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Patriarchy has had its day

By Loz Lawrey

When it comes to toxic masculinity, neither Labor nor the Coalition occupy the moral high ground.

Both parties have male “rats in the ranks.” Women in both camps, whether politicians or staffers, continue to suffer from the insidious repression of their power, forced upon them by our patriarchal system.

It’s clear that our overarching Australian male-dominated social culture itself is the problem and, when it comes to the mistreatment of women, neither side of politics is beyond reproach.

Liberal MP Nicole Flint has called out sexist attacks and stalking she has endured, claiming that the safety of women should be “above politics,” while in the same breath accusing Labor of refusing to condemn the perpetrators.

As a woman, she deserves support and redress for any mistreatment she has suffered, yet her Labor-blaming demonstrates the usual right wing conservative politicisation of issues and response to criticism: avoid responsibility, refuse to address the facts and deflect, deflect, deflect…

Yet patriarchy is non-partisan. Male privilege and entitlement is everywhere.

It’s on the right, the left, and in the centre. Our system entrenches it as if this is nature’s way, the “natural order.”

It’s so easy, as a man, to accept that this is simply “the way of things” and thank our stars we weren’t “born a woman.”

To my shame, at times in my own life, I have had this very thought.

I’m now in my seventieth year. Yet still I continue to try to learn and grow my understanding. We can all improve on our former selves.

As I hear more and more women speak out about the mistreatment they endure,

I learn. My instinct is not to try to shut them down, but to listen. I know that if I do, I will learn, grow, and become a better person. I will connect with my own empathy and understand in some small way what it is to walk in a woman’s shoes.

Whatever my own political affiliation, I must listen and act on the knowledge and understanding that listening delivers.

At this moment in time, our federal parliament stands exposed as a disgusting cesspit of sexism and exploitation.

In the parliamentary workplace, which has no human relations department to address the issues of those who work there, a toxic culture endures, nurtured and maintained by men of privilege from across the political spectrum.

There’s an opportunity here.

Australia needs to change.

Who should lead that change? Our federal government.

Who speaks for them? Scott Morrison.

Is this man capable of even comprehending and addressing the problem?

Sadly, no. Scott Morrison is the emperor with no clothes, a hollow man of “faith” devoid of the consideration and understanding needed to change our system.

The activist Grace Tame highlighted his gormless response to the issue of women’s safety during her speech at the National Press Club, pointing out that; “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.”

Morrison’s pathetic reference to his own wife and daughters, while intended to imply; “I understand the problem – I get it,” did just the opposite.

He doesn’t understand the problem. He simply doesn’t “get it,” which is why he sought guidance from his wife.

Scott Morrison is, purportedly, the leader of our nation.

He sits at the top of the very system that perpetuates the repression of women.

He himself is a product of that system, and thus a part of the problem.

Will he do anything to address the issues of women’s safety and inequality at their source?

Will he encourage cultural change in schools, sports clubs and churches, those petri dishes of toxic masculinity?

Will he call for mutual respect our streets?

Will he speak for “equal rights for all, regardless of gender”? Probably not.

Make no mistake. Private boys’ schools exist to entrench and maintain the patriarchy and the “male power” that sustains it. They are breeding grounds for the sexism that preferences one gender over another, and the entitled men these institutions produce go on to infect our culture and society at large with their toxic attitudes and behaviour.

I myself am a product of this system, and it’s taken me a lifetime to understand this.

Toxic masculinity exists everywhere – in all pollical parties, in the business world, in our wider communities. It is not partisan, and the issue of women’s safety should certainly be above and beyond politics.

Addressing this issue requires more than the mumblings of a conservative evangelist, one who appears completely unable to even understand the problem.

We need a real leader.

Australia needs a female prime minister, one who can foster greater understanding and acceptance between men and women.

We had one once.

Her name was Julia Gillard, and we all witnessed the champions of patriarchy in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian attack and revile her throughout her term in office.

What a cringeing embarrassment that was to witness: our nation at its very worst. What a poisonous presence in our society Murdoch has been.

Ms Gillard did her best. Her “misogyny speech” resounded around the world.

History will remember her kindly. Murdoch? Not so much.

In Australia, sadly, the patriarchy is entrenched.

Dismantling it requires the collective effort of us all.

Our nation must change.

Our culture must change.

The education and upbringing of men must change.

These things will only happen once we all work together to change the very system that entrenches patriarchy and male entitlement.

Men must realise that this implies no threat to them, no disenfranchisement nor emasculation.

Empowering women will not disempower men but rather help to, as Robert Kennedy said in 1968; “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

In the civilised world, in these troubled times, the very survival of humankind depends upon collaboration, cooperation and mutual understanding.

Patriarchy has had its day.

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  1. Doctor Wu

    Yes indeed Loz, patriarchy certainly has had its day. But with what do we propose to replace it? Those who have lived for any length of time in a matriarchal society, (as have I, among Khasis in NE India and among Aboriginal clans in Australia), will tell you from experience that power structures inverted along gender lines merely exchange one privileged power base for another. I have seen what would be called “toxic femininity” in matriarchal societies if the same criteria were applied as are being employed to (rightly) skewer Scummo et al.

    “The education of men [and women] must change.” Too right, if you will allow what the parentheses contain. It must be replaced by the education of people – starting with children in the family home.

    What is necessary, if equality of existence and opportunity are to be achieved, is an end to any consideration of gender and a focus on merit in all social and guvmint matters. And to teach our children to respect others irrespective of gender, race, religion, or any of the other petty distinctions we use to elevate ourselves above the other 10,000 things with which we share this planet … (Apologies for the spelling. I learned “guvmint” from GW Bush and cannot resist using it. Same same “nuklya”.)

  2. Loz Lawrey

    Thanks for your considered comment, Dr Wu.
    I’m not suggesting we replace patriarchy with matriarchy. I agree with the points you make, particularly those in your last paragraph. I’m a naive idealist really, just calling it as I see it.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Doctor Wu,

    ‘Toxic femininity’ is a thing but I don’t think it is what you mean.

    “Toxic femininity is sweet and placatory, it never demands or defends, it has no strength and can only submit without protest or defiance. Women become possessions, owned by the dominant male in their life, either their father or their husband. This concept is central to patriarchy, it has traditions that go back thousands of years. Fathers give their daughters to husbands, women change their name to indicate a change of ownership and husbands then take on the role of provider, protector and owner.

    Women in all of this have no agency, no ability to exist as a person in their own right. They are defined by their relationship to a man and their ability to produce and care for his children.”

    I would be interested to hear what sort of experiences you found toxic.

  4. Arnd

    Make no mistake. Private boys’ schools exist to entrench and maintain the patriarchy and the “male power” that sustains it.

    A commenter in a different forum recently called private boys’ schools “a twelve year course of instruction in how to be an entitled alpha male”. Just about sums it up, doesn’t it?

    I mean, parents don’t invest $40,000/year each to have their sons become bus drivers, posties or short-order cooks.

  5. Kaye Lee

    The King’s School in Parramatta will charge $40,714 for year 12 after additional technology and meal fees are included, an increase of $11,809 on raw fees seven years ago.

    Federal government funding per student for King’s is set to rise by 50 per cent of its 2017 levels by 2027 under the ‘Gonski 2.0’ scheme, a total of $19.3 million.

    “There are very few junior and primary schools that enjoy a more gracious and attractive site than the King’s School Preparatory School. Nestled among 300 acres of gracious parkland, complete with lakes, lawns, gardens and woodland, the boys at the Prep School are able to learn and play in an environment which is a ‘boy heaven’.

    “Modelled on the Oxford and Cambridge model of grassed quads, the Senior School is made up of graceful colonnaded buildings. The terracotta columns, sandstone and open veranda areas evoke a distinctly classical feel … Its sports facilities feature extensive playing fields, a strength and conditioning centre, tennis courts, rowing facilities, rifle range, basketball courts and swimming pools.”

  6. Arnd

    Well … – and what is wrong with that, Kaye?

    Do you not also find it reassuring in the extreme, that the future captains of industry and finance, and the prospective political and legal leaders of this country are the beneficiaries of such comprehensive and well-rounded educational efforts?

  7. Vikingduk

    Turn out a few more toxic, mysogenistic, born to rule arseholes. Yeah, works for me.

  8. Matters Not


    Federal government funding per student for King’s is set to rise by 50 per cent of its 2017 levels by 2027 under the ‘Gonski 2.0’ scheme, a total of $19.3 million

    Yep – that’s because of Gonski’s needs based funding. Nothing to do with the educational need(s) of enrolled students, but everything to do with the political need(s) of the parent population and the way they vote.

    That this meaning of needs based funding continues to this day can easily be traced to Rudd’s edict that no school would receive any less under Labor’s reforms. And Gillard went along with that. Sad but true. Yes we need more of Labor’s educational reforms. Or maybe not?

    As for The King’s School – Parramatta, it has many notable Old Boys forever in the news – including Angus Taylor and John Anderson.

  9. wam

    Lt-col Eleanor Taylor says “she is sickened by the senior leaders who are unwilling or unable to recognize that their behavior is harmful to the victim and to the team.” Women are protesting all over the world – Europe, South America 1m women in Chile and Ni Una Menos Where do we start to change culture? With the men who interpret the bible(s)then those like porter and/or the women with the banner ‘women for Porter’? Perhaps you could get Ms Flint retiring MP to join you in planning the end to patriarchy? It seems obvious to bring the green, purple and white flag out as a world wide symbol against the law of men and a rallying point to recruit women and their men to set branch stacking of vulnerable male and female politicians regardless of party.
    Beauty Kaye,
    Most church schools dip deeply in public money by ‘scholarships’ for Aborigines, Islanders and the unemployed. In my home area these kids pay less that the public school fees.

  10. Matters Not


    will tell you from experience that power structures inverted along gender lines merely exchange one privileged power base for another

    Indeed. A point well made by Paulo Freire many years ago and explained via his concept of existential duality.

    the oppressed are at one and the same time both themselves (the oppressed) and the oppressor, whose consciousness they have internalized. Due to this ambiguous duality and the internalization of their oppressors, the oppressed seek to become like the oppressors and share in their way of life

    Paulo Freire

    If we are to do away with private boys’ schools, then what about private girls’ schools? Isn’t the hidden curriculum roughly the same in both (elite) establishments? Should we demand that schools be about social needs and wants as well as individual needs and wants? And if there’s a tension between the two (as there inevitably will be) what outcome should (tend to) reign supreme? Should the teaching of religion be allowed in any school during the normal school day? Or should it be confined to out of school time?

    What is the purpose(s) of schooling anyway? And who should decide? What about the curriculum? Educational experts or parents? Should some subjects be compulsory? Should the concept of evolution be included? Etc and etc.

  11. Kaye Lee

    I would still like to hear Doctor Wu’s experiences of oppression under a matriarchal society.

    I am firmly in favour of co-ed schools but I don’t think toxic masculinity is really a problem in girls schools. And I think they have moved on from teaching deportment.

    Schools already deal with social and individual needs and wants – personally I think we should have a much greater emphasis on addressing the needs of the individual but that would require stretching already limited resources.

    And YES religion should be confined to out of school time.

    The aim of schooling is to equip students with skills that will enable them to be a productive member of society. And NO, parents should NOT decide the curriculum. Nor should bureaucrats.

    You could ask if creationism should be included, not if evolution should be.

  12. nobody special

    I am just so sick and tired of this. How long are we going to talk about it before we actually make some positive steps. The problem is a systemic problem that exists and a great deal of modern societies (and some not so modern) around the world. The problem is ‘men’, how we raise them, how there is some sort of underlying feeling of superiority over women, how men talk about women on a day to day basis, the disrespect that men have for women, the way men believe that its ok as long as they don’t disrespect ‘their’ women, the way that most men ‘don’t’ know any men like that’. FFS

    Should elite private schools be abolished? Yes absolutely. Elitism should be abolished. I hardly think that somebody should be leadership material just because their parents are rich. Good leaders are tempered from life experiences and good character and are sorely lacking in our powerful positions these days.

    As a civilised society we need to start to acknowledge these problems and do something about them. There is only so much work that women can do on their side. Men it is up to you. The real question is are you really strong enough to actually incite change, or will you just prove that its men who lack character?

  13. Wam

    Kaye, you are absolutely correct in your assessment of the aims of schools to equip children for the future.
    The advertising shows aim of the church schools is to disseminate the values of church and it’s beliefs through faith .The lay teachers and staff are so enabled by contracts and those not of the faith pledge not to influence students ‘elsewhere’.
    The roles of boys and girls are made clear in practical terms to the girls marry and breed for Christ. The boys equally clear root your arse off and marry a ‘virgin’. NB if a boy is at risk of aids condoms are permissible.

  14. Josephus

    Start by bringing up children without any concern for beauty or decoration. It starts with putting ribbons in a girl’s hair and goes on to dancing and primping the girl in pretty pink . Stop it now .

  15. Doctor Wu

    Kaye … I could write pages about my experiences in NE India, where I taught English in a college in Shillong, and later was a senior chemist at a government-owned mine. Or the decade in which I became an adopted member of a Bininj clan in Arnhem Land and worked as their science advisor … But that would only be me telling you, and, since you question the opinion I offered, it seems likely that you would find some problem with anything further I might say. And you might be correct. But you won’t find out by theorising or shooting messengers … The most reliable way to form an opinion that accurately reflects reality is not to listen to other, possibly biased, people – like me for example. Rather, one should get out in the world and experience for one’s self its multifarious realities. Acquire empirical information from the real world, rather than rely on derivative impressions – like the ones you require of me … As Kipling observed, “… the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts in Kathmandu.”

  16. Kaye Lee

    I didn’t question your opinion. I just didn’t think you actually meant toxic femininity because that is something else entirely – it is the opposite of being powerful.

    I asked about your experiences because I am interested. I wondered what sort of oppression or discrimination or harassment or violence you experienced in a matriarchal society.

    Far from shooting the messenger, I want to hear more about your message.

  17. Kaye Lee


    “Most anthropologists hold that there are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal. According to J. M. Adovasio, Olga Soffer, and Jake Page, no true matriarchy is known actually to have existed. Anthropologist Joan Bamberger argued that the historical record contains no primary sources on any society in which women dominated. Anthropologist Donald Brown’s list of human cultural universals (viz., features shared by nearly all current human societies) includes men being the “dominant element” in public political affairs which he asserts is the contemporary opinion of mainstream anthropology.”

  18. DrakeN

    Only interesting, Kaye, if you leave out the “most”, “no known”, “unambiguously”, “true matriarchy”, “historical record”, and “primary sources”.
    Lack of evidence proves nothing except that there is a lack of evidence.
    Until relatively recently there was no evidence to suggest that a variety of intelligent and artistic humanoids existed prior to the emigration from the African plains.
    You might as well say that you can fly to the moon 😉

  19. DrakeN

    Is your comprehension slipping, Kaye?
    My education was soundly science/engineering based so I see things from an evidential viewpoint so that, like correlation, absense of evidence proves nothing.
    And defensive I am not because for all my faults, there is nothing I need to defend myself from except injustice and even then I defend everyone else from false claims and damaging innuendo with equal effort.
    You may, or may not, recall that I was brought up in an area of West Wales where remnants of the Celtic/Brethonic culture of gender equality and matriarchal leadership still existed amongst the ‘common folk’; the existence of which was never formally recorded but referred to by a Christian, Norman educated, Monk many centuries after it had been broadly destroyed by successive waves of invasion and immigration.
    I am merely emphasising the truism that you cannot form sound opinion on the basis of evidential deficiency, nor can you do so on the basis of some intellectuals’ contorted attempts at rhetorical oneupmanship.
    Practitioners of both Archeology and Anthropology have long histories of coming to erroneous conclusions based on little or no real evidence and for the proponents of those conclusions to continue to vigorously defend them for fear of losing academic credibility.
    It may well be that Matriarchies proper have never existed in human species, but they do appear in other animals such as elephants and orcas.
    What I am attempting to defend, probably inadequately, is that facts matter where they exist and that where they do not conclusions reached in their absence are fallacious, at best.

  20. Kaye Lee

    As far as I am aware, my comprehension is still ok thanks.

    Could we agree that the evidence suggests that, despite females comprising more than 50% of the population, they do not seem to want to use their numerical superiority to dominate society?

  21. Matters Not

    Research is usually (but not always) awash with unexamined assumptions. Take a simple exercise such as – Count the number of people on Surfers Paradise Beach on Sunday at noon. In everyday life, it’s possible/probable that two different teams of researchers would arrive at the same number, give or take a few. But that doesn’t mean that the result was free of theories (assumptions) which affected the outcome.

    The first assumption (theory) relates to the concept of people. Are children to be counted as people? In some societies they are, in others not. So what about the recently born? What about the unborn? What about the recently deceased – being carried away on a stretcher? Count or not? And if we are going to include the soon to arrive, do we assume there will be only one – or perhaps more?

    The point being that the theory we adopt will affect or even effect the methodology to be employed. If we, for whatever reason, decide to include the unborn then that probably changes the methodology significantly. Do we simply ask those who appear to be likely candidates? That assumes they know, does it not?. (After all it is Surfers Paradise where the living can be easy.) Or do we want to go further? Tests etc. If so, that’s likely to have a profound influence on the methodology that’s adopted. And, more importantly, it’s going to have a determination on the numbers. – the supposedly factual count.

    Should be clear that any supposedly factual count was arrived at via the theories adopted (the assumptions made), the methodology employed (and the interactions between the two). And that barely scratches the surface of what might appear to be a simple exercise. So it is with any research. These days, of course, good papers or books begin with theoretical considerations because the outcomes or conclusions are very much dependent on the theories brought to bear.

    Then there’s the motivations of the researcher …. including the reader in search of the facts or even worse the truth. Lol. Guess we have to just live with uncertainty.

  22. DrakeN

    On that latter point, Kaye, I wholeheartedly concur. (As I do with most of your writings)
    With over half of the voting population female, we still end up with the mob of miscreants which we currently have holding the reins of power.
    I often hear the phrase: “This would not happen if we had women in power.” and yet so many refuse to elect them.
    The mind is well and truly boggled.
    On the other hand, “The nice young man from Dawseville” leading the WA Liberals lost his seat, settin a bit of a precedent – but it may have been that his ideas on renewable energy generation were a bit too progressive, so they voted for the Party with policies closer to their retrogressive ideologies, the WA ALP.

  23. wam

    Do men fear a matriarchal society will treat men as we treat women? Gillard put the lie to that here with fairness, whilst Maggie in pommieland?
    I have been lucky not to have lived in a patriarchal family and at work the best teachers and leaders have been women. A casual observation from my twenty years as a deputy high school principal has shown poorly behaved kids had sad mothers and useless bullying fathers

  24. wam

    Wow Kaye,
    A teacher’s lament, women believe they are not good at maths and, despite sound evidence to the contrary, they are not good at maths.
    Equally despite sound evidence to the contrary, they teach their sons and daughters to follow the men of the church.
    All that plus staying in abusive marriages under orders from the church.
    Doctor Aken certainly has an E on the go.

  25. Kaye Lee


    You are speaking to a very happily married atheist maths teacher. Rosemary and Win were also maths teachers I believe. Someone must have forgotten to tell us we weren’t supposed to be good at it.

    Too many boys also think they can’t do maths. So often, it’s a self-esteem issue, particularly for boys. If they don’t try and they don’t do well that’s because maths sux. But it would be so much worse if they actually tried and still didn’t do well. So best not to try.

    That’s why the Most Improved was the best award in my class. They were so proud to finally take home a maths award even if they just improved from last place to maybe 5th last. And I did away with red crosses replacing them with a question mark at the place they went wrong. I also told them that if they didn’t understand, it was my fault and to please keep talking to me so I could understand where I lost them and work out a better way to explain things.

    I love the way Eddie Woo approaches maths teaching. His excitement is contagious.

  26. wam

    Spot on, Kaye, eddy is tops but one of the best maths classroom teachers in Australia, of last century and university lecturer of this century is a 60 year long friend and my darling of 58 years is the opposite because she was told she couldn’t understand maths and despite me knowing how good she is at maths organizing she doesn’t believe me and maintains she is poor at maths sadly she is believed and I am not. Our high school had Anne, Rosemary, Rose and Ralph as the gum maths teachers no prize for guessing who was appointed the senior master? ps I got smacked down for my weird ideas that when a lovely old man said while patting me on the head ‘they are such a good boy in Latin why are you not a good boy in French’ the class was so bad he had a break down and went to a mental hospital at Easter I saw him on the street in the holidays and went to apologies but he saw me and crossed the road that influenced me as a teacher.

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