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Patriarchy vs. Matriarchy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on March 4, 2024
Patriarchy is a social system where men hold primary power and dominate roles in leadership, moral authority, and property; matriarchy is a system where women hold primary power, especially in roles of political leadership and moral authority.

Key Differences

Patriarchy is characterized by male dominance in societal roles, decision-making, and authority. Matriarchy, conversely, centers on female leadership and authority, especially in familial and societal structures.
In a patriarchal society, men predominantly control political leadership, moral authority, and property. In matriarchal societies, these roles and responsibilities are mainly held by women.
Patriarchy often manifests in social and cultural norms that prioritize male viewpoints and leadership. Matriarchy emphasizes female perspectives and leadership, offering alternative social and familial structures.
Patriarchy has been more prevalent historically and in contemporary societies, shaping many legal and cultural norms. Matriarchy, while less common, presents a social order where women's roles and contributions are central.
The impact of patriarchy is evident in gender roles, wage gaps, and representation in leadership positions. In matriarchy, women's roles and values tend to have a more significant influence on these areas.

Comparison Chart

Dominant Gender in Power


Political Leadership

Primarily male
Primarily female

Cultural Norms

Male-centered viewpoints and roles
Female-centered perspectives and roles

Historical Prevalence

More common historically and presently
Less common, with notable examples

Impact on Gender Roles

Traditional male-dominated roles
Empowerment and centrality of women

Patriarchy and Matriarchy Definitions


A social system where men hold primary authority.
The company's management structure was reflective of a traditional patriarchy.


Dominated by female leadership, especially in familial roles.
The tribal culture operated as a matriarchy, with women leading the family units.


Dominated by male leadership in political and familial roles.
Historically, patriarchal societies were widespread across different cultures.


Emphasizes female perspectives in social and cultural norms.
The society's matriarchal structure influenced its art and literature.


Centers on male control of property and decision-making.
In a patriarchy, property inheritance is often male-preferential.


A social system where women hold primary power.
In the matriarchy, women were the key decision-makers in their communities.


Emphasizes male dominance in social and cultural norms.
The film industry has long been influenced by patriarchal norms.


Centers on female control of property and social organization.
Property inheritance in the matriarchy was matrilineal.


Men are the primary figures in authority and leadership.
Patriarchy was evident in the governmental structure of the country.


Women are the primary figures in authority and governance.
Matriarchy governed the social policies and laws of the land.


A social system in which the father is the head of the family.


A social system in which the mother is head of the family.


A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by men.


A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by women.


The collection of women in positions of power, especially in such a social system or community. In all senses also called matriarchate.


A social system in which the mother is head of household, having authority over men and children.


A system of government by females (particularly as a kind of polity).


The dominance of women in social or cultural systems.


A form of social organization in which a female is the family head and title is traced through the female line


What is matriarchy?

A societal structure where women hold primary power and leadership roles.

What is patriarchy?

A social system where men predominantly hold power and authority.

Are there any true matriarchal societies?

Few societies are entirely matriarchal, but some exhibit strong matriarchal characteristics.

Can patriarchy exist in modern democracies?

Yes, elements of patriarchy can persist in various forms, even in democracies.

Does matriarchy mean exclusion of men from power?

Not necessarily; it emphasizes female leadership but doesn’t always exclude men.

Can a society be both patriarchal and matriarchal?

Societies typically lean towards one, but elements of both can coexist.

What are the benefits of matriarchal systems?

They can lead to more egalitarian societies with emphasis on communal and familial welfare.

Are patriarchies always oppressive to women?

While not always intentionally oppressive, they can perpetuate systemic gender inequalities.

How does matriarchy impact family structures?

It often leads to matrilineal inheritance and significant roles for women in family decisions.

How does patriarchy affect gender roles?

It often leads to male-dominated roles and reinforces traditional gender norms.

Does patriarchy affect economic systems?

Yes, it often influences wage gaps, employment opportunities, and leadership roles.

How does religion interact with matriarchy?

It varies, with some religions embracing matriarchal principles, while others are more patriarchal.

Can a matriarchy empower women?

Yes, by providing them with leadership opportunities and decision-making power.

How does patriarchy influence politics?

It often leads to male-dominated political structures and decision-making processes.

Is patriarchy limited to certain cultures?

No, patriarchal structures have been prevalent in many cultures throughout history.

What challenges do matriarchies face?

They can face cultural, political, and social resistance in a predominantly patriarchal world.

How do education systems reflect patriarchy?

Through curriculum and practices that prioritize male achievements and perspectives.

Can patriarchy change over time?

Yes, societal changes and movements towards gender equality can alter patriarchal structures.

Is matriarchy the opposite of patriarchy?

Conceptually, yes, but in practice, they are more complex and nuanced than direct opposites.

How is property inheritance handled in matriarchies?

Usually through the female line, with women controlling property distribution.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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