There are many reasons for women, slaves, and the poor to rebel against domination and unjust authorities in patriarchal societies. But we should not assume that there are any reasons to rebel against domination where no domination exists or to rebel against unjust authority in societies where there are no unjust authorities.
In response to my popular series of blogs on patriarchy as a system of male dominance created at the intersection of the control of female sexuality, private property, and war (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I was asked if there is an injustice inherent in matriarchal societies that caused men to rebel and create patriarchy.
The assumption behind this question is that if women are dominated by men in patriarchal societies, then men must have been dominated by women pre-patriarchal societies. Lurking behind the question is the further assumption that there must have been “a good reason” for the development of patriarchy. The idea that there is “no good reason” for patriarchy to exist–if “good” means fair and just–is just too painful for many of us to want to consider it.
Joy of Life in Ancient Crete w/Carol Christ& Matthew Fox on Meister Echhart
Scholar, author and foremother, Carol Christ joins us tonight to discuss The Goddess and the Joy of Life in Ancient Crete. We'll delve into new research on matriarchies, the difference from patriarchy, define "love is free" in matriarchal societies and chat about Crete being a "gift giving" society. We'll talk about ancient rituals on Crete, redefine patriarchal myths and discuss the "immanental turn" in feminist theologies - and more.....
Although writing in patriarchal Greece from a patriarchal perspective, Hesiod said in hisTheogony or Birth of the Gods that Gaia or Earth alone was the mother of the Mountains, Sky, and Sea. With the male Sky she gave birth to the next generation of deities known as the “Titans,” who were overthrown by Zeus. Hesiod’s was a “tale with a point of view” in which “it was necessary” for the “forces of civilization”–for him represented by warrior God and rapist Zeus–to violently overthrow and replace earlier conceptions of the origin life on earth and presumably also to overthrow and replace the people and societies that created them.
With the triumph of Christianity in the age of Constantine in the 4th century AD, Christus Victor replaced Zeus in the cities, while the religion of Mother Earth continued to be practiced in the countryside. Over time, many of the attributes of Mother Earth were assimilated into the image of Mary, and priests began to perform rituals earlier dedicated to Mother Earth, such as blessing the fields and the seeds before planting. In the Middle Ages “the Goddess” re-emerged within Western Christianity in devotion to the Virgin Mary, the female saints, and figures such as Lady Wisdom, at the same time that the history of the Goddess was being erased.
For me the word “matriarchy” expresses the certainty that “another world” can exist—a world not based in domination and hierarchy or violence and war.
The word “matriarchy” makes people’s hair stand on end as they imagine the mirror-image of patriarchy: societies in which women dominate men, beat men, rape men, hold men as slaves, and demand obedience from men. Some who do not protest very loudly or at all against patriarchy are horrified by the very idea of matriarchy. To be fair, most feminists have also been schooled not to use the “m” word.
Early in my academic career, I read “The Myth of Matriarchy” by Joan Bamberger and learned that the idea of matriarchy gone wrong has been used by men to justify patriarchy. From other academics I learned that in matrilineal societies, uncles have a great deal of power—so therefore there never was a matriarchy. I was also aware that Jungian and other proponents of a “matriarchal stage” in the development of culture have argued that matriarchy had to be succeeded by patriarchy in order for societies to evolve to a “higher” stage. Unlike many of my colleagues I stubbornly held onto the belief that there must have been “a better way” prior to patriarchy.