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June 04, 2014



Sure, but the things you point out don't contribute to something more all encompassing like 'patriarchy'. Ben points out in his piece that something like Capitalism has inherent mechanisms to replicate itself. Cognitive biases can support any structural pattern and is therefore very different. There's all the difference in the world between acknowledging misogyny and gender inequality, and being a feminist and 'patriarchy'.


That is rather the point.

Patriarchy is not a "thing", it is a label for a collection of behaviours and institutions that collectively oppress women. If women talk about it like a cabal of men who band together to oppress women, that's because of the effect it has. So in that sense at least, it is very real.

Whether it is useful is left as an exercise to the reader.


"tax avoidance is widespread in Greece because it was seen as a patriotic duty under Ottoman rule"

I'm sorry, but that's just silly.

The reality, as everywhere else, has to do with economics, not culture.

1) A large number of poor Greek people were self-employed or working for small businesses, which makes it easier to attempt to avoid small amounts of tax - because you desperately need the money, not because of your exotic history.
2) Public-sector workers, so often blamed by capitalist media for the crisis in Greece, were not actually able to avoid taxes.
3) The rich avoided (and continue to avoid) taxes in the same way they avoid taxes everywhere else, too - because in an economic system dedicated to profit, capital controls the government.

To suggest that tax avoidance in Greece is a cultural phenomenon does nothing but play into the racist stereotype of the "lazy Greek" perpetuated by the ruling classes (both Greek and German).

Churm Rincewind

I'm not sure that Laurie Penny's journalism is a good starting point for discussion.

Lively, provocative and trenchant she may be, but statements such as "culture hates women" don't really bear much analysis.


Try Occam's Razor: men and women have different innate motivations/preferences.

E.g. risk-taking.

"In situations of risk, males are more likely to see a challenge that calls forth participation while females tend to respond as to a threat in ways that encourage avoidance of the risk."

ELIZABETH C. ARCH, Risk-Taking: A Motivational Basis for Sex Differences

This simple difference, not so-called patriarchy, probably explains much of the gender inequality.


Sorry, bit of a newbie here and tend to just read. Thought I could add to this discussion though...

@Martin: I think the evidence shows that the idea that men take more risk because they are men is wrong. In fact, risk taking is a cultural thing in itself.

Your post immediately reminded me of a freakonomics podcast called "Women are not men" on 20/03/2014. In it an experiment is described which I think is this one:

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

Volume 83, Issue 1, June 2012, Pages 59–65

Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Competition

Edited By Rachel Croson, Uri Gneezy and Pedro Rey-Biel

Essentially the experimenters compared risk-taking in a matriarchal and patriarchal society. They found that women took much more risk (and more than the men) when in a matriarchal society.

I hope this assists.

Dave Timoney

Surprised to see you still pushing the myth that high levels of Greek tax avoidance can be attributed to the Ottomans.



As it is written (which may not be the intention) it appears to dismiss the notion of emergent effects in systems... which seems a bit odd...


Your post inspired me to do a little research into what exactly is 'The Patriarchy'.

The first Google return gives me this:
"Not all men are Patriarchs. A Patriarch is a man who has special power and influence over not just his family but also in society, due to privileges gathered through intersections of age, wealth, achievement, lineage, patronage and the exploitation of others as these attributes add to his place in the elite social hierarchy."

Please tell me why I am stupid: am I to understand that privileges should *not* accrue to those with age, wealth, achievement? Or they should, but only if you are female? Or maybe (I am thinking) they don't mean that, but are throwing sh*t against the wall to see what sticks and they get to control the agenda?

Right now I am thinking that The Patriarchy is a nebulous, un-testable idea based around people who dislike *outcomes* they see around them and are retrospectively speculating on what the mechanisms might be, and are including outcomes that actually they want to stay in place, but should only apply to women. But it will all makes sense (honest) when they have control of the agenda. Somehow. Trust us.

This is a very basic power-play conspiracy theory agenda dressed up in 10 dollar words.


The ref you give is to an edited collection and the closest paper I see has this abstract:

We explore gender differences in preferences for competition and risk among children aged 9–12 in Colombia and Sweden, two countries differing in gender equality according to macro indices. We include four types of tasks that vary in gender stereotyping when looking at competitiveness: running, skipping rope, math and word search. We find that boys and girls are equally competitive in all tasks and all measures in Colombia. Unlike the consistent results in Colombia, the results in Sweden are mixed, with some indication of girls being more competitive than boys in some tasks in terms of performance change, whereas boys are more likely to choose to compete in general. Boys in both countries are more risk taking than girls, with a smaller gender gap in Sweden.

Note the conclusion: *Boys in both countries are more risk taking than girls.*

Here's the paper:


Here's another consideration: "Patriarchy" cannot account for why men are both more at the top and at the bottom of the heap, e.g. most CEOs are men as are most homeless.

My alternative explanation can account for this.


While I have my doubts about some of the wilder claims of evo-psych, I suspect that there is something in the notion that, among mammals where females require to carry their young for many months before giving birth, evolution may have nudged males towards more risk-taking than females as, in reproductive terms at least, the rewards for success are going to be greater than for females (making the I think at least somewhat reasonable assumption that risks are taken with the intent of gaining power/reward, and that said power/rewards boosts a male's desirability as a sexual partner)


The post is good, as far as it goes. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at most of the comments.

You know those class exercises where the prof asks the students to write down what they do to ensure their personal safety when walking acros campus at 9PM? And the women fill up the page and turn it over, while the men sit there wondering what the hell they're supposed to say. That the *conservative* estimate of the number of women who've been raped in their lifetime is one in six. In some populations, it's one in three. Just picture, you comfortable folk who think men's success is tied to their risk-taking, how you would feel if part of your calculus in deciding to go across town had to be the fairly good chance of suffering anal rape.

Okay. This is an economics-focused blog. So questions of having your life and movements and career choices hemmed in by sexual terrorists maybe doesn't count. How about having twice the accomplishments but having some man with less hired first, promoted first, recognized first, paid more, where does that fit in? How about being talked over in meetings and then having your ideas expropriated? How much does that cost? Who benefits? All these things, both the crimes and discrimination are a matter of statistical fact. They exist. And who actually *does* them? These things aren't accomplished by the disembodied ether. People do them. Usually men, but women too. We all soak in this stuff, some less consciously than others.

If you're one of the ones who gets to soak both unconscious and unharmed, well, bully for you. Now you know how every elite in the world has felt when the underlings inexplicably grumbled.


"You know those class exercises where the prof asks the students to write down what they do to ensure their personal safety when walking acros campus at 9PM?"

Sounds like a less than difficult degree.


Patriarchy is a conspiracy theory. It's opposed by people who would have opposed capitalism in the past but have decide that's too difficult.


Cobley clearly doesn't actually read anything written by feminists, because all the ones I read (I may be guilty of reading the better ones, of course) have plenty of examples to point to to make their case, rather than, as he vapidly imagines it, something lacking in evidence. And how tricky of these feminists to not claim it is a science, thus removing from his arsenal some sort of magic weapon of science.


Sad to see this topic on here. I thought it was reasonably focussed on economic issues not pseudo-science like the radfem cult.

What next? Homeopathy? How Gwyneth Paltrow might not be wrong in thinking that you shouldn't shout at water?

Get a grip.



Thanks for the link. Yes that's not the study I was referring to, but I think it supports my case, that in a more gender equal society, women take more risk. Surely, if it was nature rather than nurture there would be no difference whatsoever?

In any event, I have found what I was looking for. The study compares the Masai tribe in Tanzania (which is extremely patriarchal) and the Khasi tribe in India (one of the world’s few matrilineal societies). One weakness is that it talks about competition, so slightly different to risk - but it is abosultely fascinating.


The original freakonomics podcast, which is all about women, is here: http://freakonomics.com/2013/02/24/women-are-not-men-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/


I used to think all the bad stuff people said about feminists was bullshit.

Then I reluctantly had to admit only about half of it was bullshit.

Now I realise that it's all true.

If a feminist says something, it's a good rule of thumb that the truth is the opposite.

Luis Enrique

I am not sure I understand the issues at stake here. Male privilege (in many walks of life, not all) is an undeniable fact, albeit waning. Something that could be described as a "system" is perpetuating it.

I don't see any pseudo-science or conspiracy theorising here.

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