Are we Equal?

A few days ago, one of my friends asked me a simple yet complicated question: Why in every society only women are dominated?

Well, I had multitude of options to start with, and I chose the basic Garden of Eden. It is said that original sin in Garden of Eden was woman’s. God created woman with the same clay as he created Adam. Some people like Alina Reyes say that god created women by his own imagination, his own fantasies. The initial name given to her was Lilith. She tasted the forbidden fruit, tempted Adam and has been paying for it ever since. In Genesis, the Lord said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee’. One can see the present situation of women similar to what mythology says.

A certain depth was added to my knowledge when I was introduced to a concept called Matriarchy. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), matriarchy is “a form of social organization in which the mother or oldest female is the head of the family, and descent and relationship are reckoned through the female line; government or rule by a woman or women.” As the definition suggests, the answer to my friend’s question is certainly No, because there exist societies dominated by women. But this does not change the fact that women are being subjected to subordinate status in majority of societies. Let me introduce you all to a few societies which have a larger female influence. Most anthropologists hold that there are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal.

  • Roman Empire

             Tacitus noted in his Germania that in “the nations of the Sitones…. woman is the ruling sex.

  • Asia
    • The Mosuo culture, which is in China near Tibet, is frequently described as matriarchal. The Mosuo themselves often use this description and they believe it increases interest in their culture and thus attracts tourism.
    • Possible matriarchies in Burma are, according to Jorgen Bisch, the Padaungs and, according to Andrew Marshall, the Kayaw.
    • According to interviewer Anuj Kumar, Manipur, India, “has a matriarchal society”, but this may not be a scholarly assessment.

This indeed solves the problem of women’s domination in these societies but as patriarchy is an issue in the same way matriarchy is also an issue.

Knowing the concept of matriarchy I would like to rephrase my friend’s question: Why are women dominated in majority of societies? To get insight of this I looked at the question through: Anthropologist view, Sociologist view, and Psychologist view. The ‘biogrammar’ concept given by anthropologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox argues that humans have a genetically based programme which predisposes mankind to behave in certain ways. These predispositions can be considerably modified by culture but they remain basic influences on human behaviour. In simple terms, anthropologist view tries to divide labour on basis of sex, thus defining role of men and women in society based on biology. Hence, women are given the task of reproduction and care for children along with lighter tasks near home like preparation of food, fetching of water, manufacturing of clothing and utensils. The sociologist view place emphasis on culture being responsible for human behaviour. There are certain societies in which biology appears to have little or no influence on women’s roles. The Mbuti Pygmies, a hunting and gathering society who live in the Congo rain forests, have no specific rules for the division for the division of labour by sex. Men and women hunt together. In India, some 12 per cent of labourers on building sites are women and in some Asian and Latin American countries, a quarter of the labour force in mines is female. Few Psychologists argue that a mother’s place is in the home, caring for her children especially during their early years. They believe that continuous mother-child relationship is necessary for effective socialization of the child. Alor, an island in Indonesia is a place where women are not tied to their offspring, and this does not appear to have any harmful effects on the children. Kibbutz is another example which indicates that a continuous mother-child relationship is not essential for effective socialization. About 4 per cent of Israel’s population live in some 240 kibbutzim settlements. Bruno Bettelheim said: ‘The kibbutz experience clearly demonstrates to me that children raised by educators in group homes can and do fare a lot better than many children raised by their mothers in poverty-stricken homes, and better than quite a few raised at home by their middle-class parent.’

I live in a society, but my world begins from home. Now if I ask the same question: Why are women dominated in majority of societies, my answer would be because of thinking process. Compared to cultural change, genetic change is slow. Hence now and in coming times there would be slight change in the biology of men and women, but this should not restrict the cultural change. Why the tasks of women are similar in most societies, why those tasks are usually given less prestige than those of men, and why men generally have power and authority over women? We need to adapt to new way of thinking were woman is equal in status with a man. Of course, there are few feminist who say that women should not be equal to men but higher in status than men. Let me remind that this again brings inequality. As I say Matriarchy is equally wrong as Patriarchy.