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ANAHITA  January 2000

ANAHITA January 2000

Subject:

Re: matriarchy debate

From:

Sharon Coates <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

S M Coates <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 22 Jan 2000 10:47:56 +1000

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text/plain

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I have found the information contained in Barbara G Walker's The Women's Encyclopedia of
Myths and Secrets   contains a huge amount of information regarding matriarchies and their
forced transitions to patriarchies.  The entry on Marriage gives an excellent example of this
transition.  I am sure all you incredibly qualified people out there will have opinions on the
scholarly valididity of this work but it looks impresive to me and has opened my eyes to many
aspects of our historical journey which were not taught in the regular education system.

Walker, Barbara G, The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, San Francisco:
Harper and Rowe, 1983
ISBN 0-06-250925-X

Sharon Coates
Interested

> ** Original Subject: matriarchy debate
> ** Original Sender: Max Dashu <[log in to unmask]>
> ** Original Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 21:57:15 -0800

> ** Original Message follows...

>
> At the risk of stirring up more controversy, I am resending a post I wrote
> in December which for some reason only got sent to the person I was
> replying to (a fact I only just discovered).
>
> >> Is there still enough or lack of enough "evidence" to supply
> >>grounds for debate by open-minded people?
>
> >I was told by my university teachers that there is
> >no proof of any society, past or present, that was ever matriarchal
> >(not to confuse with matrilinear, which is not that uncommon).
>
> "Matriarchal" is a straw doll, which my professors also took great pleasure
> in knocking down. They avoided the real issue, though, which is not female
> domination in a reverse of historical male domination, but whether more
> egalitarian human societies have existed. Ones that did not enforce a
> patriarchal double standard around sexuality, property, public office and
> space; that did not make females legal minors under the control of fathers,
> brothers, and husbands, with no protection from physical and sexual abuse
> by same; that did not confine, seclude, veil, bind, amputate from female
> bodies; and that did accord to women public leadership roles, honored
> professions, child custody and property rights, authority to make personal
> decisions, and freedom of movement.
>
> We do have documentation of such societies. "Matrilineal" is not an
> adequate term for them, though it is strongly correlated with a more
> egalitarian approach and  negatively correlated with institutional
> repression of female power and rights. I use "matrix society" as a more
> neutral term, free of the connotation of dominion carried by the "-archy."
>
> >Can anyone give a conclusive proof to the contrary, perhaps by citing some
> >well studied ethnic group of more recent times (if possible, with
> >reference to a _scholarly_ publication)?
>
> I don't have the time to compile a bibliography for you, but as a starting
> point, you can look to studies of the Khasi of Assam, Seri of Sonora,
> Shipibo/Conibo/Amahuaca of eastern Peru, Tuareg of the Sahara, Menangkabau
> of Sumatra, Keres peoples of New Mexico, Nayar of Kerala, and the
> Iroquois/Haudenosaunee of New York/Ontario. The already-cited Musuo of
> Yunnan are described in the ethnographies as having an elder woman head of
> household for their clan lodges, plus sexual freedom for the women, who are
> visited by lovers from other longhouses. Their homeland is part of a region
> designated by Chinese writers as a "Country of Women," centuries ago. There
> was another of these on the other side of Tibet, in Swat, or what the Hindu
> writers called Odiyana.
>
> Any analysis of matrix societies has to take into account the historical
> trend toward patriarchy, which has accelerated as these indigenous
> societies come under seige. Recent news articles about the Khasi (1998, I
> think) point out that the men are deserting the Khasi clans, invoking the
> dominant Hindu society as a model.
>
> Quite a few oral folk histories allude to a change to a patriarchal system,
> not only in descent lines, but religious and/or political leadership. The
> BaChokwe say that they split from the BaLunda over mother-right, and
> subsequently migrated to Angola. There a female chieftain, Luweji or Ruwej,
> was unseated by her brothers, who took the throne.
>
> Looking to the ancient world, Strabo was amazed at the prominence of
> Cantabrian women, as Herodotus was by the Lydians. There is no evidence in
> Crete of a patriarchal system like that of the classical Greeks -- or any
> other. That's the flip side of this whole argument: can those who are
> insisting that patriarchy is humanity's default prove that it existed in
> the older neolithic societies, worldwide? Personally, I haven't found any
> evidence of it that predates the sacrificed-women-and-slaves burials of the
> Yamna culture. And that's unique for its time, anyway.
>
> Max Dashu    Suppressed Histories Archives
> 30 Years of International Women's Studies 1970-2000
>  <[log in to unmask]>
>
> * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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> Anahita's archives: http://lsv.uky.edu/archives/anahita.html
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> Diotima's address: http://www.uky.edu/AS/Classics/gender.html

>** --------- End Original Message ----------- **

>

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