Sylvia Walby and Patriarchy

I finally got around to doing up proper ‘Sylvia Walby Notes’. It only took me four and a half years… There are two things to be aware of here… Firstly, I’d welcome any feedback on the notes as I found it particularly difficult (bearing in mind that they are focussed not on being a full history of Feminism, but rather a means to address the spec question as to whether Ireland is a Patriarchy or not?). Secondly, the third page looks like it’s accidentally empty, but is intentionally so. Let me explain…

Here’s what I do with my own students (often using lots of group work, but in a more limited way in Covid-world obviously). I start off the week doing a little bit of work on how ‘Deductive Reasoning’ works (I found this video a useful summary: I then move on to a brief history of Feminism to put events into context. Once students have a grip on the historical (and geographic) variations within the different ‘waves’ of feminism, I dive into the whole “Public” and “Private” Patriarchy idea.

When the students have engaged with how the public and private patriarchies might be seen (or not!) in their own lives, I introduce the ‘Six Structures’ of Patriarchy that Walby outlines in Theorizing Patriarchy. Once we have given due consideration to the various elements of the different components, I ask whether BASED ON THIS DEFINTION OF PATRIARCHY Ireland could be categorized as a patriarchy. My initial goal is to get a sense of what the students’ gut reactions would be, then I follow it up by introducing an ‘evidence-gathering exercise’ where I break the class into groups and set each group the task of doing a detailed ‘deep dive’ into just ONE of the areas. Their goal is to gather 4-5 pieces of key data in their category, with sources clearly identified and 2 or 3 of those sources being evaluated in terms of their reliability, contemporary relevance, verifiability and so on.

Once the group has gathered their data, I ask them to ‘Prioritize’ their ‘qual’ and ‘quant’ data and rank the information in terms of how well it addresses the specific terms of the Spec’s requirements. They often have trouble with this, but I’ve seen some really interesting debates emerge in class on the back of this aspect of the student’s investigations!

Then comes the feedback section where each group presents its findings and note down the findings of the other five groups. (This could easily be done by a google doc, but I prefer to do it orally). I usually distributed an enlarged A3 version of the third page to make this a little easier to do. The students then have to return to the ‘deductive reasoning’ model and make their final assessment as to whether Ireland is a Patriarchy. If they are struggling to come to a judgment, I often present a range of options: 1. Yes, it’s a full patriarchy; 2. No, it isn’t a patriarchy; 3. It is largely a patriarchy; 4. It was once very patriarchal, but has made significant progress (you get the idea…)

Finally, I ask them to consider how they would frame their conclusions. In this instance, I ask them to focus back on the areas they spent time researching in detail and suggest which policy/policies might be most useful in terms of reducing the “domination, oppression, and exploitation” of women in our societies (yes, I’m overtly trying to get them to re-engage with Walby’s definition at the end!) and suggest how this could be achieved. If time allows, I ask the students to share their policy conclusions with each other in the same way as they did with their data. Depending on the time of the year that I’m covering this topic, I might also point students to SDG 5 and/or CEDAW, but this might be something that I come back to later when I’m covering those specific topics, though this will also depend on how engaged and enthusiastic each individual group is with the material… Once I’ve finished doing Kathleen Lynch, we return to the specific essay title and the students draft their own essay for a more formal assessment (I’ve told them about this in advance!)

Anyway, as always, none of this is designed to be seen a prescriptive, and obviously should be used at your discretion, but it might at least give some ideas to teachers as to how this topic could be covered. And again, I would really welcome any ‘constructive’ feedback on the handout. It’s one that I really struggled with.

Obviously, I’d love to hear how other teachers end up engaging with the patriarchy question and would love to learn about other, more successful approaches.

Happy New Year and good-bloody-riddance to 2020…

JD 30/12/2020


One thought on “Sylvia Walby and Patriarchy

  1. Pingback: Transition Year Politics and Society ‘Taster’ Module | The Pol-Soc Podcast

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