In Honor of Women’s History Month

Back in February I did a post about gender based violence and I mentioned prehistoric egalitarian societies that centered around life or earth based religions. I got some shit for it, which is perfectly okay. Usually if you’re not irritating someone then you’re not actually accomplishing anything.

In a post on Tuesday, Violet Socks had Artemis March write a guest post about an exhibit on prepatriarchal “Old Europe” in New York City in honor of Women’s History month. She explains:

To appreciate the enormity of what’s at stake here, I invite you to read Joan Marler’s summary of Gimbutas’ work discovering and reconstructing Old Europe (OE), and another about her interpretation of its demise and the prehistoric transition to patriarchy in Europe. Marler is executive director of the Institute of Archaeomythology, dedicated to developing interdisciplinary approaches to the study of prehistoric and present cultures.

The disappearing acts perpetrated through the OE exhibit are hardly unique. Another example is the archaeological team at a key Neolithic site in Asia Minor (Çatalhöyük). Marguerite Rigoglioso exposes the strategies and tactics through which they deny evidence of, and even the possibility of, prehistoric female deities and female authority, and try to marginalize and discredit Gimbutas and others who have the courage to name what they see rather than project a patriarchal pattern onto every prehistoric society.

Marler’s and Rigoglioso’s work helps to bring home an appreciation of the some of the layers and complexity of the struggle to reverse millennia of female invisibility and the intense political struggles over the all-important issues of patriarchal origins and its finite existence rather than its alleged innate nature. Male entitlement, sole male authority, and male control over women are not god-given or “how things are,” but integral to an historically finite, socially constructed type of socio-political system that’s been around for only a few thousand years.

Many who point to the probable existence of Egalitarianism prior to and during the early parts of the bronze age are accused of “Red Tent Feminism,” which isn’t even feminism, IMHO. A feminist believes in the social political and economic equality of men and women, not the social, political and economic superiority of one gender, be it male or female.

The truth is that the existence of such evidence that points to prehistoric cultures that were not patriarchal is not useful because it somehow validates the superiority of women over men or a “separate but equal” nonsense mentality. On the contrary, it is useful because it shows us that patriarchy is not just “the way things are.” It is useful because it validates patriarchy as being detrimental to the evolutionary progress of human beings, rather than beneficial.

As SOD has explained in many informative ways via her posts about social dominance, BMSD sexual fantasies aside, it is partnership between men and women that makes progress for humankind possible, not the dominion of one social group over another.

A lot of people have trouble believing that patriarchy isn’t the norm, and that doesn’t make them anti-feminist, it makes them observant. Patriarchy is ingrained into our psyches not only because it is currently the cultural norm, but because it is drilled into our heads by the media, the entertainment industry, and most of all by religion.

Christianity, by all accounts a fairly new religion, tells us through canonical scripture that man is inherently evil because he took the apple from the tree of knowledge from woman (and a serpent or dragon, which was a symbol of feminine divinity in prebiblical times) and therefore he is condemned unless he accepts the son of a male God who dies on the cross for the original sin in his nature perpetuated by woman and her seductive serpent as his savior and lord. As a narrative it gives us no other option than patriarchy, because not only is mankind evil because of women (after all, isn’t everything a woman’s fault?), GOD isn’t even a woman.

The Bible is the world’s number one best seller and is put forth as the absolute truth by many. Even as a very young child, I could never embrace or even wrap my head around that way of thinking because to me it made no sense. For one thing, it is fairly obvious that the Earth is not five thousand years old, and for another, it didn’t add up that man could be created first when women were the ones who had kids. That still does not make any sense to me and it never will. Hence part of the reason I only talk to my parents twice a year.  But I digress.

Human nature is of course, imperfect. By pointing to evidence of prehistoric egalitarian civilizations, no one is saying that it isn’t. The people who lived in those cultures felt pain, sadness and anger. They mourned at the loss of loved ones and sometimes, they failed. Just like the rest of us. No one who recollects those times through archeological evidence recollects them for nostalgic purposes. But how does that saying go? A person who doesn’t know his past has no future. As Artemis explains:

As Mary Daly used to say, by distorting and disappearing our past, they have ravaged and purloined our present and our future. Disappearing acts have gone on for millennia, and they are going on right now, right in front of us. They can be blatant and concrete, as in the absence of women on our currency, our stamps, and the paucity of female statuary in our public life—a situation Lynette Long has recently taken on. They can be as elemental and profound as changing cosmological deities and their stories from female to male—a transition that the late Paula Gunn Allen tracked in numerous Native American traditions, and observed is still taking place. Disappearing acts can be far more devious, complex, and multi-layered as is the case with bringing these Old European artifacts forward.

As we go through Women’s History Month, it is important to remember that our history did not start with the suffragist movement. It did not start with Joan of Arc or Catherine the Great or Rosa Parks. As someone we know and love once said back in a speech in Beijing in 1995, Women’s rights are Human rights. And by extension Women’s history is human history.

Human history started way before any of us could remember it or write it down. And the knowledge that women might have and in fact probably made the very first doctors, priests, writers, artists, and yes, leaders is knowledge that should stay with us all through Women’s History Month. Because those nameless women and American Sheroes like Susan B Anthony and Shirley Chisholm and Margaret Chase Smith aren’t just our past. They are our future.

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2 Responses

  1. I know y’all *want* this stuff to be true, but it’s just not true. The entire rest of the archeological community, including many women, utterly reject Gimbutas’ fanciful speculations as bad science.

    Here’s the give-away, from your own citation: “In the absence of written texts, an understanding of the nonmaterial aspects of culture is not possible through the description of artifacts alone. Gimbutas, therefore, developed archaeomythology…” an hodge-podge of baseless interpretations clouded by Gimbutas’ a priori assumptions.

    You know I’m a big advocate of gender equality. Using this garbage only undermines the cause. From Cynthia Eller’s “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future”:

    “These claims [Gimbutas’] can be — and will be here — shown to be false. Relying on matriarchal myth in the face of evidence that challenges its veracity leaves feminists open to charges of vacuousness and irrelevance that we cannot afford to court.”

  2. […] In Honor of Women’s History Month […]

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