grrr. with the matriarchy.
October 27, 2003 05:36 PM

Kerri stole my fire.

See, we've been having this conversation on WHB about the notion of matriarchy (or, if we choose to stick with the accepted definition of that term, egalitarian/matrist societies). I've been thinking for like a week that I needed to put down in words what I think of anthropologists who still fixate on the evidence Marija Gimbutas uncovered about "woman-dominated" societies as indicative of some inherent biological wisdom and peacefulness on the part of women.

And Kerri just goes and beats me to it. With, I might add, more thunder than I was likely to have mustered.


Anyhow. So, I went through a period of reading a lot of women spiritualists, goddess-worshippers, feminine-centered anthropologists. Nice, smart people. But people with really, really marked agenda. Like all people with agenda, they (and I as their reader) could and did overlook common sense at times in order to see the facts of their agenda in whatever evidence presented itself. In this case, the agenda is that women need more power because women are different from men. Sure, it's more complex than that, but it ultimately comes down to celebrating the peaceful feminine as a better course for society, and the woman as manifestation of peaceful feminine. So, any society that was perceived based on archaeological evidence as peaceful and egalitarian is termed "matrist" or "matriarchal", because they must be ruled by women if they manifest this feminine principle (roughly: peace, love and understanding).

I think it was probably this book (Pollack's Body of the Goddess) which finally highlighted for me clearly what the problem is with this agenda. Problem being: a) the logic is circular (women manifest the feminine, so the feminine manifest is woman-dominated), b) following on that, it strikes me as absurd to name as "matriarchy" what may well have been an egalitarian society where, all things being equal, they may or may not have decided to take the simple route and trace birth lines matrilineally, and c) ultimately, it assumes that peaceful is better, that women are inherently peaceful and men inherently not, and that creates its own brand of sexism. [Pollack, by the way, doesn't attack the agenda in question; she just presents kind of a tour of European early civilization through cultural relationships to the earth - what I found striking was that she did not assume female-rulership in culture, which a number of the other things I had been reading that year did do. Basically, what I learned from her book and a couple of others was to balance my ingestion of the post-Gimbutas school with things like Karl Kerenyi (archaeologist whose work inspired Jung), and to infer my own meanings from what we could know or guess from the past.]

I'm down with the feminine principle, yo. I am down with egalitarianism. What I am not going to accept is this notion that the feminine principle is necessarily connected with one gender/sex (as Kerri points out, women can be power-hungry and men can yearn for peace), or with any agenda that places a greater value on either the feminine or masculine (roughly: power, strength and progress) principle. See, these words don't have good-bad value attached to them, not anywhere except in your head.

In addition, it is not acting as a tool of the patriarchy (a word I come to loathe more and more) to question the assertion that the feminine is inherently better for us than the masculine, to question the assertion that any one thing unbalanced by another is better for us than another. It is acting out of common sense.

Also, Kerri totally ganked "so 1985" from me. I think it needs to be adopted as an academic concept. It would simplify a lot of arguments over "have you read...? what about...?" - people who start those arguments are really just saying your logic is so 1985.

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your wicked thoughts

I almost used "that's so 1985" in class last night, but decided not to at the last minute. I'll just save that phrase for really appropriate moments.

Thanks for writing about this. I will try to find that book when I have time to read what I'd like to again.

these are the thoughts of Kerri on October 28, 2003 10:48 PM

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