Re: What Matriarchy? (was Drugs etc.)
Thu, 18 Jul 1996 10:28:11 -0700

Matri- from the Latin mater (mother).
-arch from Latin arches (ruler)

Matriarchy has been defined as any social system which utilizes
matrilineal decent. I do not think this use of the word has any real
value in examining social organization. Matrilineal decent is only one
aspect in the regulation of decent. And, the regulation of decent is
only one aspect of social organization.

The adaptive value of matrilineal decent is to maintain female
solidarity. Matrilineal decent is found in societies where female
solidarity plays a greater role than male solidarity. Female and male
solidarity are built around areas of common responsibilities and

Among the Ashanti, female solidarity is built around horticultural
activities, where most of the work is done by women. Male solidarity is
built around periodic defense and offense. Thus, female solidarity plays
a greater role in the day-to-day affairs of the Ashanti. Female
solidarity is maintained through a system of matrilineal decent.

The common use of the term matriarchy in examining social organization
is as a reference to matriarchates, in which the dominant authority is
held by women. Political systems develop around the need to maintain
internal societal order and to regulate intersocietal relations.

Among the Ashanti this would fall into the category of male solidarity.
Actually, I can find no ethnographical, historical, or archeological
evidence of any matriarchial society. Most of what I find is speculation
by 19th century anthropologists on how such a system might function. To
be honest, although it may not be PC, I believe female solidarity is
prevented from developing around offense and defense because of
physiological factors.

A woman would have to bear two children to maintain a steady population.
This does not include considerations for infant and child mortality.
Assuming the male takes responsibility for child rearing after the child
is weaned, this still means a dedication of ..say.. 4 years to
childbearing and infant care. This time alone would focus female
solidarity towards the domestic.