Western female thought through the centuries has identified the relationship between patriarchy and gender as crucial to the women¡¦s subordinate position. For two hundred years, patriarchy precluded women from having a legal or political identity and the legislation and attitudes supporting this provided the model for slavery. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries suffrage campaigners succeeded in securing some legal and political rights for women in the UK. By the middle of the 20th century, the emphasis had shifted from suffrage to social and economic equality in the public and private sphere and the women¡¦s movement that sprung up during the 1960s began to argue that women were oppressed by patriarchal structures.
Equal status for women of all races, classes, sexualities and abilities - in the 21st century these feminist claims for equality are generally accepted as reasonable principles in western society; yet the contradiction between this principle of equality and the demonstrable inequalities between the sexes that still exist exposes the continuing dominance of male privilege and values throughout society (patriarchy). This essay seeks to move beyond the irrepressible evidence for gender inequality and the division of labour. Rather, it poses the question of gender inequality as it manifests itself as an effect of patriarchy drawing from a theoretical body of work which has been developed so recently that it would have been impossible to write this essay thirty years ago.
Feminist Theory and Patriarchy
Although ¡§¡K patriarchy is arguably the oldest example of a forced or exploitative division of social activities¡¨...