Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
25 Jul 1996 17:00:16 GMT

Stephen Barnard <> wrote:

>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.

Well, this is a highly debatable point. The notion that power comes from
physical strength may seem logical to modern western eyes, but it is
always more complicated than that. I always remember the "knife fight"
scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (rent it if you're
interested-- verbal description couldn't do it justice!). The point in
acquiring power is to win it, in whatever way culture allows. If culture
values strength, then certainly displaying it would be a way to win
power. But the assumption that, in the past, people were somehow more
reliant on brute force to acquire power is just that-- an assumption.
Technology has certainly allowed more flexible ways to respond to
cultural needs than brute force, but then 1) we have always had
technology of one sort or another and 2) simply having and/or using brute
force doesn't automatically mean it is valued.

>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.

As the argument goes (and I'm inclined to agree with it myself), all
interpretation of "fact" comes from some sort of political and/or social
perspective, or agenda. Those who are explicit about it are, in that
sense, just being more honest about it. This means that 1) it is easier
to attack the political perspective involved because it is openly
displayed, and 2) it is easier to talk about, because it is there to be
discussed, not hidden and having to be disentangled, and after making the
effort half of the people don't really believe it was there in the first

I am never in favor of condemning gender roles, just in understanding
them. But I also have a great deal of sympathy with those who are
constantly being told that their subordination is "universal", which in
this particular society has traditionally been used to support a notion
of biological origin, and in turn then claimed to be most natural,
inevitable, and all those other tiresome biologically deterministic ideas
that have been disproven time and again, apparantly to no avail in the
popular mind (most recently seen in the appalling depredations on
science of Desmond Morris, one of the people I'd cheerfully smack into
unconsciousness if I had the chance and it didn't conflict with my
basically pacifist ideology).

So if occasionally people find empowerment in the notion that there might
have been societies in the past where women could give as good as they've
been getting in so many parts of the world in so many periods in the
past, then the fact that there is no scientific (and I understand and
accept all the use of that word implies!) evidence to support such an
idea should not get in the way of celebrating the ideology behind the




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