Patriarchy insists women need to be protected, and anyone who has read domestic violence statistics could hardly disagree with such a statement. But patriarchy insists also that the only way to protect women is to place them under the authority of men, for, as we are told, only men can protect women from other men.
But consider for a moment, if it takes a man to protect a woman from another man, what happens when that man turns on the woman he is supposed to protect? How can a woman guarantee the goodwill of the man who is supposed to protect her?
Patriarchy insists women must obey the man who protects her to ensure his continued goodwill towards her. A woman who doesn't properly defer to a father, or a husband, can only blame herself if she suffers as a result of her own disobedience, for men, cannot, and will not, respect a woman who does not obey.
This kind of protection is really a form of patronizing, for it tells women, "We'll keep you safe, but only as long as you give up your personhood, for you have no right to voice your opinion." Silent obedience may seem like a small price to pay for protection, but it is a silence that offers no safety from violence within the relationship. For really, if a woman must depend on the goodwill of a man whom the patriarchal narrative tells us is a threat to other women, how can she trust that the man will not turn on her? What guarantees does she have?
But what if we tried another model. What if, instead of insisting women obey men, we insisted that men respect women? What would happen?
We would stop treating all men as potential predators. Instead we would view men as persons capable of treating women well, and we would expect them to do so.
There would still be women who would need protection from violence, but the difference, compared to the patriarchal narrative, is that these women wouldn't be told to stay in abusive relationships, nor would they themselves think that it was somehow normal for a man to treat them with such blatant disrespect, for really, what is abuse but disrespect; this thought that another person doesn't deserve the same consideration and respect that we show ourselves, that they ought to obey us.
And it is for this reason that we find the patriarchal narrative telling us that women need love and men need respect, for if men had to respect women, they wouldn't be able to extract obedience from them. And that is really what the patriarchal protection is all about. It has nothing to do with protecting women; it has everything to do with a desire to control women. And as long as women believe that they need this protection, they will allow themselves to be controlled. But it won't stop the violence, for if you are controlled, you are no longer in control. And when that happens, so does abuse.