Episode 68

Bonus Episode: Amy and Erik Allebest Recap Season 1

Published on: 4th January, 2022

**This episode is also viewable as a video on www.breakingdownpatriarchy.com under the "episodes" heading, and on YouTube on the Breaking Down Patriarchy channel.

Welcome to BDP! I’m AMA, and today we are doing a very special episode, summarizing all the works we read this year and sharing thoughts and lessons learned as well as answering some FAQ’s. And my guest today is fan-favorite, Erik Allebest! Welcome back to BDP, Erik! 

Another cool thing is that for the first time, we’re recording video as well as audio. So if you want to see us as well as hear us, you can watch this video on our website or on YouTube.

I want to start this episode at the very beginning - the very first words I spoke on the podcast were from Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy, where she says “Men and women live on stage. Now that I know more about gender, I would rephrase that to say “all human beings live on a stage.” She describes how all of us are up there performing, doing our best to read the scripts we’re supposed to be reading, some have big parts, some small… but in this play, the writer of the scripts, the directors, the people who built the set and produced the whole thing are all men. So even if I, as a woman, get assigned a bigger role, that might placate me because I get more power in the play, but as long as the role has been given to me by directors who are all men (and who choose to keep women out), the power balance hasn’t changed at all.

The rest of The Creation of Patriarchy, and the entire podcast, has been a study to try to figure out how it got to be this way, and I want to start with something that we haven’t been able to do yet: an actual historical timeline!

  • Timeline:

Highlight Catal Hayuk

From a recent BBC article that I read just today:

“An examination of male and female skeletons show that both sexes ate the same diet, performed the same work, and spent the same amount of time outdoors. In life, they inhabited the same physical space; in death they were given the same kind of burials. There is no evidence for either a patriarchal or matriarchal system. In Catalhöyük a woman’s biology was not her fate.

People have long accepted that political power is man-made rather than god-given. But it’s been different for female inequality. History, religion, science, everything in fact, has seemed to condemn feminism for being against the natural order. Thanks to Catalhöyük, we can say with confidence that there is nothing natural about patriarchy or matriarchy. Society can take many forms and shapes. Sex is genetic, but gender is cultural.”

This highlights a debate between sociologists: is patriarchy “natural” and “inevitable” or is it NOT natural, and we could have just as easily have gone in a different direction?


The fact that all societies all over the world, for all time have been at least in some degree patriarchal seems to be an argument that there is a natural element to it. But if there were thousands and thousands of years of non-patriarchy, then it shows that it’s not natural, not inevitable.

(Quiz: When did early humans leave Africa? 2 million years ago.

When did the first humans arrive in Australia? 60,000 years ago

Arrive in the Americas? 30,000 years ago

So… long time. 

But does it even matter if it’s “natural”? Lots of terrible things happen all throughout human societies, so they are thus “natural” too. Just because people everywhere have murdered and tortured and enslaved other people, does that mean we say “oh well! I guess we lean into violence because it’s natural.”?

My argument would be no. So let’s dive into the books:

The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler, 1987 - Malia Morris

Evidence of multiple matrifocal, matrilocal societies. Symbols of goddesses, priestesses, evidence of egalitarianism and peace. These were Partnership cultures. They all existed prior to written records, so archaeologists and cultural anthropologists are making informed guesses about what the evidence means. Which is why it’s so important to have women archaeologists and cultural anthropologists!!

Then came the Dominator cultures. War, death, reflected in their mythology: the powerful goddesses lost their status and became wives or consorts of male gods. 

And the Partnership vs. Dominator model is a really useful tool of analysis to apply to power dynamics between humans, even today.


The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner. 1986 (Part 1) - Sherrie Crawford

  • The metaphor of the stage

  • Men have always written down “history,” and claimed universality for that history. But it has until that last nanosecond of history, totally excluded women’s lives.

  • In addition to writing history, men have created the “symbol systems,” like philosophy and religion. (This is what happened and this is what it means.)

  • Men have created the laws. The Code of Hammurabi and The Middle Assyrian Laws were some of the first records on Earth, and they are male-centered and so violently misogynistic

Show on timeline

Read quotes

**Many men and women have suffered exclusion and discrimination because of their class. No man has been excluded from the historical record because of his sex, yet all women were. (This has broad application and is a good arrow to have in our quiver when people say “men experience this too.”)


“The system of patriarchy is a historic construct; it has a beginning; it will have an end.”


The Gospel of Mary - Dr. Kayleen Asbo

The road not taken:

A woman was truly an apostle to the apostles, there’s a record of it, it could have been in our Bible. But a group of all men decided it didn’t suit the hierarchical structure of the church, so they left it out.

Includes a record of Peter saying to a woman “I don’t believe you.” And Andrew standing up to Peter. This would have been so validating and comforting.

The point is to become more anthropos -  more fully human.


 Mary, Mother of God - Sophie Allebest

Takeaways: in the New Testament, Jesus is a revolutionary figure who breaks all kinds of rules.

Mary was seen as the “New Eve” - Yay!! 

She becomes the Madonna - if real women are supposed to be like Mary, we are screwed! (Or rather, precisely not screwed). Title: Alone of All Her Sex

Also it’s just like the quote by Lerner: Mary “affords opportunities to exert some leverage within the system of patriarchy.” Her power is 100% determined by whatever pope is determining the symbol systems - in history you see her power grow and shrink according to what the men say about her. 

There’s a book out right now: 

The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth


The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, Gerda Lerner, 1993. - Janette Canare

“Men develop ideas and systems of explanation by absorbing past knowledge and critiquing and superseding it. Women, ignorant of their own history, did not know what women before them had thought and taught. So, generation after generation, they struggled for insights others had already had before them. I illustrate this by surveying women’s bible criticism over a period of one thousand years and show the endless repetition of effort, the constant reinventing of the wheel.”

I gained information, knowledge, and a whole community of women role models and fellow seekers throughout time.


Declaration on the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen, Olympe de Gouges (1791) - Lindsay Allebest

Abigail Adams in the US said “We will not be will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Olympe de Gouges saw her country’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man” and immediately said “NOT GOOD ENOUGH. TRY AGAIN.” 

“Women, wake up!!!”


A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) (Part 1)  - Dr. Meagan Alder

“Here I throw down my gauntlet, and deny the existence of sexual virtues, not excepting modesty.”

“It cannot be demonstrated that woman is essentially inferior to man, because she has always been subjugated.”

“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. Men have various employments and pursuits which engage their attention, and give character to the opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views.”

her reason… is employed rather to burnish than to snap her chains.”



 “On the Equality of the Sexes” Judith Sargent Murray (1791) - Jennie Preece

“As their years increase, the sister must be wholly domesticated, while the brother is led by the hand through all the flowery paths of science. Let there be then no coercion established in society, and the common law of gravity prevailing, the sexes will fall into their proper places.”


Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, Sarah Grimke (1838) - Rebecca Archibald

My hero. My biggest takeaways are about Sarah Grimke as a person, how she lived her life.

What she said, remember she was speaking out about slavery, and was getting violent pushback not just about slavery but about being a woman speaking publicly about anything. So there was this pastor who was worried that Sarah (and women following her example) were getting too much power, so he said “when you have a question, ASK YOUR PASTOR.” So these letters were in some ways a response to that patriarchal model.

So Sarah all the way through claims her own right to interpret scripture as an equal of any pastor. And she says:

“Here then I plant myself. God created us equal.”


 "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1848) - Courtney McPhie

Laws of Couverture: coral necklace story 

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. 

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. 

Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master - the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement. (physical beatings)


 “Ain't I a Woman?” speech, Sojourner Truth (1851) - Dr. Rayna Clay Mackay

  1. “Women are weak, they need to be helped over mud puddles.” “Nobody helps me over mud puddles. Look at my arm. And am I not a woman?” This still happens. White people say “Woman” and they’re referring to white, privileged women. It’s not right.

  1. Frances Gage changed her words. 
  2. Rayna’s experience as a Black woman


The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill (1869) - Frances Kay Allebes

“The burden of proof is supposed to be with those who are against liberty.”

“Nobody thinks it necessary to make a law that only a strong-armed man shall be a blacksmith. Freedom and competition suffice to make blacksmiths strong-armed men, because the weak-armed can earn more by engaging in occupations for which they are more fit.”

Then he says it’s unnecessary to make a rule “that certain persons are not fit to do certain things. ...Even if it be well grounded in a majority of cases, which it is very likely not to be, there will be a minority of exceptional cases in which it does not hold: and in those it is both an injustice to the individuals, and a detriment to society, to place barriers in the way of their using their faculties for their own benefit and for that of others.”


 “The Yellow Wallpaper,”  Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)  - Shannon Johnson

Paternalism! “Oh, my sweet husband, he knows what’s best for me. I don’t know my own symptoms or my own body or my own mind.” Sometimes benevolent patriarchy is even more insidious than more overt forms of patriarchy because women don’t notice that they’re in a cage, being kept in the role of a child for their whole life, because the patriarch is being nice.

The Rest Cure vs. the West Cure - still see this!!


The  Awakening, Kate Chopin (1899) - Shauna Rensch

“At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life – that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions. ...She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves.”

And this is what makes her blow up her life.


“The Fundamental Principle of a Republic,” Anna Howard Shaw (1915)  - Dr. Amy Cook

Arguments against women’s suffrage - still relevant today! 

“Whenever any question is to be settled in any community, then the people of that community shall settle that question. The women people equally with the men people. That is all there is to it.”

Ask yourself if you belong to any organizations where the argument is made that things are fair because the men listen to the women and represent their interests, and that “women don’t want to have added responsibilities.”


 “The Morality of Birth Control,” and “The Case for Birth Control,” Margaret Sanger (1921) - Courtney McPhie

Margaret Sanger’s own mother conceived 18 times in 22 years, birthing 11 alive before dying aged 49.

The Comstock Act: In Massachusetts, anyone disseminating contraceptives -- or information about contraceptives -- faced stiff fines and imprisonment. In  Connecticut, the act of using birth control was even prohibited by law. Married couples could be arrested for using birth control in the privacy of their own bedrooms, and subjected to a one-year prison sentence. 


 “A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1929) - Susannah Furr

“Get off the grass.” Interrupts her train of thought - all the ideas wasted

 “You can’t come into the library.” Her face burning with humiliation. “I will never go back.”

In the British Library: “Women, relation to men of.” Men are at the center - we see ourselves as auxiliary

Susannah’s explanation of the much better facilities and dining in the men’s college v. the women’s college. “What was behind the thin gravy soup in the plain dish v. the succulent meats and glasses of wine and desserts” Reminded me of the different amounts of money and resources spent on boys and young men in our church v. girls and young women

“Think only of the jump.” 


 Killing the Angel in the House, Virginia Woolf (1931) - Rachelle Burnside

Separate spheres ideology, men praise women to be the self-sacrificers, the ones who give up their dreams.

Woolf describes that when she would try to write, the angel would constantly say “what will men think of this??” and it was so distracting it stopped her from doing good work/achieving her potential.

Also, that “Affable Hawk” character always saying “women can’t be good writers.” This will come up later - it’s been proven in experiments that when you tell someone they’re not good at something, they perform worse. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why Woolstonecraft and Mill said “we don’t know the differences between the sexes yet, because it’s never been a fair world yet. Men think less of women, and women think less of themselves.” 

Bobby Fischer saying, “They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess”

Garry Kasparov: Women, by their nature, are not exceptional chess players.” and  “All women are inferior to men.”


 “An Open Letter to the Women of the World,” Eleanor Roosevelt at the U.N. (1946) 

And “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” U.N. (1948) - Lucy Allebest

“To recognize the progress women made during the war and to participate actively in an effort to improve their standard of life in their countries, and participate in the work of reconstruction so that there will be qualified women ready to accept responsibility when new opportunities arise.” 

And that...

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About the Podcast

Breaking Down Patriarchy
An Essential Texts Book Club
Breaking Down Patriarchy is a podcast for everyone! Learn about the creation of patriarchy and those who have challenged it as you listen to bookclub-style discussions of essential historical texts. Gain life-changing epiphanies and practical takeaways through these smart, relatable conversations.

About your host

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Amy Allebest

I grew up in Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, reading, writing, drawing, singing, and practicing the piano and violin. I attended Brigham Young University, where I met Erik Allebest during my first week of freshman year, studied abroad in Israel, lived in Chile for a year and a half as a missionary, and married Erik all before graduating with a degree in English. Erik and I moved around - to Colorado, Southern California, Utah, Spain, and Northern California - while Erik started and ran chess businesses for a living (primarily chess.com) and I stayed home to raise our four children. Those four kids have become brilliant, hilarious people and are our very best friends. I am a long-time trail runner, a recent CrossFitter, a lifelong reader and writer, and an almost-graduate of Stanford University's Master's of Liberal Arts program.