Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
22 Jul 1996 19:25:18 GMT Beth Williams) wrote:
>I've always found the discussion of *were there matriarchal societies*
>to be loaded, a ruse for men to show just how superior all men, and
>hence themselves, are and have always been, over women. Why do we not
>focus instead on patriarchy? When did it develop? Under what
>conditions? Where/are all societies patriarchal? A great deal of
>interesting scholarly work has been done on the subject (namely by
>women anthropologists) and yet we seldom see men even breaching the
>subject. What (and WHO) defines *patriarchy* and why are we so
>inclined to avoid discussing the subject?
>MB Williams
>Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst

I agree with Mary Beth! While it is sometimes tricky to define who has
real power (from a gender perspective) in any given society, the current
weight of evidence suggests that the continuum is not from matriarchal to
patriarchal, but rather from essentially equal to patriarchal. This
raises the issue of why, in some societies, men have more of certain
kinds of power. This is an interesting anthropological question, at
least to me, and has been addressed in a variety of ways by a number of
innovative scholars.

The other question is why it is so important to some of us that there
were or have been matriarchal societies. I suspect we want to see
matriarchal societies because of some combination of 1) a cultural love
of bilateral symmetry, 2) a desire to find some ancient or other cultural
justification for asserting that women should have more power in this
society, and 3) a related feeling that, if something isn't or has never
been, then it should never be. IMO, none of these are necessary
precursors to working towards/fighting for/demanding greater social
equality for women in whatever culture to which you claim allegiance.




"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
-- Emo Phillips