Social Commentary, Activism, Humanism

Word of the Day “Kyriarchy” April 17, 2012

A  relative newcomer to the word “Kyriarchy”, I find it an interesting word when talking about power imbalances and a kind of an antidote to the word “Patriarchy”, because I believe power corrupts and no gender is immune when given the opportunity or the inclination to abuse. Feminism for me isn’t about bashing men. I love guys and they can be just as oppressed by this patriarchal system we live in. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts and theories about this term, thanks in advance.

Thanks to Wikipedia for this definition.


“Kyriarchy is a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza to describe interconnected, interacting, and multiplicative systems of domination and submission, within which a person oppressed in one context might be privileged in another.[1] It is an intersectional elaboration of the concept of patriarchy[1] — it extends the analysis of oppression beyond traditional feminism to dynamics such as sexism, racism, economic injustice, and other forms of internalized and institutionalized oppression[2].

Structural positions

Schüssler Fiorenza (2009) describes interdependent “stratifications of gender, race, class, religion, heterosexualism, and age” as structural positions assigned at birth.[3] She suggests that people inhabit several positions, and that positions with privilege become nodal points through which other positions are experienced.[3] For example, in a context where gender is the primary privileged position (e.g., matriarchy), gender becomes the nodal point through which sexuality, race, and class are experienced.[3] In a context where class is the primary privileged position (i.e., classism), gender and race are experienced through class dynamics.[3]

Schüssler Fiorenza writes about the interaction between kyriarchy and critical theories as such:

In light of this analysis, it becomes clear that the universalist kyriocentric rhetoric of Euro-American elite men does not simply reinforce the dominance of the male sex, but it legitimates the imperial “White Father” or, in black idiom, the enslaving “Boss-Man” as the universal subject. By implication, any critical theory — be it critical race, feminist, liberationist, or Marxist theory — that articulates gender, class, or race difference as a primary and originary difference masks the complex interstructuring of kyriarchal dominations inscribed in the subject positions of individual wo/men and in the status positions of dominance and subordination between wo/men. It also masks the participation of white elite wo/men, or better “ladies,” and of Christian religion in kyriarchal oppression, insofar as both have served as civilizing colonialist conduits of kyriarchal knowledges, values, and culture.
Elisabeth Schüssler FiorenzaExploring the Intersections of Race, Gender, Status and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies, 2009[3]

Tēraudkalns (2003) suggests that these structures of oppression are self-sustained by internalized oppression; those with relative power tend to remain in power, while those without tend to remain disenfranchised.[2]


The term was coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza[4] as an elaboration of patriarchy, derived from the Greek words κύριος or kyrios (lord or master) and ἄρχω or archō (to lead, rule, govern).[3][2] The term was coined in But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation, published in 1992.[3


3 Responses to “Word of the Day “Kyriarchy””

  1. Skeggjold Says:

    90% of it is in the delivery and with your first paragraph you disarm the apprehension that sometimes accompanies words or a discussion like this. You asked for thoughts and response about the term in question. If that word can be delivered in the way you gave it, I can accept it and agree with it. If that word is not delivered with compassion or openhandedness towards someone who might be the reason or antithesis of it then the word is just a weapon to define and profane. I live in the states now and it seems every side to every issue is only stridulant now.

    The other 10% is time.

  2. Skeggjold Says:

    As far feminism I agree equality void of any oppression. Don’t know if I conveyed that in my reply. Got distracted with the new fancy shiny word.

  3. I smiled at your description ‘new fancy shiny word’.

    From my understanding it’s about power.
    It does seem to have a slightly sinister feel to it.
    Abuse of power?

    Which is not necessarily a gender exclusive issue is it?

    The word ‘Feminism’ has been given a bad rap in my opinion.
    Equality void of oppression, I like.

    Words and context, people tend to misconstrue easily.

    I must confess to being a bit unsure of the word ‘stridulant’ 🙂
    So I looked it up and I agree and even though I don’t live where you live, America does seem to be a very stridulant place.

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