A Matriarchal Society: Fact or Myth?

Essay by maynard31277University, Bachelor'sA, June 2008

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The question over whether or not an actual matriarchy has ever existed has been going on for decades. In 1972, feminist Gloria Steinem wrote:Once upon a time, the many cultures of this world were all part of the gynocratic age. Paternity had not yet been discovered, and it was thought…that women bore fruit like trees—when they were ripe. Childbirth was mysterious. It was vital. And it was envied. Women were worshipped because of it, were considered superior because of it (qtd. in Eller, 2000, p. 1).

Since then, scholars, researchers and feminists have been looking for supporting evidence of this women-ruled society or on the flip side, setting about trying to disprove this theory. Though some accept the idea that some form of human society was matriarchal, women-centered or goddess-worshipping, there are an equal number who pass it off as myth. The basic outline of the matriarchal society has three main ideas.

The first is the idea that, in a time before written records, society revolved around women. They were honored for their life-giving powers and revered as incarnations and priestesses. Raising their children to continue their way of life, women made all the important community decisions. Secondly, through some cataclysmic event, society was drastically altered and thereafter dominated by men. This culture set the ideology that exists today, the patriarchy. And finally, now that society is aware of the true history, men and women can work together to restore a balance between the sexes (Eller, 2000).

Though some critics have disregarded the existence of a true matriarchy, perhaps it is because of the wide array of terms that are associated with it. As Mary Daly stated, matriarchy is “not patriarchy spelled with an ‘m’” (Eller, 2000, p. 12). Instead, most supporters of the idea would define it as “the...