It is, or was, my understanding, that the alternate-historical novel “One Thousand White Women”, by journalist Jim Fergus, was based on a real event.
The Northern Cheyenne, (So I think/thought Fergus reported), were matrilineal (at least), and maybe also matrilocal. They weren’t matriarchal, I guess; at least their Chief was usually a man, so I gather.
Their leadership decided they ought to try to integrate themselves into white society. So Chief Little Wolf asked President Grant to send a thousand white women to marry into the Cheyenne. By Cheyenne lights, any child born of such unions would be white.
But of course white society was patrilineal. So the average white person didn’t understand it that way at all. Theydve thought those children would be Cheyennes, like their (hypothetical) fathers. So they were outraged, incensed, and disgusted.
The counterfactual premise of the novel is that the US government decided to take Little Wolf’s offer up.
I have a feeling that’s as close as you’re likely to get to a RL example of what you’re asking about.
I don’t know of any truly matriarchal society that’s well-documented in RL history.
There are plenty that are matrilineal.
There are plenty that are matrilocal.
There are at least a few well-known ones where real estate and herds are almost always owned by women. (The Navaho, IIANM)
And many in which women’s opinions, en masse, are politically influential and important. (For instance, if the men voted to go to war, they still couldn’t go unless and until the women voted to supply them with enough corn and moccasins.)
But for most of them the Chief is always or almost always a guy.
Theoretically it might be the women, in effect, who chose the Chief; but he had to be a guy.
The Northeastern Native North American tribes included some such societies in pre-Revolutionary times.
The legendary Amazons may have had a factual basis. But too little is known about them. For instance I don’t think it’s really settled that they truly did exist.
Pirate captains in the New World during the Eighteenth Century were elected. They actually had authority only when a prize was in sight; the quartermaster usually called the shots most of the rest of the time. Jack Sparrow’s remark “why fight when we can negotiate?” was actually realistic; usually the pirates’ captain could negotiate with the target ship’s officers to take some of their valuables but not their ship, and leave with neither crew injured and neither ship damaged. For that purpose, the pirate crew would like to elect a captain who “had a lordly manner”.
Your youkai might also choose certain leaders partly because of their ability to favorably impress humans.
Edited May 28th
Is it possible that having the majority of political power or final say in political situations in the hands of women is actually a better measure of a culture being matriarchal than who the "chief" is, even if the chief is always a man? I've seen some evidence that groups of men, as a generality, tend to be hierarchical, whereas groups of women don't have a strict hierarchy but rather a web-like structure of interpersonal relationships. So if that extends to patriarchal vs matriarchal societies, pointing to "This one position of power, which is selected by women - who also have a lot of say in other political matters - is always a man," might be misguided or at least a view informed by living in a patriarchal society (even if not an "extreme" version).
Although that thought already helps since, if each clan has an individual (a male, or more rarely a female who is in a position in human society that would gain some respect and influence), then humans who did learn anything about cat youkai and their social structures would assume this cat was the defacto leader, whether or not they actually were.
Posted May 28th
Yes, it’s possible.
Edited May 30th
While [b]I[/b] don’t [i]know[/i] of any [u]well-documented[/u] “truly” matriarchal society in RL history,
I do remember reading about one extant “truly” matriarchal natculture.
I don’t know whether or not it is well-documented, but as I recall it was a reliable source that reported it as “truly” matriarchal.
However, I have forgotten the name and location of the society; and have also forgotten the source (both primary and secondary).
So I don’t count myself as “knowing of” it.
Edited June 4th
Do you remember if it was a semi-nomadic tribal group? Could they live in a rain forest? If so, were they polyandrous?
Or a settled agricultural group? Could they be living in China, or at least part of Asia? If so, were they matrilocal and/or polyandrous?
If you can't remember at all (or didn't know), or if both of these sound completely off base, then that's fine. But if either of these ring a bell then I might already know of the culture.
Posted June 4th
> Do you remember if it was a semi-nomadic tribal group? Could they live in a rain forest? If so, were they polyandrous?
I don’t think they were semi-nomadic. I don’t think they lived in a rain forest.
I don’t think they were polyandrous either.
I could be wrong about any or all of those.
> Or a settled agricultural group? Could they be living in China, or at least part of Asia? If so, were they matrilocal and/or polyandrous?
I think they were a settled agricultural group.
Don’t know about China, but I think they were living in part of Asia.
I think they were matrilocal. But not polyandrous.
I could be wrong about any or all of that as well.
> If you can't remember at all (or didn't know), or if both of these sound completely off base, then that's fine. But if either of these ring a bell then I might already know of the culture.
I think they might have lived near China though not in it.
I think they might have had polyandrous neighbors.
I could be wrong about all or some (or none?) of that, too.
The things I remember that I haven’t mentioned yet are;
The men resented(? Right word?) or chafed against the restrictions on their rights to own property and exercise legal and political freedoms.
Nevertheless the men deeply respected the women in their lives, as individuals. Maybe they also respected the women in their society as a group, while still feeling that they were unfairly denied equality.
The Native North American matrilineal and matrilocal peoples among whom the real estate and livestock are all owned by women and/or matrilines and/or women’s households, seem to be more sexually equal in their treatment of individuals. It’s just that women outnumber men by something less than two to one; [ov]women live longer** than men[/ov] and age confers both authority and wealth; and women’s work is very important, around as much as men’s work (men are smiths and jewelers among other things). A man and a woman the same age with the same wealth probably are equally influential. But if the women “vote as a bloc” and the men don’t, there’s a good chance things will go as the women have agreed. If the men “vote as a bloc” and the women don’t, odds are the men will carry the question, but those odds are significantly lower than if the opposite voting lines happen. If you understand what I mean; I have a feeling I could have been clearer.
[ov]** women living longer than men might be an anachronism or error on my part.[/ov]
Those[o]*[/o] tribes in the Northeastern US were a bit different from those[o]*[/o] tribes in the Southwestern US, especially as politics and property go.
[o]* matrilineal matrilocal tribes[/o]
I imagine the group I have forgotten about are about equally different from, say, Tibetans.
Again, I could be wrong about almost any fraction of this.
Edited June 5th
Doing a little research, the Asian group I was thinking of seems to be the Mosuo. They are in China but near the Himalayas. They are technically polyandrous, in that they have "walking marriages", and women can choose their partners and end relationships by visiting men they like, or not, at night. Those men live with their mothers' families since women own all the real estate and such.
I can't seem to find the other cultural group I was thinking of, but I have found mentions of other modern matriarchal societies: some sources say 6 or slightly more; One or two of those are women-only societies created intentionally and more recently, so not as useful for my purposes. But it seems that there have been a few matriarchal societies historically in Asia, so I don't think my youkai being matriarchal at least among themselves would be as difficult as I was first expecting.
Posted June 5th
It sounds like the Mosuo may have been the group I’d read of. I may have been wrong about the polyandry.
Both the Northeastern and the Southwestern Native North American tribes I’m thinking of, are matrilocal.
The Southwestern ones are also matrilineal; I think (I could be wrong) the Northeastern ones are as well.
The Southwesterners’ real estate and livestock are all held by women. If the same is true of the Northeasterners, I never heard it.
It’s the Northeasterners of whom I’d read that the men couldn’t go to war, even if they’d voted to do so, unless the women voted to supply them with sufficient rations and moccasins. It’s also the Northeasterners of whom I had read that, often, it was the female part of the vote, that chose who held various one-holder offices, such as Chief.
I never read any cause proposed for why either group had the married men continuing to live with their mothers, while the married women continued to live with their own mothers.
In the case of the Northeasterners, I guessed that there was rather a lack of reasons not to do it that way, rather than proposed reasons why they should do it that way.
In the Southwest, the women owned the real estate. If that’s the Mosuo reason for matrilocality, it could be also the Navaho reason. But you’re the first writer I’ve read who said that’s the cause.
Anyway; in both the Northeast and the Southwest, these matrilineal tribesmen’s heirs tend to be their oldest sister’s oldest sons, rather than their wives’ oldest sons.
And children, or at least boys, tend to be raised by their mother’s brothers, rather than by their fathers.
Young men tend to have a “joking relationship” with their fathers.
In effect, the roles of “father” and “uncle”, tend to be swapped, compared to those roles among us.
I appreciate your information that there may be only on the order of half-a-dozen[o]*[/o] matriarchal societies that are well-known, well-documented, and well-agreed to be matriarchal in the sense you (and I) are talking about here. That makes me quit worrying that there were actually lots of them and I somehow overlooked them.
[o]*should be “one-and-a-half dozen”.[/edit][/o]
I look forward to hearing more about these cat youkai.
Edited June 5th
Eighteen of the cultures/societies in this table:
are matrilineal, and either matrilocal or uxorilocal or “separate” or duolocal.
That’s more than six. But I don’t know how matriarchal they are.
The Christian Garo of India are one of those. They practice female ultimogeniture, which makes them really interesting to me.
Are your cat youkai immortal? Do they need to have a system of assigning heirs?
Edited June 5th
> Are your cat youkai immortal? Do they need to have a system of assigning heirs?
They are immortal in that they don't die of old age, and generally not from illness. They can die from a few rare illnesses, poisons and injury. Their entire "family" structure is basically by adoption or "marriage". Though aside from the clan heads, adoption is usually an older-sibling/younger-sibling relationship instead of parent-child
I was specifically looking for what are considered matriarchal, not matrilineal or matrilocal. But! It seems that being matrilocal and matrilineal greatly increases the chances a society is ALSO matriarchal, and having one or the other makes it slightly more likely. But not all matrilocal or matrilineal societies and matriarchal.
So officially among themselves, cats would probably see any buildings belonging to a woman, or the clan as a whole which is likely to be headed by a woman or a woman and her spouse.
Posted June 5th
According to Wikipedia there’s also “matri[b]f[/b]ocal”.
A group that’s matriarchal is probably all three of matri[u]foc[/u]al and matri[u]line[/u]al and matri[u]loc[/u]al;
or, if not matrilocal, then uxorilocal or duolocal.
And a group that’s matrifocal and matrilineal and one of matrilocal or duolocal or uxorilocal is probably matriarchal.
Although there’s so much confusion-or-disagreement-or-polysemy in the term “matriarchal” that none of the above are sure things.
(All according to Wikipedia.)
Also according to Wikipedia:
“Matriarchal” is different from “gynocratic”.
“Matriarchal” means that the senior female (usually the mother of the next younger generation) is the head of the family group.
“Gynocratic” means that the women hold (most of?) the political power; often at least partly excluding the men.
A society can be either of them without the other; or it can be both; or neither.
I’d think your cat youkai would have eldest sisters, rather than “matrices/matriarchs”, as family heads, for the most part.
(In human matriarchies eldest sisters are the second choice, after the mothers, to be the heads of the families. Of course, grandmothers and aunts count too, sometimes.)
The Mosuo have certain activities that are male monopolies; politics and religion are two such monopolies.
(Or at least that’s what Wikipedia says.)
I’d think gynocracies would tend to be matriarchies (in at least a weak sense), and matriarchies would tend to be gynocracies (in at least a weak sense).
But that would be an educated(?) guess.
Edited June 5th
@linguistcat:I keep forgetting to “target” you in my replies. 😐 Sorry 😐!
Posted June 5th
> ...., if each clan has an individual (a male, or more rarely a female who is in a position in human society that would gain some respect and influence), then humans who did learn anything about cat youkai and their social structures would assume this cat was the defacto leader, whether or not they actually were.
They’d be like the Kzin “Speaker-to-Animals”, or the Hell’s Angels’ Road Captain, or maybe like the House of Commons’s Speaker-of-the-House used to be and sometimes still can be.
(Kzinti are a con-race created by Larry Niven.)
Posted June 5th
@chiarizio I should probably alert you as well
After clearing up terminology (I didn't know about the divide between matriarchal and gynocratic!), whether or not the cats are gynocratic - but I am leaning toward most clans and the species as a whole being so - they are definitely matriarchal.
In clans, the head cat and their spouse are referred to with cognates to the Japanese words for mother and father. They will have other cats that joined at the beginning (referred to with something like "original sibling/younger sister/brother" by the head cats and as "uncle/aunt" by any cats they didn't adopt directly as younger siblings. This reminds me that I need to make some updated family trees.
Posted June 6th
> In clans, the head cat and their spouse are referred to with cognates to the Japanese words for mother and father. They will have other cats that joined at the beginning (referred to with something like "original sibling/younger sister/brother" by the head cats and as "uncle/aunt" by any cats they didn't adopt directly as younger siblings.
That makes sense.
Posted June 6th
In one of Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” novels, the planet he and his had to save from The Bad Guys (memory-manipulating brainwashers he’d run across before), was one where the government and military and police were women, while the men owned and ran all the businesses and owned and managed all the income-producing property.
(The Bad Guys were fucking things up by convincing the men that the men were unhappy with this arrangement. It was part of their Bad Guy skillset that they could do this undetected.)
The planet’s main industries were tourism, hospitality, hotels and restaurants, and entertainment. Managing such businesses profitably required the quotidian presence and attention of the owner/boss. So the men just didn’t have the time to do the military and law-enforcement and judicial and legislative and executive parts of the government’s jobs.
Besides which, the opposite party in any military or police matter, or any lawsuit, was likely to be a past, and/or potential future, paying guest. So the planet in question wanted, by default, to get everyone to calm down, slow down, take a deep breath, and try to negotiate, before going straight to force or weapons. They thought women police and soldiers and lawyers were likelier both to inspire the other side to negotiate, and to try negotiation-first themselves, than maybe men might.
So that gynocracy worked out just fine for the men, in everyone’s opinions including the men’s, until The Bad Guys fucked it up.
Notice this is probably not a dictionary-definition matrilineal society, since women apparently don’t inherit all the property and all the businesses.
Although it says nothing about who heads the family; I kinda suspect it was the senior male instead of the senior female, but since Harrison never said (or I just forgot), maybe it was the senior female, or maybe it was just the senior, regardless of sex.
I also don’t remember anything about matrilocal or patrilocal or duolocal or neolocal.
Or matrifocal or patrifocal .
That is a fictional example of a gynocracy which is not matrilineal and probably not matriarchal.
There are real-life examples of matriarchies which are not gynocracies.
For instance, there’s a Greek island I saw a Discovery or Science Channel or National Geographic anthropology show about, in which all residences, including both houses and land, and indeed all businesses and commercial real-estate, possibly excepting some beachfront and piers and harbors and docks and shipyards and dry docks, was held by women, and passed from mother to oldest daughter. Furthermore, younger daughters always lived near their mothers after marriage. (First daughters stayed in their mothers’ houses until their mothers passed on.)
Every house had a courtyard, and all land-based industries were carried out in the courtyard during the day.
Immature girls were employed in these industries; but boys too young to go to sea spent their days playing in these courtyards.
A woman younger than menopausal was handicapped politically and legally and socially by her sex. But there was a folk-belief that all widows were menopausal; so all widows (as well as any menopausal wife) could go anywhere on the island and talk to anyone.
Because inheritance of real-estate was matrilineal, and women were matrilocal and matrifocal, I think this would qualify as a matriarchy.
Note that Wiktionary’s and Wkipedia’s definition of matrilineal, is different from the definition I’d been using up until a few days ago.
Their definitions concentrate on who inherits important property (mostly land and buildings [g]and herds[/g]) from whom;
I had been concentrating on who someone inherited their family-name or clan-membership from.
Among the people of this island, only men go to sea.
Only men own boats or nautical equipment or fishing gear.
And their oldest sons inherit it.
I’m sure these people consider the boats and things pertaining to boats, “important property”.
It might be a bias on our part to think that how land is inherited makes this society “matrilineal”; I suspect a case could be made that, in these people’s own opinion, how boats are inherited weighs more in the balance, and makes them “patrilineal”.
At any rate, every child inherits her/his father’s surname, not his/her mother’s.
But I don’t think it qualifies as a gynocracy.
Young women have little or no influence on public affairs; as long as she’s still young enough to get pregnant, she shouldn’t go anywhere she could meet a man other than her husband, or his close relatives, or her close relatives. If she does she won’t be trusted in those places.
Old (or “old”) women run everything during the day; but they don’t compete with nor exclude the men. The men exclude themselves, by staying out at sea all day, earning everyone’s living.
When the men are home (ie all night), outdoor activity is all about people entertaining themselves and each other; and I imagine some indoor activity is that, too. Most indoor “activity” is probably sleeping. Some might be eating (if they don’t want to eat outdoors) or making love.
Nobody thinks men are poor and women are rich because women own all the land and buildings and inland businesses and the men only own boats and boating equipment and fishing gear and on-the-beach businesses.
OTOH, maybe it is a gynocracy, since old women do “run things” for the most part; but they don’t (if I understand correctly) ignore the desires and opinions of the men. It’s just that the men aren’t there half the time, and don’t care what the women do about half of the policy-decisions they make (I guess).
Edited June 10th
So, my idea for the cats is that while men are still common enough, they are less common than women. There would definitely be more males than 1/10, and very definitely less than 1/2 and probably between 1/5 and 1/3. This isn't an issue so much for them since new kaibyou come from house cats meeting certain conditions during the normal course of their lives. The designation of being male or female for that matter is a remnant of cat biology meeting the human culture around them.
That said, many of the cat women engage in the types of work that were considered women's work, which outside the home was very limited, but still existed even in Edo Japan. The men either acted as the "owners" of establishments like tea houses and izekaya to interact with human society with less suspicion, or often as entertainers. In some cases, they would take up work as laborers. And since even relatively young cats were likely to be older than most humans around them, they often know some type of craft like wood or metal working.
(The youngest cats I'm writing are in their 20s, including their time as house cats, and the next youngest are a pair in their 50's that "grew up" together.)
That said, cat women and cat men are about the same physically, varying more by subtype of youkai or on an individual level than by sex. Women tend to be seen by the cats themselves and other youkai as the heads of the household, with other cats acting as advisors and one or two males speaking on the clan's behalf to humans when required. Males aren't looked down upon, and their role in dealing with humans without bloodshed is appreciated. Still the women make most of the decisions and bring in most of the income just on sheer numbers alone. And because the average cat, male or female, is stronger than most humans one on one, men escorting women is more a formality for appearances and to discourage attacks that would end in a lady cat killing the attacker and outing herself as youkai.
Posted June 10th
Yeah, the differences between the sexes doesn’t seem as important, when mating and reproduction is not how new members are recruited to the “species”.
Posted June 10th
lists six, starting with the Mosuo and ending with the Garo.
Posted June 11th