MYTH N.1: Man the hunter, superior
in strength, naturally protects and
defends the more vulnerable female.
• Big game hunting was auxiliary pursuit
• Main food supply came from gathering and
small hunting done by women and children
• Women provided 60% of the food.
• Cooperation necessary: hunter provides
meat supply while gatherer needed for
subsistence food. Peaceful life. Separate but
Myth N.2: Male dominance is
• In some societies, sexual asymmetry
carried no connotation of dominance or
• Elise Boulding: Man the hunter is a myth
to preserve male supremacy and
Myth N.3: Anatomy is destiny
• Freudian theories: normal human is male,
female is a deficient one.
• Traditionalist explanation: woman’s
reproductive capacity confines her chief goal
in life as motherhood.
• Anatomy was destiny
Myth N.4: Patriarchy is ahistoric,
eternal, invisible and unchanging.
• Our androcentric assumptions dominate
our archeological interpretations.
• Distorts the meaning if scientific evidence.
• We consider male dominance as a given.
• As if there had never been evidence of
• If patriarchal dominance had historic
origins, it will end if historical conditions
Sociobiologists are ahistorical
• They disregard the fact that men and women
do not live in the state of nature any more.
• They expect women to follow the same roles
that were essential to the specie in the
• To claim that of all human activities, only
female nurturance is unchanging and eternal
is indeed to consign half the human race to a
lower state of existence, to nature rather
than to culture.
Patriarchy as a system is
• It developed over a period of 2.500 years from
3.100 BC to 600 BC, at different pace in different
1. Men appropriated themselves of women’s sexual
rights even before the formation of private property
and class society.
2. The commodification of women is at the foundation of
3. The archaic states were organized in the form of
4. Men learned to institute dominance and hierarchy
over people bytheir practice of earlier dominance of
women and the institutionnalization of slavery
Patriarchy as a system is
5. Women’s sexual subordination was institutionalized in the
earliest law codes and enforced by the full power of the
6. Class for men is based on their relationship to means of
production. For women on their sexual ties to a man.
Respectable and non respectable women are separated by
laws and veil.
7. Yet, long after their subordination, they play an active role
mediating between humans and gods.
8. The goddess was dethroned and replaced by dominant
9. The emergence of hebrew monotheism attacked the
widespread cults of fertility goddesses.
10. Women are excluded from the covenant with god.
Prehistory: no hierarchy
• 3M years ago: hominids evolved from primates
• Bipedalism: narrow female pelvis and birth canal
due to upright posture
• Human babies born at a greater stage of
• Require support and help for years to move, eat,
• Division of labor necessary for group survival:
women did the mothering
• But men and women still were equal, no hierarchy
Different explanations on shift,
not one cause
• Discovery of animal domestication: need to
compensate for inability to bear children
• Levi Strauss: exchange of women as leading
cause of female subordination
• Development of agriculture: children become
an asset and tribes seek to acquire
reproductive potential of women
• With stable food base, population increase:
from kin-based to class-based
Engels: Private property is “the
world historic defeat of female sex”
• With the development of the state,
monogamous family changed into
patriarchal family and wife became head
• Connection between private property,
monogamous marriage and prostitution.
• Levi Strauss: The exchange of women is the first
form of trade in which women are turned into
• Sherry Ortner: Since every culture devalues
nature as it strives to rise above it through
mastery, women became symbolic of an inferior,
intermediate order of being.
• With the domestication of animals and the
development of animal husbandry, the function of
the male in the process of procreation became
more apparent and better understood.
• Acceptance of biological sex differences
as a given
• Positive “feminine” characteristics
• Women more altruistic, virtuous
• Quest for matriarchy central
Basic unit of patriarchy is
• Women are not things but their sexuality and
• From the second millenium BC forward,
control over the sexual behaviour of the
citizens has been a major emans of social
control in every state society.
• Now even changes in the family do not alter
the basic male dominance in the public
realm, in institutions and in government.
institutionalization of slavery
• With the advent of pastoralism
• First form of hierarchical dominance in human history
• Majority of those first enslaved were women
• Rape to dishonor them and symbolic castration of their men: they
cannot protect them, impotent
• Practice of raping women of a conquered group is essential to the
structure of patriarchal institutions, beginning of the system, even
before class formation
• In the Iliad
• Concubinage: integrate slave in household
• Matter of power and honor
• Droit du seigneur
• Sales contract in Bible or Code of Hammurabi
• Become goods to exchange
• Marriage as wife purchase
LAWS: Patriarchal dominance moved
from private practice into public law
• Asymmetry in severity of punishment
• Injured party is actually father or husband of
• Absolute power of disposal
• Code of Hammurabi:
– beginning of institutionalization of patriarchal family
– Kings power based on men who depended on him, as
much as families depended on the man: archaic state
– From 1250 BC on, sexual control of women has been
an essential feature of patriarchal power: foundation of
Commercial prostitution derived from
enslavement of women and class formation.
• Seen as natural
• But not necessary in sexual permissive societies
• Byproduct of regulation of sexuality
• Does NOT derive from temple sex practices: cultic sexual service is
• One honours sexual power of the goddess
• The other is a commercial activity
• In The epic of Gilgamesh, the temple harlot civilizes the man
Enkidu through sex.
• How to distinguish “respectable” from “non-respectable” women?
• Veil as symbol of married woman, distinguishing mark
• Class formation demands visible means of distinguishing different
• Unveiled woman is unprotected and thus fair game for any man.
Progressive declassing of the
• Kept much power in daily life
• Even if no more economic or legal power to
1. Demotion of Mother goddess figure and
ascendance to male consort or son
2. Merging with a storm god into a male creator god
heading pantheon of gods and goddesses
• Power of creation and fertility transferred
from Goddess to God.
Major god-figures underwent
• Increasing influence of priests under
• Qualities of goddess split off and
embodied in separate goddesses
– Warrior aspect diminished
– Qualities as healer stressed
– Erotic aspect emphasized
Erich Fromm: Human beings are
half animal and half symbolic
• Man has found a way of dealing with his
existential dilemma by assigning symbol-
making power to himself and life-death-
nature finiteness to woman.
• Monotheism excluded women from the
creation of symbol systems: only males
could mediate between God and humans
(all male priesthood)
• Procreativity and creativity were severed.
Changes of symbols
• Who creates life?
– From the vulva of the goddess to the seed of a
• Who brings evil into the world?
– From the tree of life to the tree of knowledge
• Who mediates between humans and the
– From the celebration of sacred Marriage to the
Importance of creation myths
• Gender symbolism in creation stories
proves a reliable guide to sex roles and
sexual identities in a given society
• Peggy Reeves Sanday: out of 112 creation
stories, 50% male deity, 32% divine couple,
18% female deity
– When masculine story, 17% of fathers cared for
– When couple, 34%
– When woman, 63%
The symbolic devaluating of women is one of
the founding metaphors of the Western
• Major gender symbols and metaphors of
Western civilization are derived from
Mesopotamian and Hebrew sources.
• Two key metaphorical constructs:
2. Greek philosophy
1. Patriarchal tribes nomads or semi-nomads: cohesiveness and
survival depended on strong tribal ties. Smallest unit was
2. 1800BC Abraham meets God in Haran: God’s chosen people:
belief which will make them survive during following 4.000 years
3. Joesph and his brothers: migration to Egypt story
4. Moses and Joshua come back to Canaan 1250 BC
5. Semi–nomadic tribes become sedentary: from tribe to clan
6. Then Kings, Saul who unites the 12 tribes, then David and
Solomon: from confederation to statehood
7. Split in 2 kingdoms of Judah and Israel, only 200 years after and
Assyrians deported entire population in 722 BC
8. Survival of Israel depended on its adherence to the religion of
Yahweh: canonization of Pentateuch, innovation of synagogue as
religious assembly: mobile, exportable, communal
Book of Genesis with most significant
symbols concerning gender
• Inspired by Sumero-Babylonian, Canaanite
and Egyptian cultural materials
• Work of many hands
• Started after division of kingdom
• Final fusion in 450 BC
• Creation of Jewish monotheism: vast cultural
• Transition from matrilineal to patrilineal
families (beena to baal)
Book of Genesis
• There is no longer any maternal source for
the creation of the universe.
• God granted power of naming to human
• Man is the mother of the woman.
• 2 myths:
– Woman, created of Man’s rib
– Eve the temptress, causing humankind’s fall from
• Proof for 2.000 years of divine sanction for
the subordination of women
Women are absent from the
covenant with God
• God’s blessing of Abram’s seed lends divine sanction
to the transfer of procreativity from female to male.
• Consequence of sexual knowledge is to sever female
sexuality from procreation.
• Free and open sexuality of the fertility goddess is
forbidden to fallen woman
• In her, through procreation, lies the only immortality to
which we can aspire.
• Severed from snake, ruled by husband
• Who brought sin? Woman in her alliance with snake
which stands for free sexuality.
• Weight of Biblical narrative
Women cannot speak to God
• Prolonged ideological struggle of Hebrew
tribes against worship of Canaanite
female deities must have hardened
emphasis on male cultic leadership and
tendency towards misogyny, which fully
emerged in the post exilic period.
Patriarchal greek foundations
• Thucydides or Herodotus: since 2.500 years,
the construct of history is a male product.
• Greece from 8 to 5 BC was class society,
patriarchal with slavery
• Citizenship excluded women
• Hesiod’s misogyny, woman scapegoat for
society’s evils in myth of Pandora
• Theogony defines Zeus ascension to power
• Male gods take power from the forces of the
chaos identified with fertility goddesses
• To prevent his own overthrown, Zeus
swallows his wife Methis and gives birth
himself to Athena.
– “The mother is not the parent of the child
– Which is called hers. She is the nurse who
tends the growth
– Of the young seed planted by its true parent,
Aristotle’s hierarchical and
• Male is homo faber
• Women are mutilated males, excluded from
• Biological inferiority of women make her
inferior in heer capacities, ability to reason
and make decisions.
• Some are born to rule and others to be ruled.
• Soul rules over body, rational thought over
emotion, humans over animals, male over
female, masters over slaves, Greeks over
Leading metaphors define and
shape our cultural heritage.
• Symbolic construct is key in the
• Subordination of women thus became
completely accepted since it appeared
natural to both men and women.
• It is seen natural, and thus invisible.
Women have been excluded
from History making
• History making is the record and interpretation of the
• It started with the invention of writing in ancient
• Historians have selected events to be recorded and
have interpreted them to give them a meaning.
• Until very recently, historians were male.
• They recorded History and claimed universality for it.
• Story of performances have been recorded by men
and told in their voices.
• Naming has magical power.
We perceive historical events from
white catholic male perspective
• Example: Columbus day
– Genocide or discovery?
– Mistake or historical turning point?
Women’s acts and experiences have
been unrecorded and ignored
• The record of the human race is a partial
• The vision is distorted, seen from the male
• Women are the majority, yet we are
structured into social situations as if we were
• Creative and educated women have barely
left an imprint.
• WE ARE NOT PART OF THE STORY.
Contradiction between women’s central
active role in creating society and
marginality in meaning giving process
• Women are essential and central to
• Women have made history, yet they have
been kept from knowing it.
• Women have been excluded from creating
symbol systems and theory formation.
• Growing consciousness: dynamic force
Women lasted 3.500 years to realize their
own subordinate position in society
• Existence of women’s history neglected
by patriarchal thoughts
• This has MASSIVE effect on the
psychology of men and women.
Your significance in history is
key for psychic well being
• From you are nothing, invisible, worthless To you are half of the reality
• The myth that women are marginal to the creation of history and civilization has profoundly
affected the psychology of women and men.
• Erroneous view of their place in society.
• In real life, women had no history. And so, no future alternatives.
• Class struggle is a struggle for the control of symbol systems. The control of the stories.
• Where there is no precedent, one cannot imagine alternatives to existing conditions.
• The denial to women of their history has reinforced their acceptance of the ideology of
patriarchy and has undermined the individual woman’s sense of self worth.
• Mens version of history as the universal truth.
• White catholic men.
• Picture is false.
• For more than 2500 years, women educationally disadvantaged.
• Since 2500 years, men have more time to think, women have less uninterrupted time
• When you don’t have time to think, raise your head and read, learn, understand, it is easy
• Feminists come from educated elite: time to think
You are insignificant
• Quelle force de survivre pendant 5000 and
dans un monde où nous ne valons rien…
• We managed to survive under male cultural
hegemony: huge resilience and capacity of
• Stigma of insignificance
• Why no female system builders?
• Because one cannot think universals when
oneself is excluded from the generic.
When we see with one eye, our vision is
limited in range and devoid in depth.
• Men and women live on a stage. But men
have written the play and directed the
• Equal parts will not make women equal if
the script is still written by men
• Feminists point to that stage.
• Men appropriated and transformed the symbols of female
• Constructed theologies based on the counterfactual
metaphor of male procreativity.
• Metaphors for female as deviant, mutilated, powerless
• Male is the center of the discourse
• Men arrogated to themselves the representation of the whole
humanity: even in the language
• We are taking the half for the whole.
• Same as when we thought the earth to be flat: distorted
vision. No full understanding of reality.
• And this androcentric fallacy cannot be rectified simply by
• You need a radical restructuring of thought
For nearly 4000 years women have
shaped their lives under paternalistic
• The basis of paternalism is an unwritten contract
– economic support and protection given by male for
subordination in all matters
– sexual service, unpaid domesttic service given by the
• It was a rational choice for women under
conditions of public powerlessness and economic
• Women also shared class privileges with men in
exchange for their special economic political and
Ignorance of your own history
keeps women subordinate.
• Women have for millenia participated in
the process of their own subordination
because they have been psychologically
shaped to internalize the idea of their own
• Indoctrination from early childhood on
• Male hegemony over the symbol system:
educational deprivation of women and
male monopoly on definition.
The patriarchal system can function
only with the cooperation of women
• Reforms and legal changes while ameliorating the
condition of women will not basically change the
• Patriarchy is secured by different means:
– gender indoctrination,
– educational deprivation,
– denial to women of knowledge of their history,
– dividing of women,
– discrimination in access to economic and political
– and by awarding class privileges to conforming women.
But it’s scary to step out of the
• Fear of “existential nothingness”, Mary Daly
• Threat of loss of communication, love and
approval from man in her life.
• Heterosexual feminists have developed
friendships with women, chosen celibacy or
separating sex from love.
• No thinking man has ever been threatened in
his self-definition and his love life at the price
of his thinking.
• Gender conditioning to please and to avoid
We need a shift of
• Revolutionary thought has always been
based on upgrading the experience of the
• Get rid of the great men on our heads and
replace them by ourselves, our sisters, our
• Effort to resurrect women’s literary and
• Rejection of goddess/witch dichotomy
• Unacknowledged restraints embedded deep
into our psyches
We need to reclaim power at
individual and collective level
• Women’s history is indispensable and
essential to the emancipation of women. It
changes their lives.
The end of an era
• Patriarchy inextricably linked to militarism,
hierarchy and racism.
• Threatens the very existence of life on earth.
• We are living in an age of unprecedented
• We are in the process of becoming.
• A feminist world view will enable women and
men to free their minds from patriarchal
thoughts and practice and at last to build a
world free of dominance and hierarchy, a
world that is truly human.
• The patriarchal model is reflected even in
the language we use
• The generic term for human is male
• Words are socially created cultural
• They come to life if they represent
concepts accepted by large numbers of
• Not as easy as with other oppressed
• Women, more than any other group, have
collaborated in their own subordination
through their acceptance of the sex
gender system. They have internalized
and transmitted these values.
• The ego formation of the individual male,
which must have taken place within a
context of fear, awe and possibly dread of
the female must have led men to create
social institutions to bolster their egos,
strengthen their self-confidence and
validate their sense of worth.