Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Hanna Rosin, declarer of the end of men, has now declared the end of the patriarchy. In an article on Slate that is adapted from a new epilogue to her book about the demise of the male gender, she reflects on the fact that “elite feminists…cling to the dreaded patriarchy” and have an “irrational attachment to the concept of unfair,” unable to admit that women have won and society’s sexist barriers are obliterated.
The problem, though, is that it doesn’t seem like Rosin has a solid working concept of what feminists mean when they talk about the patriarchy. In her own piece she brings up examples of the patriarchy but declares them to be something else.
Patriarchy is a lack of options for working parents. Rosin should know this herself. She recounts her own struggle to balance work and family. “[A]fter the birth of my first child, I decided to work four days a week, a capitulation that sank me into a terrible depression,” she writes.
I suppose the patriarchy was lurking somewhere in my subconscious, tricking me into believing that it was more my duty to stay home with our new baby than my husband’s. But I didn’t see it as a “duty.” I wanted to stay home with her, and I also wanted to work like a fiend. It was complicated and confusing, a combination of my personal choices, the realities of a deadline-driven newsroom, and the lack of a broader infrastructure to support working parents—certainly too complicated to pin on a single enemy.
There really is an identifiable enemy here. The reason the workplace, and our policies that impact the workplace, don’t accommodate parents is because they are still structured around a time when women’s domain was the home and men went off to work with children taken care of by someone else. (This is true even despite the fact that many women, particularly low-income women and women of color, have always worked.) That structure has led to “our appalling lack of paid maternity leave,” as Rosin puts it, because workers are thought to be male and not need time to recuperate from labor or care for an infant. Patriarchy has always said that public space and all that comes with it—money, influence, power—belongs to men. Women may make up nearly half of the workforce, but if you looked at our workplace policies you wouldn’t know it.
And yes, it is in fact the patriarchy that makes you think that it’s more your duty than your husband’s to care for your children. It’s natural for a parent to want to spend time with a child. But there’s a difference between that longing and the disproportionate burden women face to be the ones to make it work. Men are rarely asked to change their career paths to factor in the work of raising a child—to their detriment as well as women’s!—because, again, patriarchy says men are workers and women are caretakers.