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Upgrading Women and Men – Article One in a Series

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This is the first article in a series on Upgrading Men and Women.  Click on Articles by Jose Stevens on the menu to the right to see the other articles.

Many of you responded to my most recent article on Tilling The Soil by wanting to know more about the break through phenomenon of women coming forward to bare the truth of their harassment and mistreatment by predatory men in positions of power. This is a rather huge and shocking shift in the institutionalized patterns of abuse that have been in place for so long. This is a sea change in the status quo and there is much more to come. The truth is there is a much bigger story here and it deserves some exposure. In fact the topic is too big to handle in one article. Last year, because of its complexity, I wrote a series of articles on the elections and the whole Trump phenomenon. So now I will embark on several articles devoted to the shift in power between men and women played out in the sexual arena. As always, because the story is complicated, it requires a certain neutrality to understand the full scale of it. Some aspects of it may provoke deep-seated feelings and cause you to react angrily or in other emotional ways. If we are to do justice to the topic then all sides must be examined and if you don’t like what you read you may simply stop reading. Just please don’t attack the messenger. My aim is to be comprehensive and yet present a balanced view. During these reactive times that is hard to do so be patient. That is why there will be more than one article about this.

In the larger context of this topic, there is no right side and no wrong side for each has it’s saints and sinners so to speak. This is an archetypal story so that means it goes way beyond individual personalities. It is a human story and we have all chosen to play it out on the big stage of life in order to ultimately learn to love one another after experiencing the results of a lack of love. This process requires a great deal of courage and vulnerability to speak the truth, and ultimately to forgive, but not before laying out clear boundaries. As Gandhi so famously said and I paraphrase here, “An Eye for an Eye will leave the whole world blind.” There is no other way to heal than to choose love over vengeance, peace over conflict, and acceptance over rejection of those foolish parts of ourselves that we out-picture into external historical dramas.

Naturally I am going to have to summarize great stretches of history because this is not a book, just several articles. This first article is focused on outlining the historical shift from the matriarchy to the patriarchy, the primary reason that the abuse of dominant males over females exists.

Historically there is a great deal of anthropological evidence that males and females found ways to cooperate and often shared the work load for hunting and raising children and so on. The old ideas that cavemen dragged women about by the hair in one hand while carrying a club in the other just isn’t so. In ancient times there were no organized religions, just a shamanic approach to life where all of the forms in feminine nature were honored and respected. Both men and women contributed to ceremonies, healed the sick and injured, honored the spirits in nature, and contributed to the well being of the band or tribe in many ways. In those times we know from ancient gravesites that both men and women exhibited leadership and were honored for their bravery, intelligence, and capability. We also now know that many indigenous societies were matriarchal so that the lineage of wealth and power came through the female line. This is not to say that those were the good old days because that was a time when most human beings were younger souls and they didn’t always behave well. Yet they did follow natural ways more and this worked to their advantage. They survived very well.

According to Gerda Lerner, PhD, in her book The Creation of Patriarchy, some of the main causes of the switch from matriarchy to patriarchy included the following events.

We now know that there were many powerful goddess figures that people honored and there were mediums, often women who were gifted at speaking with the goddesses and conveying their wisdom and suggestions to the people. Over time there arose a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses but eventually around the late Neolithic period, around 3000 BC, because of many complex social and economic factors that I am about to discuss, the male gods rose to the top of the pantheon. By design of the new patriarchy these new male gods only communicated with male chiefs and spiritual leaders eliminating women from their important role as mediators with the goddesses. Also structured religions began to arise with complex dogmas and sets of beliefs that mostly favored males and supported the new power structures where males were dominant.

Many mother goddess figures were demoted or revised as evil rather than beneficial figures. For example Medusa’s former image as a powerful fertility goddess was changed making her a monster with hair of writhing snakes and Pandora, another fertility goddess, became a demoness with a box full of the evils of the world.

When humans switched from hunting and gathering to a herding and agricultural model, humans acquired the notion of private ownership over their own herds and land for growing. Prior to this time humans shared everything.

Once herders developed the notion of private ownership over their animals and private gardens for growing they also developed the notion of passing their herds and gardens down to their children, and this evolved into men insisting that women be virgins at marrying age and refraining from adultery after marriage so the lines of inheritance could not be contested..

Once humans had private property they had to protect that property by growing large security forces, armies and such from enemies that might try to take them over. These armies consisted largely of warriors and were male dominant. Many of the leaders of armies after achieving victory in battle assumed the role of chief or king in their communities further reinforcing male domination.

The first patriarchal families arose from these developments and as nation states evolved during this time period, complex economies arose that needed regulation by government bodies. As part of this system women became a commodity. Marriage alliances began to be negotiated between tribes or villages and that meant the forceful removal of women from their homelands. Women were often offered by tribal chiefs to sleep with visiting men as a gesture of hospitality and women were often forced to participate in ritual rapes in festivals to insure prosperity. Women were taught from birth to consent to these patriarchal practices and thus they were not questioned and this was reinforced by the power of indoctrinating patriarchal religions. As a result women have mostly collaborated in their own subordination and have internalized values which have subordinated them.

Women in the agricultural villages were needed for their labor and for their ability to give births. The more children they could bear the better because people were needed to cultivate the expanding farmland. Reproductive ability was a village resource and became like a commodity or like a form of property owned by family heads and rulers. Children were now an economic asset.

During times of economic scarcity intertribal warfare resulted in larger scale wars. Because of their value as property, women were captured and enslaved. Women and children became the first slaves in human history. Women slaves were forced to become prostitutes, concubines, or domestic servants preserving their value as property but lowering their value as independent human beings.

Even the queen’s sexuality and reproductive capabilities came under the control of men. Kings and warriors had harems and numerous concubines demonstrating their value as property under the control of males.

Eventually royal edicts and legal codes legitimized the new patriarchy. That meant that from the ground up males were seen as local lower level kings with the same rights and powers within their own family structures. The father was the head of the family and he had economic and legal power over it. His wife and children obeyed him without question. So important was this system to the new economic system that adultery on the part of the wife was punishable by death in many edicts and codes.

Legal codes began to differentiate between respectable and non-respectable women, and this was another way of conquering and dividing women by institutionalized a ranking order for them, preventing them from uniting and developing a sense of pride in their gender. These male written codes caused women to compete rather than cooperate.

To add insult to injury male historians, scribes, and scholars have created or perpetuated most of the patriarchal belief systems, heroes, and explanatory systems in the various civilizations and women have been largely excluded from this process until fairly recently. Thus it appears that the patriarchal system has always been naturally and organically so and that it was mandated by a male God authority so, how could it be questioned?

The majority of women all over the world have been intentionally deprived of literacy and an education until fairly recently so they were unable to have a say in the historical facts and how rules are developed.

Finally with the advent and development of science and technology, especially in the field of agriculture, rather than sacred, nature was seen as an adversary to overcome and subjugate. Since ancient times nature has always been seen as maternal, a gift of the goddess and so with its demise so has the value of women as goddesses in their own right. Women themselves have been seen as something to overcome and subjugate and that has successfully taken place over the last five or so thousand years right up to the present time where males in positions of power have been demonstrated to carry out such acts. In this respect we have not advanced very much. It is also quite clear the role of religion in this dynamic, especially in light of the recent appalling support of Evangelicals toward Roy Moore, the fortunately defeated candidate for Senate. In addition, it is demonstrated by the willingness of many to support and believe the president even though sixteen women have come forward with a remarkably similar description of their assault by him prior to his election.

This concludes article one of the series.



José Stevens

José Stevens PhD is an international lecturer, corporate team builder and organizational coach, consultant and trainer. A psychologist, licensed clinical social worker and author of more than twenty books and numerous articles, he is also co-editor for A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism and a board member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners. He is the founder, with his wife Lena, of the Power Path School of Shamanism and The Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in indigenous cultures. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years.