The return of patriarchy – implications for youth work?

From time to time as worker, trainer, manager and lecturer I’ve had cause to bemoan what I’ve experienced as the anti-intellectual and anti-theoretical face of youth work. By and large, often understandably as much social theory seeks to impose its template on reality, workers lean to being pragmatic, drawing on what they see as their common-sense. Leave aside that the common-sense of today is neoliberal in its content I’m reminded of an argument I had years ago with a group of workers about my use of the notion of racially structured, patriarchal capitalism. Something of a mouthful, I grant you. However, as best I remember it, the discussion about the relationship between, class, gender, sexuality and race was lively, even if the critical consensus was that I should write like I spoke. In the intervening period, the concept of intersectionality has taken centre stage in explaining relations of oppression.

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And, yet patriarchy is evidently on its way back and I would recommend this week’s Guardian Long Read by Charlotte Higgins, ‘The age of patriarchy: how an unfashionable idea became a rallying cry for feminism today‘. If nothing else it’s a well-written introduction to the history of patriarchy, offering a glimpse too of the 1970’s feminism, which inspired the rise of work with Girls and Young Women. Sensitive to contradiction it feeds more than a few questions into the essential, everyday dialogue between youth workers and young people about the world we live in and how it might be changed for the better.

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