We hear much talk about the “Patriarchy,” most often in a negative or derogatory sense…and rightly so! What you don’t hear a whole lot about are alternatives to the still-dominant patriarchal system. In my discussions with people, there seem to be two go-to beliefs or assumptions concerning alternatives to patriarchy. One seems to be a simple idea of “not-patriarchy” without a clear idea of what that means. Simply attacking the existing system may feel good, but is ineffective without a clear vision for something different.
The other misconception, in my mind, is worse. This is the idea that the replacement for a patriarchy is a matriarchy. This might be ok, except that most people have no idea what that means. Replacing one set of oppressive rulers for another set of oppressive rulers won’t be an improvement just because they are a different gender. Putting women in charge doesn’t make a matriarchy, because the whole idea of a group of people “being in charge” is a patriarchal one! It’s not the leadership that makes the system – it’s the structure…and a matriarchal system structurally looks nothing like a patriarchal one.
Feminine energy is not superior to masculine energy, and masculine energy is not the flaw in the patriarchal system. It is the dysfunctional existence of the ego, primarily ego masculine energy that creates the dysfunctional system we call patriarchy. The patriarchal system began to displace the existing systems in place around 5000 BC with the advent of the agricultural revolution. The radical shift from nomadic tribal life to a fixed farming society gradually introduced a perceived need for ownership – first of land, then of spouse and children (in order to have a clear line for handing down owned land) and the sickness only grew from there.
Having clarity of the possibilities for something different is not only useful for having a roadmap on where we can go, but also sheds light on the problems with where we are now. The patriarchal system is so ubiquitous that it’s difficult to imagine anything else. Scientists, however, have studied ancient pre-patriarchal systems that have functioned very efficiently. The following quote from an article written by Hannelore Vonier discusses one such system called “Egalitarian Consensus Democracy.”
“The equilibrium of matriarchal societies is constantly renewed by consensus decision making, which aim is to come to unanimity.
A counsel made up of men and women excluding nobody make up the smallest unit of the society, the clan house. Each decision is made after thorough discussion by consensus. Now the delegates of each house meet on the level of the village to discuss the issues, which arose in the houses, with the aim of finding consensus again. Likewise it goes on to the level of the tribe, till the whole nation is in agreement.
It is important to note, delegates do not represent their personal opinion, but only represent the interests of the community, which sent them, and in any unclear situation they have to go back to their group to receive new instructions. This prevents political power from mounting up. This system is thanks to its stability and strengths able to create functioning large assemblies with several hundred thousands of individuals without centralized institutions.
It is easier to achieve majority rule than create consensus. The parties hereto are aware of this, but they refuse the line of least resistance for the following reasons: The opinion of the majority is not sufficient basis for making a decision, because the minority is in this process excluded from expressing their will in the decision.”
Such a radical departure from our own system – unanimous decisions! Inconceivable to us, being steeped in our competitive, winner-take-all society – a society that has become so combative and divided that it is becoming difficult to imagine us surviving into the next century!
Can you imagine the difficulty in going to war with such a system? Everyone has to be on board, or it doesn’t happen. The entire system would have to built around consensus-building and finding solutions that work for everyone. Quite a shift from our own system that seems intent on finding solutions that work for no one.
The above example isn’t the only possible form of a matriarchy. It’s just one of many possible matriarchal systems. One characteristic that you won’t find in matriarchal systems is domination. Rather, you will find the divine feminine qualities of consensus, nurturing cooperation, and connection. Win-win or no deal. Balance.
The patriarchal system has had its chance, and it has proven it’s perfectly capable of taking the human race right up to the edge of extinction, and quite possibly beyond. It’s time to rediscover systems and energies that support life on this planet, create real peace, and allow an environment for our children to have a future.