Re: What Matriarchy? (was Drugs etc.)
Tue, 23 Jul 1996 12:17:58 -0700

sgf wrote:

>>> It seems to run, in general (there are always exceptions) that
>>> in societies where men and women produce equal amounts of subsistence
>>> (food, clothing, shelter), then they hold equal power. In societies
>>> where one gender (and *so far* it has always been men - might change with
>>> more evidence)) brings in subsistence that is more valued than the
>>> subsistence the other gender brings in, that gender is given more power.

>>I would have to disagree that greater production equals greater power.

> I didn't say "greater production," I said "more valued production." See
> below.

Sorry, poor wording.

>>Actually, this whole power thing seems off. If a specific gender
>>develops solidarity around a productive activity, then they generally
>>have control over that activity to some extent. Community leadership
>>does not usually fall under the realm of productivity though. But
>>rather, falls into the concepts of offense and defense. Solidarity in
>>this area has always seemed to be exclusively male.

> May I suggest the article "Society and Sex Roles" by Ernestine Friedl?
> Community leadership revolves around the control of the most valuable
> resource. .....

I'll check it out. But, I'd also like to recommend 'The Evolution of
Political Society' M. Fried (1967). Here he identifies political
organization as developing around two needs: (1) maintenance of inter
social order (ie making and inforcing laws), and (2) regulation of
relations with other societies (ie diplomacy and organized aggression).

In part, I agree with what you are saying, but not with your
conclusions. Economic organization is intimately related to political
organization. But, I do not think it is the primary motivation for
political organization. (based on your statement that "Community
leadership revolves around control of the most valuable resource"). My
major disagreement though was with the concept of associating political
authority with power.

Two examples:

The Ashanti are headed by an elder male. While he is given full
corporate power, including the making of economic decisions, this is the
extent of his power. He is chosen by the mature adult members (male and
female). And, he consults with both male and female members before
making a decision. Thus the true corporate power belongs with the
matrilineal kin group. In this particular case, the kin group is
developed around the female productive activities.

Among the !Kung, the headman inherits his title. He is the band leader,
but his corporate powers are limited. While he is considered to be the
custodian of the land and all associated foud sources, he has no real
economic authority. Economic power is in the hands of an individual. If
a !Kung hunter makes a kill, he decides how that kill will be divided.
The headman only decides on the location of new campsites and
coordinates the dispersal of the hunters. In the event of a dispute,
while the headman's decision may be sought and is usually respected, it
is social pressure which forces resolution. The headman has no power to
make decisions here. When interacting with other bands that are not of a
related kin group, the two headmen will meet and ascertain each others
name. They will then refer to the other by a kin term of the closest
relative with that name. It is this kinship, and the social rules
regarding kinship which drive the relationship between the two groups.
Thus, the headman has little power here either. In the end, there is
little power associated with the job, and no reason to desire to extend
political power beyond the most basic corporate functions (there is no
increase of status or priveleges associated with being headman, and lots
of responsibility).

> Among the Iroquois, women raised food, controlled its distribution and
> helped choose male political leaders. Men dealt with politics and
> diplomatic matters. Men, technically, were the leaders of the society,
> but the women had so much power they were effectively equal. There is a
> large difference between societies in which women cannot question orders
> given by men and societied in which women are consulted and heeded
> extensively.

This is another prime example of the difference between political
authority and corporate power. Women controled the economic power, men
controled the political power. Female solidarity was built around
economic activities, and economic activities were more important than
political activities. This leads to corporate power existing with the
matrilineal kin group.

While I'm at it I might as well address my concept why political
authority always seems to go to the male? I think it has to do with the
fact that women have larger responsibilities to their families than do
men. Thus, they do not have as much time to dedicate to corporate
activities as males. Female solidarity would tend to focus on domestic
activities, and male solidarity would tend to focus on corporate
activities. Thus, even where the matrilineal kin group has corporate
power, it is the male who is given political authority.