The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future - Cynthia Eller Despite its length (188 pages in my edition), Cynthia Eller manages to thoroughly destroy the idea that a "matriarchy" ever governed the affairs of men and women. And she argues this based on three obstacles:

1. There's no evidence that woman ever held the dominant position. There's evidence that woman could hold relatively high status in some cultures but in even the "poster child" of matriarchalism, Minoan Crete, the evidence turns out to be far more ambiguous and open to interpretation.

2. There's no reason to assume that human cultures before about 3000 BC, which the matriarchalists claim to have been matriarchies, were such.

3. There's no compelling reason to explain why things changed.

Essentially Eller argues that the "matriarchy" is a feminist myth that's meant to address the needs of some modern-era feminists and harken back to an era when women did hold power and their contributions were valued. The reality is far more complex and, for those looking to find a matriarchy, depressing since male domination appears to be universal. There are (were) plenty of cultures that gave women a relatively high status but apparently there are none who gave her equal or preeminent status.

I read the book because I was interested in the evidence marshalled to support the "matriarchy" and Eller's rebuttal to it but for those more interested in the feminist/feminism aspects of the subject, Eller argues that inventing a fantasy of female rule is irrelevant, if not downright harmful, to efforts to create a more equal society. One doesn't need to have a woman-ruled past to know that denying them equal rights today (or at any time) is wrong. She likens it to American slavery: While there's importance in knowing that Africans were kidnapped and brought to America, it's truth is irrelevant to the knowledge that slavery was wrong and that it could be changed.

Rather than paraphrase, I'll quote her final paragraph:

"Feminist matriarchal myth does not actually recount the history of sexism.... It may provide us with a vision of what it considers to be socially desirable and the hope that it can be attained. But we do not need matriarchal myth to tell us that sexism is bad or that change is possible. With the help of all feminists...we need to decide what we want and set about getting it. Next to this, the 'knowledge' that we once had it will pale into insignificance."