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ANAHITA  July 1997

ANAHITA July 1997

Subject:

Re: Matriarchies and such

From:

jh10 <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 14 Jul 1997 10:57:00 EDT

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text/plain

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>>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.
>
>Interesting way of inviting discussion, Kirk.  Sounds like a defense from
>actually engaging with others here.
>
>Anyway, I have to agree with Paula's post. Why would they need to justify
>patriarchy in that way if it were the only experience of human
>organizational structure ever known in their culture?  Your argument tends
>to support the existence of a matriarchy - or a society where women had more
>power than men were comfortable with them having.
>
>To me the question isn't  "Why is it important that we believe that it
>(matriarchy) may have (existed)?"  but "Why is patriarchy assumed unless
>proven otherwise?"  Or to put it another way "Why is it important that we
>believe matriarchy didn't exist?"
>
>
>Barbara Ann
>~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
>[log in to unmask]
>
>I am a leaf driven by the wind!
>~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
>
>----------------------------------------------------
>ANAHITA:
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>Diotima's address: http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/Classics/gender.html
I've actually written/given a paper on this topic, which traces the
different ways in which ancient Greco-Roman myths of "womanpower" have been
read since the late 1960's/early 1970's and the advent of the second wave of
feminism. A key article to consult, though it mostly focuses on South
American myth, is Joan Bamberger's "The Myth of Matriarchy" in Rosaldo and
Lamphere, Woman, Culture and Society (Stanford 1994). What Bamberger argues
is that the native sources portray these South American ancient societies in
which women were "in charge" negatively, to justify why women lost their
control and shouldn't be given it again;these sources, needless to say,
viewed power/control/charge as the property of either one sex or the other,
and never entertained the possibility of sharing by both sexes.
  As far as I can determine (and in support of Kirk's contention) if we look
at our ancient Greek and Roman sources who describe earlier societal stages
in which women had more political power than was the case at the time these
sources were writing, their accounts tend to be negative as well, providing
justification for excluding all women from all power. One of the issues I
raised in my paper is that this negative outlook actually intensifies as
Greek (and Roman) time goes by: that is, the later our ancient source on
e.g. the Amazons, the more misogynistic its message. There are some
interesting exceptions to this pattern, but I'm not sure what we can do with
them since our textual evidence isn't adequate to reconstruct much of a
larger context: e.g. works of Etruscan art often represent Amazons in scenarios
where they hold their own in battle (in at least one instance on a sarcophagus
portraying a nude married couple embracing in bed for eternity). Judy Hallett

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