It’s widely known that patriarchy is a social system that arose with the advent of agriculture.

Today, most anthropologists would agree, regardless of their stance on issues such as the universality of male dominance, that an entirely different order of male dominance became associated with the rise of the large and populous agricultural states organized in terms of classes. The patriarchal systems that emerged brought women for the first time under the direct control of fathers and husbands with few cross-cutting sources of support. Women as wives under this system were not social adults, and women’s lives were defined in terms of being a wife. Women’s mothering and women’s sexuality came to be seen as requiring protection by fathers and husbands. Protecting unmarried women’s virginity appears to go along with the idea of the domestication of women and an emphasis on a radical dichtomy between the public and the private sphere.

“In this book, Eisler traces the tension between these two models (domination and partnership), starting in prehistory. It draws from many sources, including the study of myth and linguistics as well as archeological findings by the Indo-Europeanists J. P. Mallory[6] and Marija Gimbutas[7] and archeologists such as James Mellaart,[8] Alexander Marshack,[9] Andre Leroi-Gourhan,[10] and Nikolas Platon.[11]

Based on these findings, Eisler presents evidence that for the longest span of prehistory, cultures in the more fertile regions of the globe oriented primarily to the partnership model, which Eisler also calls a “gylany”, a neologism for a society in which relationships between the sexes are an egalitarian partnership. This gender partnership was a core component of a more egalitarian, peaceful, and matrifocal culture with a focus on life giving, centering on nurture. These societies once were widespread in Europe around the Mediterranean, and lasted well into the early Bronze Age in the Minoan civilization of Crete.

Eisler does not use the term “patriarchy.” Nor does she use “matriarchy” to describe a more gender-balanced society, noting that rule by fathers (patriarchy) and rule by mothers (matriarchy) are two sides of a dominator coin, and proposing that the real alternative is a partnership system or gylany.”

Written by

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store