Matriarchy and Patriarchy
Prepared by Paul A. MacAry and Greg D. Petersen
Patriarchy is simply "rule of the father," matriarchy the "rule of the mother." In a true patriarchal or matriarchal society, this applies only to the family or an extended family or tribe. Unfortunately, there is much this ambiguity and miss-use of the two words. Perhaps the best way to address these two is to look specifically into the animal kingdom. We have already compared the Common and Bonobo Chimpanzees, and both serve as excellent examples. Two of the most famous matriarchal animals are the orca, also commonly known as killer whales, and elephants. In both, a Matriarch leads the community. An elephant matriarch is typically the largest and/or oldest female, and typically a direct relative of the previous matriarch. While all in the herd are related, there is no power struggle to choose the next matriarch. The position is earned through cooperation and respect. All in the herd look to her for decisions, especially in stressful situations. When a matriarch is replaced, it occurs in a democratic fashion. This may happen if a decision needs to be made and another female feels the need to disagree and presents an alternative. The rest of the herd must choose which course they will follow. Rather than thinking of the matriarch as a position of "power" in the male sense, it is better to think of the matriarch as the female that is most "motherly," demonstrated by caring wisely for the rising generation and showing compassion to members of the herd. A herd is typically three generations, and the only males in the herd are youth. Females are taught by their mothers and aunts how to care for calves. Male elephants live with their mothers until they are about eight to sixteen years old. The older a male becomes, the more independent he becomes from his mother and the herd. He will do this by straying away from the herd for progressively longer periods, and will often join other bachelors in traversing in search of food, water, and females. These bachelors do not form close relationships and individual males do not stay with such bands for long periods of time. If a male finds a willing female in a herd, the two will stay together and mate for approximately three days. The male will leave in search of another willing female, playing no further "fatherly" role in the life of his offspring. A male's role is simply procreative. Orca organization is very similar. A matriarch leads the collective group, or "pod." Each pod has subgroups of each mother and her offspring, but all function as a close family unit of four to five generations. However, orca will also gather together in larger family units, something like an extended family reunion, sometimes called a "clan." Within the pod, and like chickens, orca establish a very clear "pecking order" or ranking within the pod. This is established through non-physical aggressive behavior, like tale slapping, or physical aggressive behavior like head-butting and biting. Unlike elephants, males born into a pod remain with the pod for life. Females and calves swim in the middle of the pod, with the males on the outside of the pod. During the mating season pods will come together into a "super pod," with mating occurring between the males and females of different pods. Again, the primacy is matrilineal as the mother accepts full responsibility for the offspring. Even many females that study matriarchy, see the primacy of motherhood and mothering. For example, “At the social level, matriarchal societies are founded on motherhood and are based on the clan. Motherhood is the most important function in each society, for mothering creates the new generations that are the future of society. But it is necessary to clarify two points here: “1. In matriarchies, it is not necessary to be a biological mother in order to be acknowledged as a mother, be cause matriarchies practice the common motherhood of a group of sisters. Each...
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