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ANAHITA  December 1999

ANAHITA December 1999

Subject:

Re: Young citation

From:

Lisa Turner <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Thu, 30 Dec 1999 13:19:43 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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>Feminists seem to have missed the important
>>  findings of current research that show the egalitarian role
>>  that women played in pre-historic human societies.
>These early
>>  homo-sapien societies lasted for 50,000 to 100,000 years. I think
>>  this egalitarian structure to human society is the "norm."
>
>And your evidence that they were egalitarian is what, exactly? I know many
>people think so, and many of the women's spirituality authors make claims
in
>this regard (although they sometimes say they mean "egalitarian" but with
>women in charge), but none have offered any good evidence and I would love
to
>have some.
>
>In fact, what would count as "egalitarian"? What criteria do we have? What
>indicators are we looking for? (Equal spheres of labor? everybody doing the
>same labor? equal control over distribution? over childraising? Courts with
>judges of both genders? Or have I missed the relevant indicators and you
are
>thinking of something else?)


I am no scholar of any of this, I just like to read interesting things, and
this discussion is fascinating.  That said, here's my opinion -

"What would count as egalitarian" is a wonderful question.  I think the
issue of patriarchy is one of control.  One group gets to tell another group
what to do.  Sort of like slavery, when you think about it.  You can or
can't go here or there, have a certain job, own property, say no to sex.
As I understand it, in many traditional societies your job is determined by
gender, with men as stuck in their roles as women are in theirs.  (James
Beard would have never reached his full human potential in a society where
only women cook.)   There have certainly been plenty of societies where real
estate ownership is a joint venture, and personal property is extremely
minimal, so what can we use to judge?  If men have control over one sphere,
and women have an equal amount of authority over a completely different
sphere, and everyone is constrained by the rules that have been handed down
for ages, if neither sex controls the life of the other, aren't they
egalitarian?

I have read some anthropology of indigenous peoples at the time of contact,
and I would consider many of them to be about as egalitarian as biologically
possible (for example, I can't envision equal responsibility for children in
a culture where breastfeeding is continued to the age of 3 to 7, nor would
women be likely to participate in a hunt because of dragging the kiddies
along.)   I am thinking of groups without a "culture" as we may think of it,
but of people who exist where the most important socio-political structure
is the village.  The inferrence here is that these "stone age" cultures are
a window to a possible past for us all.  I think a good jumping off point
for you to find these cultures is to read some of the anthropologic works by
professors of anthropology, rather than pop culture books of women's
spirituality.  Start with any culture, read as many as you want, try to
develop a working definition of egalitarian, and draw your own conclusions.
Sure, there's all the issues of the viewpoint of the author, but it's a
place to start.

While I'm at it here, I'd like to respond to the concept of the need to
"find the written word."  Literate societies tend to hold the written word
as proof positive and give little credence to an oral recollection or
anything else.  We certainly do this today.  In my profession it was well
known that if a dispute arose you'd best start writing letters, because
whoever got it in writing first had more power, even if the disputed events
were months old.  The first one to write it down was expected to have more
say if the dispute ultimately went to court.  But we all know that it's just
as easy to lie on paper as orally.   Why is the written word held in such
regard over other evidence?  If this entire discussion proves anything, it
should prove that many people write things down because they have a
political agenda to promote.  Suppose we find some writings - who wrote
them?  In what way does she speak for women of her time?  I can think of
lots of women living and writing right now who certainly don't speak for ME!
It seems like any generalizations of what life was like ought to be made
from a preponderance of evidence, including written and arifacts and
contextual and everything else.

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