Please post your comments and suggestions for this article.

Comment by Steven Guardala on July 19th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Boudicca’s husband died a natuarl death, he was not killed by the Romans. He left half his Kingdom to the Romans which led to the abuses Boudicca suffered.

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on July 19th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Thank you for your feedback pointing out that error. I have revised the article accordingly.

Comment by Heather on October 4th, 2010 at 12:12 am

Although unintentional, there is bias in your entry on matriarchy. At the end of the first paragraph, you say that “Successful societies…are those in which men take responsibility as husbands and fathers in the home.” This places the success of societies on men’s contributions, since women are not mentioned at all in this sentence. This is a patriarchal thought pattern. The sentence should read, “Successful societies…are those in which women and men take equal responsibility as partners and parents in the home.” Thanks for your attention to this matter, and in so doing, creating a more just world for all.

Comment by Heather on October 4th, 2010 at 12:28 am

As a follow-up to my previous comment on the patriarchal slant of the entry on “matriarchy”, the Conclusion section was also quite unsettling. “The paucity of female-dominated societies” does not reflect their “lack of viability” any more than the preponderance of male-dominated societies reflects their viability, i.e. capability to work successfully. Patriarchies do not create successful societies in which all members enjoy equal benefits and quality of life; they do not work to maximize the potential of all members, and thus society as a whole suffers. If little evidence has been found on the existence of matriarchies, might it be because the acquisition of power tends not to be a major motivating factor in women’s life decisions or because we have yet to reach this level of cultural evolution on a larger scale? These conclusions are just as valid but have been left out of your analysis. Thank you for rectifying this biased conclusion on matriarchy.

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on October 11th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Thank you, Heather, for your comments and your concern that NWE articles be objective, thoughtful, and well presented. This article will be revised taking your comments into consideration.

Comment by meg on April 30th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I completely agree with Heather’s comments. I was quite bothered by the way you just assumed that success simply was captured in successful replication, and status quo continuation. Patriarchies d not maximize the quality of life of the women and children, they maximize the quality of life and dominance of the men.

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on May 8th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Thank you for your comment, reminding us to revise the article. The changes have now been made.

Comment by Julia on July 17th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I am rather upset that you have used single mothers as an example of matrifocal and matrilineal society. Being a single mother in the United States is not comparable to being a single mother within a matrilineal society. Single motherhood within the United States is still based upon a patriarchal and patrilineal model of kinship and social stratification, and single motherhood, including due to widowhood, has always, in the United States, caused women to plunge into debt because they have no power to begin with. Let’s remember that in many matrilineal societies it is the sister’s brother/ brothers who are responsible for the finances of her children. Matrilineal societies often are based up extended kinship. For example, there may be four generations of women and their male kin living in one house. Also, the women themselves may own the house, and thus when they get divorced they still have the resources to raise the children–along with the extended family to back them up. The nuclear family setting, upon which our society is based, is isolating for any society, compounded the plight of women in this society. In some matrilineal societies, such as the Minangkabau, they are are matrilineal because they believe that the social set-up of patriarchy would leave a widow/ divorced woman destitute. And as we can see in this country it does. I am not advocated we suddenly become matrilineal, that would be unrealistic. Furthermore, matrilineal societies do value fatherhood. But they have built-in safeguards for single motherhood that we don’t. There have been single mothers from the beginning of time. Ours don’t always fail, but when they do it is because they are struggling within the confines of a patriarchal society. I know plenty of successful single mothers, and they are successful because they have resources and other means of male role models. Although women in the United States have a lot of freedom, they do not have the status of a woman in matrilineal societies. Furthermore, there are not as many matrilineal societies in the world–although there are more than you think–because they are less likely to become empires and overpopulate, not because patrilineal societies are the best. In them women often are for the worst. Matrilineal societies also tend to be less warlike, even if they have strong warriors. Thus they are more likely to be eradicated by more warlike, empire-building patriarchal societies such as old European societies, China, Japan and Middle Eastern societies rather than vice-versa. Now, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Furthermore, our society tends to believe that the bigger a society is, the more important it is (i.e. Henry Kissinger’s comment that it was okay to undertake nuclear testing in parts of micronesia because “there are only 9,000 people.”) and matrilineal societies tend to be much smaller. Before you make a judgement about a society, think hard about its social contents and constructs and their place, historically and presently, within a global setting. There are plenty of good lessons we can take from matrilineal societies.

Comment by Julia on July 17th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I would like to comment further in that men are not marginalised in matrilineal socieities. In fact there is no such thing as a matriarchal society in the way that a patriarchy dominates women. In anthropology this is made quite clear. When we use the word matriarchal we are simply referring to kinship, not dominance. And men have power in these societies. They are chiefs, religious leaders, priets, warriors and in the case of the Khasi, Asante and Dahomey, they are kings. And men are not being marginalised in this country–women are, despite the advances women have made. Futhermore none of these societies came about because of war and trauma. They naturally came to their social structure. They are the societies in which women and men have equal worth and rights. Let us also remember that many of these societies are fine; many of them are being destroyed by outside factors. For example, in the Khasi kingdoms of Northern India and in the Minangkabau rape is a factor being introduced by outside patriarchal factors. I am not dissing our society or glamorizing theirs. I am simply taking out the bias in which you approached the subject and adding some anthropological facts. Thank-you.

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on November 25th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Thank you, Julia, for your thoughtful comments on this topic. Indeed, matriarchal societies would not be simply patriarchal societies in which women took the place of men, which would more correctly be called a gynocracy. Some further clarification of this point has been added to the article.

With regard to your comments about single mothers as examples of a matrifocal and matrilineal society, I would like to point out that there is a difference between matrifocal and matrilineal. As the article states, a matrifocal society is one in which women hold a pre-eminent place in kinship structures whereas a matrilineal one is a social system that passes inheritance down through the female lineage (such as Orthodox Judaism which defines a Jew as the offspring of a Jewish mother or the Iroquois who trace descent through the mother). Indeed, men are not marginalized in matrilineal societies (such as in Judaism). In matrifocal societies, however, men may be absent in more than the kinship structure. This article notes that the increase of single parent families centered on the mother, and other factors,constitutes an increasingly matrifocal society in the United States. It does not suggest that the United States is becoming matrilineal.

Thank you again for your stimulating comments. In conclusion, please note that the article does not promote matriarchy, matrilineality, or matrifocality as the solution the problems with patriarchal societies (and it does recognize that they are problematic).

Jennifer P. Tanabe, Social Sciences Editor

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