One of the things I never understood about the idea of patriarchy that feminism opposes is this: why would men throughout history across numerous “patriarchal” cultures and civilizations systematically oppress their counterparts, i.e., their wives, their sisters, their mothers?
To oppress someone means to prevent that person from what she needs, what is her due, and to otherwise cause harm. And I can understand how that happens in isolated situations, e.g., domestic abuse where a husband abuses his wife, etc. But I don’t understand how this can happen globally or across an entire society. Why? Because men are smarter than that and so are women. What I mean is, it would be completely irrational for men to inflict this kind of program within their own households. How do men benefit by crippling their female companions and continually frustrating their needs? That is simply not functional. Have you ever known a family where the husband/father (or the wife/mother) is a tyrant, wields all the control, rules with an iron fist? Those situations are never sustainable and everyone involved is miserable and looking for an exit. Are we supposed to believe that it was only modern people that realized, Wow, disproportionate distribution of power/authority in the household is neither optimal nor sustainable?
Also, the idea that women have been the perpetual victims of this scheme by men to oppress them over thousands of years is really insulting to the intelligence and capabilities of women. Again, are modern women the only ones enlightened enough to understand that they are being oppressed by patriarchy and to fight back, whereas past women were too stupid to notice or successfully effect change? That makes no sense.
If you look at what is required to effectively oppress a group of people, it is not a trivial task. Look at it from a practical perspective. Look at the current state of the Arab world. These Arab dictators have had to marshal all kinds of resources, military and police force, all kinds of programs of monitoring and institutions of propaganda and intimidation to maintain some semblance of (illegitimate) power and control over their populations. They’ve been doing this for 60 or 70 years, and look at how much resistance they’ve been getting and how much turmoil has resulted. The same is the case throughout world history. Oppression is inherently unstable and requires a lot of resources and energy to maintain for any extended period of time because the victims of oppression inevitably resist.
This casts doubt on the notion of oppressive patriarchy on two counts. First, the idea that men have been successfully keeping women down for millenia is absurd in the sense that, if that were the program, why would men put themselves through that incessant turmoil, constantly battling “uprising” from their own family members, presumably the same people they are sleeping next to in their beds every night? Second, if that were indeed the program, where would the resources for such a program come from? On the family level, historically it would have been difficult to keep money and means that are available to a husband away from a wife. It is possible and did happen, again in isolated cases, but not on a systematic level or something that could be widespread.
Now it is a historical fact that women and men played different roles in maintaining their households. But it is only modern feminism that imposes a hierarchy on these roles and claims that the traditional roles of women have put them at a disadvantage vis a vis men. But as I have argued elsewhere, there is no basis for these determinations. For example, it is not clear how a traditional female role like raising and educating children is inherently less powerful than roles involving commercial trade, etc.
EDIT: Let me make the point like this: Feminism wants us to believe that a man would choose other men to collude with and establish systems of power with OVER his own family, OVER his own wife and daughters and mother. This goes against human experience and basic self interest. If you are a woman, ask yourself: Is your father or your husband or your brother going to privilege the interests of a strange man over your interests, solely on the basis that “men stick together against women”? If so, that just means your father, husband, and brother are a**holes and possibly insane, not representatives of this global conspiracy to oppress one gender. And if you are a man, ask yourself: Are you going to look out for strange men and prioritize their interests over the interests of your wife, daughters, and mother? If so, you are an a**hole and very likely mentally unstable, not a patriarch who is part of this global brotherhood holding back women.