Patriarchy influences happiness

Now Christmas is approaching and you might need something other than Covid-19 to discuss at the dinner table, I thought I’d post some of the findings I found during the course of the year but never got around to post.

Some time ago I came across an interesting evaluation of countries based on their Hofstede Masculinity Dimension. This Dimension focuses on the extent to which in a society ‘achievement’ or ‘nurture’ is given the most importance. Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition of wealth, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stress caring and nurturing behaviors, sexuality equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles.

Traits of Masculinity / Femininity

High Masculine Low Masculine (Feminine)
social norms ego oriented relationship oriented

money and things are important quality of life and people are important

live in order to work work in order to live

politics and economics  economic growth high priority environment protection high priority

conflict solved through force conflict solved through negotiation

religion most important in life less important in life

only men can be priests both men and women as priests

work larger gender wage gap smaller gender wage gap

fewer women in management more women in management

preference for higher pay preference for fewer working hours

family and school traditional family structure flexible family structure

girls cry, boys don’t; boys fight, girls don’t both boys and girls cry; neither fight

failing is a disaster failing a minor accident

So basically, this Hofstede Masculinity Dimension offers a measure of the patriarchy of societies, at least in a Western context.

Using the words “Masculine” and “Feminine” you might think of biological sex, but these traits have more to do with how we are raised in our society rather than our bodies. Many of us are told that men must be masculine and women must be feminine and from an early age we get projected onto us how we are to behave and how we are to be based on our biological sex. But these traits have nothing to do with our sex or gender.

Because “masculine” traits are valued more in a patriarchal society, both men and women learn from an early age that these traits are worthy of development while the “feminine” traits are suppressed.

Plotting the Hofstede Masculinity Dimension

Now I love making graphs of things and I’ve been thinking of how to make a graph of this Hofstede Masculinity Dimension. What struck me was the mention of Finland as a Feminine country. Finland is a bit unusual in several ways. The language does not stem from Sanskrit and therefore is not a gendered language. Moreover, Finland has the youngest female president in the world and it has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for several years running. So I decided to plot the data against the World Happiness Report 2020, which ranks 156 countries based on an average of three years of surveys between 2017 and 2019

The colors in the graph indicate groups of countries.
Blue = Scandinavian countries
Red = Western European countries
Orange = Eastern European countries
Green = Commonwealth countries
Dark green = Baltic countries

I only plotted western countries because I think the way people are raised in other cultures like in Asia might be different so this cannot be compared so easily.

What we see here is that the Scandinavian countries + the Netherlands are ranked as Feminine countries and rank as the happiest countries in the world. Moreover, these Feminine countries are far more open to LGBTIQA+ and there is more equality.

The notable exception here is Switzerland, but Switzerland (just like Belgium) is also made up of a number of distinctly different cultures and language-groups. Of course this counts also for the United States, where there are vast differences between states.

It seems that being a Feminine country is at least a large factor (but not the only one) that determines happiness level.


To give some examples of the differences between countries that rate as Feminine and Masculine, I quote from this website: Compare countries - Hofstede Insights



I also feel this is a rather Buddhist way of going about things. What struck me about these descriptions, is that the approach to life and society in cultures with a more Feminine Dimension is in essense the same as what the Buddha prescribed for the Sangha, with a flat, non-hierarchal structure. Of course there is the respect for a teacher, but there is no leader in the Sangha; monastics make decisions based on consencus.

Of course there is a mutual respect but every member of the Sangha has a voice and has to be heard. This might make discussions sometimes a bit longer because not just one person makes the decisions; people discuss the issues until unanimity is reached.

I am not posting this to be complete in any way, but just to point to something that might be interesting for further research. “Leadership” is in essence a patriarchal concept. In feminist organisations there is no one person responsible for the succes of the group; it is team-work. I strongly feel that if countries are more Feminine, it will be better for everybody, including the environment. But of course, I’m biased coming from The Netherlands. :laughing:


Very interesting Ayya!
I would like to see an overlay of military spending based on GDP on this graph too :grin:. It might show a revealing pattern as well


From this paper’s analysis:

4.1. Hypothesis n° 1 – High MAS index countries have higher Defence spending
“Defence spending as a percentage of GNP is positively correlated with masculinity.”
(1991 p.101). Clearly, the MAS index model does not work well in this case. With MAS t-
statistics (but also F-test) far below its critical level. We can not find any statistically
significant link between defence spending and MAS index so the hypothesis should be

I think Hofstede’s methodology is very problematic, but leaving that aside, I would like to question something you said about the Finnish language, Venerable:

Indeed, Finnish clearly doesn’t derive from Sanskrit - it doesn’t even belong to the Indo-European language group. I have an idea where you might be going with this line, but would you be willing to make explicit your argument?

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Dear Ayya Vimala, thank you so much for sharing this very valuable methodology! :pray:
The exploitation of the earth and the feminine are indeed worldwide parallel phenomena.

People might think that the masculine/the feminine are interchangeable with being a man/a woman but that’s not what is meant here. What is meant and what leads to this uninhabitable earth, is the opportunism of too many men and women to support a system that does not benefit all. One’s own success is put first by exploiting other living beings.


This is functionally meaningless. PIE languages generally use gendered languages to segregate noun classes, not display biological gender preference. Also, conventions that assign gender to a word in common use does not necessarily equate to the classical rules of gender or declension in PIE languages. For example, contrast Fireman in english, originally masculine because of societal influence, but now functionally gender neutral due to the advent if female firefighters, with the latin agricola, or farmer, gendered in the feminine, but still a traditionally male occupation.

I would be far more interested in seeing the prevalence of Christianity in these rankings. Patriarchy as it presently exists is Christian baggage that was originally quite foreign to the traditional cultures of Northern Europe, most especially the Finns, Germanics, and Celts. Not so much southern Europe, either, as the Greeks and Romans were notoriously misogynistic.


From reading "When cultures collide’ by Richard D. Lewis, I understand that Finland is an outlier in many ways when compared to its neighbours and this it has many cultural similarities with Asian countries.
I’ve read a few books this year on such topics and found that Erin Meyer’s ‘The Culture Map’ to be the most useful for understanding different countries culture. She draws on Gert Hofstede’s work but Instead of masculinity vs femininity she uses two scales: deciding ‘consensual vs top-down’ and trust ‘task oriented vs relationship oriented’.
There is a good overview of her book here
This chart gives a good overview of her ideas

I’m not sure I’m following you on this one. If we could map this against gross national happiness then that would be interesting. However, my understanding is that one has to feel comfortable within that culture. We couldn’t just move to that culture and feel happy. There are cultural gaps to be bridged and one is likely not to feel authentic or culturally competent in a culture far from their own.


Don’t you think the Buddha is with the side of Patriarchy too?

The Buddha considered the caste system - a system that by its very nature is patriarchal - to be unjust. He was not a supporter of patriarchy. Why would he? Patriarchy creates but suffering.

That depends on how you put ‘patriarchy’… if by dictionary,

“a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family”

Then could this be considered ‘patriarchy’ too?

The Buddha didn’t even identify with being human. It seems peculiar to prescribe the Buddha as being patriarchal. Whatever you think it is, it will always be otherwise.

that Hofstede classification seems a Gargamel study of the Smurf and Smurfettes Villages. A fantasy.
I wonder how these coarse simplifications can have some academic recognition.

Truly in the Nordic countries there is a more equalitarian society and also an high social protection. There are many factors involved with a long History behind that. To say “that’s a femenine society” sounds bizarre.

Probably this issue doesn’t have a direct relation with Dhamma. Although maybe this is useful to remember the conditioned happiness is a subjective measurement. Environmental and social conditions can affect more or less in dependence of the individual mind.

Anyway, interesting to know about its existence. Thanks for the message


Sure, we can question the analysis of Geert Hofstede, an internationally respected social psychologist and anthropologist but it’s also wise to mention that Milos Popovic is a post-doctoral fellow specialised in civil war dynamics and post-war politics in the Balkans. Europe is before all his research area, especially the Balkans, so it is sociologically unfair to compare Hofstede’s chart with Popovic’s map. Also, let’s not forget that Popovic’s map - as most maps - shows the results of surveys and not of reported violence to authorities. Most forms of violence remain unreported when victims don’t feel safe to report them. It’s hard to rely on any map that is the result of surveys. Also, the maps you find on the website below directly published by the OECD are a bit sobering compared to Popovic’s European map. They show attitudes towards violence, prevalence in the lifetime and laws on domestic violence worldwide.

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The way feminists tried to present patriarchy is quite problematic.

I never bought the idea of wokism…

So does sexism create suffering, but he had no problem with that.

Problematic for whom? The first thing one notices is how Peterson dominates the conversation. Has Peterson noticed that practically all families, in a global sense, are male right? And do forgive me because I am not college educated and not an expert in the field, but examples of the equal co-sharing of power within the nuclear family are non-existent. Women don’t rape or kill their domestic partners, have not volunteered to work for less, have not voluntarily abdicated power in governmental affairs nor do women acknowledge that they are inferior and do not deserve ordination. Peterson’s argument was ironically masculine, overbearing and without merit.


Unfortunately, quite some men - monastics and non-monastics -
believe that Jordan Peterson’s opinions deserve respect.
I’d say on the contrary.

Jordan Peterson has but straight, male and mostly white followers.
If he would speak the truth, he would have a variety of followers.
Which he doesn’t.

The worst thing he does, is lying.
He claims social media to be a waste of time.
That’s perhaps his only truth.

And then he starts his own hateful social media platform: thinkspot

I just can’t believe that men claiming to follow the Buddha,
admire this megalomanic man and agree with his hateful speech.
Toronto University secures his position cause his name attracts money.
But Buddhists?


Or that it could be constructive in any sense of the word. Definitely not in line with the Dharma. Thanks for that!


Without any explanation or examples, this is not a very meaningful statement. Nor can it be applied to “feminists” as if they’re a unified body rather than a large group of people with varied opinions.

And as far as examples go, the video you’ve linked doesn’t provide one. The video appears to start at a point where the woman had finished explaining her understanding of patriarchy. So already we’re missing context, including the actual argument that Peterson “destroys”. We don’t even get to hear the other side which is terribly convenient for this type of content. The woman gets a few seconds to give examples of male-dominance in our society. And gets interrupted by Peterson in the process.

Frankly, I fail to see how it achieves anything other than bolstering already-existing beliefs in those who oppose feminism. It only takes a tiny bit of research to learn that many feminist movements acknowledge all the problems Peterson outlined. And many feminists believe that everyone suffers under patriarchy. So presenting a laundry list of men’s problems as a “complete destruction of feminist narrative” is intellectually dishonest at best.


I could not have said it better! Thanks.

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I guess Socrates must be a misogynist, as he apparently made the following scandalous statement (which I saw here):

“Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior”

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Could you please specify the ancient Greek text
in which you believe this Socrates’ statement
was originally written?

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