The election of an unabashedly patriarchal man as US President was a shock for many: despite decades of activism on gender inequalities and equal rights, how could it come to this? Patriarchy exists as a voice in our heads - the question this book addresses is how did it get there and what can we do to get rid of it? What is it about patriarchy that seems to make it so resilient and resistant to change? Undoubtedly it persists in part because some people benefit from the unequal advantages it confers, but is that it? Is that enough to explain its stubborn persistence?
In this highly original and persuasively argued book, Carol Gilligan and Naomi Snider put forward a different view: they argue that patriarchy persists in part because it serves a psychological function. Patriarchy is neither natural nor inevitable but its codes of masculine detached stoicism and feminine selflessness can come to defend us against losses in connection that have come to seem irreparable, inevitable and unbearable. By requiring us to sacrifice love for the sake of hierarchy, patriarchy protects us from the vulnerability of loving and becomes a defense against loss. By uncovering the powerful psychological mechanisms that underpin patriarchy, they are able to show that forces beyond our awareness may be driving a politics that otherwise seems inexplicable.
While Patriarchy exists “out there” as a set of societal and cultural rules and structures that divide human traits into masculine and feminine and favour the former over the latter - it also exists “in here” - as a voice in our own heads - a set of internal, often unconscious, assumptions about how we as men and women can and should act, feel and think. How did the Patriarchy get into our heads and what can we do to get rid of it? These are the questions that this book seeks to answer.
Co-authored by Carol Gilligan, writer, activist, University Professor at NYU and author of In a Different Voice - one of the most influential feminist books of all time - and Naomi Snider, research fellow at NYU and candidate in psychoanalytic training at the William Alanson White Institute. The book is a “gentle dialogue” between a professor and her student that reaches across generational and hierarchical divides. A book in two voices, it embodies the power and possibility that emerges when we speak from personal experience and join together in responsive connection.