What Does Patriarchal Mean in AP World History?

In AP World History, the term “patriarchal” is frequently used to describe societies and cultures that are male-dominated. Patriarchy refers to a social system in which men hold primary power and authority over women. This type of system has been observed in various societies throughout human history, from ancient civilizations to modern times.

What is Patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a social system that values masculinity over femininity. In patriarchal societies, men typically hold positions of power and authority, while women are relegated to secondary roles. These roles often involve taking care of the home, raising children, and supporting their husbands or male family members.

Origins of Patriarchy

The origins of patriarchy are complex and multi-faceted. Some scholars argue that it developed as a result of the need for men to protect women and children in early human societies. Others suggest that it arose from biological differences between men and women, such as physical strength.

Regardless of its origins, patriarchy has persisted throughout history due to its ability to maintain power structures that benefit men at the expense of women. This has led to widespread gender inequality in many societies.

Examples of Patriarchal Societies

Many ancient civilizations were patriarchal in nature. For example, Ancient Greece was a highly patriarchal society where men held all positions of power and women were largely confined to the domestic sphere.

Similarly, in Ancient China, patriarchal values were deeply ingrained in society. Women were expected to be obedient to their fathers, husbands, and sons and had very limited opportunities outside the home.

Even today, many modern societies continue to be patriarchal. In some parts of the world, women have limited access to education or job opportunities and are expected to conform to traditional gender roles.

The Impact of Patriarchy

The impact of patriarchy has been far-reaching and has affected both men and women. Women in patriarchal societies have often been denied basic rights such as the right to vote, own property, or make decisions about their own lives.

Men, on the other hand, are often expected to conform to strict gender roles that can be harmful. For example, in some patriarchal societies, men are expected to be aggressive and dominant, which can lead to violence and other negative outcomes.

Breaking Down Patriarchy

Breaking down patriarchy is a complex process that requires changes at both the individual and societal levels. This includes challenging traditional gender roles and promoting gender equality in all aspects of society.

Education is also key to breaking down patriarchy. By teaching people about the harmful effects of gender inequality and promoting empathy and understanding between genders, we can begin to create a more equitable world for all.


In AP World History, understanding the concept of patriarchy is crucial for understanding the social systems that have shaped human history. By recognizing the impact of patriarchy on society and working towards greater gender equality, we can create a better future for all.