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Heteropatriarchy (etymologically from hetero[sexuality] and patriarchy) is a socio-political system where cisgender males and heterosexuality have authority over cisgender females and over other sexual orientations. The combination of male - patriarchal - and heterosexual dominance essentially describing the severe sex and gender bias prevalent among the elite ruling classes of nation-states. It is a term that emphasizes that discrimination exerted both on women and on LGBTQ people has the same sexist social principle.[1][2][3][4][5]

The implementation of heteropatriarchy implies a social system in which heterosexuality and patriarchy are understood as standard and natural, and in which other configurations are perceived as abnormal, aberrant, and abhorrent. Heteropatriarchy creates an environment of oppression and inequality for racial and sexual minority groups.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] Heterosexual men are not only given primacy over other gender and sexual minorities, but are also encouraged and rewarded.[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][3][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]

Background history

It is theorized that heteropatriarchy became the dominant ideology in ancient Greece in times of war, when brute force and strength were valued. As these traits grew into popularity, feminine traits were simultaneously being condemned and promoting the idea that women were lesser beings.[7]

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 house wife’s whose main purpose was to serve males.[15] Due to this, women’s voice has been ignored and suppressed. On the other side of the world, ancient Greek heteropatriarchy were valued throughout force and power throughout times of war.[16] 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.[6] 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 string, 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.[3][6]

Effects on film and media

The effect of heteropatriarchy is illustrated in many forms such as that of modern media. From years 2007 to 2016, film directors of the top one hundred movies of each year were assessed by race, age, and gender. Out of 1,114 directors, 96% (1,069 males) were male while the remaining 4%(45 female) were women. The study also found that the average of the male directors was 46.2 years while the average age of female directors was found to be 47.4. Additionally, the range in which male directors work was through ages 20s and 80s, while the span of women careers as directors was found to be through ages 30s to 60s.[18] While the study did not assess the sexual orientation of each director, male dominance in film and media is a large portion of heteropatriarchy.

Films are being directed by predominantly male directors both implicitly and explicitly insist viewers to see a film through the male gaze.[19][20][21] Since Regardless of the targeted audience of a film, the perspective of the male director will be represented more throughout a film. Some films do include scenes catered to a male audience while simultaneously objectifying women, ultimately making a statement about the importance of male satisfaction.[22]


An important aspect of systematic heteropatriarchy is the impact it has upon society. Heteropatriarchy is the [23] foundation and structure of which the US is based on. Since the conception of the US, heteropatriarchy has been the main ideology behind colonization/colonialism and capitalism.[24]

The idea of heteropatriarchy shuns anything that is not status quo in terms of sexuality or gender norms, in addition to that it also puts anything feminine second to that of anything masculine. This idea of masculinity over femininity creates a hostile culture of masculinity. The impact that heteropatriarchical ideals have on our perception of masculinity is prevalent in the workplace, schools, and at home.

While heteropatriarchy prevents feminist notions and hinders the rise of females in society, it also creates a hostile culture of masculinity for men.[25] The hostile culture of masculinity shuns anything that is remotely feminine and falsely idolizes the ideas of the perfect man and perfect woman into the stereotypical notions of the man’s man or the house wife.


In the context of heteropatriarchy, 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.[26]

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.[7] This ‘ideal’ family structure strongly enforces the idea that men have power over women in regards to maintaining the wealth of the family by being the stereotypical ‘breadwinners.’ This system is also manifested through the gender wage gap in America, in which the average woman earns about 77 cents to a man’s dollar, and also by acts of domestic violence which usually serves to reinforce dominance of a man over his wife or partner.[27] Overall, heteropatriarchy has set societal standards for males and females as well as sexual minorities in terms of the way they are perceived in society, creating a culture in which straight males are seen as the most valuable citizens within society.

This practice is supported by institutions such as religion – who name men as 'masters', the workplace – which excludes women from high ranking positions based on the possibility of reproduction, and education – which socialize boys towards respected fields such as hard sciences and girls toward 'softer', less respected careers.[28] Though this societal system has been observed throughout history as well as modern times, women and sexual minorities have recently geared towards higher positions in society as well as towards harder, more respected fields of work, demonstrating that the system of heteropatriarchy is being challenged for the first time in history, creating a more inclusive society.

See also


  1. ^ a b (in Spanish) ¿Ruptura o Continuidad?
  2. ^ (in Spanish) La reproducción del enmarcado heteropatriarcal desde la praxis política lesbofeminista frente al amor y las relaciones erótico-afectivas no monogámicas.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c Unpacking Hetero-Patriarchy: Tracing the Conflation of Sex, Gender & Sexual Orientation to Its Origins.
  4. ^ De la cama a la calle: perspectivas teóricas lésbico-feministas (PDF) (in Spanish). Brecha Lésbica. 2006. p. 83. ISBN 978-958-9307-61-8. 
  5. ^ (in Spanish) La persistencia del heteropatriarcado.
  6. ^ a b c Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy. Feminist Formations. 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Valdes, Francisco. "Unpacking Hetero-Patriarchy: Tracing the Conflation of Sex, Gender & Sexual Orientation to Its Origins". Yale Journal of Law and Humanities. 8. 
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Pierceson, Jason (2016). Sexual Minorities And Politics. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 9. ISBN 9781442227682. 
  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 (Feb 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. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Valdes, Francisco. “Unpacking Hetero-Patriarchy: Tracing the Con Ation of Sex, Gender & Sexual Orientation to Its Origins.” Http://Digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/Cgi/Viewcontent.cgi?Article=1154&Context=Yjlh, 5 Aug. 2013, digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1154&context=yjlh.
  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.
  18. ^ “USC Annenberg.” USC Annenberg, Feb. 2017, doi:10.1107/s0108768107031758/bs5044sup1.cif.
  19. ^ Eaton, E.W. (September 2008). "Feminist philosophy of art". Philosophy Compass. Wiley. 3 (5): 873–893. doi:10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00154.x. 
  20. ^ "Feminist Aesthetics". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2015. Assumes a standard point of view that is masculine and heterosexual. [...] The phrase 'male gaze' refers to the frequent framing of objects of visual art so that the viewer is situated in a 'masculine' position of appreciation. 
  21. ^ That it applies to literature and the visual arts: Łuczyńska-Hołdys, Małgorzata (2013). Soft-Shed Kisses: Re-visioning the Femme Fatale in English Poetry of the 19th Century, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 15.
  22. ^ Mulvey, Laura (Autumn 1975). "Visual pleasure and narrative cinema". Screen. Oxford Journals. 16 (3): 6–18. doi:10.1093/screen/16.3.6. Archived from the original on 2017-10-30. 
    Also available as: Mulvey, Laura (2009), "Visual pleasure and narrative cinema", in Mulvey, Laura, Visual and other pleasures (2nd ed.), Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire England New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 14–30, ISBN 9780230576469.  Pdf via Amherst College. Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ "Heteropatriarchy, A Building Block of Empire | Solidarity". www.solidarity-us.org. Retrieved 2018-04-13. 
  24. ^ Smith, Andrea. “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy.” Color of Violence, pp. 66–73., doi:10.1215/9780822373445-007.
  25. ^ Newsom, Jennifer S, Jessica Congdon, Jessica Anthony, Regina K. Scully, Joe Ehrmann, Michael S. Kimmel, Caroline Heldman, Lise Eliot, Michael G. Thompson, William S. Pollack, Carol Gilligan, Madeline Levine, Judy Y. Chu, Terry A. Kupers, Niobe Way, Pedro Noguera, Philip G. Zimbardo, Byron Hurt, James Gilligan, John Behrens, and Eric Holland. The Mask You Live in. , 2015.
  26. ^ Aizer, Anna (September 2010). "The Gender Wage Gap and Domestic Violence". American Economic Review. 100 (4): 1847–1859. doi:10.1257/aer.100.4.1847. ISSN 0002-8282. PMC 4123456Freely accessible. 
  27. ^ Hill, Ph.D., C. (2016). The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2016). [online] AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. Available at: http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2016].
  28. ^ "Heteropatriarchy". Wikipedia. 2018-04-13. 
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