Monday, April 26, 2010


I just learnt a great new word, and I wanted to share it:

kyriarchy (N)

kyriarchy - a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for "lord" or "master" (kyrios) and "to rule or dominate" (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination...Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.

This is presented in contrast to the commonly used (and derided) term 'patriarchy' to describe the privileged and dominant class. In the same glossary, 'patriarchy' is defined as:

patriarchy - Literally means the rule of the father and is generally understood within feminist discourses in a dualistic sense as asserting the domination of all men over all women in equal terms. The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men to not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves).

- Glossary, Wisdom Ways, Orbis Books New York 2001

Essentially, this is a word which is is far more useful than 'patriarchy' when discussing equality in this world where a complex hierarchical system of one's race, sex, sexual/gender orientation, faith (or lack thereof), cultural background, able-bodiedness, and social and/or educational class (amongst a myriad of other factors) interact to determine one's level of privilege and/or oppression.

To discuss the 'kyriarchy' is to discuss the institutionalised system which oppresses some whilst affording others a greater level of power and privilege. I would encourage anyone (who hasn't already) to read this article, as it was one of the many things which have caused me to recently re-examine my own experience of privilege.

I was prompted to write this after reading this post, along with many others, and was sparked by a comment on this site.

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