Patriarchy and matriarchy

Sun, 17 Mar 1996 10:28:16 -0500

On the subject on patriarchy and matriarchy, it has always seemed
to me that neither word accurately describes the power dynamics in
any culture, but there is an interesting difference in how the
words are defined in common use.

Matriarchy is held to a very specific definition, which of course
allows us to point out that matriarchical societies don't, and
didn't, exist. Meanwhile, patriarchy is given loads of leeway,
which allows us to pretend that this is the way societies work.

The ridiculous extremes seen in this differential definition can
be seen by looking at the OED (who was it who said that quoting
dictionary definitions is the last refuge of a scoundrel?) which
includes the word "patriarchess: a female patriarch".

That's a nonsense word if I've ever heard one.

Jim Moore e-mail: