by Serban V.C. Enache
MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) is an online community which perceives the legal and romantic entanglements with women as being detrimental to men in net terms (cost/benefit analysis). In my opinion, they have every reason to be wary of the current (patriarchal) marriage and alimony laws, since they were written for a time in which women didn’t have access to paid work or education. The laws are incompatible with contemporary society and should be reformed.
With this article, I wish to acquaint the MGTOW community with Robert Briffault’s The Mothers: The Matriarchal Theory of Social Origins, 1931. I will quote Briffault’s main conclusions from Chapter XII:
“In pre-patriarchal society, as among animals, the family group does not consist of a mother and father, but of a mother and her offspring only. The father has no function in such a group beyond that of impregnating the female. His acknowledged relation to the maternal group, that is to say, what corresponds under those conditions to marriage, is defined by, and essentially confined to, that relation of paternity. It involves neither continued cohabitation, nor association, nor permanent duties towards either mother or offspring.
The mother, in whose charge are the children, continues in her natal group and forms no connection with that of the father. The group does not consist of a family formed round the authority or economic supremacy of the father, but consists of various generations of women associated with their brothers and uncles, and the kinship relations of the maternal clan are matrilinear. The economic privilege upon which the patriarchal family is founded does not exist. Economic production, fundable wealth, communal property are in the hands of the women and are transmitted through them. Such a constitution of human society which has everywhere preceded the comparatively recent development of the forms more familiar to us, differs entirely from the latter.
These have long been known as ‘patriarchal.’ Sir Henry Maine, in his work on Ancient Law, defines his purpose as being “to establish that view of the primeval condition of the human race which is known as the Patriarchal Theory. There is no doubt,” he adds, “that this theory was originally based on the Scriptural History of the Hebrew patriarchs.” That theory, which the facts of social history show to be as erroneous as the geocentric medieval theory of the universe, is opposed by that founded upon those facts, and may accordingly be very properly called the Matriarchal Theory. Human society, according to that theory, was originally formed around the mother and not around the father.
The matriarchal theory of social origins, which regards patriarchal marriage, the patriarchal family, and patriarchal morality as products of social evolution and not as original biological constituents of human society, is independent of any estimate of the power, influence, or activity of women in the primitive society.”
Example of a contemporary matriarchal society
The Mosuo, often called the Na among themselves, are a small ethnic group living in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces in China. Mosuo culture is primarily agrarian, raising livestock (yak, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry) and growing crops, including grains and potatoes. Mosuo women do all the housework, including cleaning, tending the fire, cooking, gathering firewood, feeding the livestock, and spinning and weaving. In the past, due to isolation, Mosuo women produced all their own household goods.
Mosuo men do have roles in this society. They help to bring up the children of their sisters and female cousins, build houses and are in charge of livestock and fishing, which they learn from their uncles and older male family members as soon as they are old enough. Men deal with the slaughter of livestock, in which women never participate. Mosuo families tend to trace their lineage through the female side of the family. Occasionally, they may not know who the father is, which does not carry stigma as in many other societies. Children belong to and reside within their mother’s household and have access to its land and resources.
The Mosuo culture has the so-called “walking marriage” custom. In a walking marriage, both partners live under the roof of their extended family during the day. However, at night it is common for the man to visit and stay at the woman’s house (if given permission) until sunrise. Children of parents in a walking marriage aren’t raised by their father. The brothers of the mother (maternal uncles) take on this responsibility, since the father isn’t typically around during the daytime. Due to the separation of the father and mother, the uncle or uncles play a large role in the child’s development.
Unlike other cultures, women in the Mosuo society dominate the household and family. They are responsible for housework, agricultural duties, and taking care of children. In a walking marriage, the ancestral line is most important on the wife’s side of the family and the children of the couple reside and belong to the wife’s family household. Considering women are responsible for most domestic jobs, they have a larger role in the walking marriage and are viewed with more respect and importance in this society.
The husbands in these relationships are generally the figures who are in charge of all religious and political decisions for the family. The male relatives on the mother’s side of the family, such as uncles and cousins, are generally the “father figure” to the husband’s children. Even though fathers are involved in their sisters’ children’s lives, they are not necessarily involved in the life of their own children. In walking marriages, such involvement is optional. If a father decides to be involved in the upbringing of his own biological child, he can bring gifts and help with work around the woman’s household. This relationship can be performed regardless if the woman and man are still in the walking marriage and it gives the man a type of “official status” among the family without being fully involved.
Before the coming of age ceremony, which happens at the age of thirteen, Mosuo children all dress the same and are restricted from certain aspects of Mosuo life, particularly those that involve religious rites. After coming of age, Mosuo females can get their own private bedroom, called a “flowering room,” and after puberty they can invite partners for “walking marriages.” The Na language has no word for ‘jealousy.’
The Matriarchal system is the biological default of the human race. The Patriarchal system, in contrast, was a creation of human culture, not biology. In the original system, the father had no legal or moral obligation or claim toward the mother or her child. Personally, I would like to live in such a society – and not because getting laid is easier, but because I believe their customs are conducive to less stress and smoother, more harmonious social relations.
Serban V.C. Enache is a Romanian journalist and indie author. Though interested in history, politics, and economics, his true passion is for medieval fantasy fiction. https://www.amazon.com/Serban-Valentin-Constantin-Enache/e/B00N2SJD6O/ He can be reached over Twitter. https://twitter.com/SerbanVCEnache