Today, many anthropologists and sociologists are of the opinion that a matriarchal social organization never existed. Even Encyclopedia Britannica lists matriarchy as a hypothetical social system. Because there is no consistent definition of the word matriarchy, anthropologists are using the term “matrifocality” instead now. Unlike in a matriarchal social organization, women do not dominate the social structure in a matrifocal system, but rather occupy a central position.
Helen Diner, a pseudonym for the Austrian writer, Bertha Diener, wrote a book called Mothers and Amazons, which is considered as a classic of feminist matriarchal study. She believed that all human societies in ancient times were matriarchal social organizations, which later evolved (for better or for worse) into patriarchal societies. But the idea that there was a golden period of matriarchal social organization, at least in the Neolithic period, has also been discounted as it was proved that these societies were more egalitarian than matriarchal.
A matriarchal social organization may have many similarities with what is known as a matrifocal or matrilinear society, though. Here, after marriage, it is the husband who joins the wife’s side of the family, and not the other way round. Also, the family property is passed through the maternal line. The wife is supported more by her brothers than by her husband. The Nair community and the Bunt community of South India are prime examples of a matrifocal society.
Other examples of a matrilinear society, that can be said to be similar to a matriarchal social organization, can be found amongst the indigenous people of Asia, Africa, and...