Part Two, History. Chapter 2 (78): The rise and fall of the goddess edition…
So, I realise that at this rate, I’ll be in a Zimmer frame before I get through the book, since the last post in the series was on January 18 of this year (and it was out of order.) I’m racing to do another chapter so I’ll at least have managed two posts in 2014. But it comes with one of those end-of-year pledges to Do Better Next Year. I’ll also mention here that I discovered a Kindle edition of this translation a few months ago, which I bought (having acquired the whopping hard-back in, of all places, Edinburgh the very week – or so – it came out back in 2009. I’ll use both and keep up with the page references to the hard back, details of which are in the First Post.)
Setting aside all groveling and uselessness about taking too long, this chapter, which has no title just a number, begins with a recap of woman’s role in “primitive” times before property, institutions, laws etc. when, although the demands of reproduction and work were great, no one apparently tried “to break [woman] down as will happen in paternalistic regimes later on.” (78). A clear target of this chapter is Engels and his notion that before private property (or at least agricultural societies) there was some kind of Reign of Women.
In setting up Engels’ claim, SdB runs through the myriad goddesses of antiquity – Ishtar, Astarte, Gaea, Rhea, Cybele, Isis (some are the same goddesses going by different names) to whom male gods were subordinate. While Engels saw the passage from this “veritable reign of women” as “ ‘the great historical defeat of the feminine sex’”, SdB argues no: “In reality this golden age of Woman is only a myth. To say that woman was the Other is to say that a relationship of reciprocity between the sexes did not exist: whether Earth, Mother or Goddess, she was never a peer for man. … Society has always been male; political power has always been in men’s hands.” (82) And she quotes Lévi-Strauss on marriage:
“The relationship of reciprocity which is the basis of marriage is not established between men and women, but between men by means of women, who are merely the occasion of this relationship.”