Originally Posted by tmso
I would point out that this is a very modern example, in a culture that was subsumed by predominantly Catholic patriarchal values, and in a part of the world that has been under considerable economic duress for rather a long time. It's a great example of both external forces from nature, and ideological forces in culture, teaming up to create a situation. And this situation is by no means unique in the world, either now or in the past. I'm wondering -- how did we really get to that? Was it always this way?
That poor woman was pregnant pretty much all her adult, child-bearing life. Though she could do much during that time, she was at a physical disadvantage during most of it and when not actually pregnant, she had a multitude of kids to herd around. Yes, some birth control was employed prior to modern methods, but for the most part they were not widely used or they were ineffective.
If we're figuring out where opportunities exist to imagine up a legitimate sort of matriarchal society, I think we need to go earlier, before we ended up with the ideology of the patriarchy, back when it was emerging from natural forces on human populations. If we don't go back fa enough, then we tend to get the 1:1 exchange issue, where a matriarchy is represented pretty as just a patriarchy with women instead of men. Presumably a matriarchy would have a different character if it emerged "naturally."
...and the men's. That enormous pile of resources has to come from somewhere. And if the argument is that women are laid up and unable to procure it for themselves, then we have a couple of important questions at the root.
As KatG said, child-bearing and rearing take enormous resources - whether it is communal or not - that impacts every second of a woman's life.
1) Were women always totally laid up, all day every day, with the kids? If so, then that means they were never much of a part of the food collection process. But we know this isn't true, that in many cultures women were actually a far bigger part of the food collection process than men. So, the child rearing can't really be the whole story. There has to be more to it.
2) If the women need so much in the way of resources, and it truly is a need, then why aren't women the ones with the power in the society? The male roles would end up being wholly subservient to the needs of the women and family. Yes the men are out in the world, getting the food, fighting, trading, etc. But, is that really patriarchy? Is the power, irrespective of the patrilinear line, truly with the males? Is that patriarchy?
To be clear: I don't mean egalitarian by ideology. I mean egalitarian by function -- as in, all members of the society taking part in equally important ways, with neither sex necessarily holding a significantly greater share of power.
Originally Posted by KatG
I'm thinking of ideologies in culture, such as patriarchy, as learned-helpnesses, basically -- normative situations that create a belief that this is the way things should be, phase 1, and then when there's change that disrupts the normative behaviour you get an ideology based on the prior norm, phase 2. Taking it from that direction, what situation would end up creating a female-dominated society where a change would create an ideological matriarchy?
It can't just be the boobs -- that seems too easy. The kids get mobile fairly quickly, and in a communal raising situation, the kids sometimes fed off multiple mothers, so the feeding process was sometimes divided, freeing up the woman. Woman-as-dairy-cow doesn't quite work for me in explaining the rise of patriarchal systems. There's ample space between kids and with a shared workload to keep women active in the decision-making process of a society. Patriarchy suggests the disempowerment of women -- the become disempowered, the limitation would need to be far more strict than just the boob factor, wouldn't it?
Again, I think it has more to do with child-rearing than child mortality (although child mortality correlating with gender roles is an interesting science question to collect data on.) Children were dependent on their mothers for survival for at least the first five years of life (no baby formula.)
Poor food supply means poor milk, means poorer health and higher mortality for babies, means more babies to replace dead babies. Poorer health in mothers means more dead women in child birthing, and making more babies means more dead mothers, meaning more pressure on the living mothers to raise the surviving babies from the dead mothers that are now orphans.
It all starts at the food. And per the above to tmso, if the boobs were really so limiting, almost all the food is coming from the men. So they can make the babies, go get the food and run society for 9 months, come back make another baby, repeat. That sounds like the basic underlying function of patriarchy, doesn't it?
There's also the present day lens going on here. Children, at the age of 8, were basically grown up. After they were off the teat, as it were, the men tended to take over a lot of the rearing practices. It's something you see fairly commonly still in Turkey, and many other places (mostly outside of Europe and North America), and it's been going on here for thousands of years. At around the age of 8, children are divvied up into skill and trade-based roles, some more traditionally for females, some for males. The tendency here is for men and women, in their respective roles, to become the guardians of the children. So the boob definitely has a big effect on the first 5 years, but the collection of brats at home under the skirts until their 20s is fairly modern, and fairly specifically western.
Today, children are delayed from entering the world for far, far longer than they ever used to be. The average age that children stay at home with their parents up to about 31 in Canada -- how sad is that! But that's a function of our currently sideways economy, so again an external pressure changing society, and there will be a value issue to come from it soon.
Yet the teaching profession, particularly of children, going all the way back to early recorded history, is considered a female gender role. The question I have is -- how did the ceiling on female education get defined? Because I don't think it happened on purpose, originally. Education at the higher levels was about specialization, and the norm was the apprenticeship-model in most societies throughout most of history. The abstraction of such specialized learning, the university system, was a relatively minor force in the world up until the rise of industrialization. And even before and during industrialization, it's not as if there were no women at all in universities. But ideological prohibition against higher education for women did come about, especially in the middle of the 19th century. Why? How?
Trade fueled education as it got more complicated, and if you controlled trade, you controlled education (and tech) and who had access to it. As societies industrialized, more and more men had access to education. Women had more access to education too over the years because of industrialization -- but it was controlled and blocked by men.
Exactly. So, what conditions allow that to happen? If the notion I'm proposing of the 2 phase process of normative behaviour becoming ideology works as an argument for patriarchy, so too should it for matriarchy.
But to be a matriarchy, as opposed to a more equalitarian culture, there would have to be a philosophical belief, religious or otherwise, that women are better suited for and have better judgement at major leadership roles in politics, war and trade and so dominate in those areas.
The Amazonian myth is basically a system where instead of men running things while they were out hunting about, the women ran things from home and dictated to the men what to do. They really only needed them for baby making, so they kicked the men out. That's a fairly plausible situation, stemming from the questions I asked related to tmso's post, I think, but likely didn't happen much or last very long when it did.
Other situations where matriarchy could happen would be either when the gestation and immediate growth period of the child is very fast, for SF settings, or in less-SF settings, you'd need high child and mother survivability and low birth rates, I think. The factors could vary from there.