The Search for Matriarchy


What does matriarchy mean to you?

We Seem To Be Having a Debate

Was there a time in human history when matriarchal (matriarchy meaning female rulership) societies dominated and then were replaced with serial patriarchy which is where we are now? There seems to be real passion involved and terms such as matriarchalism, matrifocal and matrilineal swirl through the debate.

Notable in the debate is the book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller. Eller is described as setting out “to refute what she describes as feminist matriarchalism as an ‘ennobling lie’”. From what I could see this does not seem to be a dispassionate academic debate. Naturally it is a little hard to rush back into history and see exactly what happened. And reports may be biased. Surprise, surprise. 

And then there is the question of how to characterize periods of rule by women. In fact, Britain has a rather long history. Was the time of Queen Elizabeth 1 a matriarchy? How about Queen Victoria and the current queen? Somehow I think matriarchy is a little over the top as a description. Men did not exactly fade away.

Goddesses Are Prominent 

Throughout history women have held various kinds of power. Goddesses are prominent in human history and we invoke some truly strong imagery. We describe our planet as being ruled by an earth mother and mother nature is always with us. In fact, I chose Gaia as our Earth Goddess for my trilogy because it invoked the images I sought. Clearly many of the images relate to the fact that each of us has a mother. These are archetypes (recurrent symbols and motifs) with substantive meaning. I do not view them as part of the debate. Something else is going on.

Part of what is going on seems to be an underlying debate about whether patriarchal dominance is inevitable or whether it is a matter of dominance at this time. But, now I’m going to shift gears. The inevitability of male dominance is unlikely and at issue and we are seeing a new movement empowering women. 

Then There Are the Feminist Movements

There are other terms of interest. The women’s movement of the 1970s is described as the second wave of feminism. At the time it caught my attention and I found it well worth supporting. And more recently came the third-wave feminist movement beginning in the 1990s. It apparently arose from the backlash against second-wave feminism initiatives. And now we have something called the current feminist sex wars. That seems apt in describing the controversy flowing around Eller’s book. 

Debate Versus Goals

Now I’ll ask the question which is the real point of this post. Why are we having this debate at all? Do we have to decide if there is some great given right for men to rule now and forever or if women are brought in to rule and is it to become eternal. What a monumental waste of time.

At some point we risk wish replacing thought. That description may characterize the debate since there are surely different agendas behind the scene. And so, let me return to Sally Armstrong’s book Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every mother’s Daughter. She describes the movement worldwide and the benefits derived.

Benefits and Justice

It would seem more productive if we focused on the benefits and what constitutes justice of all kinds. As noted, we hear little about the real reason for income inequality, for example. A lot of cards are not on the table when it comes to equality for women and that would be a better focus for analysis and understanding as well as outing the perpetrators.

Equality and Partnership 

It might be interesting to view the effects of matriarchy, matrifocal societies and matrilineal processes but it may be they are not going to give guidance in the current circumstances. It would seem more productive to accept the benefits of empowerment of women and to look at the barriers to equality and partnership in our present day. Then we can set an agenda and do away with squabbles about history. We have work to do in the here and now.

What are your biggest concerns about health care?

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A Stronger Focus on Men


The Times They are Achanging

We can sit back and simply observe some of the changes occurring before us or.…

Most of our attention seems caught by political dysfunction and our struggle to take charge of the future of our country again. But we must not lose sight of what is happening in terms of women. Over the reach of history it is my belief that these changes will have truly profound effects and what is happening bears discussion and serious attention. The only problem is we can’t be sure all the data is clearly in front of us. And so we have to explore.

Feminism and the Patriarchy

We understand perfectly well that men dominate government and business and so many other parts of our lives. But there is a long wave of change directed by women who are demanding not just change but an end to subjugation. Many men of the patriarchy are resisting, often in the most curious ways which serve none of us. Some other men are paying attention and it is time for us to truly examine this process in more detail. And it is going to take some time and I’m convinced it will take probing. But one thing is clear. We cannot separate the development of feminism from the insistence of the patriarchy.

A Different Landscape

The world for men and women is clearly stirring. If we look carefully, we see a recognition in regard to women warriors as they have been in history. Their presence is more than a footnote to history and they are appearing in our stories. We are looking at why we are the way we are and, over considerable opposition, demanding change. Some of this seems to go back to birth control. We now have a broader landscape of control of fertility. And that control is not the imposition of control on women. They are taking charge.

And across the world there seems to be a fundamental change in attitude about having children. They don’t just come because they come. When the agricultural revolution blossomed we needed more laborers. But now the question is how many children we need. It is causing a crisis as aging populations stress resources and the role of immigrants requires serious examination.

For the Moment

On the stage in America there is something that has come center stage—with vengeance. We have been hearing about it but now comes Harvey Weinstein. And he is in focus after the abuses of women by men such as Roger Ailes and Donald Trump. Rich and powerful men have been able to silence women with their threats but that appears to be changing. We have another dimension which is forcing our attention.

Adding Yet Another

But there is something else which is needed. Men are increasingly joining in the fight for the end to the subjugation of women and supporting a growing powerful place in our country and across the world for women. At the same time there is something else that is seriously needed and it will benefit all of us. It is time for men to seriously question, at another level, who and why they are. We need to be questioning how we are and who we are. It’s easy to simply say we need to change how it has been. We also need to know what it is and how it is for men. Clearly there is a male culture but as a psychologist I believe the issues go much deeper and one way to find out is for men to begin to look at themselves more closely in discussion with each other.

And so in I’m going to broaden the exploration in future posts.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Discovrring How Life Really Is



Where Our Identity Comes From

Establishing an identity is a complicated process. It has to do with who is available for us to identify with, our ability patterns, intelligence, and our personality. And I think you can probably come up with other factors.

Given my dissatisfaction and lack of interest in many things which are supposed to interest and enthrall boys meant I sought other things. I chose to explore science, looked at the world as my family traveled, and sought to experience the world in general. That is hardly a comprehensive list because opportunities were always presenting themselves. For me I think personality was central. I wanted to seek out possibilities and unique opportunities.

My Father and I

Naturally my father played a role. I was closer to him than my brother was. Even as a surgeon he liked to get his hands dirty in the yard. He never got entirely away from his early years in rural Mississippi. We went deep sea fishing off Montauk on Long Island, he taught me to shoot which I liked as a hobby but not when it involved killing animals and he took me to ball games which I endured until the day when we went to a Yankee double header. The first game was 26 innings. Enough was enough. He was handy around the house and built furniture. Those things interested me.

Doing a Good Job

One thing that was particularly important to me was doing a good job. Power was not of interest. Getting things done especially in new ventures was of considerable interest. Too often though I saw men of power who lacked vision. When I took the job in the inner city Baltimore I was stunned.

The heads of the psychiatry department were utterly lacking in vision and the psychologists were no better. The latter group invited me to join them and in the first meeting they spent the entire time talking about how they could try to seem more important to the psychiatrists. I never went back. There was substantive work to be done. And even worse there were no women in the central halls of power. Oh yes, there was a nursing department but what I saw out in the programs on the street was their frustration as they did battle with the men in power. At basic levels there were women nurses and social workers who contributed to diversity of viewpoints. But at the top levels there were men only.

Closed Systems

Because of the import of the job I had to face a closed male system. And it was inevitable that I would come to view the men as struggling with their image of themselves and the threat involved by the women struggling for recognition and a say in a new enterprise. As it turned out this was just at the cusp of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and their meaning and substance utterly engaged me.


What kept emerging over time was seeing in men a central problem in their discomfort with masculinity. They often seemed to feel they did not measure up but when you stepped back it was essential to wonder why there had to be a universal code of masculinity.

But it seemed that fear was a core element and that also surfaces in discussions of patriarchy. It seems likely that progress in our various intersexual relationships may require clearly facing the issue of fear. And honestly I think this will be a monumental task. Men have financial interests in league with the matter of power which is an impediment to change. But at base I think the most important issue and the one which will relate to a turning point is the matter of fear.

What issues do you feel will be crucial? Please let me hear from you at:

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Moving Forward Together – For Change


Complex Issues

Of course men and women do form partnerships. We marry and we do have each other as friends and colleagues. But what we are coming to see is that there have been severe limits imposed and we aren’t clear why they are imposed. We have a sense of how it might be and do participate in some evaluation of how we relate to each other from time to time. But there may be so much more.

The Patriarchy

One definition of patriarchy is “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Certainly there are exceptions, but, in general, we see that the participation of women has been limited. In the United States we are seeing greater participation of women in government and business but we are experiencing the resistance to their participation. It goes beyond even what we call “the glass ceiling”.

Last year began a new series specifically about patriarchy. It proved to be complex and it was only possible to touch on it lightly in this blog format. Surely there are detailed studies and formulations to be explored, but at least it needed to be introduced. Thinking about it led to the recognition of the need for the Masculinism movement.

Posts Already Published

These posts can be found on the blog

A Focus on Patriarchy – Pt. 1 – Shifting the Focus Regarding Women. (7/31/17)
We are seeing what’s called radical feminism related to the call to end subjugation. There are a number of definitions, each worth thought and exploration. Then we have to ask what the justification is for subjugation. And then there are questions regarding supposed perceived benefits for the maintenance of the patriarchy.

A Focus on Patriarchy – Pt. 2 Why Are Women Subjugated? (9/11/17)
When the question “Were women always subjugated?” is asked, it opens a fascinating history. Cavemen dragging women away by their hair is one common image. But there are women warriors in history. One supposition is that subjugation began in earnest with the agricultural revolution when more and more children were needed as workers.

A Focus on Patriarchy – Pt. 3 The Meaning and Substance of the Subjugation of Women (10/2/17)
It takes some exploration, but it is fascinating to think in detail about why this happens. Certainly one usual assumption is that it has distinct benefits for men, but often that assumption is simplistic. Examination requires looking at losses for women and society. It is also apparent that it is carried in the extrasomatic stream of culture.

More to Come
In the series about patriarchy there is more to come. Clearly thinking about it led to the series related to a masculinist movement. As we enter this period where we are seriously reevaluating these issues and the demands for change are increasing, there will surely be many more posts. This is going to get really interesting.

AND your thoughts and sharing are invited. Please send to

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Meaning and Substance of the Subjugation of Women


What do you believe are the driving forces and meaning of subjugation?

I have to divide this post into three parts. First is the benefit of subjugation of women to men, second is the ongoing deep effect on women and then there is the fact of culture. And again I have to point out that these posts are thought documents and certainly not research vehicles or repositories.

Benefits for Men

Looking at the discussions about patriarchy has been a depressing experience. In my life I have heard all the arguments men advance regarding the appropriate roles of women. I found every one of them distressing and invalid. Branded large on the surface of claimed benefits are the augmentation of power for men. I’ve searched that landscape for decades and found it wanting.

But they have held power and continue to hold power. Of course the exercise of that power goes well beyond the subjugation of women. Men held the power over slaves through history. And part of the discussion focuses on sexual rights including rape. The discussion in that area seems to focus more on men’s rights. I don’t hear much about celebration of rape.

As to the overall benefits men derive from patriarchy I have to confess I shake my head. Yes, there is power which some celebrate but the motivation to look away from the issue of loss of potential and broad benefits mystifies me. But then I don’t seem to relish power.

The Losses for Women and Society

It seems there are some benefits for men but at the society level the benefits are highly questionable. As to the benefits for women, they are hardly impressive and the negatives for society are rather important.

First of all, women are half of the population which means any negatives are substantial. At the most global level, the subjugation of women means there are limits of vision and effective planning. We see that much potential is not developed.

In spite of all the publicity we continue to see women paid less than men for doing the same job. That means there is less potential and freedom in their lives. All of this contains innovation and productivity. Patriarchy contributes to racism, imperialism, capitalism (in its darker components) and supports environmental catastrophe. Of course there is much more to the last item on the preceding list.

It is difficult to note any benefits to society as a whole and, even for men, the results are less than ideal. It is ever so hard to see the justification. In the media we see a cross section of people presenting views and too often the arguments simply do not hold water. It is hard to tell if those who present phony or contrived arguments believe them or whether it holds some unadmitted benefits for them.

Then There is Culture

Often in discussing these kinds of issues we talk about specific benefits and losses which leads us to deal with the people who are benefiting or not from policies and attitudes. But at a larger level there is the matter of culture.

If we move beyond individual benefits and losses to the larger picture, then culture glares before us. One of the great strengths of humanity is that we possess culture. Now and again we trip over our differences but culture in general contributes stability and guidance.

Leslie White (one of my heroes) called it the extrasomatic stream. Culture does not reside within a given person but flows around us in society. We see it when two diverse groups come up with the same idea at the same time even though they do not talk to each other. The components come together independently because of this stream outside of individuals.

Its is a strength, but it is also a weakness because when something becomes established in culture it has tremendous staying power. And even if we overcome patriarchy there are systems which constrain women as a matter of culture. These have to be defined and examined. And we cannot believe for a moment that simply recognizing it will lead to sudden and widespread change and release from the negatives of subjugation.

We have our work cut out for us.


Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt