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ANAHITA  July 1997

ANAHITA July 1997

Subject:

Matriarchies and such

From:

Kirk Ormand <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 13 Jul 1997 22:16:31 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (70 lines)

Thanks to all who have contributed to this thread--I've learned a good
deal, particularly about ancient Israel, which is not my area.

To return to one of the original foci of the thread, let me state that I do
not believe in an ancient Matriarchy in the West that predated this
Patriarchy that we have now.  Why not?

Well,

1) although there are, indeed, a great deal of female figurines, of which
we can quite plausibly say that they are a celebration of female fertility,
this tells me nothing about the structure of the society that produced
them.  (Others have said this already.)  Patriarchy likes to make art out
of women, too.  Here are a few facts which I think nobody on the list,
whether champions of analytical or subjective states of knowledge, would
deny:  a) Women in classical Athens performed important ceremonies, and
held important roles in the realm of civic cult. b) Athenian men were quite
concerned to both value and protect the role of women as procreators. c)
classical Athens was emphatically not a matriarchy.  The same three points
can be made of classical Rome.  This does not prove that earlier
civilizations were *not* matriarchal, but it does establish, to my mind,
that the kind of evidence that is usually presented is not sufficient to
establish that such matriarchies did exist.

2) I find myself concerned with the motivations for modes of knowledge.  We
did not invent this stuff about matriarchy--the myths are quite common in
ancient Athens.  They too, record a tradition in which women once ruled the
earth.  But the *point* of all these stories, of these tales of communities
of women (amazons, etc.) is unfailingly that the women screwed things up,
and that's why men had to take over.  (I'm describing the function of these
stories, *not*--please--suggesting that I agree with them).  Ancient myths
of matriarchy, to my knowledge, always have the *function* of justifying
patriarchy. I disbelieve them, therefore, because they strike me as male
fantasy.

We, recently, have taken these same myths, and instead of viewing
menstruation, etc. as signs of evil, have chosen to valorize the supposedly
"natural" elements of female-ness that we find there.  We take the same
stories, in other words, not to justify patriarchy, but to argue for an
equally essentializing matriarchy.  My question here is not "is this
correct" (which after all, hardly really matters--but that's another post),
but "is this progress?"  I fear that it is not.

In the end, I guess I'd like to see the discussion (in the world in
general, not just on this list) turn from "did matriarchy ever
exist--somewhere--?", to "Why is it important that we believe that it may
have?"   And equally, "why are crackpots like this Ormand guy so keen on
arguing that it didn't?"  It seems to me that the actual knowledge is much
less at stake than the motivations for said "knowledge."

That's my two bits, stored up over the last two weeks.  For those of you
who have been reading this and simultaneously sharpening your barbs, barb
away.

Kirk

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