Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Stephen Barnard (
Mon, 22 Jul 1996 14:37:08 -0800

Susan wrote:
> 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.
> Susan

Exactly! I couldn't agree more.

Historically, men probably have had more of "certain kinds of power"
because they're bigger and stronger. It doesn't take a sophisticated
analysis to see that.

Today physical power is not so important in modern industrialized
societies, so women have been acquiring more equality because they have
skills at least equal to men that are relevant to success and achieving
power. In at least two areas, law and politics, I think women are
showing astounding success, possibly because they may be on average
*more* adept than men at verbal skills and negotiation.

I don't like it at all, however, when someone tries to interpret
historical or prehistorical facts in a way that is primarily intended
to promote a political agenda. And I don't like it when someone
condemns and entire gender (male) by implying that they are employing a
"ruse" to demonstrate their superiority.

Steve Barnard