Patriarchy as a System of Male Dominance Created at the Intersection of the the Control of Women, Private Property, and War, Part 1 by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 color

Patriarchy is often defined as a system of male dominance. This definition does not illuminate, but rather obscures, the complex set of factors that function together in the patriarchal system.  We need more complex definition if we are to understand and challenge the the patriarchal system in all of its aspects.

Patriarchy is a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, to seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people.*

Marx and Engels said that the patriarchal family, private property, and the state arose together. Though their understanding of the societies that preceded “patriarchy” was flawed, their intuition that patriarchy is connected to private property and to domination in the name of the state was correct.  It has long seemed to me that patriarchy cannot be separated from war and the kings who take power in the wake of war.  Many years ago I was stunned by Merlin Stone’s allegation that in matrilineal societies there are no illegitimate children, because all children have mothers. Lately, I have been trying to figure out why the Roman Catholic and other churches and the American Republican party are so strongly opposed to women’s right to control our own bodies and are trying to prevent access to birth control and abortion. In the above definition of patriarchy, I bring all of these lines of thought together in a definition which describes the origins of patriarchy and the interconnections between patriarchy, the control of female sexuality, private property, violence, war, conquest, rape in war, and slavery. 

The system I am defining as patriarchy is a system of domination enforced through violence and the threat of violence.  It is a system developed and controlled by powerful men, in which women, children, other men, and nature itself are dominated.  Let me say at the outset that I do not believe that it is in the “nature” of “men” to dominate through violence. Patriarchy is a system that originated in history, which means that it is neither eternal nor inevitable. Some women and some men have resisted patriarchy throughout its history. We can join together to resist it today.

My definition of patriarchy is influenced by new research collected and analyzed by Heide Goettner-Abendroth in Societies of Peace, who advances our understanding of prepatriarchal societies which she calls “matriarchal” “societies of peace.”  Goettner-Abendroth identifies the deep structure of matriarchies using four markers: 1) economic:  these societies usually practice small scale agriculture and achieve relative economic equality through gift-giving as a social custom: 2) social:  these societies are egalitarian, matrilineal, and matrilocal with land being held in the maternal clan and both men and women remaining in their maternal clan; 3) political:  these societies are egalitarian and have well-developed democratic systems of consensus; 4) culture, spirituality:  these societies tend to view Earth as a Great and Giving Mother.  Most importantly and permeating everything, these societies honor principles of care, love, and generosity which they associate with motherhood, and believe both women and men can and should practice.

The Masuo culture of the Himalayas which has been recently studied, even as it is disappearing, is a classic example. I first learned of it while watching Michael Palin discuss Masuo sexual customs with a Masuo woman in his documentary Himilaya.  This woman explained to Palin that in her culture women and men define themselves through their connections to maternal clans. When a girl reaches the age of sexual maturity, her mother prepares a room where she can invite a man to dine with her. If she chooses, she invites him to spend the night with her. Children produced from such unions become part of the maternal clan. The “fathering” role is assumed by the uncles and brothers of the mother and the mothering role is shared among sisters. If either member of a couple tires of their sexual relationship, they end it and find other partners.  Michael Palin obviously had a hard time believing his ears.

This story illustrates an important difference between the matrilineal and matrilocal customs of the Masuo and those of the patriarchal cultures with which we are familiar.  Among the Masuo women choose their sexual partners freely and are free to end one sexual relationship and find another.  There are no illegitimate children because all children have mothers. There are no “loose” women (think about the meaning of that term) or “whores’ because women are free to have sex with whomever they choose. The Virgin-Whore dichotomy–so well-known in patriarchal cultures–simply does not exist.

With the contrast provided by the Masuo, I came to understand on a deeper level that patriarchy is a system of male domination in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality.  The control of female sexuality through the institutions of patriarchal marriage is not incidental to patriarchy, but rather is central. The customs that surround patriarchal marriage including the requirement that brides are untouched sexually or “virgin,” the “protection” of a girl’s virginity by her father and brothers, the seclusion of girls and women, the requirement that wives must be sexually faithful to their husbands, and the enforcement of these customs through shaming, violence, and the threat of violence, all have one purpose: to ensure that a “man’s” children are his.  While it is relatively easy to know who a child’s biological mother is, it is not so easy to be certain about the biological father. If a woman has more than one lover, then without DNA testing, which has only recently become discovered, it is nearly impossible to be absolutely certain who a child’s father is.  One solution to this dilemma is to define fatherhood in other ways.  The second is to control women’s sexuality absolutely.

One might ask: why it is so important for a man to know who his biological children are that a complicated system of secluding and shaming women in order to control their sexuality had to be developed?  The answer is found in the next clause of my definition: patriarchy is a system of male domination in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality with the intent of passing property to male heirs. Marx and Engels were right that patriarchy and private property are integrally related. There would be no need for a man to be sure of the paternity of his children if the institution of individual private property did not exist and if the value of individuals were not defined by the property they own and pass on to their heirs, usually sons.

Recently, I realized that the word for inheritance or inherited property in modern Greek, periousia, a word taken from ancient Greek, illustrates the connection of property and identity more clearly than the English word inheritance.  Ousia in ancient Greek refers to one’s being or essence. Peri-ousia is that which surrounds one’s essential being and thus defines “who” one “is.”  Its clear meaning is that “who one is” is defined by “the property” one inherits and passes on.  Without the close identification of the “essence” of a man with his property, there would not need to be such a strict concern with knowing that the inheritors of a man’s property “really are” his biological sons.

The next question is:  how did a system that identifies a man’s essence with his property and the ability to pass it on to sons come about? I suggest that the answer to this question is war and the confiscation of “property” by warriors in war.  To be continued next week. See Part 2 and Part 3.

*I am offering here a functional definition of patriarchy that does not address the separate question of why it originated.

*See the expanded version with footnotes: “A New Definition of Patriarchy: Control of Female Sexuality, Private Property, and War,” Feminist Theology 23/3 (2016).

Carol P. Christ shares her vision of the pre-patriarchal culture of ancient Crete on the  Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete she leads through Ariadne Institute. She spoke on a WATER Teleconference on January 16, 2013 which you can listen to now if you missed it.  She is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She has been active in peace and justice movements all of her adult life.  She teaches online courses in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS. Her books include She Who Changes, and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions

Her new book Goddess and God in the World with Judith Plaskow was released in 2016.

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89 replies

  1. There has been a religious dialog throughout several thousand years about what is to dominate – the feminine element or the masculine element and/or how to achieve a balance between the two. Currently, in most religions, the masculine element dominates – that can be named ‘patriarchy.’ A number of groups and people are now again questioning this dominance. In my opinion humanity needs to do so. Many of the roots of patriarchy can be found in the handling of the biblical text – which is why I have been researching it.

    • Actually what I am saying is that it is more complicated than the sex of God or the domination of the alleged “masculine”–actually that term doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. Patriarchy is a specific kind of system of male domination that is intimately connected to private property and war, and it developed long before the Bible was written or interpreted or translated.

      • I said “roots of patriarchy.” Read what I’ve said in my books, and demonstrated with images of goddess artifacts, about the dominance of the feminine in early societies. Perhaps the ‘boys’ wanted a place in things too…. And to a comment on a later post – I personally don’t think that we have two categories of brains – a ‘male’ brain and a ‘female’ brain. I think that human sexuality covers a wide spectrum – not just two ‘neat’ categories.

      • My daughter is writing her thesis on how indegious South African cultures can cause male dominance and or domestic violence. Can you help with providing resources?

  2. A friend once confided that he thought that men were essentially jealous of women’s power to give birth, and that they therefore compensated that fear of inadequacy by attempting to control her right to choose.

    • Yes some men do feel that way, but men in the matriarchal socieites discussed by Goettner-Abendroth do not–perhaps because they are well-loved. So jealousy alone does not seem to be enough of a reason to explain the complex system of patriarchy.

      • In terms of patriarchal power-over in the western world, one huge turn was the replacement of the Eleusinian Mysteries with Christianity. The Mother-Daughter swapped for the Father-Son. The Christian feminist needs to work with that more I think. Why was that swap made? My understanding is that men were accepted into the matriarchal Mysteries and well-loved as you say, not locked out. And yet men felt excluded I assume and perhaps needed their own Mysteries via the Father-Son godhead in Christianity?

      • Ross, I agree with you in a mythological sense. Demeter/Persephone is for me the first feminist Goddess. However, Her mysteries took place within a patriarchal culture (in fact, that’s the reason She needed to become a feminist, to declare that the patriarchal Hades could not steal Her daughter using the new, patriarchal weapon of bride theft). I guess what I’m saying is that historically it’s a lot more complicated than a “swap.” The Eleusian Mysteries existed for thousands of years, only ending in Roman times, and that’s a lot of patriarchal time.

      • Thanks Carol and Nancy for your helpful insights and support in commenting. I’ll take a risk here, obviously it’s sheer guessing. But I think the Christian Gospels (especially Luke) and early Christianity itself modeled its message on the Mysteries. In my opinion they road piggy-back on the Demeter and Persephone myth. Just look at the archetype of Resurrection, the mother-daughter bond, the suffering of Persephone, the partaking of the kykeon as a forerunner of the Eucharist, the joyous return to spring, and so many exceedingly profound mystical ideas borrowed over. So that the swap occurred from the very beginning of Christianity, with an eye to convert the pagan audience via comparable ideas they already understood profoundly and revered. To grasp the deeper levels of the Christian story you almost have to study the Hymn to Demeter.

  3. Excellent! Know this makes me wonder why any conscious human being would be a Republican or attend a Bible-based church. The political is of course personal, but I think it would help the whole world–and all of “mankind”–if we remembered that we are all kin and all the children of the Great Goddess. And give up trying to control women’s bodies. Thanks for the true definition, too, of periousia. Brava!

  4. Dear Carol: I just finished attending a conference in London, Ontario, featuring Mary Condren. We explored an old Irish myth of male domination concerning Dervilla, and Cuchulainn. It was very interesting to see how the older stories of the Calleach, or wise woman-oriented society, were turned around and corrupted by the warrior culture. What would have been unthinkable thus became “the way things are”. We have to realize that we are currently seeing society through a very damaged and perverted mirror. Life has been, and can be, totally diffferent if we just change our view of how the world must be. Thank you for your contribution to our ability to push away this illusion and see another way.

  5. Ross, the Eleusinian Mysteries did not “die out.” They ended when Theodoisos the Great outlawed non-Christian religions just before 400 CE. Who knows what people might have “chosen” if they had any choice in the matter.

  6. But what about the girls who don’t want to have sex with boys? What of the lesbian girls in these societies. To me, the ideal would be large groups of women who did not have sex with men at all, but who were focused on loving women on all levels. That is my ideal world.

  7. Thank you, Carol, for writing this. I have contemplated the patriarchy for many years and it is the hidden elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about. I’ve thought about brain mechanisms for the rise of the patriarchy and was impressed by Leonard Shlain’s argument in The Alphabet vs the the Goddess that literacy strengthened men’s left brains and caused them to dominate. I like your definition. Being rooted in war, there must be a component related to the growth of the human population. There wasn’t need for war before the population spread out over the surface of the Earth and the tribes started bumping into each other and hoarding resources.

  8. Thank you VERY much for writing this! It appeared at exactly the right time as I am currently writing an article for Pagan Families in response to the book Refuse to Do Nothing, which is about human trafficking. The book is heavily seated in Christianity and while it contains valuable information and a refreshing activist orientation, it assumes that human trafficking has its roots in “sin” rather than, as I would argue, in patriarchy.

  9. I am studying pre-patriarchal history right now (in the midst of the Merlin Stone book, actually:) and LOVE your awesome and complete definition of patriarchy! Perfect!

  10. Hi talkbirth, in the longer version of the essay I point out that prostitution is a product of the attempt to control and shame women in patriarchy. If sex were freely available there would be no need to pay for it. It is when female sexuality is controlled that sex becomes a commodity and women are separated into those whose sexuallity is under male control (good women) and those whose is not (whores). It is a sad story.

  11. Thank you, Carol, for writing this. I have contemplated the patriarchy for many years and it is the hidden elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about. I’ve thought about brain mechanisms for the rise of the patriarchy and was impressed by Leonard Shlain’s argument in The Alphabet vs the the Goddess that literacy strengthened men’s left brains and caused them to dominate. I like your definition. Being rooted in war, there must be a component related to the growth of the human population. There wasn’t need for war before the population spread out over the surface of the Earth and the tribes started bumping into each other and hoarding resources.

  12. Yes Thea, the question of the origins of warfare is not one I deal with here. Longterm drought in Saharasia may be one of the factors according to James DeMeo.

    I was somewhat uneasy with the thesis of The Alphabet and the Goddess. Writing can be a tool of control, but it also can be a tool of communication and expression. To say that writing is the key factor in the rise of systems of domination seems to me to be looking in the wrong place for the answer. Warfare is a much better place to look, I would say.

    • Thanks for answering, Carol. I will check out what you cite. Shlain wasn’t saying writing was the key factor. He was saying linear reading was the key factor, the reading of an alphabet where sounds are symbolically represented, an activity he argued strengthened men’s already linear brains (as opposed to women’s more holistic, left-right brains). What I liked about his thesis is that it is tied to the brain. Other theories are only cultural. There was violence before the patriarchy began and there was violence afterwards. But before the patriarchy began, women were deeply respected and their place in the tribal societies clear. What changed? Levels of testosterone? Weapons? Understanding of paternity? Population densities? Climate? As egotistical human beings, we don’t want to believe our brains are evolving or can evolve in only thousands of years. But for the culture to shift so drastically, there had to be a neuronal component to the shift. And this argument is not even regarding evolution, it is an argument based on a standard mechanism of our brains, weighted excitatory and inhibitory associations.

      • I’m sure Carol will talk about this. However, your statement that other theories are “only cultural” begs the question. We now know from scientific studies that it’s extremely difficult to separate out the effects of nature and nurture, because they’re working together. Humans do not come into this world as a tabula rasa. In some areas nature prevails, in others, nurture. In fact, all human behaviors are due to a combination of the two. I used to argue loud and long with my husband, the scientist, about this. But in the last twenty years it’s becoming more and more apparent that culture and innate behavior are intimately intertwined.

        And about violence before patriarchy — the violence changed in type, prevalence, and size with the beginnings of patriarchy. Before the rise of private property, warfare, and patriarchy, the type of violence was generally a small band of young men, who voluntarily joined up with some “hothead” to go on a raid against some perceived enemy encroachment. In contrast, warfare involves conscription, large battalions of men, and top-down hierarchy. This is very different from the “tribal” battles that preceded it.

  13. I agree Nancy

    • Hi Nancy. I am not in disagreement with you. I do agree nurture and nature both affect behavior. I was referring to specific mechanisms when I said theories are ‘only cultural’. It’s one thing to refer to something in the abstraction, it is another to provide proof (or at least compelling conjecture) regarding a mechanism for that thing to come into existence. Carol says she is providing a functional definition of patriarchy and says in her footnote she is not addressing the ‘why’ it originated. I don’t know if she is also not addressing the ‘how’ it originated. Thank you for the explanation of the difference in the types of violence pre and post patriarchy. I am curious your sources, I’d like to know more about this. Thank you.

      • Thea —

        That’s a good question. I came to this conclusion many years ago. I think Peggy Reeves Sanday’s work was one of the pieces in this puzzle. I’ll have to think about it some more to come up with other citations. If I do, I’ll leave response here.

  14. I recommend Socieites of Peace. This book really opened my eyes. It was the first time I had a picture of prepatriarchal societies. These societies did not “worship” warriors. I think this is what Nancy meant–not that no one ever hit anyone or quarrelled, though I imagine this was a lot less frequent, but that these societies did not train young men to fight and kill and the rape of women was not a pattern of behavior learned in warfare. Nor did these socieites have slaves.

    Now what were the factors that led to the change to male dominant socieites. It seems that environmental stress or overpopulation in settled sites may have been a factor. Some people, perhaps young men left settled societies seeking “new opportunities.” At some point some of them must have seen that they could ‘take” from others rather than simply starting over in a new place. Once violence is inflicted on a previously peaceful culture, it changes, either by being conquered and required to submit to warriors, or because it fights back and leaves its previously nonwarlike cuture behind. I didn’t write about this because I don’t have enough information to be sure, and it is a big topic, but this is what I think may have happened.

    But even without knowing the “why” we can still see the difference between two cultural styles.

    PS It seems to me tht the “why” question sometimes actually is “what did matriarchies or women do wrong that made men come up with a system of violent domination?” In other words, the questioner subconsciously wants to blame women for ther rise of a system in which they are dominated through violence and the fear of violence.

    • I’ve been really curious as to the “why” of patriarchy for a long time, and I think that if we don’t come up with a viable reason for it, any efforts towards change to a more balanced world will be futile. I wonder whether, under their warlike and dominating ways, there is in men a terrible fear of women’s power. How can we reassure them of their value and release them from their urge to dominate? I think that the need for dominance is rooted in fear. What are men afraid of?

  15. I enjoyed your article so much. Sometimes we have to define the “other” before we can define ourselves and create a vision. You helped me do that. Thank you.

  16. Carol – thank you for this discussion. I’m curious about the what? why? and how? of patriarchy. What was the change process that caused the global and long-lasting paradigm shift from matrilineal values to patriarchal values? My books-to-read list includes feminist philosopher Grace M. Jantzen’s “Foundations of Violence” who argues that male preoccupation with violence and death hides male anxiety of the maternal body and female sexuality. I will add “Societies of Peace” to my reading list, and look forward to more of your writing on this topic.

  17. Jennifer — I have found some of your books and appreciate your scholarship in language and the bible, thank you for the work you do. I have to comment on your comment that you don’t think we have two neat categories of brains. You are right regarding sexuality, it is all over the place. But in terms of brains, the effects of hormones on our brain development is indisputable. Men and women have different development of other organs and no one complains about that. A brain is just another organ. There are well-documented distinct differences in the retina (men have more rods, women cones), corpus callosum (connectivity), amygdala (how react to emotional stimuli), etc. Here’s one link to Dr. Sandra Witelstein’s work
    The problem with the patriarchal takeover is to explain how men believed they could take over. It is similar to the problem of how 19th century US women believed they had a right to vote. Sally Roesch Wagner argues that the women of upstate New York had role models in the Iroquois nation confederacy. Without these role models, they didn’t know women could own property or not be property.

    • Brains are not sexed. Brains are *directed in growth* by programming.

      How did men believe they could take over? Women could have too. It’s all just mob rule stuff. But they didn’t want to.

  18. Irene, I am not sure we need to know the why, we only need to want to change an unjust situation. I don’t think men need to fear women, they may do so in a situation where they know the power they hold over women is unjust. But if they are loved by their mothers and other women, there is no need to fear the one who gave birth to you or the one who loves you.

    • I do think men are afraid of being showed up by women. I really do believe that is why patriarchy was started in the first place. And why it continues to this day. Patriarchy has always taught that men are superior to women. and most men and women buy into that, but as women have become more independent and have been outperforming men in school in college, and even at some athletic sports, I think most men are starting to realize that that might not be true and that women can do just about anything a man can do and maybe even do it better and that scares them. I really do think, this is the reason why Republicans want so badly to control women reproduction. I think they’re afraid of the possiblity that in their mind, women may actually be superior to men.

      • I agree, and I think that if we don’t consider men’s envy of and fear of women, we will encounter BIG backlash as we gain more freedom and influence and start to break down the patriarchal system. I would like to read more theory about why patriarchy happened in the first place.

      • I think the patriarchal system was created to control and enslave all of society. Men are probably victims of this also. Enslaving women is enslaving their sons and all of society.

  19. Carol: Thanks for your series, and for the suggestion of “Societies of Peace” as reading material. I managed to get it on inter-library loan, and am currently working through it. I especially enjoyed discovering Barbara Alice Mann and her work on the Iroquoian clan mothers and other “First Nation” (as they say in Canada) topics.

    As to De Meo’s Saharasian thesis, I didn’t find it convincing as a reason for the rise of patriarchy, and was happy to find Max Dashu’s comments on it. Like Thea, I look for roots, but certainly agree that we don’t necessarily have to find them before we do something about a problem.

    And (also like Thea) I like Shlain, and just re-read “Alphabet Versus the Goddess.” Whatever his shortcomings–and he certainly admits to them himself, in a refreshingly humble way–I think he provides plenty of food for thought, as do your pieces.

    Again, thanks. :-)

  20. Genetic logic of patriarchal system is that the man passes on his genetic heirs “power”, which is here defined as a capability to maximize their genetic outcome, thus produce as much succesful genetic heirs as possible. Property is a way to “power” but not the only one. Man can have biologically unlimited number of offsprings while a woman cannot, that is why their genetic strategy is different. Systems like patriarchate which promote male genetic interests over female genetic interest show similar caracteristics to cancerous cells- unlimited growth killing normal cells and spread until the death of the carrier- in this case the planets Earth ecosystem supporting humanity. That is why drastic medicines needs to be applied to cure the planet from patriachate systems.

    • Woah hold on though.

      Just like with *everything else*, when it comes to sprogging, we need quality not quantity. What you seem to be citing is an evolutionary psychology line.

  21. Ross — you mentioned the Book of Luke in one of your comments here. Do you subscribe to the theory that the book was written by a woman?

  22. To understand patriarchy,domination,war and relationship between woman and men,please read one of the most important books of our era: Riene Eisler´s “The chalice and the sword”.Opinion are very important,but knowlegde is better.

    • Riane Eisler: The Chalice and the Blade – excellent book!!

      • I concur: the Eisler book is excellent. She’s also in “Societies of Peace” (which I had a senior moment and typed in as “Communities…” in an earlier comment) Great place to start. And although it may be irrelevant, I am still looking for the first “smoking gun,” (o.k., bloody sword or battle-axe): WHY did the Kurgan People, or whoever the first patriarchal/hierarchical/militarists were, have an attitude to begin with? What started the cascade, to which other factors then contributed?

      • Yes, this is exactly what I’m most interested in: what started the patriarchal “cascade?” Why did men feel a need to dominate – to have “power over” rather than “power with?”

  23. the fact that some (not all)) men today fear female power does not make it certain that men in matriarchal societies feared female power and therefore suppressed it. i think it could be that in matriarchal societies men had “less complicated” feelings about their mothers and women in general. they did not have to separate from their mothers and sisters and all things female in order to prove their “manhood.” this is a big difference from patriarchal cultures. nor did they have mothers who were subject to male domination and whose relationships were sons were shaped by their own lack of power in other realms of their lives, nor did they have mothers who were unhappy because they had to submit to male power. in other words the feelings of mothers were also “less complicated,” they could love more freely.

    • Katharine — As I’ve said in my earlier posts, I lean towards a neurological argument for the how the shift to the patriarchy occurred (not taking anything away from Carol’s argument). I am compiling data on population density as another pressure, but since that is not my field, it is taking a while. I suggest you read “The Alphabet vs the Goddess” by Leonard Shlain, it is a compelling theory that alphabetic literacy strengthened men’s left-brain thinking causing a shift in the balance. Shlain finds the coincidental timing between literacy and patriarchal domination curious. Another powerful neurological theory is Julian Jaynes bicameral mind theory for the origin of consciousness. I’m not sure which way to argue this latter one yet, but the basic concept of changes to our brains as recently as 4,000 years ago suggests it is not absurd to think of neurological changes being part of the rise of the patriarchy. Of course, most psychologists I’ve met disagree on this one,

      • Thanks, Thea. I’ve read both of the books you mentioned, and I’m particularly interested in Shlain’s theory. Unfortunately, it’s hard to prove anything that happened before writing was invented, but I’m doing some research on current matriarchal cultures to see whether there is any connection between lack of written language and matrilineal/matriarchal societies.

      • That’s one thing that bothers me a teeny bit about Shlain’s alphabetic thesis: patriarchy (or to use Eisler’s term, “androcracy”) existed, historically, even in cultures with non-linear writing systems like hieroglyphic and Chinese characters. Shlain hedges his bets in this area (and barely mentions the Minoans, where Eisler’s “gylany” persisted despite two systems of writing) but shouldn’t these cultures, and others, have remained more right-brained than they did?

        Conversely, shoudn’t left-brain dominant female literates, like us, still be under the androcrats’ spell? As I remarked to Thea, I sometimes wonder if (especially to reclaim the Goddess) I shouldn’t depart on my ox like Lao-Tsu leaving his library, and librarianship, behind. My mind, such as it , is much clearer in a garden like Carol’s lovely-sounding one, or watching my bird feeders, than when I start to list to the left from the metaphorical weight of my left hemisphere!

      • Katharine — Let me know what you find regarding your research. I’d also like to know what you think of the Jaynes theory. I’m about to start writing my second novel which will include the theory.

      • When I first read Jaynes’ book, I was excited. The connection between hearing the voices of the gods and schizophrenics hearing voices was particularly interesting. But, until someone comes up with a definition of consciousness, I think it’s very hard to talk about it. Some of those who critique Jaynes’ work aren’t even quite sure what HE meant by it. I’d love to read your book when you finish writing it!

  24. How did the integral system of patriarchy get started? I think that once conquering others occurs to one person and then to another, it is hard to stop the ball from rolling.

    • One thing I’d like to do is investigate cultures like the Mosuo to find out how they deal with anger, rebellion, refusal/inability to work, mental illness, etc. Maybe some clues will surface.

  25. Traditional societies are not good with rebellion or independence from the group ethos, but as they also are not dominator societies, there is less reason for anger or need to rebel against authority.

    Think about this. You do not have to hate your brother because your mother loves you both and you both are understood to be permanent members of the maternal clan. Neither you nor your brother has to separate from your mother in order to “prove yourself” or “grow up.” Mothers always have help from their sisters, cousins, mothers, grandmothers, and aunties with their children, so they don’t become overwhelmed with the responsibility. Everyone works in the fields or other occupations, there are no stay at home mothers facing “the problem with no name.” Hitting children or each other is not considered acceptable behavior. When you grow up you pretty much get all the sex you want. You don’t have to stay with a partner when sexual interest dies. Children and mothers are always looked after by the clan. No one ends up poor or “on the streets.”

    Major decisions for the group are made in a context where all voices are heard and respected, especially those of the grandmothers and great-uncles of the group.

    I don’t know, but it sounds good to me!

    • Where is this society you speak of? I want to live there!! Seriously, what are the steps we need to take to get our society to move in that direction?

  26. I am speaking of the Mosuo of Lake Lugu in the Himilayas. Peggy Sandy says things are much like that in Indonesia. There are other cultures mentioned in Societies of Peace.

  27. Carol, thank you for this post and especially for bringing Marx and Engels into it. I strongly believe that it is only with solid understanding of the laws of historical process that we can first understand and second change the status quo. I find very often that people express views about mythology and spirituality as if they were completely detached from social reality. That is not the case.

    Even the fact that people speak in this way points to a very tangible historical reality: that of the Cold War. Large capital owners did everything in their power to keep their wealth and continue exploiting people in their own countries and abroad. For this, they did everything to oppose and vilify their opponents – the socialist bloc. Marxist theory was announced “evil” and Communists were seen as devils. This is why most people in the MInority World do no know what Marx actually taught, that no one yet proved him wrong, and that degradation of western civilisation bound to capitalism is going exactly the way Marx predicted. He predicted the latest recession, as well, by the way.

    I can only applaud this exploration of patriarchy in conjunction with notions of inheritance and property. As Sherlock Holmes said: “Find out who benefits from the crime”. Society became patriarchal not because men somehow felt left out by Goddess religion and wanted to worship Father and Son (many men in patriarchal religions resume the cult of the Feminine in figures of May, female saints and Fatima in Shiite Islam. No, patriarchal property owners fought their way ruthlessly to the riches of the countries they came to dominate. They wanted property, they wanted power. It is as simple as that.

    War theory of origination of states exists, but it is not as convincing as the marxist theory. War is definitely an important part of patriarchy, but I would stop short of naming it as its defining characteristic. I would maybe say – conflict and aggression. For instance, I consider Buddhism a patriarchal religion, but Buddhist practitioners are least known, throughout history, for warfare.

    • Which came first:
      Religion or collectivism? I think they appear together, and this includes making worship toward a state or nation.

      Which came first:
      Collectivism or patriarchy? I want to say patriarchy..

    • My theory is that the 3 factors are necessary to speak of full-fledged patriarchy: control of female sexuality for male inheritance; war; and the confiscation of property and people in war and then protection of it through war.

    • Marixs society is/was a classic utopian society which was bound to fail because there are always men and women who want more power than someone else. And to pretend that communism isn’t evil please read a bit about their wonderful communal gulags. Besides, Marx rarely worked much in his life and his attitude toward women was poor. War is an important factor of humankind and the communists were masters at it. Ms. Christ’s type of society rarely exists in large numbers because men and women are basically sinful…how’s that for an old concept.

  28. want to ask that how patriarchy effects our mind and behaviour?

    • The effects are massive. I deal with only a few of them in part 3 this piece. Also if you want you can connect the dots in my others pieces on control of female sexuality and war.

  29. From my research, animal husbandry is the father of patriarchy and the missing link that I don’t see enough reference to. As humans began to enslave animals and control their breeding, they became more and more desensitized and war-like. Tribes were also able to spread out into colder territories and survive, via husbandry. Men were more in charge of controlling the animals, thus the idea of God over Goddess rose out of their increasingly torturous male personalities. Cattle was the first form of money. Herding culture, as mentioned in The Chalice and The Blade among other books, were the raiders of peaceful agrarian communities. When they sacked towns, they killed all the men (or sometimes castrated them but found killing to be the most effective against later uprisings), and enslaved the women. Rape was a part of the booty prize. Homer’s _The Iliad_ shows this in full force. Euripides _Trojan Women_ throws it home. As more and more men were slaughtered in conquered agrarian towns, the women enslaved as booty, the status of women fell. In time, there were thousands of slave women to the few men and women in royal courts, these men freely having sex with slaves despite having wives. The “God” icon became stronger and stronger, the “Goddess” weaker and more blasphemous. Women became possessions because the literally were!

    • Nance this is a good point. Some have associated herding with patriarchy. Others say it is the plough. Others large scale agriculture. The question of origins is one I did not deal with here. I was dealing with the structure of full scale patriarchy. If we want to speak of origins we need to ask what made herders turn to warfare. One suggestion is widespread climate change or drought in sub-Saharan Africa.

  30. It is amazing to me that in the fall of 2013 close to 30 people a day are reading this essay. Thanks to all of you.

  31. From my view, animal husbandry legitimates violence, rape and slavery. The legitimacy of violence, rape and slavery legitimates war.

  32. I am in fact thankful to the owner of this web site who has shared this fantastic piece of writing at here.


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