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Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. Some patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

Patriarchy is associated with a set of ideas, a patriarchal ideology that acts to explain and justify this dominance and attributes it to inherent natural differences between men and women. Sociologists hold varied opinions on whether patriarchy is a social product or an outcome of innate differences between the sexes. Sociobiologists have argued that the roots of inequality were set in humanity's earliest period and are primarily due to genetic and reproductive differences between men and women. Aligned closely with evolutionary psychology, this theory posits that gender inequity is an inherent part of human social structures.

Social constructionists contest this argument, arguing that gender roles and gender inequity are instruments of power and have become social norms to maintain control over women. Constructionists would contend that sociobiological arguments serve to justify the oppression of women.

Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, religious, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Most contemporary societies are, in practice, patriarchal.