Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Gerold Firl (
25 Jul 1996 20:04:56 GMT

In article <4t3c0t$>, (Bryant) writes:

|> In article <4svmh3$>,
|> Mary 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.

There are people who have such an agenda, and who are willing to use
dishonest tactics to further that agenda. But keep in mind that there
are also people who are sincerely interested in understanding, in
getting closer to the truth, and in using that information to bring
about a better future. In fact, it seems to me that most people fall
into the latter category.

|> Um, ok. But you could also (perhaps more fairly) describe the question
|> of why there have been so few (if any) female-dominated societies as
|> revealing a concern over the apparently species-typical domination of
|> females by males. The first question any would-be social engineer should
|> ask when confronted by something worthy of change is, "why does this
|> exist as it does?"

Exactly. And as you hint at with the term "species-typical", there is
every reason to investigate the role of instinctive gender-biased human
dominance heirarchies. The fact that human social organization does
display enormous variability, adapting to various resource gathering
and economic systems, and yet males seem to exclusively occupy public
leadership roles is very suggestive.

I've done this several times before, but I'll do it again: all
anthropologists should read _sociobiology_ by wilson. By looking at all
the different forms of animal social organization which have developed
over time and across different species/genera/phyla etc, the range and
span of human societies comes into clearer focus.

(Note: in spite of what anyone may have tried to tell you,
_sociobiology_ is about *animals*. People appear only as one species
among many. The book is not a philosophy text, nor is it a political
text. It looks at the entire range of animal social organization, with
one final chapter of human societies.)

|> >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.

Not true.

|> Randy Thornhill breached that topic over a decade ago, and was roundly
|> shouted down for trying. Then one of his main critics, Barbara Smuts (an
|> anthropologist and psychologist at U. Mich), decided that he was correct,
|> and has written a number of papers on the evolutionary origins of male
|> coerciveness. Male academics may be reluctant to breach the subject
|> because they have been spit upon (literally) by feminists angered by
|> their efforts.

There is the idea that if an instinctive mechanism is found which tends
to steer people in the direction of patriarchy, then that finding will
be used for political ends to suppress the development of female
leadership and economic independance. Therefore, we should pretend that
such instincts don't exist, sacrificing truth for political expediency.
I can understand the temptation of such a program, but ultimately it's
self-defeating and unnecessary. Human instincts are often subordinated
to socialization, and a clear understanding of exactly what kind of
instinctive pressures exist actually makes it easier to chart a
rational alternative to innate animal tendancies.

Instincts, in humans, are tendancies, not absolutes.

|> Smuts, for some reason, never cites Thornhill's work.
|> [I've asked Thornhill why he thought this is, and he doesn't know.
|> Perhaps she has deconstructionist sympathies and is challenging the
|> "dialogue" of academic honesty. :)]

Heh - that's a nice way of putting it.

|> All that said, Barbara Smuts' articulation of the origins and phylogeny
|> of patriarchy is certainly worth taking a look at. Anybody who is
|> interested can email me for refs.

Can you provide a brief summary of her ideas? I would be interested,
and I'm sure others would too.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf