Patriarchal power: an insidious double-bind that undermines mental health

Patriarchy creates a “double-bind” for women who live under its system. Women are expected to concede that patriarchy is entirely rational and reasonable and that they are treated well under it. Those who do not concede this are treated as if they are both irrational and unreasonable, though patriarchal projection, and are candidates for re-education.

The question that patriarchal logic does not permit is whether it is reasonable to expect women to live happily under a system of patriarchy. This  indicates that patriarchy is an ideological system that is concerned with maximizing its control.

In Medieval times, a woman who gained social power was subjected to a patriarchal “test” to see whether her heart was pure. For her to be proven pure, she had to lose her will to live. Should she fail the test, by maintaining her struggle to survive, she was shown to be of impure heart. This meant that she was condemned to die for her sins.

The particular test was the dunking of witches: “If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway.”

Under the existing patriarchal culture, the dunking of witches no longer occurs in a literal way. This does not mean that the fear of witches has disappeared from patriarchal consciousness, only that it has weakened somewhat. In another sense, however, the method of removing “witches” from society has been refined and made more subtle. These days, a “witch” is someone who is angry at having to live under patriarchal control.  While her “evil” status is more figurative, the measures taken against her are no less real than in the past.

Although one’s will to live is expressed in terms of this righteous anger, the patriarchal system views this anger as being indicative of an impure attitude concerning its system of power relations. Only a docile woman, accepting of patriarchal control, is acceptable. The angry woman has to be punished, to bring her into the state of submission of her docile sister.

Only then will she be considered to have been “redeemed”. But, by what?

In the olden days, it was claimed that Christianity had finally saved her, the drowned witch.   Now, it is claimed not too differently, that “rationality” and reason have saved her from her inner savagery. In neither case is she actually saved. Nor are the attributed causes of her “salvation” in any way true.

Rather: it is raw patriarchal power that has destroyed her in both cases.


15 thoughts on “Patriarchal power: an insidious double-bind that undermines mental health

    • Here’s some more clarification:

      Study: Male Private Parts Shrinking
      RUSH: I have a story, it’s from Philadelphia, CBS News, CBS Eyeball News. “If size matters, male private parts are shrinking, according to a new Italian study on sexuality.” The kids are back in school now. It’s okay, it’s September 20th. It’s just adults out there now. “The study’s leaders claim to have bona fide research that says the average size of a penis is roughly 10 percent smaller than it was 50 years ago.” And the researchers say air pollution is why. Air pollution, global warming, has been shown to negatively impact penis size, say Italian researchers. I don’t buy this. I think it’s feminism. If it’s tied to the last 50 years, the average size of a member is 10% smaller in 50 years, it has to be the feminazis. I mean, the chickification, everything else. Give ’em time and they’ll blame Bush. Give ’em time. But air pollution versus feminazis? Ha.

      • Ok, well thank you for side stepping my question and regurgitating useless banter. Sorry that I inquired about the modern tools of the patriarch that you so vaguely touch on and fail to provide any concrete examples of. For some reason I thought there was a useful conversation to be had there, but apparently there is not, well not with you at least.

  1. I thought it was a rhetorical question, as my views are extremely well elaborated on this site and others. Also you would have been able to read from my bio that I’m not American nor am I in America.

    Also, you did not give me enough information to understand where the question was coming from. What is its context?

  2. In the piece I am commenting on you state, that a woman upset with the patriarchal system she is in is, “Punished, to bring her into the state of submission”. You provide an example of how in “olden days” this punishment was an accusation of witchcraft and certain death. (By the way this example is a weak one as accusations of witchcraft were not merely lodged at females but at anyone whose actions were outside the norm). However, you continue on to claim that there is a modern equivalent to these punishments for women speaking out against patriarchy without even attempting to explain what this modern day equivalent is. You merely state that it exists and I, as the reader, am supposed to accept this on face value. I hope you can see how that is poor writing and a little insulting to the reader.

    Certainly there are places in the world where these punishments for women do exist today, i.e. women stoned to death in the middle east for leaving there homes alone. I was just wondering what these punishments are in today’s democratic Western societies, as they are less evident to me.

    Also, I hope you do not think Rush Limbaugh’s warped views on reality represent the view of men at large.

        • There’s nothing in the world wrong with getting defensive. It’s a great skill to have. But I wasn’t getting defensive with you, just responding in the same way as you were addressing me.

          You wanted me to comment on how women of America are punished today and brought into submission. I suggest you watch the news. My impression of the situation where you appear to be is that their health is being put at risk in a number of states due to right-wing ideologies. I’m sure you didn’t respond to my article on patriarchal witch-hunting to be told that. The witch hunting is psychological. I have covered this in all sorts of articles and I’m sorry if you do not understand what I am getting at. You would probably have to read a whole lot more of what I’ve written.

          However, you are basically anonymous to me, and the tone of your inquiry doesn’t inspire me to want to engage more.

      • The most obvious way in which women are punished by the patriarchal enforcers is the removal of their children by Courts and their branding as `Borderline Personality Disorder’, Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, and a variety of other psychiatric labels which have no basis in scientfically conducted research and the assessment for such alleged `conditions’ is usually completed within an hour in an psychiatist’s/ psychologist’s office. . This occurs with increasing frequency in the Family Courts where mothers have their children removed if they dare to suggest that the separated father has violently assaulted them and the children, or that they may deign to suggest that the father has sexually assaulted his children and should have no future contact with them. If the mother has the affrontery to try to escape the bruatlity of the father and of the legal system with her children, either interstate or overseas, she is brought back and imprisoned and ordered to pay all of the Court costs and of course have her children removed. The patriarchy in the Courts is the ,most vindicvtive and vengeful aspects of today’s patriarchy.

    • n Ireland when you try and leave a male domestic terrorist, patriarchal state agents called social workers do label the strong women witches and even threaten to make them homeless, remove their children for ECT “therapy” in an effort to get the women back under the control of the male perpetrator.
      “They determined that women had intelligence which was less evolved than that of men, and in particular, poor women.”—An Irish trainee judge discussing the lens through which modern Irish family judges are groomed to view mothers”

      In UK Liverpool 3 mothers were deemed witches for having the strength of 10,000 men. I kid you not. Their punishment was removal of their children for forced adoption. Their crime- fleeing domestic violence and asking for help.

      The secret Inquisition Courts – aka Family courts are still in existence with an in camera rule applied meaning the public is not allowed to witness the court proceedings . Also mothers are not allowed to speak to media as the punishment is jail.

      Just a few examples of how patriarchy is alive and well and witch trials live on in 2013 Ireland and UK.

  3. From Mary Daly:

    In modern times psychiatric ideology has to a large extent replaced theology as
    custodian of society’s values. Clearly, the semantics of “good” and “evil” have
    been replaced partially by “health” and “mental illness.” In our times, a woman
    who is defined as unhealthy because she wants power over her own life can’t win
    according to the rules of the psychiatrists’ games. As Szasz has shown, the
    tortures are more subtle but the pattern is the same. Szasz’s analysis is a
    development of an analogy between institutional psychiatry and the Inquisition
    which was earlier made by Elizabeth Packard, a woman who was psychiatrically
    imprisoned for “madness” in the nineteenth century by her husband, who
    disagreed with her theological views. (32) Women, particularly, [65] although of
    course not exclusively, are victimized by the barbarities of modern psychiatry,
    especially psychosurgery. As a result of the efforts of Dr Peter Breggin’s
    investigations, it is not well known that there has emerged a second wave of
    psychosurgery, which, interestingly, is contemporaneous with the second wave
    of feminism. This includes operations in which healthy brain tissue is mutilated
    in order to change a person’s emotions and conduct. The current wave of
    psychosurgery is aimed not only at state hospital patients, but especially at
    relatively well-functioning “neurotics,” particularly women. On February 24,
    1972, Dr Breggin’s article, “The Return of Lobotomy and Psychosurgery,” was
    read into the Congressional Record. Discussing the remarkably large proportion
    of women who are being lobotomized, Dr Breggin explains that it is more
    socially acceptable to lobotomize women because creativity, which the operation
    totally destroys, is in this society “an expendable quality in women.” A famous
    psychosurgeon (Freeman, the “dean of lobotomists”) is quoted as saying that
    lobotomized women make good housekeepers. Concerning this phenomenon,
    Dr Barbara Roberts, a feminist, observes that psychosocial conditioning is no
    longer as effective as it once was in suppressing female anger:
    But, ever resourceful, patriarchal class society is developing what could prove
    to be the “final solution” to the “woman problem” (and for the “problems”
    caused by all other oppressed groups). That weapon is psychosurgery. (33)
    The weapons that modern technology is developing for social control of
    deviants, particularly women, are more subtle than burning at the stake. They
    merely destroy minds – the capacity for creativity, imagination, and rebellion –
    while leaving hands and uteruses intact to perform the services of manual work
    and breeding

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