Patriarchy refers to the symbols and ideas that systematically privilege masculinity over femininity and are embedded in structural, institutional, and discursive practices. Patriarchy operates to stratify society, resulting in male advantages across a variety of social systems—such as the economy, politics, the family, and religion. Key to this definition is that patriarchy operates systematically. While patriarchy does affect interpersonal relationships, it is not an individual-level phenomenon. What this means is that neither does patriarchy ensure a privileged position to every individual male nor does it suggest that every male oppresses women. Instead, it refers to the overall patterning of behavior and how institutions are organized.

To clarify this point, the development of this term as referring to structural arrangements will be discussed first. Following this, the ...

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