Milgram and the Patriarchy

Milgram Shock Box

Fake shock box used in the Milgram experiments

by Rachael Clemente

Stanley Milgram, a Yale University psychologist, paid careful attention to the works of Solomon Asch and his studies on conformity. Asch was famous for having seven planted participants and one actual participant sit in a room and answer a simple question: “Which of these lines is longer?” The dummy participants would all answer individually initially but after a while began unanimously picking the wrong answer.

Asch found that a third of the time the actual participant would also agree with the group, even when the correct answer was blatantly obvious. Milgram was intrigued by his studies and he wanted to try his own but also push the envelope. In 1961 he decided to find out exactly how far a normal human being would go in hurting someone based on humans’ desire to be obedient.

Milgram set up his experiment so that there was one actual participant dubbed “the teacher” and one planted participant dubbed “the learner”. They were introduced and told that they would both be taking part in a study on punishment/reward and its effects on learning. They were told that one would be a “learner” and have to memorize word pairings, and the other would be a “teacher” who would either respond that the learner was correct and continue on, or deliver an electric shock for a wrong answer. For each wrong answer the strength of the shock would increase.

The “teacher” watched as the “learner” was strapped into a chair and had electrodes placed on their body. The “learner” at this point makes a statement concerning a mild heart condition which is acknowledged by the experimenter as the real participant watched. The “teacher” was then led out of the room into a separate lab area where they could presumably hear the “learner” in the other room.

The electric shock machine was a fake and a tape recording of the “learner” was played simulating actual responses. After wrong answers the “teacher” would hear protests, yelps of pain, and demands the experiment stop. The experimenter was to verbally persuade and demand the “teacher” continue if they showed any hesitance. The perceived voltage of the shocks would go up by 15 volts with each wrong answer to a max of 450 where the “learner” would cease responding, indicating possible death or unconsciousness. The “teacher” would have to defy the experimenter’s commands if they wanted to stop and save the “learner”.

Before Milgram began he polled his colleagues, students, and other doctors. They all unanimously agreed that only a small fraction – a “lunatic fringe” – would go on to the full 450 volts. So it was understandably surprising when it turned out around 60% of participants in the experiment did just that. Read more

Posted on by Rachael Clemente in Feminism 2 Comments

Conversations with Ashley Judd

Jessica Mason McFadden writes, studies and mothers in Western Illinois, where she lives with her wife and daughters. She has a B.A. in English from Western Illinois University and plans to be a graduate student in the Clinical Psychology program starting next Fall. Jess identifies as a queer feminist, and you can find out more about her at:

I, like many of you, have read Ashley Judd’s feminist piece about the patriarchal objectification of the physical bodies of women and girls in The Daily Beast (as well as on her official blog). I am grateful that she used what was a frustrating and off-putting situation as an educational moment. She used her platform as a public figure to respond to a public conversation that is already taking place in the media, perpetuating stereotypes, mis-educating the public and contributing to what television journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell refers to as the “attack on women.”

In her directive and pointed article, Ms. Judd alluded to what I consider a Mentality of Patriarchy. She described patriarchy as an insipid system in which men and women operate to perpetuate its limiting heteronormative ideologies. I agree with her assertion, but I am puzzled as to how to actually change the system. Can the system be uprooted? And how? If it is a mentality, then how can that global mentality be changed? And is it a global mentality or are there communities within the global system of humanity that function without the presence of a patriarchal mentality? Read more

Posted on by Jessica Mason McFadden in Feminism, Pop Culture 3 Comments

Dads Against Daughters Dating

by Kaitlin

Sitting at the BC Civil Liberties Association booth at the last Vancouver Car Free Day, I watched a man pass by with his two young daughters in tow. The man wore a shirt marked “D.A.D.D.” and in smaller script below this acronym it read: “Dads Against Daughters Dating”.

There was nothing unusual about this father, save for the fact that he wore his bias openly for the world to see, rather than in the furtive manner by which men slightly more educated in feminism tend to hold their uncomfortability about their daughters dating. Even the most liberal of fathers seem to fall into the role of protector when it comes to their daughters, although by protecting their daughters’ innocence (read: virginity), they often fail to take into account how that perpetuates tired old sexist narratives.

My father was like the man at Car Free Day, proud of his opposition to his daughter dating. My grandmother often tells the story of how he picked her up at the airport shortly after I was born, and prattled on and on during the ride back to the hospital about how he had a daughter, his little princess, and he wasn’t going to allow her to date until she was at least forty.

As I got older, the dating double-standard between my brother and I grew ever more apparent. Though younger than I, my brother could have female friends over whenever he liked, and go out with them on a whim. I, on the other hand, was treated to lectures whenever my father found out that I had gone out – gasp! – with a boy. On one occasion my father threatened to ground me for having a male friend over after school, and when I protested the injustice, he explained that he had once been a teenage boy, and knew exactly how my friend thought.  Admittedly, this conversation was made rather amusing by my father’s complete and utter lack of gaydar.

I remember my (male) grade six teacher for Sex Ed explaining to our class why girls were treated differently than boys: girls could get pregnant. I never got this argument; after all, if a girl got pregnant, was there not a boy somewhere who was equally responsible for conception? Why was he allowed to escape all responsibility? Why was he allowed to go out, have fun, do what he pleased, simply because he didn’t have a uterus? Why were only girls forced to stay home?

Having been exposed to the same arguments time and again over the years, I decided to seek out the answers. I cannot say definitively that these are the only reasons, but never having been admitted into the patriarchal club of fathers, these are the only ones I’ve ever been able to uncover. The first is rooted in the same tradition that brought us marriage as an institution that transferred ownership of a woman from her father to her husband. The rationale is simple: a daughter is the property of her father, and if she dates a man – or worse, has sex with a man – that man is taking something which belongs to her father. A woman’s virginity was her father’s, not her own.

Now, this isn’t the argument I’m imagining most modern dads are identifying with consciously. It’s more of an underlying thing, ingrained through a lifetime of patriarchal socialization. No, today fathers use the rationale that a daughter, unlike a son, could become pregnant. This despite the fact that a girl who freely chose to have sex could insist that the boy in question wore a condom, or could choose to take birth control. Accidents do happen, but girls can take the Morning-After Pill, and even before this invention came about they had the right to procure an abortion. Yet I’ve never heard a father suggesting his daughter carry condoms in her purse; instead, they choose to go out in shirts proudly proclaiming themselves: “Dads Against Daughters Dating.”


Posted on by Kaitlin in Feminism 4 Comments