When the Women Were In Charge

shutterstock_750239614So, in our last article we looked at how the dynamic changed for women as they moved from hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian.  Staying in one place, growing their own food and building a home also allowed them to have more children.

But it wasn’t long before those that didn’t have a village and fields to plow were raiding the stores of those who did.  Things got violent and someone had to protect and maybe go to war with that neighboring village or tribe.

So naturally the women typically stayed home and the men protected the turf.  You can see how one thing led to another.  The women felt safe and protected, the men got to do what testosterone sometimes leads them to do and everyone was happy.

So the men, who are stronger and the protectors were therefore always in charge, right?


I distinctly remember reading Joseph Campbell when he described the time in history that denoted when cultures shifted from matriarchy to patriarchy.  For those that don’t know Joseph Campbell’s work, he was a brilliant cultural anthropologist who studied how myth’s were consistent across the world even when cultures had no way of interacting. A great example is the very popular myth of the virgin giving birth to the god.

Anyway, I don’t recall which book of his it was in but I do recall the story clearly.  He is discussing a culture in Egpyt and the depictions on the pottery. During the matriarchal culture the images are mostly of fertility and agriculture.  Slowly images of war and fighting were introduced.  He says that when the women were in charge the images of a god and goddess together depicted the two of them standing face to face.  When the war images and patriarchy took over the goddess was prone under the god.  He literally overpowers her.

That really stuck with me for many years.  And Campbell goes on to give examples of the same type of imagery showing a matriarchal culture that evolves into patriarchy and a war focus in places throughout the world and across hundreds of years.

It says a lot about the way women lead.

And it also says a lot about the use of fear to keep the patriarchy in power.

Next week let’s talk about matriarchy a little closer to home.  For a preview check out this week’s Shattering the Glass newsletter.

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