28 de julio de 2010

A (M)otherworld is possible.

La Universidad de York (Toronto, Canadá) acogió el octubre pasado a intelectuales y activistas de todo el mundo para seguir profundizando sobre el paradigma matriarcal como una alternativa real y efectiva, bajo el título de Otro mundo es posible - Un mundo maternal es posible.

El único vídeo en español muestra la ponencia de Marina Meneses (Juchitán, Mexico) sobre las tradiciones de su pueblo matriarcal.

Lo que más me llamó la atención sobre su exposición:

- Todos reconocen el prestigio social de las madres, quienes no lo usan para provecho propio, sino para cohesionar la comunidad. Los hombres son respetados por su trabajo en pro del bien común.
- No existe obligación para la mujer de ser madre. Mujeres solteras pueden optar por una carrera profesional y su prestigio es igualmente reconocido.
- La generosidad y la participación en el espacio público son valores importantes, tanto para hombres como para mujeres.
- Los hijos varones solteros entregan el salario a sus madres, eje central de la economía familiar, excepto una pequeña parte para sus gastos personales.
- Cada mujer tiene su propia casa.
- Su vida es una fiesta constante, honrando los ciclos de vida y muerte en la naturaleza. Las fiestas mueven la economía del lugar. ¿Quién sufre depresiones en un mundo así? Todo está inundado de flores.
- Los hijos varones interesa casarlos pronto, siendo la madre la que corre con los gastos de la boda. Las hijas ya disfrutan de autonomía para ser madres desde los quince años.

Para quienes entendáis el inglés, su web ofrece vídeos de las ponencias de las diversas participantes.

No tengo tiempo de traducirlo, pero podéis leer una inexacta traducción automática aquí:
(es tan inexacta que traduce 'matriarchies' por 'preindoeuropeos', para sorpresa mía)

In this time of world economic crisis it is more important than ever to find deep alternatives to a system that is proving itself to be dysfunctional. It is not surprising that such alternatives would have to do with women, and especially with mothers, whose roles of directly providing for the needs of their children form patterns of care that can be generalized.

Mothering can be seen as a mode of distribution, a vestigial or nascent gift economy, which co exists with the market but could be taken as the model for a way of organizing society as a whole. The fact that the values of care, necessary for mothering, are in opposition to the values of greed and domination, which have motivated the present economic crash, demonstrates that an economic system based on mothering could be a radical and positive alternative. The fact that mothers are now uniting in movements of consciousness and solidarity can allow us to expect that they will support a change of the economy towards care and away from exploitation.

There are a number of initiatives at present having to do with gift economies. The internet and the knowledge economy provide the abundance necessary for gift giving to function without being self sacrificial. Not only free software and the free copyright movement but Wikipedia, Freecycling, Facebook, You Tube, Skype etc. provide information and goods free. There are numerous attempts at gift giving on the material plane such as volunteerism, solidarity networks, alternative communities, free stores, yellow bikes, time banks and cooperative gifting circles. Other examples are the remittances made by immigrants to their home countries and philanthropy.This movement can be framed as a mothering movement, even when it is often implemented by men. Unfortunately it has not been clear that the unilateral gift giving, which is necessary for mothering even in a society based on market values, is the foundational logic of all these attempts. Rather studies of 'symbolic gift exchange' have suggested that the logic of debt and obbligation and the reward of reputation are what moves the participants. Even in societies which have 'gift exchange' however, mothers continue to give directly to their children and families. Symbolic exchange and market exchange can both be seen as elaborations of direct provisioning and its logic.

Matriarchal societies had and have distribution of goods to needs, as well as celebrations and festivals where different groups take turns in distributing their goods to other groups. The leadership of women, decision making by women, matrilineality, matrilocality, and prototype of the mother are characteristics of these societies, which are not mirror images of patriarchies, but peaceful , balanced societies in which men, if they are to be leaders, must be 'like good mothers'.

Both matriarchal studies and gift economy studies generalize maternal values to the society at large. Mothering is not relegated to the nursery and there is not a break between the adult economy and the economy of childhood. Rather the importance of the relationships developed in giving and receiving is elaborated in understanding and developing all relationships in these societies. Many aspects of the world view coming from the society based on the market and homo economicus can be seen in radically different ways when mothering is the premise of social value. Modern matriarchal studies rejects the opinion of Bachofen and his followers who believed that matriarchy was a mirror image of patriarchy. Instead matriarchies are egalitarian societies that embrace the model of the mother as the model of the human.

The feminist vision based on the logic of the gift economy and the feminist vision of matriarchal studies support each other. The discourse of the gift economy emphasizes the distribution of goods to needs and the circulation of gifts while matriarchal studies provides concrete historical examples of matriarchal societies as well as modern societies that still function according to matriarchal principles.

Matriarchies are not just a reversal of patriarchy, with women ruling over men - as the usual misinterpretation would have it. Matriarchies are mother-centered societies, they are based on maternal values: care-taking, nurturing, motherliness, which holds for everybody: for mothers and those who are not mothers, for women and men alike.

Matriarchal societies are consciously built upon these maternal values and motherly work, and this is why they are much more realistic than patriarchies. They are, on principle, need-oriented. Their precepts aim to meet everyone's needs with the greatest benefit. So, in matriarchies, mothering - which originates as a biological fact - is transformed into a cultural model. This model is much more appropriate to the human condition than the way patriarchies conceptualise motherhood and use it to make women, and especially mothers, into slaves.

This is the subject of Modern Matriarchal Studies, which investigates and presents matriarchal societies found all over the world. These investigations focus not only on the past, but also pay attention to still existing societies with matriarchal patterns in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific area. Contrary to common belief, none of these is a mere reversal of patriarchy. Rather, they are all gender-egalitarian societies, and many of them are fully egalitarian. This means they have no hierarchies, classes nor domination of one gender by the other.

Matriarchal studies started more than 140 years ago with the pioneering theories of Johann Jakob Bachofen and Lewis Henry Morgan. Bachofen`s work is in the field of history of cultures, and it represents a perfect parallel to the work of Morgan (in the field of anthropology/ethnology), who did research in the indigenous society of the Iroquois of his time. For more than a century, the discussion on "mother right" and "matriarchy" continued: the subject now was used and abused by all the intellectual schools of thought, and all political parties, each with its distinctly different point of view.

Unfortunately, their research didn't have a really scientific foundation because of the lack of a clear definition of this type of society, and because of a lot of patriarchally biased presuppositions which distorted their findings. This situation continued. Up until recently, research in the field of matriarchy - often covered under false headlines - has lacked scientific defining and an elaborated methodology, in spite of the existence of several competent studies and extensive data collection. This absence of scientific rigor opens up the door to the emotional and ideological, i.e. sexist and racist entanglements that have been a burden for this socio-cultural science from the very beginning. Patriarchy itself has not been critically considered in the treatment of this subject, while stereotypical views of women - and a neurotic fear of women's alleged power - has often confused the issues.

Over the past few decades matriarchal studies have been undergirded with a scientific foundation, thus making way for Modern Matriarchal Studies.

This enterprise differs in several ways from the previous matriarchal studies:

1. it articulates a specific and comprehensive definition of terms,
2. it uses an explicit methodology,
3. it presents a systematic criticism of the ideological patriarchal bias that characterizes existing social and cultural sciences.

In this way a new socio-cultural science has been created, one that represents a new paradigm. The central tenet of this paradigm is that women have not only created society and culture over long periods of human history, but that all subsequent cultural developments originated there.

At two World Congresses on Matriarchal Studies, organised and guided by Heide Goettner-Abendroth, these largely misunderstood societies were presented to a wider public. In 2003, the first World Congress on Matriarchal Studies titled SOCIETIES IN BALANCE took place in Luxembourg/Europe; the second World Congress on Matriarchal Studies, titled SOCIETIES OF PEACE, was held 2005 in San Marcos, Texas. Both congresses brought together international scholars (Peggy Reeves Sanday, Hélène Claudot-Hawad, Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, to name only few), and indigenous researchers from many of the world's still existing matriarchal societies (Barbara Mann, Iroquois; Usria Dhavida, Minangkabau; Savithri de Tourreil, Nayar; Patricia Mukhim, Khasi; Lamu Gatusa, Mosuo; Malika Grasshoff, Kabyle; Wilhelmina Donkoh, Akan; and others). They spoke not only about the matriarchal patterns their societies have preserved, but also about the societal and political problems that colonization and missionization have caused to their communities. In this way, they corrected the distorted perspective often held by non-indigenous peoples.

Defining the deep structure of "matriarchal society" in Modern Matriarchal Studies (as given by Heide Goettner-Abendroth):

With matriarchal cultures, equality means more than just a levelling of differences. Natural differences between the genders and the generations are respected and honoured, but they never serve to create hierarchies, as is common in patriarchy. The different genders and generations have their own dignity, and through complementary areas of activity, they function in concert one other. More precisely, matriarchies are societies with complementary equality, where great care is taken to provide a balance. This applies to the balance between genders, among generations, and between humans and nature. Maternal values as ethical principles pervade all areas of a matriarchal society. It creates an attitude of care-taking, nurturing, and peacemaking.

This can be observed on all levels of society: the economic level, the social level, the political level and the areas of their worldviews and faiths.

At the social level, matriarchal societies are based on the clan, and on the "symbolic order of the mother". This also means maternal values as spiritual principles, one that humans take from nature. Mother Nature cares for all beings, however different they may be. The same applies to motherliness: a good mother cares for all her children, embracing their diversity.

This holds true for men as well. If a man in a matriarchal society desires to acquire status among his peers, or even become a representative of the clan to the outside word, then he must be like a "good mother".

But in matriarchies, you don't have to be a biological mother in order to be acknowledged as a woman, because matriarchies practice the common motherhood of a group of sisters. Each individual sister does not necessarily have to have children, but together they are all "mothers" of any children that any of them have. This motherhood is founded on the freedom of women to decide on their own about whether or not to have biological children.

This is possible because matriarchal people live together in large kinship groups, formed according to the principle of matrilineality. The clan's name, and all social status and political titles, are passed on through the mother's line. Such a matri-clan consists of at least three generations of women, along with their brothers, nephews and maternal uncles. In classic cases, the matri-clan lives in one big clan-house. This is called matrilocality. Their spouses or lovers stay only over-night, in a pattern called "visiting-marriage". These principles of matrilineality and matrilocality put mothers at the center; in this way women guide their clans without ruling.

In order to achieve social cohesion among the clans of a village or city, complex marriage conventions have been developed that link them in mutually beneficial ways. The intended effect is that all inhabitants of a village or city are related to each other by birth or by marriage. This shapes a society that sees itself as a big clan, where everybody is "mother" or "sister" or "brother" to everybody else. Thus matriarchies can be defined at the social level as non-hierarchical, horizontal societies of matrilineal kinship.

This social order based on motherhood includes far reaching consequences for the economical level: Matriarchal economy is a subsistence economy. There is no such thing as private property, and there are no territorial claims. The people simply have usage rights on the soil they till, or the pastures their animals graze, for Mother Earth can not be owned or cut up in pieces. She gives the fruits of the fields and the young animals to all people. Parcels of land and a certain number of animals are given to each matri-clan, and are worked on communally.

Most importantly, women have the power of disposition over goods and clan houses, and especially over the sources of nourishment: fields, flocks and food. All the goods are put in the hands of the clan mother, the matriarch, and she, mother of all the clan members, distributes them equally among her children and grand-children. She is responsible for the sustenance and protection of all clan members.

In a matriarchal community, the clans enjoy perfect mutuality: every relative advantage, or disadvantage, in terms of acquiring goods is mediated by social guidelines. For example, at the seasonal festivals of the agricultural year, clans that are comparatively better off will invite all the inhabitants to be their guests. The members of such a clan organize the banquet, the rituals, and the music and dances of one of the annual festivals - and then give away their goods as a gift to all their neighbours. By doing this, they gain nothing except honor. At the next festival in the cycle, another lucky clan will step up, outdoing itself by inviting everybody in the village or neighbourhood, entertaining them all, and dispensing presents.

Since this is the general attitude, matriarchal economy can be called a "gift economy". It is the economic manifestation of maternal values, which prevents development of an exchange economy and instead fully achieves a gift economy. Due to these features, matriarchies can be defined at the economical level as societies of balanced economic reciprocity, based on the circulation of gifts.