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Matriarchy Marked by Tribalism and Violence

Feminism reigns when men don't claim their children.

Patriarchy can be said to exist in a culture if it recognizes the male's right to exercise ultimate control over his progeny; matriarchy exists where women have ultimate control of the progeny. Defined this way, patriarchy has been called the basis of civilization, as matriarchy exists only in primitive tribal societies. (Eleanor Leacock's claims to have discovered successful matriarchies have been discredited by Robert Scheaffer Deceptions of a Gender Equal Society), yet she is still quoted as an authority in many "Women's Studies" texts.) Matriarchies have recently had more scrutiny, the latest in sixteen South American tribal societies that practice what The Economist calls "experiments in advanced feminism."[1]

Stephen Beckman of Pennsylvania State University works with the Bari in Venezuela. He studied the "advantages" to women and children of having several fathers. Not surprisingly, the more of these "fathers" the children had to protect and care for them, the better chance of survival they enjoyed.

And protection is needed. Without patriarchal family structures, these cultures are so violent that large numbers of children are killed before they ever reach adulthood. Kristen Hawkes of the University of Utah reports on the Ache of Paraguay, where a woman has an average of ten marriages by the time she is thirty.

...the chief cause of death among Ache children is violence: almost three-quarters of the children dying before the age of 15 are killed by their fellows.

So much for "advanced feminism." What does this say about increasingly feminist western cultures? Historically, they were patriarchal. Fathers normally retained custody of their children if a family broke up (which rarely occurs in patriarchies). In the US, legal changes granting mothers custody instead of the traditional father custody presumption evolved during the industrial revolution, when men were largely absent from family life.

This change to a presumption of mother custody is by definition a change to matriarchy. But social change takes time, and during the industrial revolution women were still busy in the home. A hundred years ago, the average American family still had seven children. Thereafter family size declined rapidly, and this was later combined with an ever greater financial freedom for women. Under these conditions, the change to a matriarchal family structure lead to a sharp rise in the number of families broken by divorce. This trend towards family breakup was in turn followed by equally steep rises in rates of violence.

Yet things have again changed in recent years. According to the US Census Bureau, over the past few years the number of children of divorced homes who remain with their father rather than with their mother has risen dramatically. During that period, there has been a commensurate fall in overall rates of youth violence. While a blanket presumption of father custody is yet to come, even the states which have implemented a presumption of joint custody rather than mother custody have seen a sharp fall in divorce rates.

The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth has provided yet more data suggesting a strong link between increased father involvement and decreases in violence. Such a link would be consistent with a large body of data documenting elevated rates of violence among fatherless children. Many recent studes have indicated that the risk of teenage pregnancy and violent crime cannot predicted by race or income levels, but by the absence of a father in the home (see links below).

The results in these various fields of research suggest one conclusion: Stable families, safe children, and healthy societies exist only where men maintain control over their progeny.

1. Paternity Test, (Anaheim), The Economist, Jan 30 - Feb 5, 1999, p. 78

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