Five Things We Know About Societies Run By Women
First, let's get one thing straight—there are exactly zero societies that are run completely by women.
When women have power, they don't just take over the joint, refusing men an education and paying them 80 cents on the dollar. Nope, instead they do a bunch of girlie junk like keeping everyone happy with shared resources, stable families and good sex.
Christopher Ryan, Ph.D., co-author of Sex at Dawn says, “Societies in which women's status is equal to or greater than men's tend to be characterized by less conflict, greater social harmony, and higher levels of sexual interaction.”
Happier in other words. Let us count the ways.
“In matriarchies, mothers are at the center of culture without ruling over other members of society,” says Heidi Goettner-Abendroth, founder of The International Academy HAGIA for Modern Matriarchal Studies. “The aim is not to have power over others and over nature, but to follow maternal values, ie. to nurture the natural, social and cultural life based on mutual respect.”
In other words, if patriarchy is West Point, heavy on the rules and hierarchy, matriarchy is that alternative school where kids call teachers by their first names and play non-competitive games with the parachute.
Contrary to every diamond ad ever, when women have a say in things, they aren't all that eager to jump into a long, forever marriage. There is a large overlap between the top ten countries with the highest gender income ratio and the highest divorce rates. Women with economic power aren't forced to stick it out in bad marriages. So they don't.
Among the Khasi of northeast India, matrilocality (the practice of children living with the mother's family or clan) eliminates economic free fall or a jarring move if parents divorce. “No matter how many times the woman marries, her children will always remain with her,” says Patricia Mukhim, a Khasi and editor of The Shillong Times. “And even if a man abandons a woman he has impregnated, the children are never 'illegitimate.'”
Empowered women can be, technically, sluttier - that is, they have can sex with a variety of partners of their choosing - but conversely, they’re not treated as “sluts.” Women in the Chinese matrilineal Mosuo society, for instance, get their own private babahuago (flower room) for receiving visits from lovers. No one worries about commitment since any resulting children are raised in the mother's house with the help of her brothers and the rest of the community. No one's judging the women harshly, and why should they? Everyone's too damn happy. Meanwhile, Iceland, considered to be one of the most feminist-friendly countries in the world, banned strip clubs, calling them an exploitative of women.
In matriarchal societies, men tend to get way more or way less involved in parenting. The devoted dads of the Aka tribe in Africa are within reach of their infants 47% of the time and so dedicated they'll put a crying baby on their own nipple to pacify it, according to archaeologist Barry Hewlett. And in family-friendly Sweden, 85% of men take paid parental leave.
By contrast, among the Mosuo there is a word for “father” but “it's nothing like our concept of what a father should be,” according to writer Ricardo Coler. “These duties are taken over by the mother or the family. Often, the women don't know which man is responsible for the pregnancy.” And in at least 18 different South American tribes, there is shared paternity. They believe that each different man's sperm helps shape a baby and thus, each child has several “fathers.”
Men commit far more violent crimes than women (about 90% of homicide and robbery offenders in the U.S. are men) but equality can dampen crime. “In more gender-egalitarian societies, there is much less crime by both women and men,” says Jennifer Schwartz of Washington State University, Department of Sociology. “And in those societies, the crime gap between women and men is somewhat larger, that is, women participate even less in crime.”
It turns out that not even men like it when a bunch of jerky men are bossing everyone else around. “For most men, [egalitarian] societies are far preferable to those in which a few high-status men dominate everyone else, accumulating resources, power, and available women for themselves,” said Ryan.
1. Fair share of sex, love and food = lower patriarchal rage/desire to oppress masses.
2. Equality = good for all.
3. Flower room = obvious necessity.
Jill Hamilton writes In Bed With Married Women, a blog about sex. Her work has appeared in Jezebel, Rolling Stone, and the Los Angeles Times.