Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?
Wed, 24 Jul 1996 09:53:37 -0700 wrote:

> ---------------------------------------------------------------
> Minangkabau matriarchy
> The society of the Minangkabau is ruled by the system of matriarchy,
> that means that they trace descent and inheritance through
> the female line. Children belong to the family of the mother, they are
> not even seen as relatives of the father! He is not obliged to
> take care of his children, that is the task of the eldest brother of
> the wife. Every man is obliged in the first place to take care of
> the children of his sister(s).
> When a Minangkabau man and woman marry, they do not form a family in
> our sense of the word. The woman keeps on living
> with her family, and when the pair gets children, they stay with her.
> Sometimes the husband lives with his wife in her family's
> house, sometimes he only visits his wife.
> Matriarchy makes the women independent of the men.
> Under the influence of the Islam and modern developments the system of
> matriarchy is disappearing very slowly at the moment.
> The relation between father and children and the position of the
> family as a social unit acquires more and more significance.
> ---------------------------------------------------------

The Museon is a popular science museum at the Hague. Their information
is reliable. However, it should be recognized that popular science
refers to presenting science for a general audience.

The term they present is matriarchy (matrilineal), not matriarchy
(matriarchate). The uxorilocal residency and matrilocal domestic group
of the Minangkabau are both common to societies which utilize
matrilineal decent. Even the responsibilities placed on the eldest
brother over his sisters families is a common feature of matrilineal
societies and already moves us away from the concept of a matriarchate.

As Minangkabau women own the property and work the rice fields, and
Minangkabau men are given to wanderlust, it is natural then that female
solidarity would take precidence over male solidarity. However, while
women maintain much control over the domestic scene, men are still given
most of the corporate power.

The Minangkabau are Muslem and have been Muslem for a long time, and it
has not had that great of an impact on their social organization
(actually, they combine Islam with an earlier Hindu-Buddhist tradition.
It is the maintenance of these earlier traditions which protect
Minangkabau culture from the rapid changes which are seen in neighboring
cultures). I would suggest that the major influence for change though is
the reduced emphasis of agriculture on Minangkabau life. Minangkabau men
have played a major role in governement and business throughout
Indonesia. And, while farms are still owned by women, businesses and
governement is controlled by men. Thus, male solidarity is increasingly
becoming more important as business becomes more important to the
Minangkabau and a shift in rules of residence and inheritance would be

Consider this:

If Minangkabau women are raising their families (with support only from
the elder brother who must divide his attention among several families),
and are working the fields (males only assist with the harvest if they
are around), how much time do they have to dedicate to corporate
activities? The men on the other hand, who travel alot, have many
contacts with other villages. They not only have the time to dedicate to
corporate activities, the contacts would enhance relations between

Anyhow, this post is an example of what I've been trying to point out.
The term matriarchy is used with two possible meanings, matrilineal or
matriarchate. Thus, literature can become confusing. As a reader, you
must examine the text to determine which concept applies. There is no
doubt that matrilineal societies exist, but there is no evidence of
matriarchates among humans.