WTF is a Kyriarchy?

If you are familiar with feminism or other movements for justice and equality, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about intersectionality. Intersectionality is an idea in feminist discourse that highlights how forms of oppression do not operate independently of each other. Structures of power and privilege relating to race, gender, sexuality, age, class, and ethnicity all interact in different ways. By being aware of intersectionality in feminist discourse, feminists attempt to create a more inclusive movement for equality.

A more obscure vocabulary word for feminist discourse is kyriarchy. Kyriarchy is a word that is very closely related to intersectionality because it highlights privilege and power relations beyond our traditional dichotomies of oppression, i.e: men over women, white people over people of color. Here is a great definition of kyriarchy in contrast with the traditional “patriarchy”:

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. 
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
Kyriarchy explains why historically oppressed people can also become oppressors in the shifting social contexts of our increasingly intersectional world. Our understanding of social relationships within the kyriarchy does not place the blame for all oppression on rich, white, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual males, but rather holds everyone accountable for contributing to systems of domination and oppression in society. Kyriarchy is complicated because it forces us to confront our own role in the Master/Slave dichotomies that we create and does not define a single innocent victim. It implicates everyone in systems of oppression rather than just blaming the patriarchy, which is why it is the tool that the feminist movement needs to use more often.
As more people are abandoning hope in feminism and creating movements like Men’s Rights, humanism, egalitariansm, and masculinism to stake claims for their own issues of oppression, feminism needs to embrace and promote understandings of oppression through a kyriarchal, rather than patriarchal, lens. The feminist movement has just begun to realize that it will sink very soon without intersectionality. It now needs to spread this knowledge of oppression through intersectionality and kyriarchy in order to work effectively with all victims and perpetrators of oppression.
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Filed under feminism, identity, politics, privilege, social justice

12 responses to “WTF is a Kyriarchy?

  1. nonviolentconflict

    Reblogged this on NonviolentConflict.

  2. Jason Woehlke

    The problem with fighting oppression is that in doing so you are trying to oppress the oppressors. One fact that cannot change, is that everything is because it is. To change anything requires equal work on all individuals, not on groups of people. A group of people vs. a group of people won’t ever change views because on both sides there are people supporting each other. Only in individual efforts can change be made possible. The truth is that with the vast amount of people living today, people cannot be equal in today’s society. This is so because people have different agendas and opinions and these cannot be changed because each person ages and learns in a completely unique way from everyone else. Morality is not something that exists for the common person because each person grows up with a different set of morals. Trying to insert your opinions and morals into other people’s heads is like trying to turn everyone into the same exact person. True happiness only exists with the understanding of the laws of nature that govern the cosmoses. In understanding these laws, or even beginning to try and understand these laws it is easy to see that nothing can be done about these problems because they aren’t a problem of nature, they just are nature. Humanity exists because we need to exist, because we have to exist, and people are as they always have been. There has always been forces fighting against oppression and forces fighting for oppression, the pushing and pulling of forces is one of the laws of nature. It is the same concept as yin and yang, and it is something that has to be understood about the nature of humanity. Only then can someone escape the false reality before them. It is impossible to be equal in societal terms, and if we were, we’d be equivalent to ants.

    • Brenna McCaffrey

      Equality is not the same as uniformity. Making others aware of oppression, inequalities, and social constructs just makes it easier to fight against these things and make the world a safer and more pleasant place to celebrate our differences in identity and morality.

    • Peter

      The only things I found intelligible in your otherwise poor argument are your references to the concept of Yin-Yang and to the laws of nature. However, neither supports your point. Most everything in nature seeks equilibrium or balance, Yin-Yang represents the concept of dynamic harmony. Human society, therefore, seeks the same.
      What is this false reality?

      • Jason Woehlke

        A wise man once told me that wisdom is having the will to understand all sides of a conflict, and in true understanding comes the yearning to fight for all sides. In other words, fighting for a cause is perfectly fine, however the only way to begin to change things to the way you want them is by the knowledge and understanding of the opposing sides. I am not trying to argue with you nor am I trying to make you understand me, fighting only leads to more fighting. I’m just saying this so you may choose to think about this particular side.

        Yin and Yang does represent the concept of dynamic harmony, this is very true, but dynamic harmony comes through the pushing and pulling of forces. Day nor night is eternal. Human society doesn’t seek the same, it is the same. This is why things such as war can never be stopped, war has to happen, it is like a wildfire burning down a forest to await new life, a new beginning stems from an old ending. The symbol is cyclical because nature is cyclical, not linear.

        The concept of a false reality is something that comes from an understanding of nature. It doesn’t mean that this reality is false, it means that the understanding of reality isn’t something that’s commonplace. It is something I’m barely beginning to understand and I honestly never expected you to care enough about the statement to actually ask me about it. It is something I wouldn’t ever be able to even give even a half-assed explanation through text.

        People have been fighting for equality and also to rule for as long as humanity has existed. They’ve sought after true knowledge for as long as humanity has existed. They’ve wanted to know why things happen, for as long as humanity has existed. The thoughts that come into your head, as well as mine, are not new thoughts. Humanity exists, and how we exist has always been the same. In truth, things happen because they happen, they are because they are, and they will be just as they once were.

      • Brenna McCaffrey

        I will not accept that kind of nihilism where inequality and suffering is concerned.

    • Jenny

      There is the term “false equivalency” which I think really applies.

  3. tentacledancer

    Reblogged this on nettleburn and commented:
    I am always going on and on about patriarchy. I am reconsidering that and I think I will start going on about kyriarchy.

  4. Pingback: WTF is a Kyriarchy? | Whole Thinking

  5. Pingback: The Rainbow Hub – Kyriarchy and You

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