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May 14, 2015 11:39 PM   Subscribe

What would a culture that doesn't hate women look like? I'm looking for books, movies, works of fiction and non-fiction in various formats/media, and your own musings and imaginings.

(Inspired by a line in this comment in the "lower back tattoo" thread on the blue.)
posted by gakiko to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy by Peggy Reeves Sanday presents one of the more well-known pictures from cultural anthropology that might be relevant. I haven't read it, but I've been told the key argument goes something like "Don't expect a matriarchy to look like a patriarchy, because women with power may on average choose to share their authority rather than dominate." One thing you should know before reading it, though, is that matrilineages and matriarchies are definitely not the same thing. In many societies, descent and inheritance are traced via your mother. The argument that Minangkabau society is a matriarchy presumably shows things about political power, not just kinship and descent.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:22 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

What would the culture look like? Patched together from this and that, assuming a small, affluent, peaceful society unthreatened by environmental disaster (you said imaginings were ok):
- Freedom from reproductive necessity. Fetuses may be optionally gestated outside uteri and babies/children are parented by whichever parent/s (biological or not) want/s to and can
- Lots of strong, small communities. Property is communal. Child-rearing is a community investment. Parenting doesn't necessarily fall to one or two "ideally" biological parents in a nuclear family ideal. Obligations can be shared between members of small groups of close significant others (of any gender), reducing the strain on any single caregiver and offering the child a greater variety of role models. There may be 1-2 primary parent-child relationships, but they're the parent-child dyad that works. People aren't stuck with children, or stuck with parents. A commitment is made, though; if there are problems, the community helps them work it out or another parent steps forward
- Serial monogamy (1-7 years) is common for bonded relationships; otherwise, whoever wants to do whatever with whomever whenever, no worries, because none of it's bound to reproduction unless they want it to be. Everyone has equal access to a long and healthy sexual life, into old age
- Non-gendered play for kids; all children are equally encouraged to develop their physical capacities, leadership, empathy, communication and negotiation skills
- All members of the society are covered under comparable beauty standards and have access to the same non-gendered beautification techniques (not compulsory)
- Small-scale local production economy, communally owned, consensus-based decision-making, trade within a network of similar communities
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:40 AM on May 15, 2015 [11 favorites]

That is such an interesting question I was just musing over earlier this evening!

I know there is an isolated culture somewhere in China (I think) with a matriarchal culture... Hold while I find the link... Ah, here it is!

Similarly, I know the denouement of the first few Lestat Vampire novels by Anne Rice reveal that the creation story of the vampire race came about because a powerful aggressive culture tried to dominate and stamp out a peaceful matriarchal culture. There is some exploration of this theme there.

In my own life (I'm female) I have some interesting snapshots and experiences to relate. I'm not so keen to go into detail here, but for example, 10 years ago I was dating an older fairly wealthy white gentleman that was writing a serious work about how men and masculinity was being subjected or maligned in current society. He was affiliated with a major university in the area, and honestly, I did not know what the fuck he was talking about. Years later I read The Game about pick-up artist subculture. Years after that I watched all the online manifesto videos of that young guy that went on a shooting spree in Santa Barbara because he hated women... Not to mention that if you think about it (and I did a podcast interview on this, sorry no linky) the TV show Mad Men is really about the female characters and women in society....

I'm going to leap here, but I think women like Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice prove it's not true that having a few females in roles with some power changes anything fundamentally, because the types of women that generally can win roles of power in current society have to be even more cutthroat than their male colleagues....

In short, in the same way I don't believe in race, religion, sexual orientation, or wealth having any real determiner concerning Right or Wrong in Human Relations, I'm pretty sure gender has no great role there at this stage, either.

It's all a factor. I found Patricia Arquette's recent Oscar Speech poignant - that basically the gay community and other minorities have gotten a lot of support, and it is time to put Women forward - very interesting. She has a trans M to F sister. She has her own experiences as a professional woman in her career. Unstated in her Oscar Speech, is that her career spans different age roles, from Ingenue to Mother Figure, and slightly beyond.

I'm lost in thought on this fraught subject. Hope I gave you some research points. You're correct to explore this issue.
posted by jbenben at 1:06 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

You might want to read Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy by Melvin Konner. I had some quarrels with it, but he is pointing (directly and indirectly) to the same question.
posted by frumiousb at 1:51 AM on May 15, 2015

Many SF novels, from many political standpoints. Suzy McKee Charnas explores "the heroine's journey' in the Conqueror's Child series, beginning with maximally female-hateful and unwinding to varieties of female-only. Laurie Mark's Elemental Magic series examines the deliberate triumph of a women's alternative to war (among a zillion things).
posted by Jesse the K at 5:50 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just one personal pet peeve - in a culture that doesn't hate women, we would never be subject to another TV/movie/sports scene where the coach insulted his players by calling them girls.
posted by CathyG at 6:30 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

It's not a work of fiction, but the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is six days long, has been held for at least forty years, and has an attendance of 3000 to 10,000 women.

This may be apocryphal, but I have heard that at some point in the past when men attempted to enter the festival's grounds, the 650 acre women-only space was defended by armed staff.
posted by pickles_have_souls at 6:38 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another book: Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy.
posted by matildaben at 6:59 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Always Coming Home by Ursula LeGuin is a fascinating overview of an imperfect fictional utopian culture.
posted by ovvl at 7:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

You asked for musings, I am not thinking politically but more what would it actually look like, as the thread you linked to seemed to be about the visua/physicall side of things more. Do you watch Parks & Recreation? There is a scene where two of the main female characters, Leslie & Anne, go to Tom Haverfords place. It's meant to be silly, but I actually think it says a lot about what is considered masculine & feminine, that other men would possibly consider it bad that he has his house like that but the 2 women love it.

Add me to CathyG's list of people that hate that being called girly, or gay or told you throw like a girl is a bad thing. A world where feminine things weren't considered the lesser version of things would be rather nice, they don't have to be considered better either, but it would be nice if they were considered with respect.

Again just musings.
posted by wwax at 7:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival has had some issues with its "Womyn-Born Womyn" policy.

The Female Man, by Joanna Russ, features a society called Whileaway, where all men died approximately 800 years previous.
posted by Lucinda at 7:45 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Can in to suggest Woman on the Edge of Time but matildaben beat me to it!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:06 AM on May 15, 2015

I was always really impressed by Battlestar Galactica's handling of genders, it felt real and natural. It didn't feel like a strange, unattainable world where everyone was equal because life just doesn't work that way. Everyone had flaws and limitations, male and female soldiers slept in the same dormitories. It just really felt like what if everyone just stopped being an asshole on the topic of gender.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:28 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Although problematic from a modern point of view, Herland is an interesting historical attempt at describing a fictional feminist utopia. (It's by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who also wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper," a short story written to show the cruelty of the popular turn of the century "rest cure" for treating women's mental health issues (some real, but often deemed as such by misogynist doctors/society).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2015

It's depressing that there are more examples of cultures that don't hate women which are completely devoid of men than there are examples of cultures with true gender equality. Seconding Battlestar Galactica. Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Farscape also spring to mind.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 9:17 AM on May 15, 2015

Blossoms of Fire is a fantastic documentary about the people of Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico, where women are “guardians of men, distributors of food."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:58 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson includes the formation of a new human culture on Mars, which didn't suffer from any sexism that I could detect. Many of Robinson's characters are bad-ass women. Scientists, engineers, leaders, ideologues, and even one almost-prophet.
posted by signsofrain at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2015

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