Nov 6, 2023

Patriarchy and the Patriarchal Woman

By Tiziana Dellarovere /
Patriarchy and the Patriarchal Woman
Illustration by Tim Hjersted & Midjourney

Despite the popular notion that only men can be patriarchal, the truth is that women can be patriarchal as well. In our society, patriarchy is internalized. It lives inside of us, in the psyche of both men and women.

As we celebrate women’s hard-earned rise into positions of greater social, political, and economic power, we must also become aware of how women can be susceptible to taking on patriarchal values. Indeed, there are three main ways in which patriarchy manifests in women. But before we explore these three manifestations, we must define what patriarchy is. Patriarchy is not simply about men dominating women. It’s a much bigger and more insidious system than we have been led to believe.

What Exactly is Patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a hierarchical structure at the foundation of our society which controls, dominates and vilifies all things feminine and aggrandizes the shadow masculine. Note that by “shadow masculine,” I’m referring only to a destructive version of masculinity, not to healthy masculinity or to individual men. In its healthy form, the masculine is an indispensable part of the whole of who we all are and an intrinsic aspect of each of us which deserves to be honored just as much as our feminine aspects.
This is why in order to comprehend patriarchy, we must first come to understand the shadow masculine as distinct from healthy masculinity, again bearing in mind that this is a discussion of masculine and feminine aspects of all people, not a relapse into assigned gender roles.

Shadow Masculinity vs. Healthy Masculinity

Healthy masculinity is the expression of love through generous giving and courageous action in the service of our inner truth. Our masculinity gives us the ability to create structure, discipline and protective boundaries, the linear thinking we rely on to solve problems, and the potent vitality that fuels our heroic actions. Our healthy masculine is always connected with the feelings, perception and wisdom of our healthy feminine, and in so doing, the masculine becomes the caring steward of life.

The shadow masculine is the opposite of the healthy masculine in every way. Whereas the healthy masculine is generous, the shadow masculine hordes resources and power. The shadow masculine is not constructive but destructive; it doesn’t maintain positive structure and discipline, but instead becomes controlling, dominating, and rigid. Where our healthy masculinity makes us protective, our shadow masculine is condemning of others who are different. In place of linear thinking, it drives us to mental obsession which clouds us from even the most easily observable, self-evident truths. The shadow masculine imprisons our inner feminine, divorcing us from our feelings, our capacity to empathize with others, and the perception of our inner guidance. In the throes of our shadow masculine, we become driven by an exhausting cycle of hyper-activity, focused only on cutthroat competition in the pursuit of the highest position in the hierarchical ladder.

Patriarchy is so ubiquitous in the fabric of our political, economic, and religious institutions that it infiltrates our psyche and conditions our belief systems without us even realizing it. In the patriarchal belief systems that permeate our culture, the masculine is not equal to the feminine but instead is made superior, while the feminine is made not only different but rendered inferior. Consequently, our society places wealthy, mostly white, privileged men in the highest positions of power.

Women Can Be Patriarchal, Too

However, patriarchy also penetrates the psyche of women, conditioning many of us to agree with and embody patriarchal values. Just as a man is not automatically patriarchal by virtue of being a man, a woman, by virtue of being a woman, is not precluded from being patriarchal.

As a white woman who has been brought up in a patriarchal society, I know all too well how I can be dazed by my conditioning. I know how easily many of us can be impressed by the patriarchy’s black-and-white absolutism and dogmatic self-assurance, and how easy it is to be intimidated into giving up our power to a patriarchal authority figure and relying on him to tell us what’s right and wrong.

When women find ourselves powerless to identify abusers and protect ourselves from abusive masculinity, it is because we have inside ourselves the critical voice of a patriarchal male putting us down, diminishing us, making us feel inferior and wrong. This insidious shadow masculine within us agrees with the abusive behavior of the patriarchal men we encounter in our lives. We then align ourselves with the world view of our abuser or oppressor.

This is why some of us women end up championing abusive leaders and supporting legislation that goes against our own equality, self-sovereignty, and safety as women. As a consequence, we end up embracing the very beliefs that disrespect women, endanger women’s lives, and diminish women’s worth.
This is a path that inexorably lead us to become patriarchal women.

There are many ways in which a woman becomes patriarchal, but I will outline three main patterns that many of us are particularly susceptible to, in the hope that our becoming conscious of these tendencies will empower us to transform them.

1. Women Who Embody a Patriarchal Type of Authority

The first way in which a woman becomes patriarchal is by completely disowning her identity as a woman and becoming “one of the boys.” This is a strategy to avoid belonging to a group that is considered inferior and subjected to discrimination and sexism. If she adopts patriarchal attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, she will feel precariously equal to the men in power and feel privileged by association. She can then compete with them within the existing power structure and even win a position of power over some of them. The danger is that by the time she reaches the top of the patriarchal ladder, she will no longer consider the needs and challenges specific of women, such as those associated with motherhood, nor will she uphold the feminine values of collaboration, flexibility and inclusivity as being important. This is a product of her patriarchal conditioning to win at all costs and to see the feminine as weakness.

Our society is transforming rapidly, and we desperately need women leaders across all fields. But these women must integrate healthy values and attitudes in their leadership style in order to harmonize the healthy masculine with the power of the feminine, thereby enabling women to change the power structure of society from the inside out. Because otherwise, powerful women may as well be patriarchal men. If our leaders express their authority through patriarchal values, it makes no difference whether they are women or men.

What to Do About It

In our external world, we must:

  • Establish a new value system based on collaboration instead of competition and creativity instead of rigid control
  • Create workplaces based on diversity and mutual respect instead of on competing factions
  • Derive our authority by inspiring others instead of intimidating them
  • Enact policies that consider the needs of mothers and view motherhood as an asset and not as a liability to the organization
  • Hire competent women in jobs that are traditionally held exclusively by men

Meanwhile, in our internal world, we must:

  • Engage in daily periods of silence, stillness and self-care
  • Create balance between rest and work
  • Discover the beauty and power of our feminine nature
  • Cultivate compassion
  • Become aware of when we feel or act competitive with other women and instead seek collaboration and mutual empowerment.

2. Women Who Become Submissive To The Shadow Masculine

The second way in which a woman becomes patriarchal is by accepting a position of inferiority and becoming subservient to the patriarchal masculine. She loses her power, her sense of self, and her better judgment, abdicating it all to a patriarchal authority in order to receive recognition and validation of herself by winning his approval.

This unhealthy self-diminishing must not be confused with accepting and embracing women’s traditional roles as mothers and caretakers. In fact, a woman can be a-stay-at-home mother and still be perfectly empowered and self-sovereign because she views her work as critically important to her family and to society and values her own wisdom.

On the contrary, a woman becomes patriarchal when she internalizes the pernicious lie that feminine values and all characteristics of the feminine, and by extension women themselves, are inherently inferior. This lie manifests as very subtle self-criticism or through an ingrained belief that men’s contributions to society are more important, or that men are better suited for jobs requiring the projection of authority. This leads many women to believe that women should obey men unquestioningly, and therefore it’s perfectly natural that men should be disproportionately represented in politics and business.

What to Do About It

In our external world, we must:

  • Learn to say “no” when we disagree with a course of action that feels wrong to us
  • Be willing to speak our truths even when it goes against the opinion of others
  • Question the judgment of authority and behave according to what we believe to be the right course of action
  • Never hesitate to protect ourselves when we feel disrespected or abused. Instead of lingering in a predicament that is disrespectful to us, we must find a way to remove ourselves from the situation

In our internal world, we must:

  • Increase our self-esteem through appreciation of our value as women and recognize our unique contributions to the world
  • Trust our perception, intuition and compassion
  • Learn to validate ourselves from within without seeking approval from the outside
  • Champion ourselves and other women in the spirit of mutual appreciation

3. Women Who Are Privileged by Their Status in Patriarchal Structures

The third pattern by which a woman supports the patriarchal structure happens when she does not want to rock the boat because she would lose her privileged status. This position is more prevalent among upper-class white women because they fear that, if patriarchy collapses, and society becomes more inclusive and egalitarian, they may lose their privileges. This kind of patriarchal pattern often leads the woman to accept difficult compromises in exchange for the protection of the man she is dependent upon.

What to Do About It

In our external world, we must:

  • Connect with people socially, ethnically, and religiously who are completely different from us and get to know them as individuals
  • Find ways to utilize our talents and skills to assist those who are less fortunate than us

In our internal world, we must:

  • Foster our psychological and financial independence
  • Cultivate compassion and humbleness

These patriarchal patterns are so intrinsically embedded in the structure of society that to fully resolve them, society itself must change. It must shift from a hierarchical model to a collaborative model where feminine and masculine function in harmony. In this new model, women’s contributions to all aspects of society will be valued and remunerated on an equal ground with men.

At the same time, if we want to dismantle the patriarchy in society, we must begin by dismantling the patriarchy inside of each one of us. The path to freedom, to creative expression of self, and to compassion for all men and women begins by giving birth to a renewed, powerful, authentic and loving masculinity inside of us all.


To go deeper into this exploration of the inner masculine and feminine, I recommend my four-part series about the Shadow Masculine and Feminine, starting HERE.

Tiziana DellaRovere is the creator of The Sacred Lovers Within™, a comprehensive method of healing emotional pain and restoring balance to the masculine and feminine in each person. A groundbreaking innovator with over 35 years of expertise in the deep psyche, the inner masculine and inner feminine, and the spirituality of embodied love, Tiziana has helped thousands of people to bring love, harmony, and purpose into their lives.

Read more on her website:

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