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The Creation of Patriarchy

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,083 ratings  ·  120 reviews
A major new work by a leading historian and pioneer in women's studies, The Creation of Patriarchy is a radical reconceptualization of Western civilization that makes gender central to its analysis. Gerda Lerner argues that male dominance over women is not "natural" or biological, but the product of an historical development begun in the second millennium B.C. in the Ancie ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published October 22nd 1987 by Oxford University Press (first published 1986)
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 SaЯRah Muhammad
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-s-rights
Gerda Lerner constructs an historical framework for understanding why women of the 21st century still fight to emancipate themselves from male subordination and misogynistic attitudes. She adeptly takes us on a journey through history starting in the second millennium B.C. Lerner makes a persuasive case for women's reproductive capacities and economics as being central to the rise of male power, female subordination, and dominance hierarchies as a system of organizing society. She contends that ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Getting five stars because I read it in high school (in "Contemporary Women's Spirituality" at my Catholic school) when I was still a Republican and it raised my consciousness more (relatively) than anything I've read since. Thanks, Sr. Debbie. ...more
Kate Pittman
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book answered a lot of my "but why is it like this?" questions regarding the position of women.

A few quotes from the final chapter that capture some of the main conclusions:

"...the enslavement of women, combining both racism and sexism, preceded the formation of classes and class oppression. Class differences were, at their very beginnings, expressed and constituted in terms of patriarchal relations. Class is not a separate construct from gender, rather class is expressed in gendereic terms
Aseem Kaul
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender
"Women's History is indispensable and essential to the emancipation of women" Gerda Lerner writes in the introduction to this book, a conviction she says "rests on my observation of the profound changes in consciousness which students of Women's History experience. Women's History changes their lives."

Reading Lerner's thought-provoking and essential book, it's not hard to see why. The Creation of Patriarchy offers fascinating insight into the roots of gender relations so basic to social organiza
Chanel Earl
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Chanel by: Kimberly Tuai
This seems like a pretty good history of patriarchy. I can't argue with most of the facts presented (women sold into slavery, turned out of their homes after being raped, stoned, children considered property of their fathers instead of mothers, basically the fact that women have been oppressed for as long as recorded history). I read several chapters in this book, including the last which summarizes the book, and I think I get the point. My problems with it are mostly threefold:

1. Some of the sc
Nancy Brumback
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Read 10 or 15 years ago, this is a very scholarly treatment of how male dominance and female subservience are determined not by biology, but by social development.
Donovon Ceaser
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great book. I learned a lot about how men came to rule the world. and that the origin of slavery begins with the subjegagtion of women.

Unfortunately, Lerner is not an anti-civilizationist as I am, and she give a few apologies for civilization as she explains her history of the creation of patriarchy, even though she repeatedly acknoledgs that the creations of civilization (or I would say, the subjegation of nature) is the beginnings of the patriarchal power structure.
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Creation of Patriarchy was written by Gerda Lerner and published in 1986, making it slightly outdated but nonetheless, relevant and though-provoking. Lerner writes in a sophisticated and academic kind of way which really appealed to me in particular. It was rich with history, presented in a scholarly fashion which only served to enhance its readability.
Lerner did her homework and cited many useful sources where she retrieved her own information and she carefully details her conclusions and
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Still an interesting read after all this time, but somewhat dated. There are threads with which I no longer agree, and others which have given me new insights. Lerner's skill in making connections between male dominance over women antedating the rise of "class" including slavery in Western civilisation historical growth is one such insight. My own research and reading since this was published has fleshed out so much more of women's history, particularly Marilyn French's "From Eve to Dawn" which ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Women's Historians, Feminists, Anthropologists
Recommended to Michael by: Karen Hagemann
After establishing herself as one of the pre-eminent Women's Historians (and, in the process, helping to establish Women's History), Gerda Lerner turned to one of the major questions of feminist history: why, throughout the world, are women apparently universally subjected to men? She chose to answer this question using historical understanding, although she had to expand her methodology to include fields which study PRE-history in order to properly address it. This was a bold undertaking, for s ...more
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, women
A comprehensive well researched and clearly presented study of the origins and evolution of patriarchy world wide. Stunning book. Recommended for everyone wanting to better understand the importance of feminism and women's education. ...more
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have long wondered how it is that half the world's population can be oppressed/repressed/suppressed, with some variations with respect to societal norms and religion, but with remarkable consistency and, apparently, women's own (to me, inexplicable) compliance, if not active complicity. I've wondered where the roots of such disparity in power and authority lie and if they're biological or historical, not least because they seem universal and reified while being wholly counterintuitive (bad not ...more
As a student of women's studies and history this is exactly the book I would have wanted to write. Women's lack of knowledge of our own history of struggle and achievement has been one of the major means of keeping us subordinate. Women's history is absolutely essential to the emancipation of women. In this book, Lerner goes back in time to look at the conditions responsible for the creation, and later dominance, of patriarchy. A process manifested in changes in kinship organization, economic re ...more
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Let me get straight to the heart of my issues with this book:

1. The narrow focus and even narrower interpretive methodology which is presented as something much wider in scope and implication than what it really is. Ms. Lerner rarely departs from a 2,000 year period in Mesopotamia, almost entirely ignoring other cultures around the world. All of her interpretation is divorced from the original languages in question, and those interpretations are entirely filtered through a Marxist (read: materia
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
In The Creation of Patriarchy, the information is organised both chronologically and according to Lerner’s study of gender relationships. Because Lerner’s organisation is simply perfect, I will present some of the very basic ideas from each chapter:

Chapter I starts with myths and Lerner makes a rotund statement regarding matriarchy, a social organisation long-believed to have existed: “It may be noted that I am defining matriarchy as the mirror image of patriarchy. Using that definition, I would
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very solid book on the historical roots of Patriarchy. Goes back to the time of our species as hunters & gatherers, tribes & clans up to where we are currently. She traces how these systems changed over time & produced in various ways the many issues we see today. It shows the far reaching consequences of decisions & functions in society & how, even if inadvertent, they produce things that can be beneficial to those in power without them choosing a specific action with the thinking that "I am go ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
book traces the history of patriarchy of the start of subordination of women back to fertile crescent, and focus on Mesopotamian civilization as one of the Earliest, and abundance of archeaological evidence, the book explains the following points evidently through history:
- women was sacred and even reverent as birth giver, her power was manifested in divine goddesses.
- with the increased aridity in 8k BC, 6k BC, forced the formation of state hinged on agriculture, and militarism, hierarchy, in
Ryan Mishap
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
"Patriarchy is a historic creation formed by men and women in a process which took nearly 2500 years to its completion. In its earliest form, patriarchy appeared as the archaic state."

A brilliant, straight-forward history that defines its terms, tells us what she is going to show, and then proceeds to outline what happened in those 2500 years as relative egalitarianism gave way to sedentary lifestyles, hierarchy, and, importantly, the first domination, that of men over women. While first publish
Gerda Lerner constructs a history of women's roles in society it a clear and comprehensive way that really fascinated me. My favourite line from the book is "men and women both constructed society" and I think that's such an important idea to conceptualise in that it gives women active roles in what they can now do in the 21st century.

Lerner is also a lot more optimistic or at least even in her work, a nice change from the deliberately heavy and depressing tones a lot of feminist work can get b
Angela Weikel
This book is excellent. It inspired me to recommit to feminism and promote women's work, struggles and experiences. Reading this book during Trump's administration is especially important as it has reminded me that though women are the majority, we are structured into social institutions as though we are a minority. One of the most interesting parts for me was the historic development of marriage and understanding that as men are defined by their relationship to property and the means of product ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
From a Marxist point of view you would like it it. I love the fact that people from other cultures tend to know how others feel. Totally written from her point of view without care as to others thoughts, especially other women. As a communist sympathizer I can't accept anything she has to say! Her academia work speaks for itself, a self imposed elitist who created her own path to self righteousness. ...more
Jamie O'Duibhir
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating and detailed articulation of how possibly innocuous actions that made logical sense at the time became codified misogyny and thus into the patriarchy.

One major problem I had with this is that she incorrectly places blame on Judaism. The Western world was not shaped by Judaism. It was shaped by Christianity and a distinctly Christian interpretation of the Torah that neglects to include anything from the Talmud.
Reading Lerner's book after bell hooks made me acutely aware of the very 'whiteness' of the history that she was presenting.

I do not agree with all of her conclusions, nor all of her connections, but she certainly paints a depressing picture of the subordination of women.

The dictionary of terms in the back are enlightening and useful for anyone thinking about issues of female empowerment.
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have been searching for this book my whole life. While it conclusively proves that patriarchy is not the default system of human civilization, this book has certainly exceeded all that I expected from it. Not only is it a succinct analysis of history of Mesopotamian civilization and the ancient Israel, it also examines the evolution of religion and institutionalization of slavery. It is an excellent book that I recommend to everyone.
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gerda Lerner’s analysis of human history and culture in The Creation of Patriarchy seems spot on in many places. Lerner persuasively argues that patriarchy was a historic creation; and how androcentric thinking has perpetuated a system of patriarchal dominance over time and across cultures. Hopefully, the time for “the system of patriarchy” has nearly run its course. As Lerner observed, “It no longer serves the needs of men and women;” and its linkage with militarism and racism “threatens the ve ...more
Arian Mozaffari
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for anyone that reads things. It's beyond me how this is not more widely known even in this age of rising feminism. ...more
Jul 27, 2014 added it
This month I read The creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner. In this book, she looks at the origins of patriarchy and found that it was not one event at one time, but many events across the world over a long period of time. She discussed events that happened in Paleolithic and Neolithic times that fueled patriarchy. Women were trained even then to submit to men. She also searched for a matriarchal society and said, "It may be noted that I am defining matriarchy as the mirror image of patriarchy ...more
Nov 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Awesome insight. Gerda, you rock!

One of my favorite ideas, from the Appendix of Definitions: "Woman's Culture is the ground upon which women stand in their resistance to patriarchal domination and their assertion of their own creativity in shaping society. The term implies an assertion of equality and awareness of sisterhood...."

Also, Gerda's intro to Appendix: "In undertaking this work I am part of a group effort by feminist rectify the neglect of women...exclusion as participant
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
To be honest, the biggest reason for my rating The Creation of Patriarchy so low is due to its age. In the last 30 years, significant historical and archaeological facts have emerged that will fundamentally alter the hypothesis, assumptions and conclusions of this book. I am on the lookout for a more updated synthesis of the historical, anthropological and archeological record in relation to women's roles throughout cultures and histories. ...more
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Throughout the reading of this book, I've been depressed, angry, uplifted, in tears.. and I just can't understand how I've read it only now. It should have been compulsory reading in primary schools (simplified, of course). Just as Lerner says: we are all functioning under the erroneous idea that half means whole (the history of males being the only history we learn). I can't wait to start reading the other tome: The Creation of Feminist Consciousness.
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Gerda Lerner was a historian, author and teacher. She was a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a visiting scholar at Duke University.

Lerner was one of the founders of the field of women's history, and was a former president of the Organization of American Historians. She played a key role in the development of women's history curricula. She taught what is cons

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“The system of patriarchy can function only with the cooperation of women. This cooperation is secured by a variety of means: gender indoctrination; educational deprivation; the denial of women of knowledge of their history; the dividing of women, on from another, by defining "respectability" and "deviance" according to women's sexual activities; by restraints and outright coercion; by discrimination in access to economic resources and political power; and by awarding class privileges to conforming women.” 8 likes
“توحي رمزية قصة "سفر التكوين" بقطيعة بين آدم، المخلوق من طين، و حواء، وريثة إلهات الخصب القديمات، التي خلقت من جزء من الجسد البشري، و كلٌّ منهما مشرّب بجوهر إلهيّ عبر تدخّل يهوه. تتدعّم القطيعة في قصة السقوط، حين يصدر يهوه مرسومًا بالتقسيم الجنسي للعمل، كعقوبة هذه المرة. سيعمل آدم بعرق جبينه؛ و حواء ستمنح الحياة و هي تتألم و تربي الأجيال. و تجدر الإشارة أن العقوبة المفروضة تجعل من عمل الإنسان عبئًا، و كلنها تحكم بالألم و المعاناة ليس على عمل المرأة فحسب بل على جسد المرأة المنجب للطفل أيضًا، النتيجة الطبيعية لجنسانية المرأة.” 0 likes
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