The ‘Hollow Patriarchy’ Hypothesis

“Masculinity [is] an icon of power, but it’s rotten at the centre”

The idea of the ‘hollow patriarchy’ comes from The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century by Stephen Marche and Sarah Fulford.

The hollow patriarchy is the idea that if you look at the economic data and the sociological data, women are rising in the middle class very rapidly. They are 40 per cent of breadwinners in America. They have more university degrees than men. More female lawyers graduate than male lawyers. Men are losing this position of breadwinner in the middle-American society. But women are still being denied these positions of power. Women are 16 per cent of equity partners in law firms, which is really absurd. Only about three per cent of Hollywood directors in the major seven studios are women. This actually translates into virtually every industry. So the hollow patriarchy is that you have this masculinity as an icon of power, but it’s rotten at the centre. In the middle of it, men are becoming less and less the providers they once were and this tension creates all this kind of cultural and domestic turbulence. (Stephen Marche and Sarah Fulford dissect 21st-century gender politics, CBC Radio, April 24, 2017)

If the ‘hollow patriarchy’ hypothesis holds true, we have a cultural conundrum indeed. It is as if we still line up the causal gender dominoes in the same way: manhood equates to masculinity, masculinity equates to power, and power equates to sustaining the patriarchal order. To be a ‘man’ continues to mean to ‘being in charge,’ even in a world where the normativity of this assumption is obvious nonsense.

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