Gynocentrism & Matriarchal Societies: Past and Present
Much of the modern world is, without a doubt, governed by men. While gender equality has improved in many parts of the world, there is still much progress to be made in this realm.
Considering that patriarchy is so normalized today, it may be a bit tough to wrap our heads around the idea that perhaps, at one point in time, women ruled the Earth. It might even seem like a far-fetched concept that’s perpetuated by feminists or idealists.
Whether or not a matriarchy (also known as “gynocentrism”, which literally translates to “female centered”) is a fantasy or reality is still up for debate. However, there is much to explore about this fascinating subject.
The Gynocratic Age
In 1972, Gloria Steinem, a popular feminist author, publicized the concept of the matriarchy, which gained notoriety in the years that followed. While the validity of this theory is still questioned today, it has sparked discussion about the possibility and viability of gynocratic societies.
During a time period known as the Gynocratic Age, women were allegedly worshipped and praised for their ability to give birth. Childbirth was a great mystery at the time, and men, not realizing that they actually played a role in it, held the belief that women “bore fruit like trees, when they were ripe.”
The Gynocratic Age allegedly lasted from around 2 million years ago to 3000 BCE. At that point, it is said that a great transformation occurred, perhaps due to a cataclysm or a groundbreaking discovery, and sparked patriarchy.
The Fall of Matriarchal Societies
As mentioned above, women were praised and worshipped for their ability to give birth. However, it is said that once men discovered their role in women’s ability to conceive children, they began to covet their power. This was the catalyst for the Gynocratic Age’s demise.
Archaeologists and other researchers have uncovered much evidence that supports the theory that gynocratic societies once existed:
An 8,000-year-old sculpture discovered in the fall of 2016 depicts some sort of goddess. Some speculate the figurine depicts a fertility goddess, while others believe her plump figure represents a woman of social prominence. Literature such as the Bible (the Virgin Mary) and Homer’s The Odyssey highlight the importance of women in society. The Book of Enoch, a Biblical text that is omitted from the standard Christian Bible, also features more stories of women than other Biblical texts. Scholar Lotte Motz observed that women appear just as frequently as men in ancient artwork.
Skeptics point out that just because women are depicted as goddesses in artwork and literature doesn’t necessarily mean they were equal or more powerful than men. With no written historical records, we can’t be 100-percent sure as to the authenticity of a truly gynocratic society.
Other Gynocentrism Theories
Although Steinem is credited with bringing the theory of the matriarchy to prominence, she was not the first person to position such an argument.
Gynocentrism has been discussed throughout the ages. Female writers Lucrezia Marinella and Modesta Pozzo are credited with exploring gynocentric concepts in their work, namely “sexual feudalism,” which can be traced back to the Middle Ages.
Johann Jakob Bachofen, a Swiss anthropologist, also explored matriarchal societies throughout his work in the 19th century. He often cites the Greek goddesses Aphrodite and Demeter, who held significant power in ancient Greece, as evidence of women’s prominent role in that culture.
Robert Graves, an English poet and writer, was also fascinated with matriarchy in Greek culture. He attributes societal pressure to the eventual downfall of gynocentrism.
Modern Matriarchal Societies
Several matriarchal societies exist today all over the world.
- The Mosuo tribe of China is referred to as the “Kingdom of Women” throughout the country. Unlike most parts of China and the world, the Mosuo women are in charge of everything from finances to land and home ownership.
- Indonesia’s Minangkabau also places women at the forefront of society. When a man marries a woman, he is the one to move into her family’s home, and women pass inheritances such as land and homes onto their daughters like fathers do with sons in much of the world.
- Similar, the women of Costa Rica’s Bribri tribe are the ones who can inherit land. They also enjoy the right to prepare cacao, which is used in various sacred rituals.
- The United Kingdom’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has ruled the nation since 1952.
Are these and other modern matriarchal societies representative of a more women-centric past, or are they an indication that matriarchy is on the rise once more?
Society has experienced some pretty dramatic changes throughout history. Only time will tell if matriarchy becomes the norm once more.
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Exploring the Ancient Pyramids of the World
If there is one structure that still gives rise to great amounts of interest, speculation and awe, it’s the ancient pyramids.
Oftentimes when we think of the pyramids, we concentrate our attention on the most famous –– the Egyptian pyramids so often featured in movies and travel magazines.
But there are actually many more pyramid locations other than Egypt, including Central America, China and beyond. You may be surprised by the varied places you can find pyramids across the world –– including underwater.
By delving into more pyramid facts, we can unlock more information and understanding about these sizable structures, their prominence throughout the world, and even their relevance for those throughout the world.
What Exactly is a Pyramid?
While you may have initially learned about the pyramid shape in geometry class, architectural pyramids are a bit more complex.
Generally the shape of pyramids include at least three outer triangular surfaces which join together at a point at the top, with the base being any number of shapes with multiple sides. This means that the base of a pyramid could be a square or other polygon.
Pyramids were generally built this way in order to distribute the majority of the weight closer to the ground, meaning less pressure coming from the top. This also allowed the builders of the pyramid to more easily constrict the structures using dry stone construction.
Pyramids in Ancient Civilizations
While the general pyramid structure generally remains the same, each civilization that constructed pyramids did so in a slightly different way. Let’s take a look at a few of the civilizations that lay claim to impressive ancient pyramids, and why each one is worth a closer look.
The three famous ancient pyramids found in Egypt are what most people think of when they think of the pyramids. Current Egyptologists believe the Great Pyramid was constructed for Pharaoh Khufu, and is situated the furthest north.
Said to have been constructed in 2551 B.C., it used to measure about 147 meters, it now stands at around 137 meters, and contains more than 2 million blocks. The Great Pyramid was deemed one of the Seven Wonders of the World by the Greeks, and is the only one that has survived to the present day.
Another one of the over 100 pyramids in Egypt is the Pyramid of Djoser, built for his namesake the Pharaoh as a mausoleum. This pyramid is more of a step pyramid design, which involved six successively smaller layers and a flat top.