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ANAHITA  January 2000

ANAHITA January 2000

Subject:

Matriarchy

From:

"Ryan, Angela" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 Jan 2000 20:34:41 +0000

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> -----Original Message-----
> From: L-Soft list server at University of Kentucky (1.8d)
> [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: 17 January 2000 19:02
> To:   [log in to unmask]
> Subject:      Matriarchy
>
> Dear Anahita,
>       May I throw an idea into this groundswell: one strand in the
> 'matriarchy or not' debate seems to refer to legitimation, i.e. do we need
> to question the historicity of patriarchy in order to show that men's
> domination of women is a bad thing. Whatever may or may not actually have
> happened in human history (whatever that is), we may remind ourselves that
> legitimation in an entropic and evolving universe is not predicated on
> lineage, or the chronology of earlier-later being linked either to the
> logic
> of cause-effect, still less to the hierarchy of better-worse.
>       It is possible, and ok as an idea to the feminist I am, that in
> earlier stages of human evolution, when the human species was less evolved
> than now (I speak theoretically, according to the model of species -
> evolution: I have no idea how to define 'evolved' or make judgments about
> it) and was competing for food, warmth and survival from predators in a
> less-populated earth, that muscle and aggression were at a premium and the
> production of children in a subsistence-survival society was felt to be
> needed, when people died much younger than today (e.g. in France in 1900
> the
> average life expectancy was 45, and the population figure of London today
> was that of the the known-world population in the Renaissance), such that
> men and women behaved in gender-role ways, one doing rather more of the
> hunting and fighting and the other doing rather more of the production of
> children,many of whom would not survive.
>       Under this model, (which is my own with input from the French
> theorist Elizabeth Badinter and the French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva),
> the period when aggression defined power and status was replaced by the
> period when societies settled and ownership of land defined power and
> status
> (that is the period when ideas like primogeniture, and double-standards of
> sexual behaviour come in: since pater certior, mater certissima est, the
> passage of land from father to son is predicated on male ownership of
> female
> reproduction).
>       Later, when in industrialised societies where land is no longer the
> only or main source of wealth, the ownership of capital replaces (without
> eradicating; the idea is that each period is characterised  by a
> preponderant power-marker while the prior ones continue to exist, often in
> more noologised ways) the ownership of land, and women's access to capital
> while by no means non-existent, is in the majority restricted compared to
> that of men.
>       In our era, aggression, land ownership and cpaital ownership are not
> in themselves quite such guarantees and markers of power as they were:
> aggression actually costs us money and land and capital must be charged
> with
> ideas if they are to generate wealth. Knowledge is what makes humanity
> work:
> and the passage from agression to land to capital to knowledge has also,in
> this model, been the passage in humanity from women's oppression to
> (potential) male-female equality. We have brains too! and can generate
> ideas
> which will help us, humanity, survive and grow and prosper.
>       Typical power figures of the four periods would be: Genghis Khan
> (aggression); the King of France (land ownership); Ford, etc (capital);
> Bill
> Gates (knowledge), and also Badinter, Kristeva, and Helene Cixous, who
> used
> her mind, and academic success, to gain a permanent pensionable
> intellectual
> job in the French State system, which, if quantified as a yearly dividend
> on
> her mental wealth, would calculate back to a particularly high value of
> secure capital, and if multiplied by her capacity to share this mental
> wealth with her students, and their students who will find similar
> careers,
> becomes a huge mental capital with guaranteed long-term returns and no
> hidden negative effects. (Knowledge, or mental wealth, is sticky - you can
> give it away without losing it - and leaky - it tends to flow and cannot
> be
> detained or owned, like bodies in war, or money or land.
>       Culture still hangs on to (rhetorical and literal) markers of
> aggression: these are in my model evolutionary throwbacks which are
> holding
> back evolution in its present noological (i.e mind-evolving rather than
> body-evolving) phase. For example, in Ireland 93-96 % of incarcerated
> criminals are men: the cost to the taxpayer is enormous both in running
> costs and the overall career (including pensions) and plant costs
> (exceeding
> by very many multiples, for example, the tiny costs of maternal-leave
> packages). Possibly this aggression was useful thousands of years back,
> just
> as I suppose war used to make a nation richer; but now it drains us,
> female
> taxpayers too. The Vietnam War made the US poorer, and, the price of
> petrol
> being calqued on the dollar, put us all into recession. Aggression doesn't
> work, now, and it eats up resources.
>       One still hears aggression and its behavioural style spoken of as a
> good thing for leaders and entrepreneurs but hey, evolution happens
> slowly.
> (Is it possible that the high rise in young male suicide, the lowering
> global sperm count and various other markers of fragility herald a
> slowdown
> in male evolution, an insufficiently-fast noologisation such that they
> actually are becoming a less - evolutionarily-successful part of the
> species...?)
>       Under this model, therefore, humanity would have evolved towards
> equality and the privileging of the mind, culture, science, good
> management,
> ideas and concepts, instead of waste and conflict, trade rather than
> battle,
> libraries, homes, universities, churches and community sentres rather than
> giant tombs and defensive residence structures, i.e. civilised itself and
> become more itself and as part of that evolutionary process ceased to
> glorify subsistence-precarity-conflict power markers and come to value
> instead what is permanent and progressive: the pursuit of ever-increasing
> knowledge of how we and our ecosystem work. Held back of course by the
> evolution not happening to the same extent in all parts of the system at
> once, being blocked by backlash, working with some individuals better than
> with others, and all this taking a long time. This model is drawn,
> further,
> in broad brushstrokes and describes broad trends (each containing
> significant counter-examples, or perhaps evolutionary incremental
> quantum-leaps).
>       What may be argued at any rate is that in human history, earlier is
> not better, and what humans have been is no determinant of what they may
> most appropriately become. Women's equality may be all the more necessary,
> and vital for the survival of our universe, for the very reason that there
> were earlier times in human history when we had not yet learned to produce
> enough food to feed everyone, or discovered painkillers, or decided that
> no
> one could own another's body, or developed insurance systems,  or
> instituted
> education...and men dominated women. But now that we live nearly a hundred
> years, and have enough children and enough food and shelter materials to
> ensure the survival of all, we have plenty of time and energy for working
> out what life is actually for, how to keep the universe working and work
> to
> achieve happiness and fulfillment, we have the sense to realise that
> hierarchisation, domination, ownership other than of oneself and
> power-structures based on control, not only are wrong but don't work
> except
> in the very short term, and put us all in danger, we have evolved to
> equality (or indeed, perhaps, as I suggested, unless men cop on a bit
> quicker, towards female evolutionary preponderance?)
>       At any rate, it is not necessary that the did-matriarchy-exist
> debate be at all driven by the need for legitimation of women's freedom
> and
> equality, one way or the other. Quite personally I prefer to believe that
> it
> did not exist in any predominant way: I feel sure that much of the
> nonsenses
> of human history can only have happened in a human group which mistakenly
> believed in control-structures and conflict of whatever kind.
>       After all, it seems to me odd that in a species defined from the
> outset by plurality (we are two sexes in humanity) we should have such a
> curious difficulty with pluralist models. Why do we, given more than
> unicity, immediately ask the question of hierarchy? Why do we wonder who
> was
> first and 'won'? Why is our language and mindset not predicated on duality
> /
> plurality, since we are dual? Why given two-ness, do we presume conflict,
> and wonder who dominates or dominated? This seems to me an evolutionary
> mistake. Matriarchy would not be the opposite, but just the corollary, of
> patriarchy. Once we behave in such a way that given two (anything, sexes)
> we
> construct a social model where one oppresses the other, we are
> constructing
> a mental prison in which life is not happy and the universe is under
> threat
> - i.e it is not as economically or culturally successful as it could be.
> (This is not to say that the transition does not involve working with
> existing strategies: I am thinking here not acrostically, ie where do we
> go
> from here, but anacrostically: where could we / do we wish to be, and
> working back from that model)
>        Theories of success based on defeating the competitor are 'flat
> earth' theories, predicated on the primitive idea that there isn't enough,
> and I / we don't know how to make enough, and therefore happiness for me
> will be taking some off you, and feeling better off than you. In fact we
> do
> know how to make enough of everything humans need, and much of it is made
> for all of us and available free: beauty, love, fun, energy etc,if we know
> how to access it.  Managing it, distributing it, reaching a situation
> where
> people know what they want and want it when they have it, these challenges
> persist,  but they are gaps in management, distribution, group dynamics,
> motivation and communication, not in resources or knowledge.
>       Indeed wealth generation in the workplace in this society is
> beginning to realise that what works is the capacity to generate
> non-hierarchised conceptual models like win-win negotiation; cooperation
> on
> quality assurance; relationships founded on self-esteem for all concerned.
> The others aren't just bad: they haven't worked. Feminist models do not
> have
> to be solid-state or Lamarckian, but may view humanity and its situational
> history, like all situations, neither as good nor bad, but improving or
> failing to improve: we may comfortably see equality as a necessary and
> positive development in human history, without which we should, as a
> species, have failed the future.
>       This message has turned out longer that I intended! for which
> apologies. All comments welcome.
>
> Angie Ryan
>
> Dr A.M.T. Ryan
> Department of French
> University College, Cork
> Ireland
> +353 21 543391
> [log in to unmask]
>
>

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