Re: What Matriarchy? (was Drugs etc.)
Sat, 20 Jul 1996 07:38:32 -0700

Lowell Morrison wrote:

>>Matriarchy has been defined as any social system which utilizes
>>matrilineal decent.

> You might want to recheck your dictionary, as the name suggests
> Matriarchal IS where Women Rule, Matrilineal Descent is seen
> among such tribes as the Hopi who are Patriarchal, the Uncle Rules
> <Grin> the Family, and the Father is sort of a nescessary evil.

I did check the dictionary. I've also tried to understand how the term
came to be used for matrilineal. I think it comes from some mistaken
concept that in a matrilineal group, the woman would rule the household.

>>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.

> Problem is that you have the word Misdefined, and thus come to som
> Some Incorrect Conclusions. Who decends from who is indeed one
> asect of a social orginization, who Rules IS another measure.

I am addressing the use of the word as meaning matrilineal, and the
value of such usage in anthropology. I do not have the word misdefined,
as I've tried to point out. I am merely examining the two usages of the
word, as there seemed to be some dispute as to whether the word means
this or that. I pointed out that the word has been used to mean this and

>>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

> Mmmm, Sorry, you need to retake your classes in Anthropology...
> And thank you for playing...

OK. I went to the library and checked out an anthropology book.

An Introduction to Cultural and Social Anthropology (in reference to
matrilineal decent): "The residence rule and the rule of decent both
reflect the greater adaptive importance of residence and inheritance
through the group whose solidarity is most continuously important."

This concept is seen throughout social studies (whether human or

>>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.

> Ah, Who Rules the Roost, that is the question, solidarity is done
> by the "Moiety" system, and is irrleivent to the "archal" part.

What? Moiety is the term applied to the kin groups (either clans or
phratries), where a society is divided into two or more major kin
groupings. It is only one system of social organization, like clans and
phratries. Solidarity plays a major role in all these extended
groupings, as it does in non-extended kin groups.

Solidarity is relevant to matrilineal, and matrilineal is one concept
for which matriarchy has been used.

>>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.

> Right, no male or female descent required in this use of word, only
> who rules the roost....

This is where I indroduce the second usage of the word.

>>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.

> The Key words is "how such a system might work", since there never was
> such a system, they, mmmm, did a lot of arm waving and guessing....

This is a bit harsh. As such a society does not exist, they really could
not make use of evidence. But, there is a big difference between
speculation (some scientific and some not) and guessing. There are
plenty of examples of such organization among animals, and the
anthropological models of social organization were detailed enough to
allow for such speculation.

> Since there never was such a system, your argument falls into the
> trash heap cause you seem to want to equate lineage with Ruling....

My argument? I think you misunderstand my argument. I present in another
post the four areas I was trying to cover. You state that I seem to want
to equate lineage with ruling. Where did I do this?

I point out that matriarchy 'has been' used to mean matrilineal. This is
not my usage of the word. And, I explain how matrilineal decent works in
order to show that it has nothing to do with rule. That rule is
associated with solidarity in a specific area.

I then point out that matriarchy 'has been' used to mean matriarchate.
Again, this is not my usage of the word. And, I explain that this is the
most common usage in studying social organization. I further point out
that, although the application of such a system in anthropology has been
speculated on, it is primarily applicable to social organization among
certain animals.

The point was, both definitions have been used, and arguing which one is
more valid (which was going on when I responded) seems pointless. A
definition should either be decided on, or the terms matrilineal and
matriarchate should be used.

As for the existance of matriarchies (matriarchate), they do exist. They
just do not exist in human cultures.