The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future

Cynthia Eller, Author Beacon Press (MA) $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8070-6792-5
For decades, Gloria Steinem, Riane Eisler, Marija Gimbutas and other feminist authors have painted a picture of a golden age before the onset of patriarchy, a time when women ruled the earth, and all the world worshipped the Goddess. This bold and provocative book marshals archeological evidence to demonstrate that this gynocentric vision is a myth, and a pernicious one at that. Eller acknowledges that some women find the myth of matriarchal prehistory empowering but insists that it ultimately undermines genuine reform. A myth, she points out, is a weak foundation for a social movement. More to the point, gynocentric myths, she says, perpetuate the same stereotypical notions of femininity that have always served as tools of sexist oppression. Celebrating the positive virtues of motherhood, relationality, embodiedness and ecocentrism as universal feminine traits obscures genuine differences among women and limits female autonomy; as the saying goes, a pedestal is as confining as any small place. Eller's previous book, Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America, sympathetically described women's spiritual quests for self-validation and empowerment. Her new work affirms these goals while cautioning feminists against letting their fantasies about a past matriarchy distract them from taking real steps to end patriarchy today. Passionately argued, engagingly written, this vital book is certain to inspire wide--and much-needed--debate. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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