A new myth of human origins has taken hold, and even if you're not familiar with its specifics you're likely to know its contours and to have seen its detritus: T-shirts that proclaim "I Survived 5,000 Years of Patriarchal Hierarchies," goddess earrings dangling from a friend's ears, Venus of Willendorf reproductions, advertisements for goddess travel tours.
According to this matriarchal myth, whose proponents include archaeologist Marija Gimbutas and cultural historian Riane Eisler, men and women lived together peacefully before written records. Society was centered around women, who were honored as incarnations of the Great Goddess. Then a great transformation occurred, and men thereafter dominated society.
Given the universality of patriarchy in recorded history, this vision is understandably appealing for many women. After all, Eller notes, the myth posits a peaceful social structure in which women make important decisions for their communities as powerful, even revered, leaders. But does it have any basis in fact? And as a myth, does it benefit women?
In this lucid and fascinating volume, Eller traces the emergence of feminist matriarchal myth, explicates its functions, and examines the evidence for and against a matriarchal prehistory. Finally, she explains why this vision of peaceful, women-centered prehistory is something feminists should be wary of....Continua