What does matriarchy mean to you?
We Seem To Be Having a Debate
Was there a time in human history when matriarchal (matriarchy meaning female rulership) societies dominated and then were replaced with serial patriarchy which is where we are now? There seems to be real passion involved and terms such as matriarchalism, matrifocal and matrilineal swirl through the debate.
Notable in the debate is the book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller. Eller is described as setting out “to refute what she describes as feminist matriarchalism as an ‘ennobling lie’”. From what I could see this does not seem to be a dispassionate academic debate. Naturally it is a little hard to rush back into history and see exactly what happened. And reports may be biased. Surprise, surprise.
And then there is the question of how to characterize periods of rule by women. In fact, Britain has a rather long history. Was the time of Queen Elizabeth 1 a matriarchy? How about Queen Victoria and the current queen? Somehow I think matriarchy is a little over the top as a description. Men did not exactly fade away.
Goddesses Are Prominent
Throughout history women have held various kinds of power. Goddesses are prominent in human history and we invoke some truly strong imagery. We describe our planet as being ruled by an earth mother and mother nature is always with us. In fact, I chose Gaia as our Earth Goddess for my trilogy because it invoked the images I sought. Clearly many of the images relate to the fact that each of us has a mother. These are archetypes (recurrent symbols and motifs) with substantive meaning. I do not view them as part of the debate. Something else is going on.
Part of what is going on seems to be an underlying debate about whether patriarchal dominance is inevitable or whether it is a matter of dominance at this time. But, now I’m going to shift gears. The inevitability of male dominance is unlikely and at issue and we are seeing a new movement empowering women.
Then There Are the Feminist Movements
There are other terms of interest. The women’s movement of the 1970s is described as the second wave of feminism. At the time it caught my attention and I found it well worth supporting. And more recently came the third-wave feminist movement beginning in the 1990s. It apparently arose from the backlash against second-wave feminism initiatives. And now we have something called the current feminist sex wars. That seems apt in describing the controversy flowing around Eller’s book.
Debate Versus Goals
Now I’ll ask the question which is the real point of this post. Why are we having this debate at all? Do we have to decide if there is some great given right for men to rule now and forever or if women are brought in to rule and is it to become eternal. What a monumental waste of time.
At some point we risk wish replacing thought. That description may characterize the debate since there are surely different agendas behind the scene. And so, let me return to Sally Armstrong’s book Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every mother’s Daughter. She describes the movement worldwide and the benefits derived.
Benefits and Justice
It would seem more productive if we focused on the benefits and what constitutes justice of all kinds. As noted, we hear little about the real reason for income inequality, for example. A lot of cards are not on the table when it comes to equality for women and that would be a better focus for analysis and understanding as well as outing the perpetrators.
Equality and Partnership
It might be interesting to view the effects of matriarchy, matrifocal societies and matrilineal processes but it may be they are not going to give guidance in the current circumstances. It would seem more productive to accept the benefits of empowerment of women and to look at the barriers to equality and partnership in our present day. Then we can set an agenda and do away with squabbles about history. We have work to do in the here and now.
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2 thoughts on “The Search for Matriarchy”
The UK has a female leader
When you asked what matriarchy means to me I was intrigued. Interestingly it opens a fascinating exploration. I’ll have to think about it and write a post. In short form I have to say that matriarchy and patriarchy yield a similar reaction from me. I don’t actually like either if it means domination and patriarchy often has meant domination and suppression. Having a woman as head of state does not mean matriarchy to me because heading a state does not mean absolute domination. You can note I’m approving of women rising out of suppression. Thank you, Amanda, for the comment. I will have to explore my thoughts and I’ll respond at more length.