Looking for a term/articles
March 7, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Is there a term for the idea that women are (at least partially) the enforcers of patriarchal gender norms and practices?

I recently had a conversation with a Sierra Leonian professor I know about the practice of female circumcision, where he commented that, in his experience, it was the African women who were most likely to defend the practice. Around the same time, my own students brought up in classroom discussion that they believed that women were much more likely to police other women's bodies and gender presentations than men were.

While either of these claims may be true or false, it made me curious if there was some scholarship on this concept. I've heard vague mentions in feminist sources about the role women play in promoting patriarchal assumptions, but I haven't been able to find anything specific. Does anyone know any authors/books/scholarly articles on this subject, preferably academic?
posted by kittenmarlowe to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The term I've always heard used is 'internalized sexism'. If you search on that, you should find a fair amount of articles/scholarship/etc.
posted by FritoKAL at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

FritoKAL has it.

Re: female circumcision. There are some African feminist scholars, such as Fuambai Ahmadu, who criticize Western feminists for focusing on male-centric "explanations" for female genital cutting. and ignore the role women themselves play in it, and the complex cultural significance of the practice.

It's the subject of my M.A. thesis, so memail me if you'd like some more sources on this topic in particular :)
posted by torisaur at 9:03 AM on March 7, 2011

I think the concept of hegemony may also be applicable here.
posted by kitty teeth at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Women as moral guardians?
posted by embrangled at 9:41 AM on March 7, 2011

Mothers in law.

Not being flippant, you see it all the time. They went through hell so now they have the upper hand at last as matriarch. My own grandmother went from meek mother of 9 to grand old dame who bullied them all after widowhood and grandmotherhood elevated her finally to status.
posted by infini at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2011

This is the kind of philosophical and linguistic awkwardness that led to the development of the term "kyriarchy." Kyriarchy just means "the rule of the people who are in power," whereas patriarchy refers specifically to men.

Kyriarchy is a more accurate term, because it applies to a whole long list of intersecting privilege circles. Not just gender but class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical status (able/disabled, fat/thin), etc.

And - just as a random aside - it also helps describe the "shit rolls downhill" aspect of power structures. I may be on the wrong end of the kyriarchy when it comes to gender (female) and weight (too much), but I'm firmly part of the kyriarchy in the sphere of skin color (white) sexual orientation (straight), just to name two.

As opposed to patriarchy, which is a one-way concept, kyriarchy describes the way that we are all both oppressed and oppressor. A Sierra Leone woman enforcing genital mutilation being a prime example.
posted by ErikaB at 12:00 PM on March 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

False consciousness? Tools of the patriarchy?
posted by Pomo at 12:04 PM on March 7, 2011

I agree with 'internalized sexism', or 'internalized oppression' (which is a broader term, but a lot of written stuff exists concerning internalized oppression).
posted by so_gracefully at 12:24 PM on March 7, 2011

Ann Summers used the term "God's Police" in the specific historical context of colonial Australia.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:37 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that's Anne Summers.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:38 PM on March 7, 2011

I've always thought of these women as Aunts in reference to the older women who groom younger women to be handmaids in The Handmaid's Tale.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:55 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Internalized sexism and 2. hegemony- which requires the consent/buy-in of the dominant ideology (and/or discourse) by those being marginalized/oppressed for the ongoing maintenance of power relations which continue to result in their own oppression.
posted by kch at 8:04 PM on March 7, 2011

female circumcision, where he commented that, in his experience, it was the African women who were most likely to defend the practice.

It's not so much a gender issue. The loudest defenders of male circumcision tend to be circumcised males.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:36 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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