I first found out about kyriarchy when my girlfriend mentioned it in passing, when referring to systems of oppression. So I googled it. Lisa from My Ecdysis does a wonderful job of explaining kyriarchy. I will try to describe it in my own words here.

 

Kyriarchy is a term that was coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, who is a radical feminist who studies liberation theology. Kyriarchy is a term that extends patriarchy to encompass and connect to other structures of oppression and privilege, such as racism, ableism, capitalism, etc. Basically, the term kyriarchy recognizes that there are overlapping, complicated power strata. It takes intersections into account. As Lisa says, "It's about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid." I would argue that this is not necessarily a human tendency so much as a tendency that has been cultivated through the continuing creation and extension of power structures. In a global system that is about grabbing whatever power you can and keeping what you accumulate or already have, and shunting those who do not have that power, it becomes a rather inevitable tendency. However, if this pyramid of power structures, and the rat race involved, is challenged, this tendency is no longer inevitable.

 

Some examples of kyriarchy include:

 

Example

Intersections

men of color dominating women of color

race and gender

straight women putting down lesbians

gender and sexuality

black women being homophobic towards black lesbians

race and sexuality

upper class white men exploiting working class asian women

class, race and gender

physically able white women deriding disabled black men

ability, race and gender

gay men and women refusing to acknowledge trans men and women in the queer movement

gender/sex and sexuality

indian girls belittling korean boys

gender and ethnicity

a black woman telling a white disabled woman that racism is a bigger problem than ableism

race and ability

 

These are very simplistic examples in that there are usually many more forces at work, many axes and layers of axes of power. For the purposes of this website the examples are rather stilted. When considering particular individuals, problems become more complex. When I am speaking to another person, all of my positions on different power axes come into play. For that matter, even on the same power axis, I have varying levels of privilege and oppression. For example, on the axis of ability -- I am hearing impaired, but to a particular extent in relation to others. I also struggle with various mental health related issues, and again it is important to consider the extent and my history. When I speak to a person who has schizophrenia, I have ablebodied privilege because I don't have schizophrenia. Then again, if their hearing is intact, they have ablebodied privilege over me in that respect. It is important to see kyriarchy for how complex it is, and to see that we exist on spectrums of privilege and oppression, and the points at which we exist change and vary. However, this is not an excuse for privilege. We cannot deny any or all of the privileges we have at any given point if we are to truly recognize power systems.

 

Lisa also goes on to say that kyriarchy is "about recognizing the power-over relationships that exist because of property, religion, security, economics, citizenship, and geography." This should give you an idea of the great variety of factors that must be taken into account when considering kyriarchy. This website sums up (in part) several very broad categories of power, but it is important to recognize the myriad other factors that constitute and overlap between the categories of patriarchy, racism, heterosexism, capitalism and ableism.