Unfortunately the term Matriarchal Society is often used to describe a society dominated by women. This, however, is a misnomer. A Matriarchy is a nonhierarchical society in which decisions are made by consensus. The term originates from the Greek “meter” for mother and “archê” for beginning or origin.
Some other traits of “Matriarchal Societies” include:
• Non Violence
• Sexual Freedom
• Veneration of Ancestors
• Close integration/interaction with nature
• Primary unit is tribal
Patriarchal societies are social systems originally based on the family unit in which authority was inherited through the masculine lineage. For this system to maintain its integrity, female monogamy was a prerequisite and was therefore reinforced by moral and social taboos. Modern technology has made it possible to determine parentage despite promiscuity; however, many of the moral and social taboos remain. Although patriarchies were originally dominated by men, the woman’s suffrage and human right’s movements have helped to diversify gender roles and diffuse power among the sexes. The nature of true equality within a patriarchal system is on going, however.
Another on going debate is the nature of patriarchal and matriarchal thought. Many define patriarchal thought as “Active Doing” while matriarchal is defined as “Being”. In his book Alphabet Versus the Goddess, author Leonard Shlain proposes that the essential characteristics of this matriarchal outlook are holistic, simultaneous, synthetic and concrete while the patriarchal outlook is linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract. His fascinating thesis is based on right brain/left brain dominance and the influence of literacy on the human mind and the development of social structures. His theory diffuses the idea that pre-historic matriarchal cultures where exterminated by more aggressive patriarchal societies but rather evolved into patriarchal societies as communication shifted from image based to word based.
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