In her 1988 paper, feminist Iris M. Young underlines the gynocentric principle of “superiority” of female values over male values. Young states;
“Gynocentric feminism… argues for the superiority of the values embodied in traditionally female experience and rejects the values it finds in traditionally male dominated institutions… Gynocentric feminism finds in women’s bodies and traditionally feminine activity the source of positive values. Women’s reproductive processes keep us linked with nature and the promotion of life to a greater degree than men’s. Female eroticism is more fluid, diffuse, and loving than violence-prone male sexuality. Our feminine socialization and traditional roles as mothers give us the capacity to nurture and a sense of social cooperation that may be the only salvation of the planet… within traditional femininity lie the values that we should promote for a better society.”
–Iris Marion Young, Humanism, gynocentrism and feminist politics. Women’s Studies International Forum. Vol. 8. No. 3. Pergamon, 1985
Since the turn of the millennium new research into the nature and dynamics of gynocentrism – from male-inclusive, and humanist points of view – has provided a more detailed understanding of gynocentrism. The following presents a synopsis from authors and researchers Alison Tieman, Paul Elam, Paul Nathanson & Katherine Young, Adam Kostakis, Peter Wright, Dennis Gouws, Peter Ryan, and Elizabeth Hobson.
“In my opinion – and this is just from observing the social systems as they play out – I would say that gynocentrism prioritizes women’s protection and provision.”
–Paul Elam and Alison Tieman, Discussing Gynocentrism | HBR Debate 7 | Youtube (March 2018)
“For me gynocentrism is simply the ingrained human tendency to prioritize the needs and wants of women over the needs and wants of men. In its development culturally its not near that simple, and its development biologically its not near that simple. But as it manifests itself in the realm of sexual politics I do call it the tendency in human beings to prioritize the needs and wants of women over the needs and wants of men… The reason I like to frame it in terms of needs and wants is because in this gynocentric milieu, the gynocentric landscape in which we live, its not just protection and provision that women have the demand of the culture around them, it is everything. Its protection, its provision, its privilege, its power, its believe the woman, its, ynow, if I say something I don’t want to be questioned; this goes way beyond protection and provision.
–Paul Elam and Alison Tieman, Discussing Gynocentrism | HBR Debate 7 | Youtube (March 2018)
“How did chivalry go from being a military code to being a codified standard for men to meet in their protective treatment of women? The answer to that is a matter of historical record; it was through manipulation of the gynocentric instinct. In the twelfth century Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie de Champagne engaged in an intensive campaign to popularize the idea of courtly or romantic love… Eleanor, a woman of serious means and influence, sort of like a supersized Betty Friedan of the high Middle Ages saw an opportunity in this to promote a connection between men and women inspired by passion and infatuation and driven by a model of service – particularly of service to women. She and her daughter commissioned troubadours who borrowed from the ethics of military chivalry to write books and songs that carried this message to all the European courts. Even though the message was meant primarily for the aristocracy it eventually filtered down into the general population and quickly grew in popularity… The advent of romantic chivalrous love took the naturally occurring tendency in men to take care of women and made the first great leap toward a gynocentric society that would tolerate and indeed encourage all manner of insanity in the name of putting women first.”
–Paul Elam, Gynocentrism: The Root of Feminism, speech delivered to International Conference on Men’s Issues, London (2016)
Paul Nathanson & Katherine Young
“Gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women – to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women. But this worldview is explicitly misandric too, because it not only ignores the needs and problems of men but also attacks men. Misandry is a form of dualism that focuses on the innate vices of men. In this moral or even ontological hierarchy , women are at the top and men are at the bottom.”
–Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry, [p. 58] (2010)
“The traditional idea under discussion is male sacrifice for the benefit of women, which we term Gynocentrism. This is the historical norm, and it was the way of the world long before anything called ‘feminism’ made itself known. There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism, for instance. That the two are distinguishable is clear enough, but the latter is simply a progressive extension of the former over several centuries, having retained its essence over a long period of transition. One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.
–Adam Kostakis, Lecture 2: The Same Old Gynocentric Story, Gynocentrism theory Lectures (2011)
“And what is the logical outcome – say, if tomorrow, feminists got everything they are advocating for today? We would be plunged immediately into a two-tier system of rights and obligations, where men and women form distinct castes of citizen, the former weighed down by the obligations that enable the latter to luxuriate in their total autonomy. Life for women would be a literal lawlessness, while men’s every move would be dictated from above, geared to the purpose of providing for all female needs and wants. It would not be inappropriate to call such a system sexual feudalism, and every time I read a feminist article, this is the impression that I get: that they aim to construct a new aristocracy, comprised only of women, while men stand at the gate, till in the fields, fight in their armies, and grovel at their feet for starvation wages. All feminist innovation and legislation creates new rights for women and new duties for men; thus it tends towards the creation of a male underclass.
–Adam Kostakis, Lecture 11. The Eventual Outcome of Feminism, Part II, Gynocentrism theory Lectures (2011)
“So, here is the definition I offer up: feminism is the most recent, and presently the most culturally dominant form of Gynocentrism. It is a victim ideology which explicitly advocates female supremacy, at every facet of life in which men and women meet; it does so in accordance with its universalizing tendency, and so it does so in each sphere of life, including but extending beyond the political, social, cultural, personal, emotional, sexual, spiritual, economic, governmental and legal. By female supremacy, I refer to the notion that women should possess superiority of status, power and protection relative to men. It is the dominant cultural paradigm in the Western world and beyond. It is morally indefensible, although its adherents ensure that their hegemony goes unchallenged through the domination of societal institutions and the use of state violence.”
–Adam Kostakis, Lecture 2. Pig Latin, Gynocentrism theory Lectures (2011)
“Gynocentric chivalry is alluded to by alternative terms such as benevolent sexism, romantic love, gentlemanliness, courtesy, gallantry, heroism, or simply chivalry. The practice has roots in what some scholars have referred to as ‘love service,’ (Bennett, 2013) a ritualized form of devotion by men toward women popularized by troubadours in the Middle Ages. The earliest conceptualization of love service borrowed from the vocabulary of medieval feudalism, mimicking ties between a liegeman and his overlord; i.e., the male lover is referred to as homo ligius (the woman’s liegeman, or ‘my man’) who pledged honor, and servitium (service) to the lady via a posture of feudal homage. The lady was addressed as midons (literally ‘my lord’), and also by dominus (denoting the feudal Lady) (Alfonsi, 1986). These practices form the ideological taproot of modern romantic chivalry.
The conventions and indeed the lived practices of romantic chivalry celebrated first among the upper classes made their way by degrees eventually to the middle classes and finally to the lower classes – or rather they broke class structure altogether in the sense that all Western peoples became inheritors of the customs regardless of their social station. Today chivalry is a norm observed across the majority of global cultures, an explicitly gynocentric norm aimed to increase the comfort, safety and power of women, while affording men a sense of purpose and occasional heroism in addressing that same task.
C.S. Lewis referred to the growth of romantic chivalry as “the feudalisation of love,” (Lewis, 2013, p. 2) making the observation that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. He observed that European society has moved essentially from a social feudalism, involving a contractual arrangement between a feudal lord and his vassal, to a sexual feudalism involving a comparable contract between men and women as symbolized in the act of a man going down on one knee to propose marriage.
— Peter Wright, Bastardized Chivalry: From Concern for Weakness to Sexual Exploitation, New Male Studies Journal, December 2018
“The dominant features of gender relations today come from old Europe in the forms of damseling, chivalry and courtly-love. Together they form the customs, in fact the essence, of modern gynocentric culture.
–Peter Wright, Damseling, chivalry and courtly love (part one), (2016) (Gynocentrism.com)]
“This conservative approach to chivalry, one whose paternalism has surely outlived its usefulness in the twenty-first century, offers men little and confines them to a life of gynocentric pleasing and male disposability in the service of gynocentric chivalry. What this approach has in common with gender feminism is the way it suggests gynocentrism is essential and congruent with society—its natural and normal protocol—rather than being one philosophy among many. The second approach placed the onus on changing chivalry on women and their expectations. Ashley suggested that “It is women who need to figure out what roles they would have men perpetuate, and encourage those over the less-preferred actions.” This approach completely objectifies men and empowers women to dictate what they want men to do to please women. It is gynocentric, strategic, and impersonal; it is a gender-feminist approach. As much of this chapter has suggested, it is harmful to men and women who seek gender equity.
“Michael Kimmel (Kalish & Kimmel, 2010) popularized the concept of aggrieved entitlement which can succinctly be defined as “a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back” (p. 454). Because Kimmel’s sympathies lie with gender feminism, he is uninterested in how this concept might apply to women’s behavior. Women might express aggrieved entitlement when they experience what they perceive to be a humiliating loss of the gynocentric privilege to which gynocentric chivalry, gender feminism, and hegemonic gynarchy have entitled them. Self-righteous, angry expressions of personal offense and even violent acts might result from their perceived moral obligation to regain their sense of gynocentric privilege. A cursory internet search of gender-feminist responses to men’s-issues speakers on campus and to the establishing men’s groups or other male-positive spaces on campus will provide examples of this aggrieved entitlement.”
–Dennis Gouws, Not So Romantic For Men: Using Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe to Explore Evolving Notions of Chivalry, in Voicing the Silences of Social and Cognitive Justice, 167–178. (2018) and Their Impact on Twenty-First-Century Manhood
I define gynocentrism as the following: The set of elements of society and relationships that are directed by the intent to prioritise female well-being over male well-being, based solely or partly on the sex of the intended beneficiary(ies) being female and for which there are no equivalent efforts made to provide corresponding commensurate benefits to males.
I define well-being as the quality of the overall condition of the life of an individual or group, that is based on taking their mental and physical health and life satisfaction into consideration.
The diagnostic criteria that must be met for an element of society or relationships to be considered gynocentric are the following: 1. The element must be driven by the intent to prioritise female well-being over male well-being. 2. This intent must be solely or partly based on the sex of the intended beneficiary(ies) being female. 3. There must be no equivalent efforts made to provide commensurate benefits to males for instances where female well-being is prioritised over male well-being.”
–Peter Ryan, Diagnosing Gynocentrism (2018)(gynocentrism.com).
Gynocentrism arose in the late Middle Ages. Queen consort of France and England, Eleanor of Acquitaine spearheaded a movement within her court to subvert the chivalric code (which had traditionally governed relations between knights and lords) to regulate the behaviour of men towards women. These women initiated a system of romantic feudalism wherein noble men were under irresistible pressure to identify a lady as midons (my lord) and to submit to her will and delicately accept any scorn that her midons saw fit to extend to him. Eleanor established “Courts of Love” in which she and her noble women would administer “justice” in romantic disputes. Not only may many men in particular recognise this state of gender relations, but the modus operandi that Eleanor and company used to achieve their supremacy is entirely familiar: generalizations about all men based on the poor behaviour of a minority, asserting that women need protection from men’s violations, and a narrative of women’s moral superiority justifying their dictatorship. Within 200 years, Eleanors’ ideas had spread and saturated throughout Europe and throughout the class system.
–Elizabeth Hobson., Feminists Do Not Get To Define Feminism, in Poliquads Magazine, (2019)