As opposed to the term patriarchy, matriarchy is first and foremost a kinship system , a conception of the family. It is a common term in the area of ​​anthropology, which allows to designate a political system in which women have a dominant role with respect to men .

What is matriarchy?

Matriarchy (maternal law or maternal social order) is a model of society based on the mother’s filiation and in which lay parental authority is exclusively maternal . Thus, the biological father has no rights over the child. It is the mother and not the father who has the real power over the child, the house, the land and the wealth.


It was in 1861 , thanks to the work The Matriarchy, written by the Swiss philosopher Johann Jakob Bachofen, that he changed the conception of patriarchy as a family political organization intrinsic to humanity . This is how later, ethnographic studies are carried out on the different peoples that are governed by this political system.

  • History of the matriarchy
  • Matriarchy characteristics
  • Matriarchy in the Bible
  • Examples of matriarchal societies in the world

History of the matriarchy

Although there is no solid evidence that matriarchal society ever existed, some studies suggest that matriarchal cults existed in human history . For example, archaeological finds made it clear that the primitive Catal Hüyük settlement had a society governed by matriarchal cults .

Matriarchy characteristics

  • Sexual freedom and concubinage . There is no notion of a partner, fidelity, jealousy or sexist violence. Although there are certain forms of marriage, it is more about cohabitation or temporary unions with a fixed duration.
  • The father is excluded . Matriarchal societies are structured in matrilineal collectivist families (clans), with no recognized genetic paternity. The child belongs to his mother’s clan from which the father is excluded. Thus, children are brought up by the men of their clan (maternal uncles) and not by their father.
  • The internal affairs of the family are handled by women while external affairs are usually handled by men. Women elect and revoke male bosses and even have a veto right over all their decisions.
  • The woman’s body is deeply respected as a source of life .
  • Family assets are inherited from mothers to daughters .

Matriarchy in the Bible

According to Jewish legends, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was superior to him. Indeed, it appears that Abraham owed his position as chief of the tribe to his wife Sar because she was a princess who had conferred her status on Abraham by marrying him. Interestingly, the Jews did not get their name as Israelites from Abraham but from the son of Sarah, called Isaac or Israel.

Likewise, the Queen of Sheba, a character who prefers free love to marriage, is listed in the Old Testament . The kingdom of Saba, led by this great queen, would have existed between Yemen and Ethiopia in the 8th century BC.

It is said that this Queen was so beautiful that Solomon proposed to her, which she refused. However, they maintain a relationship from which Ménélik, founder of the Ethiopian Solomonic dynasty, was born.

Examples of matriarchal societies in the world

An example of a matriarchal community is the Umoja village made up of a group of women in Kenya . Rebecca Lolosoli is the one who leads this village. Men are prohibited from entering this village. The women who live there seek their independence after being raped, repudiated and beaten by their husbands. They take care of themselves raising their children of both sexes.

On the other hand, the Mosuo , a people in the southwest of China and close to the Tibetan border, have lived for two millennia following a matriarchal organization in which the notions of marriage and fatherhood are practically unknown. In this society, sexuality is free and without relations of domination between men and women.

Likewise, the Wayuu society located in the Goajira Peninsula between Colombia and Venezuela, is also organized into matrilineal clans (Eiruküü), traditional authorities (Alaülayuu) and moral authorities (Pütchipu’üi). The latter are in charge of the maternal uncle. People united by a maternal consanguinity bond share a common social condition and past. It should be noted that the Wayuu organization system was considered by UNESCO as a cultural heritage of humanity .

Another example of matriarchy in Latin America is the city of Juchitán in Mexico , also called the “city of women . ” In this artisan city, the men were initially in charge of bringing the raw material that the women worked to later sell their crafts in the market. This is how women ended up having responsibility for family finances. Currently, these roles are better distributed but they continue to have control of the economic life of the city.

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