I was not aware that the present male-dominance could be explained by certain people through the belief of the past domination of women. Even if that supposed women-centered culture dates back to five thousand tears ago, some persons –mostly men of course – use this fact as a legitimization of the current predominance of men in our social organization. But this myth is also highlighted in some feminist movements, especially in the U.S.

I will use the book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future published in 2000 by Cynthia Eller, a professor of religion who is specialized in women and religion. She tries through this publication to deconstruct the myth of a prehistoric matriarchy.

She uses the American feminist activist Gloria Steinem (from the 1960s) to assume that this theory is also used in some feminist movements. Cynthia Eller assumes this theory is weakening the feminists’s causes.

Whether this myth is useful or not to understand the present is not the question I want to focus on now. It is still interesting to learn about history, but it can be dangerous to focus too much on that myth, which can be used for different purposes or explanations of our time. I would agree with Cynthia Eller in seeing in that myth an exaggeration of differences between men and women that can does not serve the rights of women nowadays.

Moreover this myth is hypothetical, even more as it refers to a time where we cannot really have access to scientific evidences.

The first person who has theorized matriarchic societies is Johann Jakob Bachofen in 1861. The Swiss sociologist has, through ‘das Mutterrecht’ deducted that matriarchal societies have possibly existed in Ancient Greece. That statement, as I have said earlier, can serve different theories: for example the Mundurucù society (the anthropologists Murphy and Murphy have studied this society in 1985), situated in the southeastern Amazon basin, has used stories of an original matriarchal order where everything went wrong to legitimate a male-dominated structure order. However the use of myth shows here that the women subordination is not considered as natural; if it would be so they would not need a supposed legend that they use as a warning against the power of women that can rise.

Historical and anthropological works have tried to determine the origin of male-dominance but it is always difficult to find out considering the different societies, cultural beliefs and the large scale times. For example the domestic work is not in all societies considered as a ‘female’ task and therefore is not considered as ‘ungrateful’ everywhere.

To conclude I would say that the definition of myths is that of something we cannot be sure of, it leads then to different interpretations and can serve variant purposes.

The most important question and pressing task we should focus on is how we can build up an equalitarian society, where women and men are not considered through their differences but rather on their cooperation.


Small places, large issues. An introduction to social and cultural anthropology by Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1995)