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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: December ::
Re: Patriarchies and Matriarchies
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 976.Wednesday, 29 December 1993.
 
From:           Melissa Aaron <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Dec 1993 09:02:20 +0200
Subject: 4.0974 Re: Shakespearean Daughters and Patriarchy
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0974 Re: Shakespearean Daughters and Patriarchy
 
I took this to the anthropological department at our house, and this is what I
came up with--hope it's useful. . .
 
1)  What is *culture*, anyhow?  If culture is defined in strictly male terms,
then in patriarchal hindsight we simply won't see any matriarchies.
 
2)  There certainly have been powerful female rulers who redefined the whole
concept of gender (cf. *King* Hatshepsut of Egypt.)
 
3)  There are plenty of matrilineal and matrilocal societies in North America,
and possibly in Europe as well.  The evidence for this may not be "historical"
in a conventional way, but it is archeologically documentable--cemetary layout
and the spread of pottery designs throughout a village. For example, pottery is
a female craft among the Anazasi and designs remain stable in village areas
prior to European influence, indicating that women stayed in their mother's
families.  In the post-Euro era, the pottery designs are homogenized,
suggesting that women were now living with their husband's families.
 
4) There may be some remnants of strong matriarchal influence buried
archeologically in English literature--for example, the crucial figure of
Grendel's mother in *Beowulf*, or Gawain's identity as Arthur's sister's son,
normally the heir to the throne under Celtic matrilineal rules.  Later tales
had to make Arthur childless in order to explain this.
 
I agree with William Godshalk--happy matriarchies in which there is love and
peace and abundance and no war fall into the category of Utopias, not
historically documentable societies.  However, there is plenty of evidence for
powerful female influence.  Why do we assume this would be peaceful?  See again
Grendel's mother.
 
Sorry for the long posting but hope it has been of use.  Happy holidays.
 
M. Aaron
 

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