Sunday, March 22, 2009

Me, Trying to Use the Dictionary!!!

WARNING: for immature audiences only!! This will be both crass and more intellectual than my usual fair! :)

So I’m doing research on matriarchal and matrilineal civilizations for my book. I remember hearing in my class Women in U.S. History that there is no documented matriarchal (women-headed), matrilineal (names and property pass from mother to daughter) civilization. Amazon does not count; it is technically a legend or myth. I wanted a concrete quote I could use stating that. I opened a can of worms instead.

So I think I’m gonna start with the definitions of patriarchy and matriarchy. But here’s the weird thing: there is no real, agreed upon definition for matriarchy. Apparently, scholars are actually arguing over the definition! Some are basically saying that patriarchy is defined and just about anything that is NOT a patriarchy can fall under the heading of matriarchy….huh?!

Right, so follow this if you will: Instead of each word having its very own definition, they define the word patriarchy and then simply say that matriarchy is the opposite of that. Kinda vague, don’tcha think? Not only that, I distinctly remember defining some crazy hard vocab words in 7th and 8th grade, and Mrs. Punte strictly forbidding us from using those types of definitions, as they are reliant upon the definition of another word! I believe she referred to it as “a cop out.”

So here’s what I found for matriarchy, in an online (sexist) dictionary:

1 : a family, group, or state governed by a matriarch
2 : a system of social organization in which descent and inheritance are traced through the female line

Please note the lack of the use of such words as “power,” “control” or “dominance,” ‘k? ‘k.

Now, here’s the definition of patriarchy, same website (which shall remain nameless):

1: social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2: a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy

I have emboldened the pertinent words…lest your eyes skim right over them. :) Now (scratching head) why isn’t the definition of matriarchy the same as patriarchy, with a few key words replaced? Why doesn’t it read:

Matriarchy: social organization marked by the supremacy of the mother in the clan or family, the legal dependence (I liked how they added that in) of husbands and children and the reckoning (now there’s a powerful word you don’t hear much outside of a really ragin’ Baptist homily) the reckoning of the descent and inheritance in the female line; broadly: control by women of a disproportionately large share of power

So where the heck is the word that means: women rule? (hehe)

Here it is: gynecocracy. Yeah. Riddle me this: how do you pronounce that?! Yes, go on sound it out. Uh huh, like this: guy-neh-cock-ruh-see. Sooo, let me get this straight; the word that means “political supremacy of women” or “rule by women” has both the root for “gyno,” a word which makes women everywhere shudder, and “cock.” (there’s the crassness. Sorry Mom) AND it is nearly unpronounceable!! I personally think they did this on purpose!

I actually read where linguists and those scholars that decide this sort of thing? They prefer the use of “matrifocal” or “matricentric” OR “matristic.” I don’t see those words making their way into common usage. It also sounds like they are desperate to NOT have “matriarchy” defined as “dominance by women.”

Whatever.

We all know that women rule. The rest is just semantics.

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