[personal profile] asthefiretree
Renee Rhodes
Book Review: IE Studies
The Myth Of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women A Future, Cynthia Eller

For my IE Studies book, I chose The Myth Of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller. As a pagan, I find myself frequently bombarded with the idea that once upon a time, life was peaceful, women were considered to be equal or superior to men, everyone coexisted happily and there was enough food, enough shelter for everyone. Until the evil patriarchy took over that is- at least that is what Marija Gimbutas, Merlin Stone and many others would have us believe.

Eller wrote The Myth Of Matriarchal Prehistory not to show that women really always have been second-class or worse (And illustrates clearly in chapter six, it can be extremely difficult to determine the status of women in a particular society when examining the evidence from different directions, and that may be further colored by the observer's bias) but because "...it's my feminist movement too, and when I see it going down a road which, however inviting, looks the wrong way to me, I have an obligation to speak up." (Pg. 7)

I personally do not identify as a feminist, which Webster's Dictionary defines as "of or relating to or advocating equal rights for women". I am much more apt to refer to myself as egalitarian, and there are those who would say that I am nitpicking over semantics, but I do not believe that the word "feminism" can be used to describe equality of the sexes any more than "masculism" could be. I would so much love to believe that there was a time, even in the distant past that women and men were truly equal and if we could just get it together we could return to that way...but as Eller points out, when properly considered, all evidence underlines the fact that this simply never was, however she goes on to conclude that even if it never was, and even if it were never fully possible, equality is still a most worthy and necessary goal to work for.

Reading this book was interesting, if not necessarily pleasant at some points. I had to stop to consider my chosen Hearth Culture and their gods. As Eller points out, the Ancient Greeks were hardly friendly to women, quoting Aristotle's position that men are far superior to women, and that even a good wife will bring her husband trouble. I questioned that I should be honoring the deities of these people; it was not an easy question. But it was not the gods that brought such treatment of women to this world, it was happening well before the worship of these gods was in place.

I found this book to be worth reading because it does address the very common myth, which is presented far too often as historical fact. Eller writes of the risk of breaking up the ranks of the feminist cause, but felt that it was far more important to write about how all evidence in truth points to the contrary. She concludes though, by saying that the idea of matriarchal prehistory is still valuable- as a myth that we can learn from for building a future where women do have equal status in society.

(I wrote this review a while ago. I was going to rewrite it but have decided to submit it as-is. If it's returned to me, I'll need to reread the book to rewrite it. I'm really just trying to avoid falling into the same trap that I was in with the personal religion essay.)



March 2010

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