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In feminist theory, heteropatriarchy (etymologically from heterosexual and patriarchy) is a socio-political system where (primarily) cisgender males and heterosexuals have authority over cisgender females and over other sexual orientations and gender identities. It is a term that emphasizes that discrimination exerted both upon women and LGBTQ people has the same sexist social principle.[1][2][3]

In heteropatriarchal societies, it is commonly understood that men generally occupy the highest positions of power in society, causing women and non-binary people to experience the bulk of social oppression. This idea is reinforced by unclear definitions of "gender", "sex", and "sexual orientation" in a cultural and legal context, as well as by gender norms, which serve to set social expectations associated with masculinity and femininity.


As a social system, heteropatriarchy perceives heterosexuality and patriarchy as normal while other configurations are considered abnormal.[4] It then perpetuates an environment of oppression and inequality for racial and sexual minority groups.[5] Heteropatriarchy depends upon the perspective of gender roles, in which men are considered strong, able, and intelligent and females are depicted as weak, unable, and naive. The gender and sex identities created and protected by the projected status quo ensures the power of heterosexual man in a regime of compulsory heteropatriarchy.[6]

The practice of legal (and social) culture of relegating gender to the realm of "women's issues" and sexual orientation to the realm of "sexual minorities' issues” is fundamental to a heteropatriarchal society.[7] Heterosexual men are not only given primacy over other gender and sexual minorities, but are also encouraged and rewarded.[8] On the microscopic level, heteropatriarchy could be evident in consumption habits and relationships while on the macroscopic level it is demonstrated by the glass ceiling, marriage, and the legal control over female bodies.[9]

From the feminist point of view, the term patriarchy refers to the father as the power holder inside the family hierarchy, and therefore, women become subordinate to the power of men. With the emergence of queer theory around the 1980s and the 1990s and the questioning of the heteronormativity and the gender binary, this kind of domination is not only described in terms of sex or gender (the predominance of men over woman, or the masculine over the feminine) but also in terms of sexuality (the heteronormativity, or the heterosexuality above other sexual orientations and the cisgender over other identities).[1][10] The term heteropatriarchy has evolved from the previous, less specific term 'patriarchy' to emphasize the formation of a man dominated society based upon the cultural processes of sexism/heterosexism.[11]

Heteropatriarchy is a facet of popular feminist analysis used to explain modern social structure, which is based on a hierarchical system of interlocking forces of power and oppression. It is commonly understood in this context that men typically occupy the highest positions of power and women experience the bulk of social oppression.[12] This organization is reinforced by the gender norms, which ascribes traits of femininity and masculinity to men and women.[13] Heteropatriarchy is a system of socio-political dominance whereby cisgender heterosexual men are favoured and are routinely remunerated for presenting masculine traits. Conversely, women or people who display traits deemed feminine receive less societal privilege. Historically this has manifested in economic disadvantages such as unequal pay, or the inability for women to own land.[14]

There are numerous attempts by feminists to subvert heteropatriarchy. Some of these include the so-called queer heterosexuality and theories based on feminist liberation methodology.[15]

Background history

Since ancient times, heteropatriarchy has shaped the way how societies across the world have viewed masculinity and femininity. This societal system has had negative effects on societies, which have beat the test of time and are still apparent in modern days. Throughout Ancient China, it is shown by the example of emperors being male with dominant power. Women and people that showed feminine traits were objectified and oppressed. Women were seen as obedient housewives whose main purpose was to serve males.[16] Due to this, women’s voice has been ignored and suppressed. Leading to a system that grew into a society denying women rights and that they were dehumanized.

Another cause that has led to heteropatriarchy is heteropaternalism, where it’s the premise where heteropatriarchy is established in a domestic arrangement.[5] Meaning that the father of a house is the leader and center power of a family household, and is in charge of any social arrangements. Even though heteropatriarchy and heteropaternalism mainly defines the perspective of patriarchy that make up a mindset in people’s eye that male gender is seen as strong, facetious, and capable. While women in the other hand are perceived as lower class and weak.[17]

This ideology has been promoted through colonization and spreading of Eurocentric culture, reaching hegemony around the world and removing other gender systems as well as other ways of understanding society, genders or eroticism.[1][5]


One of the main foundations of heteropatriarchy is the normalization of the nuclear family as the only acceptable family unit, manifesting this societal system into modern day.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Unpacking Hetero-Patriarchy: Tracing the Conflation of Sex, Gender & Sexual Orientation to Its Origins.
  2. ^ De la cama a la calle: perspectivas teóricas lésbico-feministas (PDF) (in Spanish). Brecha Lésbica. 2006. p. 83. ISBN 978-958-9307-61-8.
  3. ^ (in Spanish) La persistencia del heteropatriarcado.
  4. ^ Douglas, Loveless; Pamela, Sullivan; Katie, Dredger; Jim, Burns (2017). Deconstructing the Education-Industrial Complex in the Digital Age. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-5225-2101-3.
  5. ^ a b c Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy. Feminist Formations. 2013.
  6. ^ a b Valdes, Francisco. "Unpacking Hetero-Patriarchy: Tracing the Conflation of Sex, Gender & Sexual Orientation to Its Origins". Yale Journal of Law and Humanities. 8.
  7. ^ Coombs, Mary (1996) "Comment: Between Women/Between Men: The Significance for Lesbianism of Historical Understandings of Same-(Male)Sex Sexual Activities," Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 9.
  8. ^ Pierceson, Jason (2016). Sexual Minorities And Politics. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 9. ISBN 9781442227682.
  9. ^ Thompson, Teresa L. (2014). Encyclopedia of Health Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 793. ISBN 978-1-4522-5875-1.
  10. ^ Jeffreys, Sheila (1993). The Lesbian Heresy: A Feminist Perspective on the Lesbian Sexual Revolution. Spinifex Press. p. 208. ISBN 1-875559-17-5.
  11. ^ Glick, Peter (February 2001). "An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality". American Psychologist. 56 (2): 109–118. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.56.2.109. PMID 11279804. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  12. ^ Connell, Raewyn (2013). "The Social Organization of Masculinity". Feminist Theory Reader Local and Global Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 253–263.
  13. ^ de Beauvoir, Simone (2013). "The Second Sex : Introduction". Feminist Theory Reader. Routledge. pp. 40–48.
  14. ^ Kandiyoti, Deniz (2013). "Bargaining with Patriarchy". Feminist Theory Reader Local and Global Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 98–106.
  15. ^ Isherwood, Lisa (10 April 2006). The Power of Erotic Celibacy: Queering Heterosexuality. London: A&C Black. p. 124. ISBN 0-567-08267-9.
  16. ^ Glenn, Evelyn Glenn Nakano. “Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation.” Http://Journals.sagepub.com/Doi/Pdf/10.1177/2332649214560440, 2015, journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2332649214560440.
  17. ^ Tuck, Eve. “Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy.” Academia.edu - Share Research, 2013, www.academia.edu/3570365/Decolonizing_feminism_Challenging_connections_between_settler_colonialism_and_heteropatriarchy.

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