Patriarchy, as broadly delineated by anthropologists, sociologists, feminists and other scholars, chronologically denotes the period of recorded human history and civilization from approximately 3,500 BCE (roughly analogous with the Bronze Age) up to the present. This lengthy period of time is typified within the western worldview by Descartes’ mind/body duality and the Catholic Church’s spirit/flesh duality. It is also characterized by culture/nature, human/animal, reason/emotion, mind/body, self/other, subject/object, activity/passivity, form/matter and man/woman dichotomies, among others.
Under patriarchy, dualities become problematic and unhealthy because only one quality (or side of any given dualistic expression) is valued within the pair of opposites. This leads to the exclusion, suppression, and/or repression of the other on personal and societal levels. As Susan Moller Okin writes, "From place to place, from class to class, from race to race, and from culture to culture, we find similarities in the specifics of...inequalities, although often not in their extent or their severity." 1 The degree of marginalization caused by patriarchal constructs may vary and the effects upon individuals and societies may equally vary, but patriarchy de facto limits potentials for wholeness.
1 Okin, Susan Moller, "Inequalities Between the Sexes in Different Cultural Contexts" in Women, Culture and Development, ibid., p. 294