I was reflecting the other day upon the Patriarchy, the feminist concept of the inherent societal forces that work against gender equality. I’ve never really much liked the word – I suppose in my mind, it sounds rather too much like ‘paternal hierarchy’, and imparts visions of some grand and complex structure where orders are given and suppression occurs in a planned and calculated manner. It is a phrase that can smack of the conspiracy at times.

Much of the misogyny one encounters on a day-to-day basis isn’t well-ordered, or planned, or controlled. It’s simply a messy soup of blind tribe-minded bigotry and ridiculous assumptions, instances (often repeated in self-reinforcing patterns) of exchanging dignity for power and control. It’s a kind of frothing, ranting madness that infects like-minded individuals and draws them to attack anything they see as attempting to escape the clutches of their lop-sided control.

Hardly a hierarchy. But then, when you get down to thinking about it – how did the conditions for this sort of thought process come about, if not handed down by some superior power? The truth is that it’s so much more sinister than that – it’s not orders imposed on others by a single controlling figure. Rather, it is a self-constructing society, with self reinforcing rules that strive to keep a concept of ‘manliness’ on top and in its own comfort zone of control and familiarity. And it can be unbelievably subtle things that enforce the idea – not all misogyny takes the form of screaming at women to stay in the kitchen.

It can be well-intentioned, but ultimately limiting: “When are going to get around to having children? Clock’s ticking, you know!”

It can be self-defeating and self-reinforcing: “Why bother trying to get the executive role? Everyone knows it’s a boys’ club up there.”

It gets into the fabric of society, through small groups and interactions, that add up and add up and multiply and weave their way into bigger, more destructive and restrictive patterns. It’s an established mindset, caused by years of clinging to masculine power, with rules that have been set by consensus rather than by authority – thus rendering them much harder to break down.

Tearing down the Patriarchy is a cherished goal for many different people, but both the task and the concept are so deep-rooted as to make it difficult. But, I suspect, not impossible – it will just take a good deal of subtlety to unpick the ties that bind it to society, rather than flashy, high-visibility action.

But then, I’m just one person philosophising!