shadowbow464 asked: what does patriarchy even mean?Is it sexism?
It’s basically a broad term to refer to general, institutionalized misogyny. Now some people, in turn, have a problem with the term “institutionalized misogyny” because it implies broad-sweeping laws and legal restrictions that expressly prohibit a gender from engaging in certain activities and behaviors. Just as an example: Saudi Arabia has laws (or at least had, I don’t know the current state of Saudi Arabia’s laws and culture) prohibiting women from wearing certain kinds of clothes, driving cars, or similar situations. Many feel that it’s only in cases like that that “institutionalized” should be applied and the United States does not have those kinds of problems when it comes to sexism and misogyny.
However, the “institutionalized” in this regard is referring not just to laws (of which gender DOES play a part, hence why abortion/medical care/custody/etc. debates are still ongoing and you’ll see news reports and tumblr posts angry about things politicians say and do), but on a broader sense sociology.
Historically and generally, men have been in a superior position to women in terms of wealth, rights, and freedoms. It’s been that way because of assumptions, religion, or just general assholery. In particular it informs how people in any given society views genders: that it’s a binary, that men and women have assumed roles and that “men can’t do this” or “women can’t do this.” Assumption, over time, becomes fact in the minds of people, and they say and do things that reinforce those beliefs. So, for example, you have the assumption that women are weaker, so a woman would face prejudice participating in an activity that requires more physical activity. You have gendered assumptions about how women are in regards to sexuality - the “virgin/whore” dichotomy, that women are supposed to be “pure” and yet be available for sex for men. Likewise, a male who his promiscuous is viewed in popular culture as “a playa,” someone to be applauded and praised while a woman who is promiscuous is viewed as a “slut,” someone to be shamed and insulted. On top of that, you have images of men and women in media: studies showing that the audience feels there are more women than men in a crowd if a crowd is made up of 50% each of the two; the Bechdel test, which is designed to show how few women exist in movies who aren’t around to talk about the men of the movie (assuming they have any characterization/name at all); or viewing rape as something that is “funny” (male rape or rape as a punishment/comeuppance).
The patriarchy is gender roles. It’s saying “a man is this, a woman is that” when there is no actual basis for it because we are all individuals and we all have our own likes and dislikes, our own skills and deficiencies. It’s discouraging certain behavior that’s lauded in others and it’s insidious because we don’t even realize we’re doing it most of the time. We just were brought up a certain way and in turn perpetuate it because we don’t stop and think “why do I do that?”