Matriarchy – Concept, history, examples and what is patriarchy

We explain what matriarchy is and what its history is. Also, differences with the patriarchy and examples.

Matriarchy is a type of society led by women.

What is matriarchy?

The matriarchy it is a type of society or socio-political model in which women play the central role, as political leaders, moral authorities, property controllers and decision makers. This term comes from the union of the words mater (Latin for “mother”) and archein (Greek for “to rule”), and should not be confused with gynecocracy, gynocracy, or gynocracy.

There is much debate around the exact meaning of the term matriarchy. Some suppose that it is the reverse of the model that governs our societies since the beginning of history, which is the patriarchal one, characterized by the dominance of men over women.

Others, such as the anthropologist Ana Boyé, defend matriarchy as “societies where women have a non-coercive authority recognized by consensus.”

There are few cases of recorded human societies in which power has been openly held by women. Even in the cases of queens, governors or elderly women in charge of a society, the latter is usually governed in patriarchal terms, yielding power to women in the absence or on behalf of men.

What is known in our societies is the matrilineage, a different concept, which designates the transmission of goods and social prestige through the maternal route and not the paternal one. This is known as “the right of the womb”, since the children born to a woman are 100% hers, while their paternity can always be disputed.

History of the matriarchy

There is a belief in many societies that there was once a matriarchal order, prior to that recorded in history, which was eventually overthrown by men to impose the prevailing patriarchy. However, there is no clear evidence of this.

Secondly, there are myths of matriarchal societies like the Selknam of Tierra del Fuego, which leads us to suppose that perhaps at some point in human history it was women who structured society. In any case, the history of civilization is mostly patriarchal.

However, during the nineteenth century many theorists, influenced by the recent contributions of Charles Darwin on the evolution and origin of species, formulated a similar reading of human culture. A) Yes a theory was born that maintained that the initial society had constituted an initial matriarchal order, emerged from the sexual promiscuity of animals.

In that original hypothetical, women exercised the power to decide to whom they gave offspring, but at some point they were overthrown by the patriarchal order that prevails to this day. Philosophers and anthropologists such as the American Lewis Henry Morgan or the German Friedrich Engels were particularly supportive of these theories.

This can, of course, be interpreted in many ways, but not necessarily as that sexism in society is a characteristic of human nature, much less to predict the prevalence of patriarchy in the future of the species.

Examples of matriarchy

Minangkabau matriarchy
Minangkabau women hold the right of succession and control of the land.

It is usually cited as an example and singular case of matriarchy to the Minangkabau culture of Indonesia, an ethnic group that inhabits the highlands of West Sumatra. In this society women hold the right of succession and inherit property from mother to daughter, that is, according to the matrilineal model.

The role of men, however, is far from submission, and they often emigrate in search of experience, wealth or commercial success, which is why women control the domain of the land, for example, as well as the activity agricultural. So the claim that they are really a matriarchy is somewhat moot.

Matriarchy and patriarchy

The matriarchy and the patriarchy they are antagonistic models. Each one focuses the exercise of power on women or men respectively, that is, organize human society in sexist terms.

The existence of a patriarchal order throughout most of human history has been amply demonstrated in various aspects of culture and society. However, over time the role of women has improved their position and their rights against men, largely thanks to the struggle of the various waves of feminism.

The current place of women in patriarchal society, like many other issues, is currently the subject of discussion and debate, especially in the democratic republics of the West.