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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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28 Responses

  1. Brava Littleisis!

  2. Nicely said!!! Thanks for that post.

  3. Fascinating — and now I have even more good stuff to read.

  4. Well done. Thank you for this post.

    I still remember the first time I saw Gimbutas’ “Lady of the Beasts” book and felt a shiver of belonging through me.

  5. As usual……Great post Little one!

  6. Hey Littleisis. Beautiful post and I agree with you entirely. Hope you’re doing well. :-)

  7. Oh, LI. Your posts are so amazing. *sighs happily*

    btw, have you ever read The Red Tent? I looked it up and it sounded interesting, it was described as “the Bible as told by the daughters instead of the sons.” Anyone?

    • Actually, I haven’t read that, but it looks good. Seriously, you should read The Maeve Chronicles by Elizabeth Cunningham. Its a fictional (well, some historically accurate tidbits, but still fictional) trilogy told from the point of view of the biblical Mary Magdalen about her life and relationship with Jesus. I think you would like it.
      Another great book, that I’m sure I’ve mentioned to TC before, is In Search of the Lost Feminine by Craig Barnes.

      • I second LittleIsis’ recommendation of The Maeve Chronicles. All three novels are fine, but the second, The Passion of Mary Magdalene now ranks as one of my dozen or so all-time favorites.

        Also recommended: Judith Tarr’s Epona series, which deals mostly, except for The Shepherd Kings,with the Old European period.

  8. if I may, I’d like to post a favorite poem by the late Kristine Batey:

    Lot’s Wife

    While Lot, the conscience of a nation,
    struggles with the Lord,
    she struggles with the housework.

    The City of Sin is where
    she raises the children.

    Ba’al or Adonai–
    Whoever is God–
    the bread must still be made
    and the doorsill swept.

    The Lord may kill the children tomorrow, but today they must be bathed and fed.

    Well and good to condemn your neighbors’ religion; but weren’t they there when the baby was born, and when the well collapsed?

    While her husband communes with God
    she tucks the children into bed.

    In the morning when he tells her of judgment, she puts down the lamp she is cleaning and calmly begins to pack.

    In between bundling up the children
    and deciding what will go,
    she runs for a moment
    to say goodbye to the herd,
    gently patting each soft head
    with tears in her eyes for the animals that will not understand.

    She smiles blindly to the woman
    who held her hand at childbed.

    It is easy for eyes that have always turned to heaven not to look back;
    those that have been–by necessity–drawn to earth cannot forget that life is lived from day to day
    .
    Good, to a God, and good in human terms
    are two different things.

    On the breast of the hill, she chooses to be human, and turns, in farewell– and never regrets the sacrifice.

  9. We all witnessed the ‘disappearing acts’ against Hillary.

    Denied nightly on tv, rules changed, votes stolen, and hateful attacks inspired for refusing to participate in the lies.

    Sigh…thanks for the articles…caught your previous one as well.

  10. Thanks, LI – an excellent post for Women’s History month.

    I saw that post at Violet’s as well. Am still reading some of the references.

    I enjoyed this comment over there:
    # quixote says:

    This reminds me of how shocked people were — shocked! — to discover that the artists’ hand prints in the famous Stone Age cave drawings had to be women’s hands. The size and finger proportions were female. Nobody had bothered to measure them before. (This was a few months ago.)

    But, of course, we all know that the use of “he” as an indefinite pronoun doesn’t color perception at all. Not at all.

    Historiann has had brilliant posts about The Great Forgetting in recent history.

    March 10th, 2010 at 3:18 pm EST

    • Years ago there was a New Yorker cartoon showing one woman in a cave, painting, saying to another woman: “Isn’t it odd how none of the great artists have ever been male?” Wonder if I can find it.

  11. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, is a story about Leah and Jacob’s daughter, Dinah. It’s to do with his wives and this child, and the lives of women rather than the men. I gave my copy to my oldest daughter, as an antidote to the Left Behind series that she was reading and to give her some perspective contrary to the version of Christianity that was all that was available on her little island. I think it helped open her mind to the reality that everything divine and creative and positive can not be solely identified as male attributes.

  12. Articles everywhere about President Tone Deaf:

    Memo to Obama: Get back in touch

    Almost anyone who ever traveled with President Bill Clinton can tell a similar tale. At the end of a long day, Clinton would unwind by working the rope line. He would shake hands, clasp shoulders — and listen. When there were no stories left to hear, he would bound up the steps onto the plane, stretch out his arms and declare, “That was great!”

    For his staff, this routine eventually lost its charm. But Clinton never tired of it. For him, politics began in the stories of those ordinary Americans. His continuing dialogue with them — in classrooms and on factory floors, at rallies and on television and, yes, along the rope line — kept him connected.

    People didn’t always personally approve of him. But they believed he was on their side. Surely that helps explain why, even after Clinton was impeached, his job-approval rating remained in the 60s.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/34280.html

    If Democrats ignore health-care polls, midterms will be costly

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031102904.html

  13. Excellent post, LI. Thank you for sharing.

    I keep a book in my car to take along on appointments so that I have something to read other than People magazine. It’s taken me almost a year to get through the Karen Horney biography but it’s made the waiting room such a pleasant experience that I actually look forward to it.

    Reading about Horney led me to Eve’s Seed by Robert McElvaine. From the book:

    “Until the last third of the twentieth century, our view of history was grossly distorted by huge error: the omission of half our species from the record of human experience. The exclusion of women from history was, in fact, one of the most important examples of men establishing their own ground, on which women were not permitted to tread: You have the babies, because we can’t; but you may never enter our exclusive club that we call history.

    Men do not dominate because they biologically or physically superior to women. They dominate through a systematic devaluing and denigration of the female/feminine half of the species: through patriarchy. We are disappeared not only in history, but in our daily lives from the day we are born and wrapped in pink blankets.

    LI, keep saying what you are saying. Say it often. Say it loud. And, please, never stop.

  14. Great post, LI!

  15. 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.

    I love it when people who are not Christian tell me what it is that Christians believe/say.
    Actually most Christians believe that is a story told to teach a lesson. Many, in fact none that I know, believe in the interpretation that you give.
    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good retelling of what your read in some book. Reading is important, but if you want the truth go to the source. Don’t think what you think because someone else or even a lot of other people believe it. Think for yourself after doing your own research and by research I do not mean reading a lot of other people’s opinions that you happen to agree with.
    Your interpretation is one I have never heard in church in 53 years. Yes I know you are being hyperbolic.
    ps… the msm we all hate also find themselves to be doing their job when they annoy people”.

    • So, you’re in charge of speaking, and interpreting the Bible, for all Christians? It’s been my experience that Christians can’t seem to agree on much of anything, much less biblical interpretation.

      Regardless, the story casts Eve as the root of all evil. Interpret it anyway you want, but that’s the story line. It’s not subtext; it’s right up front and makes no bones about the despicable notion that women are evil, colluding with the snake/devil to seduce and defile the purity of man (he who was made in god’s image). No one has to “hear” it (have it explained) in church because it’s not hidden in metaphor.

      Maybe if Christians stopped trying to “interpret” the obvious so that it’s more palatable, they’d realize that the book they base their faith is filled with misogyny.

      And, FWIW, one doesn’t need to go to church to hear the story about how Eve conspired with the devil and got us all kicked out of paradise. It’s embedded in our culture. One hears the story, again and again, whether one is Christian or not.

      • Most of us around here were raised Christian and those of us that gave it up permanently KNOW EXACTLY why we did so. Years of bible study in the fairly benign Presbyterian church never convinced me nor did me offering up a few years of same thing to my kids in a Methodist church convince either of them ! Little Isis comes from a hyper christian family and lives there still. She better than any one knows the spiel. The misfortune of Eve is every woman’s burden and we know where it comes from …

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