Matriarchal social structures are a rather interesting example of the vast cultural diversity in mankind’s history.
They are societies in which women, as opposed to men, are traditionally more important. Basically, its a woman’s, woman’s world.
In matriarchal societies, the oldest female head of the family or the mother is the most powerful figure in the family. Descent and relationships are characterized via their maternal links. Governance is predominantly female, and women have most (if not all) of the power. They’re often confused with matrilineal, matrilocal or matrifocal societies, but one could say that a matriarchy is an amalgamation of the three on an official scale.
Many celebrated anthropologists have claimed that no matriarchal societies have ever existed and that they are simply fantasies or legends.
However, that is far from the truth. In a select few places around the world, including some northern regions of Mozambique, the society was based around the female. Their spousal privileges were much higher than men’s and they served as the heads of their families. The Sitones were a Germanic tribe that were predominantly spearheaded by females, and they thus bore a similarity to the roots of Vietnamese culture, which is thought to have been predominantly matriarchal until the Chinese invasion.
In a desperate bid to stay true to their roots, many Vietnamese people refused to adopt China’s patriarchal system and maintained power with their women. The Trung sisters led a huge revolt of 80,000 soldiers (of which many were female officers) and defeated the Chinese, engraving themselves in the folktales of their people forever.
In North America, the Hopi and Iroquois tribes are very much gynocentric, and they’re extremely proud of their heritage.
In several Celtic myths and remains, evidence has been found that supports the idea the Celts were at some stage a very much matrifocal society. Legal codes that governed their property ownership, rights to rule and marriage arrangements portray a culture that placed a lot of emphasis on women.
There are several other such instances of matriarchal societies being rumoured to have existed across the world. The most famous matriarchal society is no doubt that of the Amazons. It is incredible that despite their portrayal in so many historical works and innumerable references to them throughout the timelines of many different civilization, their existence is still not confirmed. Historians are not sure what to make of them in a real-world context, and have lazily assigned the the “mythological” tag. One thing is for certain – the Amazons were famed or being methodical, and if we can’t find any satisfying evidence of their existence then they must’ve clearly done a good job!
It is rather obvious that matriarchal societies must’ve existed at some point. The only problem is that words like “gyneocracy” often carry connotations of a world where women are evil tyrants running everything and crushing men with their blood-thirsty fangs. This is not the truth, and this is what makes many experts believe they never existed.
Indeed, it is quite unlikely that there was ever such a harsh society.
What matriarchal governance does imply, is simply a state of affairs where women carry more prominence and clout. Where things are based around female ideologies, and where women are consulted more than men.
It is not a mirror image of the patriarchal societies that exist in many places in the world. Inherently, it will have very different traits and customs as to what we’re accustomed to. Classifying a civilization’s way of living without having clear and concrete reports or evidence of their lifestyles is always going to be a big ask of anybody. That is why many experts simply prefer to dispel the idea and chalk it down to feminist fiction, which is absolutely wrong.
One of the common denominators of many of the afore-mentioned “matriarchal” cultures is that power did not rest solely in the seat of a woman. Women were indubitably more important, but not to the tyrannical detriment of men – except in the case of the Amazons, who were legendarily brutal to the men they captured in battle.
Most of these societies had reached a somewhat egalitarian harmony in their existence, and this is what many feminists want the current world to take from their references to matriarchal cultures. However, when not thoroughly explained and analysed and dissected, it is very easy for people to misinterpret feminists as crazy radicals who want to over-haul the perceived “Reign of Man”. This discredits them and further shoves one of the most curious forms of governance in history.
Matriarchal values should be sought out and used in order to improve and evolve ourselves. Just as our current patriarchal civilization has its advantages and disadvantages, so too does a matriarchy. So instead of sticking to one philosophy stubbornly, maybe we could reach out in time and try to understand how such people governed themselves; what they did wrong, what did they right, what not to do.
Maybe then people will start to appreciate the merits of a civilization built upon a more balanced and solid base. Hopefully someday, we will attain the perfectly equal society, and if a thorough inquiry into the pillars of a matriarchal society will help – then by all means, let’s do it!