A World Before Male Dominance 

Early, more egalitarian societies had goddesses

Early, more egalitarian societies had goddesses

Think the world has always been male-dominated? It hasn’t.

The earliest societies worshiped the great mother goddess. In some early Middle Eastern cultures women’s graves were central and richly decorated. New Guinea’s Arapesh and Tchambuli, ancient Crete, the !Kung of Africa and many American Indian tribes all tell us that patriarchy is not inevitable.

Take, for instance, the Iroquois of North America. We know of them from the French Jesuit missionaries who arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with some later observers. 

Iroquois women controlled the food staples of maize, beans and squash, which men’s hunting and fishing supplemented. So neither sex was completely dependent on the other.

Women also supplied men with food as they went off to hunt, trade or war. Say a woman didn’t want her husband or son fighting? She just refused to give him corn. And the guys usually deferred.

Girl babies were also a bit more valued since they could increase tribe size more than males could. Hence, a woman’s death warranted a double penalty.

And, women’s status and power came in part because paternity wasn’t entirely clear. (Might this be why women’s virginity is so prized under patriarchies?):

While marriage was monogamous, premarital sex, extramarital affairs and divorce were common among the Iroquois. You may not know who dad is, but you always know who mom is. And so women headed clans, family lineage was traced through mothers, and property passed from mother to child.

Iroquois longhouse

Iroquois longhouse

Extended families lived in a “longhouse” headed by a woman, along with her husband and daughters, the daughters’ families, and unmarried sons. All of those women gathered together created female solidarity, which helped them out on the political front.

Women had their own councils, along with the right to wage war and decide the fate of captives – since captives were adopted into the matriarchal clans. “Clan mothers” selected chieftains, with women sometimes numbering among the tribe’s leadership. The head of the Women’s Council was called Beloved Woman of the Nation, “whose voice was considered that of the Great Spirit, speaking through her.”

Astonished British settlers whined about the “petticoat government.”

It didn’t take long after whites arrived for things to go topsy-turvy. Europeans insisted men farm, instead of women. And they only taught new farming practices to men.

As Christianity spread women were taught to be chaste. And everyone was encouraged to live in small nuclear families instead of matriarchal longhouses.

Missionaries taught women to fall under the leadership of men. And men were taught to fall in line with priests. Which made it easier to control everyone. Men who acquiesced were favorited and given authority.

And so the Iroquois turned from equality to patriarchy.

But this story shows that patriarchy is not inevitable. It does not arise from innate sex differences. It comes from causes that I will explore in the future.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 17, 2015, in feminism, men, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Lovely summary. Interesting that the “more modern” (religion/political entity/system) inculcates the kind of hierarchy of efficiency, that undoes egalitarianism. Those efficient hierarchies are all about control. Worse, when they make a mistake (as they have repeatedly with the environment), they take everyone with them. What could be a gaffe in a smaller sphere, is a disaster when writ large.

    • Luckily, The things that led to patriarchy were fairly benign and no longer apply, like big agriculture, trying to avoid inbreeding, and societies that were more hunting and war oriented (in a way that required physical strength more than today). I’ll talk about those things later. The good news is that there is no reason why we can’t have a society marked by gender equality today. The only real obstacle now is our cultural inheritance. And we are gradually overcoming that.

  2. So appreciate and resonate with this “origin” story compared to what I grew up with. A return to balance is necessary if our world is going to keep turning with us in it. I’ve read as well that marriage as the legal institution it became was so the ownership of kids, women, and land could belong to the men and the church.

    • Yeah, I look forward to discussing how the origins seem to have come about from such I things as big agriculture and trying to avoid inbreeding. But it’s good to know that gender equality is a very good possibility, And one which had existed in some times and places.

  3. I look forward to your future related discussions on this. Fascinating and nice to see equality (I am championing it for it)

  4. The same can be said about some other societies in Western, Central and South West Europe during the Bronze age periods and earlier too. The women of the Continental Celts and Insular Celtic tribes (ancient Britons) were famed for their ferocity. Some of their clans were matriarchal, but all in all, they were certainly equal in the eyes of their men and joined their male counterparts in war, comnerce and education. Some women (Boudicca and Cartimandua) also led armies. To a lesser extent, Viking and ancient Egyptian societies were also partial to equality and female leadership on occasion.
    It is true, patriarchy has not always been the ‘norm’ and the natural order of things, yet it is as if we are all still programmed to view patriarchy as inevitable and ‘natural’ because men are strong, women are vulnetable and in need of ‘male protection’. Things are changing gradually with each generation, but we are still far behind some of those egalitarian societies in viewing all individuals as just people (without the need to focus on gender).

  5. I know ‘equality’ seems to be the buzz word, but I think I would prefer living in a matriarchal world… But then that’s just me

    • Well I prefer equality but I am intrigued by your comment. Wondering why?

      • According to studies, women in managerial or high level corporate roles manage with a different style than men. Woman are more focused on leading through consensus and are also more communicative. This type of management style has increased employee satisfaction… So I think it would be nice in society in general… It certainly would be welcome relief from traditional patriarchal dominance.

  6. Patriarchy is something I have always viewed as “natural” and never-changing. It seems like all societies have been dominated by men. Men cause war and death while I always think if society was ran by a woman we’d have peace and love. It is interesting to note how the Iroquois were a matriarchal society and how they valued women more. I think this is how society needs to operate. I once read society was patriarchal because if women and children didn’t take the last name of the man we’d have no evidence of paternity. Without evidence of paternity we’d cross bloodlines and inbreed so patriarchal society is a must. I actually was informed of this in school when I was a young woman back in the 1970’s. I am glad to see more movement towards women’s equality like getting women on US currency and the prospects of a female president. I don’t think in my lifetime I will see a female president but hopefully we can see female leadership in my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime for certain.

    • “I once read society was patriarchal because if women and children didn’t take the last name of the man we’d have no evidence of paternity. Without evidence of paternity we’d cross bloodlines and inbreed so patriarchal society is a must.”

      It’s certainly related to patriarchy, but it works the other way around.

      Go Hillary! (Or Elizabeth!)

  7. I am bit perplex by this piece.

    While not all cultures have been male dominated, clearly in the Torah and Old Testament God made man dominate over woman. So, to me this is really where we need to start.

    The spread of Christianity and subsequent Islam continued this same premise of man being dominate over woman.

    For these “pagan” societies, religion (monotheism) was absent. So, they were truly indigenous cultures devoid of religious influence until Christian missionaries showed up…

    So, I think the greatest source of male dominance is God. Specifically his directives to Moses to speak to his people certain laws and practices. Some of these laws involved how a man should treat his wife and other women. In the Book of Numbers, there are explicit laws regarding man’s dominance over woman.

    But, during the time of Moses, most of the world was in “darkness.” Only after Constantine and the rise and spread of Christianity did this “man dominating woman” spread to other parts of the world.

    So, now today with the spread of Islam and Christianity to these other tribal and indigenous cultures, we see an erosion of female authority and roles.

    Where do we go from here? Will these tribal and indigenous cultures survive?

    Btw, have you ever wondered why there are no Jewish missionaries or Islamic missionaries? You said in an earlier piece that Jesus was a feminist. But, did not Jesus also command this followers to spread his word and teachings? I do not believe the New Testament really ever rebuked patriarchy though Jesus clearly challenged Jewish Law.

    • There is no reason to define religion as monotheism. Pre-monotheistic peoples still have religion. And in fact, there is evidence that there was a time when the Jewish people were polytheistic. Those who wrote the Bible tried to wash out the earlier polytheism but you can see it in certain places, Such as the Hebrew tribe talking about how their god, Jehovah, is better than another group’s God — and let’s have a contest about it. In some versions of the King James Bible there are references in Genesis to “the gods,” plural, creating the earth. And much more.

      Also, the Hebrew word “bet” can mean either over or with. So when God casts Adam and Eve out of the garden there is a verse which can be translated either

      And Adam will rule over Eve
      Or
      And Adam will rule with Eve

      I mentioned in the post, I think, (Or in another comment response) that patriarchy arose from different sources like big agriculture, attempts to prevent inbreeding, and hunter-warrior societies. The ancient Semites were clearly a warrior society, and so more patriarchal. But the warrior societies tended to overtake the more peace-loving plant-based societies, and force their patriarchy on them.

  8. “Women also supplied men with food as they went off to hunt, trade or war.”

    This shows that while men were more respectful of women, that apparently men always seemed to have a dominant side or terrirtorial side as wars still happened like you wrote here. True it wasn’t like how things happened for other countries, but there would be tribal wars still. Unfortinately it does seem like men have a more aggressive side or to take over, because it was men going t war right? Not women going after other women from tribes right?

    And community child care is fine and makes sense for tribes. Small communities and close knit like that can work. But as populations get larger and people less close as a result and impersonal. The less likely that works and more that a small nuclear family works. I’m sorry but I wouldn’t trust people with my child, unless credientials proving otherwise, which is why there are daycares, but not just everybody in the community.As you get bigger in population it makes sense for people to be more selective with who watches your children. And it’s not just because of violence and pedophilia, and other things why people don’t have their children watched by other non family members, it’s also because everyone raises their child differently. Parents have a hard time or frustrated with the things their parents do sometimes when watching their child (would be the child’s grandparents), such as giving child cookies and soda and bad stuff, etc. Let alone the way another non family member might influence or be with your baby.

    Can’t part of this be unfortunatley for dominance being a part of some or many people;s personalities, particularly men? That might have not happened then, though the native americans did have tribal wars. But there are bad emotions born in humans, some could say biological. Dominance and aggression makes sense as far as survival of the fittest. Just as compassion and teamwork makes sense. Humans don’t strive and surivive without caring for each other and working together. But lone or small portions of humans don’t survive either when sources are scarce and they have to fight and find a way to survive over others. That’s why there are two sides with people, the good and the bad, both for survival in different ways. I mean anger is a basic emotion to help people survive in front of danger, but today there aren’t dangerous carnivores coming at us, but people still have such basic emotions, which instead of useful, they are “spinning their tires”. So you have guys getting into a stupid road rage, with another guy and coming out of the car and beating the other one to death or pulling out a gun and shooting him,

    Unfortunately, the biggest problems of people and men apparently that will always cause life to never to utopian, is because of “ego”. Society adds to it, but every person has one and there’s a reason why there are the 7 deadly sins and innate, bad personality traits as well as why I believe pride is the worst sin of the 7 sins. For example though, humans since beginning of mankind have the capacity to be selfish, and greedy. You add in other personalities that are more selish than others, greedier than others and corrupt actions can take place, even dominance.

    • Well, don’t you know women who are more aggressive than men? My mom and I are both more aggressive than my dad and my brother, who are too of the sweetest people in the world. People just me either one of them and say, “They are soooooo nice!” Among many of my in-laws the women are more aggressive than their husbands.

      In all early tribal societies there was a division of labor where men were more likely to be the hunters, Warriors and traders, While women were the gatherers and carers of children. There’s a reason for that.

      1) the size of the tribe determines how strong you were, and since women have babies it was very important to protect them. If all but one woman were killed but you had 50 men, you’ll only have about eight children. But if all but one man were killed and you have 50 women, You could have a lot of kids.

      2) men are on average bigger and stronger because of testosterone. That doesn’t necessarily make men dominant, As you can see from the power women had in many parts of the world. And like I said, my dad and brother are bigger than me and my mom, And yet they are also gentler. However, when you are doing hunting or war, It makes more sense for men to do those things because they are bigger and stronger. And again, men are more expendable for the reason I just described in 1)

      3) there was no birth control and no refrigerators to put bottled breast milk. So women tended to have infants nearby so that they could easily feed them. So you aren’t going to go to war, On the hunt, Or trade with the villages who are faraway.

      But this division of labor did not, in itself, create inequality. I’ll talk about how that came about later.

      I’m wondering why it seems important to you and some of the other male commenters that men be more dominant than women? Doesn’t equality seem better?

      • “However, when you are doing hunting or war, It makes more sense for men to do those things because they are bigger and stronger. And again, men are more expendable for the reason I just described in 1)”

        “However, when you are doing hunting or war, ”

        I know men are more expendable. If there aliens ever showed up and tried killing us off, men would need to be the front line and protectors. Not because men are stronger, but because women are much more important to have alive becauese repopulation would be a problem with a few women left and many men. Whereas, only a few men need to exist with many women, as long as the men aren’t related to repopulate much faster. It;s not about that, but as you see with what I quoted from what your just wrote.

        Even with all these duties being assigned and you explaining why women were held off from battle, etc, you didn’t explain why war at all. You see, despite the society seeming to be equal and more peaceful, tribes and men were still going to war, I mean they have food and their peaceful community, so war should not even exist or happen right? Yet, what you said is what I always felt..and that there was still war at times among tribes.

        And maybe women were held off to be protected and maternal duties, but the other question is did the women have the same desire to have way upon tribes and the other reason was that it was a “male” thing for men to wage war on other tribes? It’s not about men being more dominant, it’s me pointing out that, I wish to believe society is what causes men to be violent and dominaint and all these things. and I’m sure society exaggerates and amps up natural tendencies. But that’s my point, apparently there are naturaly bad human tendencies, particularly that men can have without a patriarchal society or perhaps dominance innate too. Because if it isn’t then these tribal men should never ever wage war or have wars, but they have and did.

        My argument is that equal societies or non patriarchal societes, you seem to make seem so peaceful, like humans would be peaceful and harmonious without it, like a utopian society. And I’m saying, thought that would be nice, innate human tendencies and aggression that men seem to have makes that impossible. These tribal men waged wars on tribes maybe for resource but also territory. Can’t gaining territory be about conquering? You know something related to taking over and “dominance” related, an innate desire in human beings that. I’m saying human beings have dark triad personalities and can. I don’t know if you can say that patriarchy has caused dominant actions from men, compared to patriarchy exaggerated something that has always innately existed in men but just drew it out more. Basically patriarchy didn’t create reactions and aggressiveness from men out of thin air. The reason for patriarchy, is probalby because of religion brining it on, but the desire or insecurity of men from particular cultures to dominate, this desire from within and outwardly created and only exaggerated and enforced to create a society of dominance and aggression, but this was always an innate trait or many men unfortunatley.

      • I know that the notion that men are expendable is something that can be a hot button with a lot of guys. That was back when populations were very small and it wasn’t easy to survive. These days with overpopulation both men and women are expendable, so to speak.

        I don’t think that society would necessarily be peaceful and harmonious just because you have to and equality, but you would have a lot less hurt without patriarchy. Men would feel more comfortable getting mental healthcare, And physical healthcare, And expressing their feelings, And not feeling like they have to be independent and strong and successful all the time. That’s a huge burden. And in societies with gender equality women tends not to be beaten and raped. And the aren’t slut-shamed and humiliated either. With gender inequality women would be better able to get decent pay. You wouldn’t have a bunch of humiliating words about women, how they are a bunch of sluts and hoes and bitches.

        Interestingly archaeology shows that the gender-equal plant based societies used tools for farming, But had no tools for weapons. So they were very peaceful. On the downside, that made them more patriarchal/Warriors societies more able to defeat them.

  9. This is a what came first, the chicken or the egg thing here. I feel culture and society is a reflection of biology or vice versa and they are so intertwined. So while it seems like culture creates the desire for dominance, I think it simply adds to it, but the origin is from within certain men and it spreads out cultureally and influences people to think likewise, but it’s always a part that of the human personality trait. Just like culture doesn’t create selfishness and greed, many times its an unfortunate bad personality trait that people can have and others more so than others. Just like some men for whatever reason are more prone to be violent than other men and it’s not always culture, but their personality and mindset, and chemical make up of their brain.

    You said the women you know are more aggressive and men nicer and sweet. Well yes, there a plenty of women who can be aggrssive, mean, hostile and bitchy while men patient, compassionate and so forth. But there’s a difference. For whatever reason there are plenty of women just as sassy as men are jerks. But that’s where it stops. Women can be aggressive that way, whereas, men if and when angry enough, Men when angry enough take it to a physical level easier and faster than women and not just that but kill. I’ve seen my far share of women fighting each other whether at school, bars, etc. But little fight like that, that’s not usually cause of arrest or reported.

    Whereas, homicides and why you see like 90% of murders being from me, is because guys don’t just beat each other up, they for whatever reason take it to the next level and kill the person that angered them. And it’s not all about sexism, as this violent tendency can be a general thing and not toward women, but male aggression. Men kill more men than they do women, though none of that is good and needs to stop. Male to male violence is quite high and while some men beating up guys are criminals who’d careless about hurting women. That’s true sometimes, but not always. It goes to show how men being more aggressive can be selective. There are plenty of guys who haven’t and would never hit or sexually assault a woman or girl or kid, etc, but have beat the living shit out of another dude and maybe would beat a guy an inch from his life. So on onehand, it’s good that these otherwise, decent men respect women and would not harm women, but I don’t know if it’s good to have any violent tendency even if its just toward other men or the capacity to get very violent with another man if such man pisses him off..

    • Well, more egalitarian cultures tend to be less violent overall, and rape and battering of women are often nonexistent in these places. There doesn’t seem to be a big desire for people, generally, to dominate. Although there is a natural tendency toward aggression, it varies more from person to person than from gender to gender. Some men and women seem to be nationally very gentle. Some cultures are much more violent and dominating than others. So culture has a big effect on nurturing different ways of being.

      • Egalitarian cultures tend to be less violent than patriarchal ones, but I’d be willing to best that a ‘matriarchal’ culture would be even less violent.

        Early history had goddess religions which changed to male oriented religious figures (ie. god the ‘father’). Maybe, just maybe, a goddess oriented, matriarchal society is the more ‘natural’ order of things… Just a thought.

      • There’s a lot of debate as to whether we have had a true matriarchy in the world. Or whether it’s more accurate to describe these cultures as egalitarian. Some look at the Iroquois and call them matriarchal, Others call them egalitarian. Most of the chiefs were men. Don’t know if that’s because we often make military chiefs leaders — we’ve had a few in the US: George Washington, Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower.

        I think equality is best. Partly because of the anger you create in people who are put down. When the world became more patriarchal and patriarchies brought their male gods, sometimes he was rather benign, like Zeus. Yeah, he was the head God but goddesses had a lot of power too, like Athena and Aphrodite. There wasn’t a lot of hostility toward women.

        But other times there’s a huge amount of hostility toward women which is reflected in the mythology. Anytime you have a god taking power by defeating an evil dragon or serpent, that dragon or serpent (who must be utterly destroyed) was typically the original goddess figure.

  10. Very informative post. I know that Hindu society and even the ancient Indians (Asian Indians) had a matriarchal society once, where there was a central mother figure in every family or tribe and even polyandry was a common practice. Had no idea about the Iroquois of North America…. learnt a lot from this article.

    • Yeah, I’ve been setting mythology and most typically the first divinity is a goddess — probably because women gave birth and so it seemed that a female must have birthed the World. After people figured out that men were involved in procreation the myths changed: the goddess gave birth to a son who grew up to become her consort, and from them worlds were born. Later both of these more abstract gods and goddesses turned more into fertility gods and goddesses — with the concern to procreate people, animals and plants. And then as patriarchy emerged and strengthened a male God destroys a female goddess. And she often takes the form of a dragon or giant serpent by this time, as he is defeating her. And then you end up with either a supreme male God who presides over a pantheon, Like Zeus or Indra. Or you get monotheism, with one male God. And then the male gods or God take over the procreative role: God the father — often with no mother.

  11. I’ve always thought that tracing our lineage through the patriarchal line is ridiculous, for the very reasons you say : we always know who the mother is. And yes, that is why virginity and monogamy are so prized in a patriarchal society. Don’t get me started on the practice of changing our last names when we get married…

  12. So fascinating Georgia, thanks for throwing light on the Iroquois’ extended families’ structure and role of women.

  13. I”nterestingly archaeology shows that the gender-equal plant based societies used tools for farming, But had no tools for weapons. So they were very peaceful. On the downside, that made them more patriarchal/Warriors societies more able to defeat them.”

    Unfortunately that might be why, as there is a peaceful tendency from humans, there is also the dominant tendency. This domination could be derived as a mean’s to overtake but also protection and not because of wanting to overtake others. Like I said survival of the fittest. It would be nice for every culture that be peaceful, but some might have changed because of the realization that they had to be a warrior culture too to protect themselves..Therefore, instead of being the prey, they be the predator as well.

  14. Well, if all goes well we will have a female President in Myanmar in ’15 to be followed by one in the USA in ’16 🙂

  15. You must read A Short History of Myth! Its focus is on the importance of stories, but it has a fantastic discussion on how women/mothers have been defined over history.

    • I’m quite interested in mythology and have read some Joseph Campbell. I’m reading one of his books on the goddess right now – which is to say goddess cultures. And I’m listening to a “great courses” series on mythology right now, too. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll have to check it out.

  16. Very good look back in history. I see that you are a Campbell fan as well. I especially liked his metaphor describing religion is a mask we place against the unknowable. I think that was in his Power of Myth.

    I would add, as well, that we then imbue that mask with attributes that reflect ourselves–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    Descartes described it himself; “I think, therefore I am.” From that seed of logic, he concluded that because whatever he thought was clearly and distinctly true, must be true. From that subjective and erroneous assumption, he constructed his theological mask, which, I’ve little doubt, was a reflection of what he was taught from tothood to be true.

    The Great Courses series sounds . . . great. :D. I think I will take a look at that, and A Short History of Myth, thanks to Kaiti V. 🙂

  17. This is an indeed interesting piece of information. In the modern world, patriarchy society will be the majority. Yet, there are still some existence of matriarchal societies located at the corner of the world. Example are like Mosuo and Minangkabau. Mosuo is a district located at the border of Tibet and China. Minangkabau is a provinces in Indonesia. These two communities are clearly a matriarchal society. Similar to the circumstance mentioned in the article, women are head of families. Moreover, certain privileges and right are reserved for females. Therefore, it tells us that “patriarchy is not inevitable”. However, I would like to make a bold statement, most patriarchy are far advanced than matriarchal societies in the aspects of economy, politics, military and technology. During the prehistoric age, women have higher social status than men. This is due to labor division, female are responsible for gathering, while men are in charge of hunting. Yet, gathering is far more efficient than hunting. Then the Neolithic Revolution took place, a replacement for traditional food source. Farming agriculture becomes the most efficient and reliable method. At this point, males have the physical strength that is adequate be to productive farmers. Therefore, women’s value gradually decrease, slowly gender discrimination expand. But, because of the mean of sufficient food supply, society allows energy and time being invested in other fields. Thus, patriarchy thrives and advances forward. I am not saying that I am in favor of gender inequality, but the fact of history lead to male dominance.

  18. Taiwan is my origin, in this island there are many aboriginal tribes. They are indeed matriarchal societies. Fortunately, I have a chance to witness their ceremony. Marriage is extremely different from my family. The bride is the one sitting in a sedan chair, then she will be carried to the groom’s house. It is a obvious sign that women have more respect and privilege. This is something that traditional Asian culture don’t have. Indeed, there are many problem of gender inequality in Taiwan. Women receive lower level education and pay check. I think Taiwanese traditional culture should learn more from these aboriginal tribes, more respect from women.

  19. Really interesting articles!! I thought that the world has always been dominated by men since men are apparently physically “stronger”. Look back on the societies today. Most cultures in most countries are also patriarchy. Moreover, in many cases, male chauvinism and sex discrimination are very common to be seen. I’ve once heard some socialists and historians suggesting that one of the reason why patriarchy is a trend is that men need power and authority to compensate the cost fighting and working for the tribes. However, the situation is much different nowadays. Gender equality is highly praised is many developed countries. Men can be nurses and women can be pilots. In my point of view, as long as people learn to respect other gender, both patriarchy and matriarchy have their advantages.

  20. Taylor Nyulassy

    When I was little, I often thought about the differences in value our society put on males versus females. I could not wrap my head around the fact that so much hate and violence has been geared towards the ones that give life to our planet. In many countries today, giving birth to a girl is still shameful and looked down upon because the family name and lineage cannot be passed down through her. Reading about the Iroquois and other matriarchal societies like it has opened my eyes to the fact that women have (at one point) been honestly valued. I could go on forever asking questions about the differences in equality when comparing patriarchy versus matriarchy but I think all of my inquiry can be summarized to this: If matriarchal tribes like the Iroquois can maintain (for the most part) gender equality, why can’t the patriarchy? Is the patriarchy so inherently unequal that one sex is automatically devalued or has history gone about it all the wrong way? If at one point women were the head of the tribe and things ran (relatively) smoothly between the sexes, why is it now so hard to maintain sed equality with a male at the head of the tribe, household, etc.?

  21. It is always refreshing to me to read about more egalitarian times and societies. In our modern society the patriarchy is so engrained in every aspect of our lives that it is easy to feel as though things have always been this way. However, I think it is important to acknowledge that these forms of social oppression were constructed. They are not predestined or an integral part of human societies. As such we can and must constantly make efforts to reverse the damage done to people by the patriarchy.

    On a related note to this article, it is also interesting to consider how matriarchal societies are often more egalitarian than patriarchal societies. I do not think that any gender should be valued more any other, but it is worth considering that at least some of these matriarchal societies were more equal. Women and men both had roles that were not as de-valued as we now see today in many Western societies.

    • There is even a debate as to whether there has ever been to matriarchal society. Or whether they have all been gender equal. With the culture I’m talking about here, Women have a lot of power, but most of the chiefs were men. Don’t know if that’s because we often put military officials and charges societies, and men were the Warriors (because they were thought to be more expendable).

  22. I was immediately intrigued to read this article after seeing the title. A world without male dominance seems almost impossible to imagine. I never thought male dominance was relevant until I started watching my parent’s relationship. My mother almost stands in my dad shadow, doing whatever he says, making sure dinner is ready and the house is clean before he comes home from work. She never argues or speaks her mind when she disagrees. It’s fascinating to learn that the Iroquois had an organized women’s council and that women’s opinions and voices were so valued. Being independent of men would be such a great accomplishment for women. The fact that we have progressed in the wrong direction is disheartening.

    One interesting and almost shocking part of this post is that missionaries taught women “to fall under the leadership of men.” Missionaries by definition is, “a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work; a person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles, etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/missionary). Without white colonization, would there still be some regions that didn’t have a male dominating social structure? Although many benefits come from missionaries, it is very interesting to learn the negative effects of what appear to be good intentions.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t still have gender-equal societies if colonial powers hadn’t taken over. I will be writing more about how the world shifted from equality to patriarchy later.

  23. The Native Americans were the first people in North America including the United States. It’s funny how children are taught history from the white man’s perspective. The western civilization ended up kicking the Native Americans out of their own land, raping the women, and building factories and roads on crop field and Indian homes. The blog points out how Iroquois had the women in power. The Iroquois children also knew who their mother was all the time, but did not know their father. Their civilization reversed the rolls of how society transformed over the years with males being the dominant sex. The book Women’s Realities, Women’s Choices discusses how culture impacts how men and women see themselves (Alcoff et al 61). There are parts of society in the past that are ignored, which are probably forced and told from the white man’s perspective. The blog gives a point of view where women are very powerful and contribute so much to society through giving birth. Female babies were valued more since they could increase the tribe size in the future. Women do have a lot of power through food, reproduction of human life, being leaders, and contributing to society in numerous ways. Throughout history, the culture of the man being dominant was emphasized through the daily lifestyle where the mother takes care of the kids and cooks, while the father goes to work and makes the money. Women are just as capable, if not more capable of influencing society through our knowledge and unique qualities men do not have. Men and women should be treated with equality.

  24. I enjoyed reading this article because it shows that the male domination is not absolute in a certain way. In my opinion the patriarchy begins at a very early time. When human being started to settle down, form towns, and build civilizations, this could be the origin of patriarchy. Basically, it was formed that men should go out for feeding the family, while women are supposed to stay at home so that they could be able to take care of husband and children. However, before that, it was female who could dominate the nation at the very early ancient time. It’s probably because that women have the ability to reproduce the next generation. However, as the time goes by, the male own the increasing power. Even today, in some Asian countries, male babies are valued much better than female girls.

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