Tag Archives: Bethany

Woman’s World

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It wasn’t always a man’s world. For centuries we’ve been accustomed to living in cultures in which men dominate society amaking-of-amazon-warriornd women are relegated to supportive roles, often subservient to men. We’re paid less, promoted less, and our contributions are valued less. This has come to seem so normal that the feminist movement hasn’t gained widespread support even among women, who often vote public policy against their own best interests. We make up more than half of the population, so politically women have the capacity to change their role in society, and yet too many of us are complacent about the position in which we find ourselves. Our function as life-bringers and nurturers may seem to have contributed to this situation, but there have been societies in the past which were entirely matrifocal if not matriarchal. On this site you will notice a recurring theme: a view of the world from a female perspective, pages of art depicting warrior women, and a general emphasis on the nobility of the femme heart, as well as a focus on the historic folly of men and the state of the world to which their dominance has delivered us. But there were other eras when women ruled. Before the Celts and Picts there were the Amazons of Hellenic Greece. Around the ancient world were other societies where women were dominant.

From primitive times men were the hunters, women the gatherers. Women attended to the nature of the growing things they gathered and learned the characteristics of different plantlife. They found how to cultivate native flora for food and worked and managed the land upon which their crops sustained the community. More than likely, women invented agriculture while men were hunting meat. During the Neolithic age, in northern Europe and probably elsewhere, there may well have been matrifocal societies, in which women were the owners of the land, the heads of households, and the leaders of their communities. There is certainly well-documented evidence from Roman times of female warriors among the Celtic tribes, and the tradition of inheritance through the female line was practiced by both the Celts and the Picts and persisted well into the historical period. In the early Americas, some native tribes were organized along similar lines. While the braves hunted and fought, women discovered plants that had medicinal qualities and women became the healers. In most pagan societies around the ancient world the lore and wisdom of the cycles of the moon, the seasons of the growing calendar, and the secrets of healing became the province of women. The wisest among them were known as witches who passed their secrets down to their daughters.

From my own Native American heritage I was taught by my grandmother that before the Europeans came to America and Christianized the tribes, the Cherokees from which I am descended were a matriarchal tribe. Female elders were the heads of the clans and the tribal communities. Clan affiliation was passed down through the female line, not the male. Women owned the land and passed it down to their daughters. Even in marriage, women were sexually free to couple with any other male she desired as long as he was not of her own clan. Sons were taught not by their fathers, but by their mother’s brother, or by their grandmother’s brother if no uncle was present. No child was ever a bastard because they all belonged to the woman. If a Cherokee woman chose to divorce her husband it was as simple as putting all his possessions out of her home onto the doorstep. Women had control of nearly everything among the Cherokee, until the arrival of the white man.

Where Christianity spread so also did the power of the male-dominated Catholic church. The hierarchy of the church allowed for no leadership roles for women. In the Fourth and Fifth centuries after Christ, the newly ascendent Christians destroyed all the archives and libraries of the dying Roman Empire and the knowlege accumulated through centuries of civilization was lost resulting in a thousand-year Dark Age, rigidly dominated by Catholicism. The simultaneous rise of Islam in the Middle East also perpetuated male authority by the very word of the Prophet. During the Medieval period paganism was suppressed everywhere and its holidays and celebrations usurped and re-Christened to serve the needs of the church. As the two major patriarchal religions spread across the globe women were subjugated as little more than the chattel of their husbands, bound by church-sanctioned marriage vows to honor and obey their husbands. Women were scapegoated by both faiths as the tempters of men and witches were condemned and burned in the name of the holy church. Even after the Middle Ages ended, the period of the Enlightenment did little to advance the stature of women in society. With few exceptions the achievements in science, literature, and the arts from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century were made by men since women were rarely educated by their families or society. Gains have been made only in the past two centuries and still women are outnumbered by men in every position of power.

So history has delivered us to this point, where women in many cases are better educated or more capable than men yet still have limited access to positions of authority, watching men make the rules. If the arrow of progress which we have enjoyed for the past two centuries was still on target to gaining for women an equal status with men, we might only need wait a couple generations for justice. But we still have men actively working against us. In America the Republican Party has been waging a political war against women and getting away with it. And still far too many women are oblivious to the forces working against them or at least don’t take the threat seriously yet. The idea is not to gain dominance. Though there are many examples of female-dominated societies in the past, there is no evidence that they were morally superior in any way to male-dominated cultures. The idea is justice. Only when women are on an equal footing with men will ours be a just society. Until then, we have a lot of work to do!

(c) February 10th, 2013 Bethany Ariel Frasier

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