this is just a thought. i was having an argument with some women about peter singer and utilitarianism in general after my philosophy tute. somebody said that the patriarchal culture is like utilitarianism embodied because the culture (everyone) ultimately benefits from women being paid less and doing the domestic work, etc, because that allows the men to go out and achieve things.
i dont know how i feel about that. i dont actually think everyone benefits because the women sure dont...
Oh my goodness. That's absolutely shocking! I'm doing a subject on International Development at the moment, and it's pretty conclusive that when you help women out, especially poor women, then *everybody* benefits, because more educated women lead to more educated children which lead to more educated societies, essentially. Also great links between reduced rates of mortality and health problems in a general society when you help out the women.
The person you are talking to seems like they have not read Peter Singer. Singer identifies as a feminist (yay! I actually asked him at the Global Atheist Convention). It seems to me that equal consideration of interests (or pleasure/pain in classical utilitarianism) is essential to utilitarianism, therefore a patriarchal society would be antithetical.
Arathis is also right that the overall capacity of humanity to sustain itself (not to mention to be happy) is limited by forcing one half of the population to not work/pursue fulfilling lives. Definitely not utilitarian.
Singer's analysis about the reasons why equality is important in his book Practical Ethics is also awesome, if anyone feels like reading it.