November 24, 2004
by Carey Roberts
Mistress of the Earth, painting by Boris Vallejo 1997
Poor Arnold Schwarzenegger had to find out the hard way. Fresh from his stirring speech at the Republican convention where he endorsed President Bush, the governor came home that night knowing he would have some explaining to do.
For wife Maria Shriver is known to be of the liberal Democratic persuasion. Sure enough, Maria put Arnold in the doghouse -- and that meant no sex for a fortnight.
According to socialist-feminist theory, a vast anti-female conspiracy known as the "patriarchy" controls the social order. When you ask a feminist to explain that mind-boggling statement, she invariably points to the fact that the great majority of elected officials are male. And according to the Marxist analysis, those callous male patriarchs look out only for their own kind, leaving women neglected and downtrodden.
But when we examine the record, a different picture emerges. Take our federal entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. All three of these programs were conceived of and enacted by men. They are paid for mostly by male taxpayers.
And who are the principal beneficiaries of this governmental largesse? In all three cases, it's women. Under Social Security and Medicare, women come out ahead because they outlive men. In the case of Medicaid, women edge out the men because of eligibility criteria that favor custodial parents, who in most cases are mothers.
Medical research reveals a similar pattern. Beginning in the 1970s, Senator Edward Kennedy became a tireless advocate for breast cancer research. As a result, the National Institutes of Health now budgets three times more money for breast cancer research than for prostate cancer.
Then add the Violence Against Women Act, aggressive child support enforcement policies, and sexual harassment laws. The conclusion is clear: chivalry is alive and well within the halls of Congress. Our elected patriarchs unabashedly cater to the needs of women.
But the public arena is not the only venue where the matriarchy reigns. Women often rule the roost at home, as well.
And it's not just Gov. Schwarzenegger who cowers in the face of matriarchal might. During the recent election campaign, Laura Bush recounted how husband George was ordered by mother Barbara to take his feet off the furniture - a story told much to the delight of her female audiences. And we know who wears the pants in the Heinz-Kerry household.
It's true that in traditional families, the husband was considered the head of the family. But appearances can be deceiving. Consider the old saying, "The man is the head of the house, but the woman is the neck. And it's the neck that turns the head."
In truth, the husband's role can be compared to the Queen of England. Even though the Queen is the titular head of the government, her role is more ceremonial than substantive.
There are those who argue that the sexes have always been equal, they only exercised their power in different ways. David Shackleton, writing in the July-September issue of Everyman magazine, explains that men's power in the political, economic, and physical arenas has always been balanced by women's power in the moral, emotional, and sexual realms.
Teresa Riordan makes a similar point in her recent book, Inventing Beauty. Surveying women's use of false bosoms, push-up bras, and lipstick, Riordan argues that women "have shrewdly, cannily, and knowingly deployed artifice in their ceaseless battle to captivate the inherently roving eye of the male."
So much for the stereotype of the powerless female.
It can be said that "patriarchy" is one of the most potent words in the English language. Its mere mention induces spasms of guilt and shame in men. Among women, the word incites anger and vindictiveness.
That powerful mix of emotions is the fuel that has allowed radical feminists to advance their cause. To this day, the Sisterhood talks about the patriarchy as if it is still going strong, inflicting misery on all those hapless women.
For the last 30 years or so, the neo-Marxists have relentlessly pummelled the frail strawman of patriarchy. After a while you begin to wonder, is their agenda to promote gender equality and reconciliation? Or do they have something more nefarious in mind?
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