While those definitions apply in general English, definitions specific to the disciplines of anthropology and hive ser de binary option differ in some respects. Most anthropologists hold that there are no known anthropological societies that are unambiguously matriarchal, but some authors believe exceptions may exist or may have. Matriarchies may also be confused with matrilineal, matrilocal, and matrifocal societies.
In 19th-century Western scholarship, the hypothesis of matriarchy representing an early, mainly prehistoric, stage of human development gained popularity. Possibilities of so-called primitive societies were cited and the hypothesis survived into the 20th century, including in the context of second-wave feminism. Several modern feminists have advocated for matriarchy now or in the future and it has appeared in feminist literature. In several theologies, matriarchy has been portrayed as negative. Most academics exclude egalitarian nonpatriarchal systems from matriarchies more strictly defined. The word matriarchy, for a society politically led by females, especially mothers, who also control property, is often interpreted to mean the genderal opposite of patriarchy, but it is not an opposite.
Journalist Margot Adler wrote, “literally, means government by mothers, or more broadly, government and power in the hands of women. According to Adler, “a number of feminists note that few definitions of the word , despite its literal meaning, include any concept of power, and they suggest that centuries of oppression have made it impossible for women to conceive of themselves with such power. Matriarchy has often been presented as negative, in contrast to patriarchy as natural and inevitable for society, thus that matriarchy is hopeless. Conditioning us negatively to matriarchy is, of course, in the interests of patriarchs. The Matriarchal Studies school led by Göttner-Abendroth calls for an even more inclusive redefinition of the term: Göttner-Abendroth defines Modern Matriarchal Studies as the “investigation and presentation of non-patriarchal societies”, effectively defining matriarchy as non-patriarchy.
She has also defined matriarchy as characterized by the sharing of power equally between the two genders. Matriarchy is also the public formation in which the woman occupies the ruling position in a family. For this usage, some scholars now prefer the term matrifocal to matriarchal. Terms with similar etymology are also used in various social sciences and humanities to describe matriarchal or matriological aspects of social, cultural and political processes. In their works, Johann Jakob Bachofen and Lewis Morgan used such terms and expressions as mother-right, female rule, gyneocracy, and female authority. A matriarchy is also sometimes called a gynarchy, a gynocracy, a gynecocracy, or a gynocentric society, although these terms do not definitionally emphasize motherhood. Gynecocracy, gynaecocracy, gynocracy, gyneocracy, and gynarchy generally mean ‘government by women over women and men’.