Patriarchy and Social Class

… The Correlation, the Apex Fallacy, and the Value of Fathers:
(c) 2016, Davd

As i review and edit this reflection, it’s about half way between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. More money was spent, more fuss was made about Mother’s Day, this year and every earlier year this century, than was [will soon be] made about Father’s Day of the same year. Indeed, i doubt that the most active Father’s Day so far this century, economically or in time spent on celebrating it, was as big as the least active Mother’s Day.

That ought to be understood as indicative of the relative predominance of matriarchy and patriarchy in Canada, the USA, the rest of the “modern European, Commonwealth, and American societies.”1

Patriarchy is an important form of family organization, but it is not dominant today in “Western developed countries,” nor was it predominant in Western agricultural societies before the mechanized Industrial Revolution. References back to a patriarchal past are mistaken at best—one suspects that if ideological Feminists are as intelligent as they claim to be, likely many of those references are fraudulent, in the sense that the speakers and writers making them know, or ought to know, that they are false.

Where patriarchy is commonly found, anthropology and sociology tell us, men gain their dominance by strength at work, or military force. Patriarchy is common in:
‣ the ruling classes of agricultural societies, who rule by military force (Lenski, Lenski and Nolan, 1991, ch 7, esp pp 185-9, 195-6, 200)
‣ herding societies (Lenski, Lenski and Nolan, 1991: 206: “The basic economic activity in these societies is men’s work. In this respect they stand in sharp contrast to horticultural societies, where women often play the dominant role in subsistence activities.”)
‣ and the land-tilling families of agricultural societies where the work of ploughing is very demanding and neither women nor boys can do it reliably (Harris, 1969: 217-8, 328-331)

All these “kinds of patriarchs” control productive activity by their strength: The ruling classes of agrarian societies by large scale land ownership that began by military force; and the herdsmen and ploughmen by hard practical subsistence work. Looking at the principal work men do in modern industrial societies, you would not find a majority, nor even a large minority, doing herding, plowing hard ground with animals, holding huge estates farmed by tenants, nor dominating by military force2.

Patriarchy is not and was not the default form of family organization, then; rather, it has been normal to upper classes who dominated (or came to dominate) by military force, and to subsistence circumstances which depended especially on the strength and manual skill of grown men.

Indeed, Harris writes that matriarchy predominates in some other circumstances: “Where matrilocality prevails … women tend to take control of the entire domestic sphere of life. Husbands become more like visitors than permanent residents and divorce is frequent …” (Harris, 1989: 319.) Campaigning for re-election in 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama advised a husband he met casually in a diner to “just do whatever she tells you to.” That’s rather the opposite of a patriarchal style of advice.

It seems that as an old professor told me, decades ago, the lower one’s social class, the less patriarchal one’s family life. The fact that Henry VIII was quite patriarchal, for instance; does not imply that the peasant cultivators who grew his food were also patriarchal. Likewise for other rulers: Crankshaw (1966: 9) refers to Imperial Russian peasants as “submitting to the absolute rule of the babushka, the grandmother ….” (rather than to that of their wives.)

The fact that the Hebrews—the twelve-tribe Nation of Israel that went out from Egypt and some years later, conquered what is now the State of Israel—were largely a herding society when their Holy Scriptures (“the Old Testament”) were written, has likely made patriarchy appear more prevalent in the fairly distant past, than was actually the case. So has the fact that histories are usually written by scribes for the benefit of the ruling class of their time and place.

(Islam, which honours those Hebrew Scriptures as precursor to the Qu’ran, is usually regarded as patriarchal, but it is not extremely so: One of the often quoted sayings of Muhammad teaches respect and care for mothers before fathers:
A man came to Prophet Muhammad and asked him: “Oh Messenger of God, who rightfully deserves the best treatment from me? “Your mother,” replied the Prophet. “Who is next?” asked the man. “Your mother,” said the Prophet. “Who comes next?” the man asked again. “Your mother,” replied the Prophet. “Who is after that? insisted the man. “Your father,” said the Prophet.”3)

So why do many Feminists seem to echo complaints about “the patriarchy” if patriarchy itself exists largely among ruling classes, plus herdsmen and a few ploughmen whose work demands especially much muscular strength and co-ordination? If patriarchy is actually uncommon, something from the culture around us must be making it much more apparent than it is real.

What that old professor told me, some years back, was also stated: “The power of men in households and local activities is correlated with social class”. In the “Ruling Class”—royalty, nobles with titles like Baron, Count, Duke, King, Lord, Marquis, and Prince, and a few without titles such as top bureaucrats who influence them, Presidents, Prime Ministers and at least some of their “cabinets”—patriarchy has been normal—but not absolute4.)

Between the ruling class—and some American scholars at least, would deny that there are classes in their society, referring instead to a more fluid “status” ranking system—and the lowest, the prevalence of patriarchy declines as one goes downward. In the “lower class”—people who barely earn enough to feed, clothe, and house themselves adequately, people dependent on “Social Assistance” to survive, etc.—matriarchy prevails and there are few if any patriarchal households. Many lower-class households are fatherless and this has been the case for decades, though it seems to have become worse in the past generation’s time.

Such was the situation in the third quarter of the last century: The higher the social class, the higher the percentage of patriarchy and male dominance. Today, the situation is confounded by a drastic increase in fatherless households—millions of households are matriarchal because the mother is the only parent—and by Feminist success at lobbying gynocentrism into laws and bureaucratic practices.

Patriarchy is probably as rare today, in Europe and North America, as it ever has been; and specifically, upper-middle class households are probably less patriarchal than they were historically or would be if the sexes had equal opportunity… but that has not ended the complaints about patriarchy. Why not?

Why, if patriarchy itself exists largely among ruling classes, plus a few herdsmen and ploughmen whose work demands especially much muscular strength and co-ordination; do many women seem to believe complaints about “the patriarchy”? I do not read minds, but perhaps i can read some indications from the psychology of what gets noticed.

Let’s consider the Apex Fallacy, a phenomenon that has been fairly widely mentioned when women noticing men is the subject; but has a parallel of sorts when men noticing women is involved.

Suppose a random sample of women were photographed and the photographs presented to a random sample of men, which men were asked to rate the photographs as [for instance] Great – Good – Average – Plain – and Ugly looking. If significantly more average looking women were rated Plain, than rated Good; and more generally, if women were rated so that the average rating came out on the low side of Average– then there is an Apex Fallacy of sorts in how men notice women’s looks
and nobody much is surprised, eh?

It’s easy for many readers to believe there’s an Apex Fallacy in how men notice women’s “looks”. The same fallacy applies to how women notice patriarchy. The most impressive men get far more attention, relative to their fraction of the population. than others do… and they are much more likely to be dominant in their relationships, than the less impressive men who women notice much less.

To sum up: Patriarchy exists, but it is much less common than parental equality or matriarchy. It has traditionally been most common in ruling classes, both in the sense that a majority of ruling class households were patriarchal, and in the sense that a larger fraction of ruling class households were patriarchal than households below that class: “As one goes down the class ladder” fewer and fewer households are patriarchal, until virtually no “lower class households” are patriarchal while a great majority are matriarchal.

Feminist political influence has enjoyed much success, and that success has operated to increase matriarchy and decrease patriarchy (Nathanson and Young, 2006; cf. Brown, 2013.)

As the Apex Fallacy describes, the highest social classes are most noticed, and notice decreases “monotonically” with social class. Thus, even though matriarchy is much more common than patriarchy as a proportion of all present day households, patriarchy seems to get more notice.

We could draw a few different conclusions from all this: First, we could infer that patriarchy is a good thing indeed!—from the fact that patriarchal households and individuals enjoy higher social standing.5

Second, we could infer that complaints about patriarchy are ill founded for at least two reasons: Matriarchy is more common, and patriarchy is associated with greater success.

Third, we could look again, more sympathetically, at the notion that fatherlessness is a serious social problem. There’s an old criminological truism, that a Father’s Day card won’t find a buyer in prison: Many fatherless men go to prison and most men with good fathers, don’t. Hancock (2007) posted similar statistics for drug abuse, school failure, sexual violence, homelessness, and suicide with source citations6; while Scheffler and Naus (1999) found, in more positive language, that “fatherly affirmation [was] positively associated with [young women’s] self-esteem and negatively associated with fear of intimacy.” Increasing the proportion of fatherless families by giving mothers incentives to divorce, is a destructive social policy. It should be stopped, and years ago.

Patriarchy isn’t the answer to all our social problems—nor is it a threat. More important than complaining about Patriarchy, when it is actually rare; strengthening fatherhood is an important corrective for many of those social problems! A reduction in matriarchy, and especially a reduction in fatherlessness, would do much good.


Brown, Grant A., 2013. Ideology And Dysfunction In Family Law: How Courts Disenfranchise Fathers. Calgary and Winnipeg: Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre For Public Policy

Crankshaw, Edward, 1966. Khrushchev: A Career. New York: Viking Press

Hancock, Kerry Dale Jr, 2007. “Children Without Fathers: Statistics”  Accessed May 29, 2016.

Harris, Marvin, 1989. Our Kind. NY: Harper and Row.

Lenski, Gerhard, Jean Lenski, and Patrick Nolan, 1991. Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Scheffler, Tanya S., and Peter J. Naus, 1999. “The Relationship Between Fatherly Affirmation and a Woman’s Self-Esteem, Fear of Intimacy, Comfort With Womanhood And Comfort With Sexuality”. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 8(1) Spring, 39-45

St. Estephe, Robert, 2012 “Setting the record straight on the men’s rights movement.” A Voice for Men website, February 20,.

Setting the record straight on the men’s rights movement

Wells, H. G. 1949: The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man. Book Club edition, vol, 1


1. I’m deliberately leaving out of consideration, the industrial Asian societies. I don’t know how patriarchal Japan, China, Korea, etc., are today… and what i read about them 30-50 years ago wasn’t an adequate basis for generalizing to their whole populations… (nor is Asia the focus of the patriarchy controversies i have read.)

2. Domination by military force, is inherently something a minority do to a majority.

3. We should perhaps remember that Muhammad, unlike most modern Muslims and law-abiding Canadian men, had many wives (e.g. Wells, 1949: 607-8); when a man has many wives, it would seem “understandable” if his children are closer to their mothers than to him.

4. For more than six decades—for the whole lifetime of a large majority of people alive today—England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and Scotland (plus a few colonies) have been reigned-over by a woman. On the first day of spring, 2014, the Premiers of Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Québec, whose populations total well over half of all Canada and likely over three-quarters, were all women. (Those of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario still are.)

5. This could be a correlation—causation fallacy; but then again, it very well might not be.

6. Hancock reports that:
‣ 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) — 5 times the average.
‣ 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes — 32 times the average.
‣ 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes — 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
‣ 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
‣ 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes — 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
‣ 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes — 10 times the average. (Rainbows for All God’s Children)
The citations are his, most likely to sources from 2005-2007 or shortly earlier.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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