I hear a lot of complaints about patriarchy. Since I willingly belong to an arguably patriarchal organization of some repute, I respond with a few years' thinking.
Patriarchy is leadership by fathers. Matriarchy is leadership by mothers. We must make some important distinctions. Matriarchy isn't feminism, egalitarianism, equality, equity or misandry, or even sisterhood.
Patriarchy isn't masculism, complementarianism, elitism, inequality, inequity, iniquity, misogyny or even brotherhood.
I knew you were going to say I was making it too complicated, but the reason one must at times make things complicated is to find all the knots at once so as to undo them and straighten the whole thread together, to make things plainer.
Feminism is the belief that women are good and smart and should have rights under law. Masculism is the belief that men are good and smart and should have rights under law. The two are not contradictory, only complementary, and in reasonable quantities both make a lot of sense. In unreasonable quantities both can be absolute insanity and can lead to cruelty and loss for the most helpless people.
Egalitarianism is the rule of leveling everyone, giving boys and girls the same opportunities, letting the children of the poor study with the children of the rich, taxing the wealthy to support the needy, and trying to make people's lives pretty much as equal as possible. Complementarianism is the belief that equity can be achieved by treating different things differently, as author Tom Robbins put it. A complementarian would give boys and girls different classrooms designed for their different traits to blossom, feeling that a mixed-sex schoolroom would favor one or the other depending on its design. Complementarians see males and females as having necessarily different lives because they are different, but would want to find ways to give them equal fulfillment and respect, through different, complementary, jobs and rewards. Elitism is the belief that some people are inherently more capable of good and smart actions and should be given the best of everything accordingly, to ensure that decisions are in the hands of the smartest, most virtuous persons at all times, and to prevent a seizure of power by others. These three value systems are in conflict with one another necessarily. Our American foundation of egalitarianism decides this conflict for us in most areas. However, elitism turns up here and there even now.
Equality means having equal value, but it is used as a substitute-word for equity. Equity is equal treatment and reward for work etc. The demand for equality is actually a demand for equity. Inequality is the lack of equality and inequity is the lack of equity. Iniquity is unconnected. It is a word for wrongdoing. Iniquity can be equitable or inequitable. It depends on the iniquity.
Misogyny is the opposite of philogyny. Misogyny is hatred of females. Philogyny is love of females. Misandry is hatred of males. Philandry is love of males. Philanthropy is love of people. Misanthropy is hatred of people. Arthropods are crawling little cold-blooded critters. They have nothing to do with this. Anthropology is the study of how people live everywhere else, and the habit of going to live among different people and ask them about their private business all the time and then leave. It's got nothing to do with apologetics, which in turn have nothing to do with being apologetic. We're talking about anthropology, matriarchy and patriarchy today. At least I am. Join me awhile.
A myth among the modern Western feminist activist or student is that the earliest societies were thousands-of-years-old idealistic, peaceable, prosperous, nature-nurturing identical matriarchies, crushed by advancing male armies imposing cruel, militarily-established patriarchies that stand to this day keeping women from being happy or free anywhere, but that women slowly become conscious and open their eyes and overthrow the patriarchalist oppressors and rebuild those perfect matriarchal communities and live happily ever after. Usually all a girl needs to get her started believing this silliness is a grainy shot of a goddess figurine from Sumer, and she's scowling at everything and wearing iron-on patches of red crossed fists all the rest of the way through college. Unless she takes anthropology.
Yes, primitive matriarchy exists. No, it isn't and never has been prevalent on any continent at any time at all. And, no, it has nothing to do with egalitarianism or equity or peaceful cooperation or nature-loving religions.
Some societies begin their lives in nooks of dense, close woodlands where the main nutritious foods available are nuts, berries, wild carrot-like roots, edible flowers, fungi, creek and riverbank fish and shellfish, eggs, snared critters such as rabbits and songbirds, and grubs of all kinds. What these foods have in common is that, A, they require good senses to tell the edible from the inedible or the snared from the loose, B, they require good place-memory and incident-memory to remind the gatherers not to return to a bush that poisoned someone e.g., C, they require a light footfall or light weight on a branch to get to them, and D, they require nimble hand-eye coordination to collect safely or to make snares by hand. Women have more of all those qualities.
As well as a stable woman-friendly economy, some also have good shelter from hostile tribes and don't get attacked often.
With no need for soldiers and plenty of need for gatherers, men in those societies need women, to survive, every day. Women don't need men more than a few times in their lives, to get pregnant. Therefore a man is willing to do whatever he has to to get a wife. Men braid flowers into their hair, promise obedience, dance and sing for attention, cry if women aren't interested in them, and wander off alone in hopelessness if no women will take care of them. Women relax in the sun and drink while contemplating the decisions of the tribe's future.
One day they are attacked. The trees crash and birds' nests fall. Berries and little food plants are trampled. The new growth in the next year doesn't feed the survivors enough. The birds stay away a few years. The enemy drags women away as slaves, men as conscripted soldiers, also slaves, and kills the children. The few who remain to rebuild the tribe's life know they need three new things: warriors, who are mostly going to have to be men, hunters, also mostly men, and bodyguards for the kids, same deal. Every home now needs a man. A woman will have to get pregnant at least twice as often to replace the dead and abducted, and she will have to watch the children carefully for their safety until they can fight. It's a little bit equitable for a few centuries. The attack didn't impose patriarchy, exactly. The matriarchy didn't last eons either. The attackers might have been anyone, from any of the majority of ancient primitive cultures, which were complementarian or patriarchal from the start due to different economies in their homes. Anyway, the matriarchy wasn't utopia. It was in many ways cruel, authoritarian and even often somewhat elitist. In any case, it started dying out when the need to be able to withstand competition occurred to them.
The need for hunters meant the power rested with the best hunter. The need for soldiers meant the supervisor and trainer of the best soldiers had power, too, and was logically the same man. That man, the war chief, was in a place to write his own ticket. He demanded several wives. Why wouldn't he? That made the leftover men dispensable. He disposed of them by sending them out to war. Women agreed to marry the war chief because to do so meant long lives for themselves and their children. Agriculture and pastoral living developed gradually from seed-saving of the best and rarest foods, herd-following and a semi-nomadic way of returning to land after being gone long enough to let everything regrow. With early agriculture and herd-keeping, wealth piled up for some families. A woman did her best to bear children for the best defender and builder of wealth she could find. To do so would give her and her sons and daughters a long, dignified, comfortable existence, while the women who married the cute boys who had nothing often died young and alone, their babies already dead before them. It made more sense to women to leave their families and join a wealthier family when they were ready to be mothers, and that was a year to seven years after menarche. Longer waits for motherhood were too risky. Earlier marriages could shorten the mother's life and thereby reduce her offspring. A woman was normally around 17 at the time she discovered she was first pregnant. That became the definition of womanhood: married motherhood. But a man had to prove himself qualified to marry before he could even be considered as a groom. Achievement became the definition of manhood, at around 19.
Women took their husbands' estate names to lay claim to their husbands' estates in case they were widowed. Parents sometimes resented rearing girls only to lose them to another family when they married. They demanded money in payment for their daughters. The concept of women as men's property came from parents' wanting to be compensated for giving their children up in marriage. It started seeming right to some parents that boys would get more of everything and girls would do more of everything; the boys would stay and fight for their parents all their lives, while the girls ran off with men who could never repay the parents enough to make it profitable to bring them up. Parents now and then even abandoned girls at birth. Women began to be sad at having girls, felt sorry for them and killed them in pity. Some women decried these cruelties to girls. They asked why it should be. But it came out of economic factors in combination with selfishness and materialism on the adults' parts. Greed and intolerance of needy persons cause atrocities.
Sometimes, matriarchy returned. Enemies wiped out almost all the fighting-age men and boys. Some women went to the enemy as slaves to survive. Others, especially those of warrior upbringing, stayed and fought using their brothers' weapons. These women war chiefs enabled their peoples to live through devastating losses and rebound. They earned respect for themselves, their people, their families, and women in general. When generations of surviving boys grew up in these rebound-defensive matriarchies, they were fine with being ruled by women. But soon enough most war chiefs were again males, and the legacy of the women heroes had to be instilled in each child or be lost.
In the industrial stages, upper-class people developed the assumption that they ought to be able to create the perfect life and solve all problems. Utopianism took root. Little utopian communes formed around the larger society. In a short while all dissolved, not because some were matriarchal, but because they were utopian communes. Something about needing people too much and knowing too little about people meant it all fell apart quickly. Sometimes a charismatic visionary figure could unite the commune and keep it going. The result was often a long way from the original vision. And then the visionary died of old age and there was nothing to keep the normal unfolding of utopianism from collapsing the whole community.
And sometimes at the very end of a society's existence, when its members become too emotionally shattered and mentally scattered to think about reality, and begin making idols of old ways and faroff countries and indulging themselves more and enjoying it less if at all, there is a kind of hidden decadent matriarchy. In decadent matriarchies women vie with men for the excess of the abundant world they live in, insisting on the chivalric benefits of the formerly-kept-down along with the full opportunuities of equity, and refuse to take responsibility for ordinary and obvious facts of cause-and-effect. Most wealth is in female hands. Men compete for female approval and women don't care what males say about them in the least. Women in official positions of power use their authority how they choose, the public being appalled if their husbands dare to suggest a modification, but men in power still take their wives' ideas into consideration when they decide anything. That kind of matriarchy is probably a consequence of the older generations' excesses of patriarchy. There is still misogyny in this system, but it is covert or communicated with an attitude of rebellion rather than of masculine authority.
Pagan Rome seems to have gone out somewhat like that. It's even more unsustainable than other forms of matriarchy.
I believe the USA hasn't been a real patriarchy since 1923, when decisions began to affect America that were made by men elected to national office by women. We have been a combination of uncomfortably cobbled-together patriarchy, decadent matriarchy, chivalric post-matriarchy, egalitarianism and complementarianism, made more bewildering by the number of pseudofeminists who are in fact elitists trying to frame their agendas as philogynistic in purely strategic ways, who don't actually care about women at all.