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What In The World Is Kyriarchy?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I opened up my introduction to women’s studies reading and had no idea what the above word meant. I immediately thought about the term patriarchy. I was not that far off.

In the class full of females, there is one male student. I am surprised there is not more, but even more surprised he did not drop the class.

I am not sure why someone gets frightened or annoyed when hearing someone else is a feminist. We want all genders to have equal rights and opportunities. It can be an overpowering word that carries a cloud of misconception.

In 1922 the feminist theory, kyriarchy, was created by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a feminist theologian. According to the article, “Kyriarchy 101: We’re Not Just Fighting The Patriarchy Anymore,” Sian Fergus defines kyriarchy as a social system that keeps all intersecting oppressions in place. It is more compatible with intersectionality, the acknowledgment that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression.

So, how does this fit into feminism?

When talking about gender-based oppression, I think of unjust exercises of authority or power. Now, oppression does not just cover discrimination. Institutions and systemic repression play a major role. Examples include women being denied equal access to education, gender-based violence, the way sexes are presented, stereotypes, and social, political and economic restraints of women (in this sense).

Who else is still a little confused?

Oppression includes several aspects that enforce the domination of one group over another. It is not limited to one existing type. Intersectional feminism covers all types of inequality. It digs deeper into understanding how women’s overlapping identities (including race, class, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation) impact the way we experience oppression and discrimination. Every feature is like a puzzle piece, fitting into the complex humans we deserve to be identified as.

For example, I am oppressed because I am a female, but I am privileged because I am white. It is important to identify yourself with these terms in order to remember different oppressions and privileges exist.

Think of kyriarchy as a replacement for patriarchy, which is a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate roles in public and private spheres. Feminists mainly use the term to describe the power relationship between men and women. Kyriarchy relates how each of us, despite our gender, are bundles of different privileges and oppressions. I think it links the latest feminist wave to some aspects of activism. Unlike patriarchy, which refers to mainly institutionalized sexism, kyriarchy balances all forms of inequality.

I hope that makes more sense. Society is complex. And it is structured in inequalities. Kyriarchy affects everyone and we must learn how to analyze it by being more aware of the world and its people around us.


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Hi, my name is Marnique, and I'm a junior journalism and mass communication major at St. Bonaventure University. I love to read and write!
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