We have virtually no evidence for what human society was like in prehistory. Palaeolithic cave paintings depict animals but very few humans. There are patterns made by human hands and the occasional stick figure but nothing to give us a clear picture of how these societies were arranged.
Did we, for instance, take lifelong partners and live in small family groups? If our nearest relatives, the great apes, are anything to go by, our ancestors most likely had random sex with different partners. Until, that is, human beings made the connection between sex and the creation of new life.
I argued in a previous article (https://manicscribbler.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-earth-mother-rules-guest-author.html) that the earliest societies were not only matrilineal (which makes perfect sense in a society where everybody knows who their mother is and fathers don’t exist) but matriarchal.
It is interesting to speculate what these societies were like and how they compare with the patriarchal societies which followed.
For a start, there seems to have been nothing we would describe as war in the Palaeolithic age. Surely there must have been disagreements and tussles but nothing our ancestors felt worthy of recording in paintings. In fact, we don’t see definite evidence until the late Neolithic, well after the ancient matriarchal societies have been suppressed.
This doesn’t, of course, prove that rule by women is more benign than rule by men. It could be simply that warfare only emerged as the human population increased so much that resources became scarce. That war was, if you like, inevitable, irrespective of the nature of government.
As for women leaders being naturally more nurturing and non-violent we know that this is not universal. Some of the most memorable women rulers were every bit as cruel and despotic as their male counterparts, Catherine the Great, for example, or our own dear Margaret Thatcher, who certainly had no aversion to war.
What we can say, with reasonable confidence, is that war on any significant scale did not exist before patriarchal government became the norm.
The discovery that men had an equal role in the creation of children led to a fundamental change in stone age societies. The only way of ensuring that a man’s woman (or women) only gave birth to his children was to strictly control her sexual activity. Now that women had been stripped of their magic they no longer had the power to resist men’s superior physical strength, and so women, rather than being the magical creators of life, were to become mere vessels for the incubation of the seed of men.
Quite apart from the obvious loss of quality of life that brought, it meant women, far from being the rulers of these societies, no longer even had a voice. Virtually all human societies since the stone age have been ruled by men, for men. The struggle for equality has been going on for thousands of years and is still a long way from reaching its goal.
And today, watching a video of policemen kneeling on a helpless woman, I find myself wondering about the Genesis myth. Poor Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, innocent of sin, beguiled by the serpent into eating the forbidden fruit. What was the secret knowledge that was imparted to them? Not, surely, that they were naked and should be ashamed. If God created them naked, what could be shameful about it?
Could it be that the knowledge that caused them to be expelled from Paradise was the understanding of how children were conceived, which passed the power to men?
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dogs and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
Since moving to Spain she has written four novels and numerous short stories.
In July 2018 she was awarded the coveted TOP FEMALE AUTHOR award in Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal/Science Fiction by The Authors Show.