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A patriarchy (from Greek: patria means family; archy means rule) is a family, government, or society controlled by senior men, especially by family patriarchs, i.e., male heads of extended families. For example, under patriarchy, if a man whose father (and whose father's father, etc.) has died, has two married sons and two married daughters and 15 grandchildren, then any money earned by either of his two sons belongs, not to the individual who earns the money, but to the family, and the patriarch of the family has authority to decide how the money is to be distributed among the family members. He has no similar authority over his married daughters, who are under the authority of the patriarchs of the families into which they have married.

The term is often used to mean societal control by men in general, although this is more properly termed andrarchy. Many construe this to mean a gender hierarchy in which men dominate or exploit women, but that need not be the case.

Some feminist writers have considered patriarchy to be the basis on which most modern societies have been formed. They argue that it is necessary and desirable to get away from this model in order to achieve equality of the sexes. Some critics argue that these writers are oversimplifying the complexities of society, and/or that such gender roles are not necessarily harmful.

Patriarchy is distinct from patrilineality and patrilocality.

Compare: matriarchy

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