I promised to write a response to Carol P. Christ’s hypothetical premise. Her statement follows.
“In response to my recent series of blogs on patriarchy as a system of male dominance created at the intersection of the control of female sexuality, private property, and war…, I was asked if there is an injustice inherent in matriarchal societies that caused men to rebel and create patriarchy.
“The assumption behind this question is that if women are dominated by men in patriarchal societies, then men must have been dominated by women pre-patriarchal societies. Lurking behind the question is the further assumption that there must have been “a good reason” for the development of patriarchy. The idea that there is “no good reason” for patriarchy to exist–if “good” means fair and just–is just too painful for many of us to want to consider it.
“The missing link is our inability to imagine societies without domination.”
Christ then proceeds to describe a matriarchal society of peace. I found such a world startlingly subjugating, and her blindness to this notion beyond credibility. In case you’re lost in my words: I think she means to subjugate men and boys to women and girls.
Entailed in many utopian fantasies is the notion that “All is well in paradise.” Nobody objects because nobody has reason to object. As any contemplative atheist will tell you, heaven isn’t our idea of “happily ever after.” It sound a lot like hell. And the god advocated by whichever theist is on our doorstep invariably seems to suit that very person extolling its virtues to the exclusion of benefit to any other person.
So is Christ’s matriarchy. The first frightening adjustment begins with her first paragraph.
“As a child, you would not have to fight with your sisters or brothers for your father’s or your mother’s attention. Both girls and boys would be equally loved and cherished by their mothers and grandmothers and by their uncles and great-uncles. Both girls and boys would know that they would always have a place in the maternal clan. As a boy or a girl you would never have to “separate from” or “reject” your mother in order to “prove yourself as an individual” or in order to “grow up.” You could grow up without severing the bond with the ones who first loved you and first cared for you.“
Imagine, Christ says, a world where nobody need worry about the identity of one’s father. The maternal line is all that matters.
Imagine crying for the welfare of your sons in such a world where no girls have been born to a maternal clan for generations. Imagine knowing your sons have many unacknowledged daughters among other clans, but none of these can claim inheritance. Imagine your boys beggars at the doors of these matriarchal clans who have no need of men – except as sex objects and manual laborers. Imagine the desperation these men feel when they have no hope.
“You would be raised in a large family with sisters and brothers and cousins, all of whom you would consider your siblings. You would never feel lonely. You would not be taught to compete with your siblings. You would never be hit by or hit others, because violent behaviors would not be considered appropriate in families.“
Imagine the natural association of men with violence being taught to you – a man – not long after you first defended yourself from an elder sister of female cousin, or the aunt who was more sex-positive than her other sisters. Imagine being taunted until you broke into violent action, then punished for reacting violently. Imagine being told you’re brutish and clumsy, smelly and dirty, being told you’re “just a boy” and not good at speaking – or worse – you’re good a speaking, for a boy. Imagine being told you’ll never know your sons like you’re sisters know their daughters.
“When you got old enough to have sex, you could have all the sex you wanted. You would learn that the purpose of sex is pleasure and enjoyment. When you or your partner no longer wanted to have sex with each other, you could separate and find other partners.“
Imagine being told you’re old enough to copulate, then being sent to a neighboring clan to stud several women at once. Imagine being told you’re not fit to stud, not even with the women who care about you. Imagine being punished for having sex with the wrong woman.
“There would be no need for families to worry about their children’s interest in sex. As all children have mothers and as all mothers have homes in their maternal clans, there would be no “illegitimate children,” no “bastards,” no “loose women,” no “sluts,” and no “whores.” As sex would be free, there would not be any need for prostitution.“
Imagine carte-blanche for female promiscuity. Imagine girls choosing boys – even men – with male refusal forbidden. Imagine mandatory birth control for men, with no consideration of men’s health. Imagine castration of “unnecessary” male sex organs. Imagine a world where there is no need for prostitution because women have all the power, and every man “wants it.”
“Children born of sexual relationships would find their home in their maternal family. Mothers would be helped in the raising of children by their sisters and brothers, by their mothers and grandmothers, and by their aunts and uncles. A young woman pregnant or with a child would never be cast out, nor would she ever be expected to “make it on her own.””
Imagine your brother toiling in a field or a factory or a construction site – perhaps in some far-off land – to feed the children you birthed into the world. Imagine the uncle that left when you were a child, who walked into the mountains and never returned. Imagine your great-uncle, wise beyond years, and tired, with no children he can call his own, driven from his only home by your grandmother for conspiring with you to bed a boy your mother forbid you to meet.
“With so much help, women would be able to work “outside the home” in the communal fields along with their kin. Mothers would not be “cooped up” or “closed in” with children. “The problem with no name” described by Betty Friedan would not exist. Mothers who were not dominated, lonely, or depressed, would not feel any need to “take their unhappiness out” on their children.
Imagine being abandoned to the care of your sister so your mother might work. Imagine your desperation when your eldest brother abaondoned your family and wouldn’t help your mother in the field. Imagine your mother coming home drunk from a night with her favorite stud, screaming at your sister to clean up the house after slipping on one of your toys. Imagine no father to stand between your sister and your mother – just some stud snickering in the doorway to your mother’s bedroom. Imagine she doesn’t close the door when they go to bed – but not to sleep.
“A young man would not be responsible for “providing for” his children, as this would be the responsibility of the mother clans. A young man would contribute to his clan and would help his sisters and female cousins to care for their children. These children would look up to him as their male “role model.” Men might work with their mothers and sisters in the fields or undertake building projects or take charge of trading with other clans near and far.“
Imagine being told to go out and work “for the good off your clan.” Imagine being told you’re a “role model” – for your sister’s boys. Imagine being told to ignore the plight of your children, who you knew needed help, because those children were “not your problem” to provision. Imagine being sent away to some far off clan to “negotiate a trade” only to find yourself working off some debt incurred by your grandmother decades previously.
“Whether you were a girl or a boy, a man or a woman, you would always know that you were loved. You would be taught to be loving and generous and to care for others. You would not be taught to compete with others, to gloat, or to hoard. If you had a skill, you would be encouraged to develop it, but you would not be encouraged to think you were better than others because you had something they did not.“
Yes, imagine what she says, above. Imagine knowing you’ll be “loved” no matter what you do. Imagine the obligation to care for others. Imagine that nothing is yours. Imagine being denied success, recognition, or award. Imagine knowing that no matter how much you master, no matter how foolish and foul your cohort, you may never recognize their folly or their incompetence: you’re no better than any of them.
“As a girl or a boy, a young woman or a young man, you would be taught to respect your elders, especially the oldest grandmothers and great-uncles. However, even they would not “lord it over” you, because your clan would have well-developed democratic systems of consensus which would allow everyone’s voice to be heard before any major decisions were made.“
Imagine knowing that nothing will ever change because even one female objection might scuttle a modest proposal – unless the matriarch decided otherwise. Imagine being told the matter of your exile had been decided by consensus, and that all opinions were heard.
Imagine you grew up in this matriarchal world and realized you had the power to change that world. Imagine that your brothers, facing these conditions, found among them a leader with the will to take risks. Imagine your impoverishment, your hopelessness, and your anger. Imagine in that moment a woman asking for your assistance to till her field, and implying your reward was sharing her bed for a night. Imagine you want more.
Imagine what world men might make who loved their sisters, mothers, and grandmothers. Imagine what world such men would make just to know their daughters and sons.
Imagine no more.
You’re living it. You were saved from matriarchy.