Re[2]: gynocratic?

Fri, 25 Feb 1994 17:00:37 CST

I don't believe there is a significant difference between "matriarchy"
and "gynocracy" in ordinary anthropological usage. Either would refer
to a society dominated, in a politico-economic sense, by women. As far
as anthropology has been able to determine, no such societies
appear to exist or ever to have existed. All known societies appear to
have been, and continue to be, more or less patriarchal. Due to the
elusiveness of accurately measuring *power*, just how patriarchal
different societies were/are is a highly controversial matter. Several
societies have practiced matrilocality, which means that after marrying
a man goes with his wife to live with--or near--her mother.
Significantly correlated with this is matrilineality, which usually
refers to some sort of emphasis, in a culture, on relatedness through
females rather than through males. The tendency of men to dominate the
public life even in matrilocal, matrilineal societies is a remarkable
thing. The best existing theory is that when long-distance warfare is
customary, matrilocality--and in some cases matrilineality--tends to
develop because it leaves a group of sisters--presumably more solidary
than unrelated women--to "mind the store" (as Marvin Harris puts it) in
the men's absence. This is of course oversimplified; the matters of
postmarital residence (e.g. matrilocality) and descent (e.g.
matrilineality) are very complex. One of the really irritating things
about "multiculturalist" academics is that they throw around terms
like "matriarchy" and "patriarchy" without taking any genuine interest
in the cross-cultural study of social organization. Having thus
revealed their lack of interest in anthropology, they innocently
ask why anthropologists take so little interest in their great
movement. Oh well, it's just a passing fad, and might be having a
desirable effect in making humanities requirements less ethnocentric.
--Bob Graber