Evolution of Patriarchy and Matriarchy in Ancient Civilizations

Topics: Gender role, Patriarchy, Matriarchy Pages: 8 (2610 words) Published: October 21, 2010
The Evolution of Matriarchy to Patriarchy

Patriarchy is defined as “a system in which men largely control women and children and also shape ideas about appropriate gender behavior.” Throughout history, climate change brought on changes throughout all developing civilizations and societies, most importantly in agriculture. The development of agriculture led to the formation of complex societies, the idea of surplus, population growth, and new technologies. As these effects of agriculture became more prominent in growing societies, women were unable to participate in some of the economic and agricultural activities due to their biological purpose – reproduction. The new working environments were unsuitable for children, which caused women in society to remain at home and raise the children or perform in safer, less important jobs. This was the birth of the notion that women were the weaker sex which was only strengthened through visual evidence, influential religions, and the growth of stereotypes. Women were seen unfit to be in authoritative positions, especially after men gained control of all of these high power positions. Because men dominated the high powered and influential positions in society, patriarchies became standardized in newly formed civilizations and societies. The climate changes, such as desertification and extreme flooding, triggered the development of agriculture which contributed to the end of matriarchs and egalitarian societies because of the gender role that was established – women needed to reproduce while men carried out the producing and controlling positions in society.

Societies ranging from 3000-600 B.C.E. were driven by many factors: power, agriculture, land and economic status. Power, as a driving factor for societies was generally led by men, and societies became mostly patriarchal. In prehistoric times, such as the Stone Age, women held power in society because they were not reproducing to the degree they were after this time period. “Since it was necessary to limit group size to avoid depleting resources from the environment, most hunting and gathering societies practiced birth control and abortion.” The lack, scare of draining, and unreliability of food sources was the main cause of population control. There was a lot of uncertainty with constantly hunting and gathering and if societies maintained a smaller population or family, it was easier for families to hunt and gather smaller amounts of food. This allowed women to take part in hunting and gathering more often had hold a higher role in society, because they were able to participate more in the society and hold positions in society.

An example of one of these societies would be the !Kung society. The !Kungs were a subgroup of the San People who lived in the harsh environment of the Kalahari Desert, located in Southwestern Africa. “Women became the main gatherers and therefore the main providers of food, collecting nuts, berries, bulbs, beans, leafy greens, roots, and bird eggs, which game women status and influence.”2 Men hunted numerous small animals, while the women were out gathering plants and nuts. Since the women gathered most of the food supplies they were viewed as equals because they provided for the family. However, women became recognized as the public authority. “The !Kung valued interdependence between the genders and are willing to do the work normally associated with the opposite sex.” The gender roles in the !Kung society were fairly equal because they interchanged between responsibilities. Their society was structured this particular way because of the simplicity of their lifestyle. It is possible, with the !Kung society as an example, that societies before the Pre-Modern Era viewed women as equals with men. However, that all changed once complex farming brought on complex societies.

There were other societies such as the Iroquois, Cherokee, Hopi, and Zuni Indians who also practiced simple farming and...
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