Rethinking Patriarchy in Muslim Cultures through Unpatriarchal Male Desires
Over the last decades, patriarchy has lost its prominence among Northern feminist theorists as a conceptual tool for theorizing and describing gender. “Out-sourced” to the global South, especially to the Muslim World, in the words of Inderpal Grewal, "patriarchy” circulates to explain violence to women done “elsewhere” while remaining undertheorized and devoid of temporal and cultural specificity in our literature. Yet patriarchy remains a critical and named prism through which women and men negotiate their self-making in a variety of contexts. Our failure to adequately theorize patriarchy thus limits our ability to richly voice the lived experiences of these subjects. In this paper I suggest a rethinking of the place of patriarchy in gender theory from the perspective of young heterosexual men in Turkey who are the subjects of, and mediums for, (re)producing patriarchy but who have unpatriarchal desires and struggle to make themselves into men who are explicitly anti-patriarchal. This apparent contradiction is shaped, at least in part, by the historical link between patriarchy and paternalism in Turkey, which renders men the “protectors” of women and thus limits the potential for masculine self-expansion. In their projects of neo-liberal self-building, these young men are radically rethinking the models of masculinity embodied by their fathers and in the process seeking out new arrangements for their affective relationships with women. Their narrated experiences of sex, love, and romance constitute a rich site for furthering the theorization of the masculinity-patriarchy nexus in Muslim cultures.