and non-violent refusal of rules and norms that are unjust. And so I am here to say that when the rules create inequality disobey the rules."
  • "We can not fight these as solo battles – We must do so collectively. As shared histories and shared futures. That history is not linear. Civil rights once won can be reversed. Women's rights once won can be reversed. We're witnessing this here in the US. Equality requires constant vigilance."
  • "Patriarchy is emboldened by shame and silence."